Vidjagame Apocalypse 256 – Moral Panics!

Last week’s revival of video games as a political whipping boy brought some bad old memories rushing back – enough, in fact, that we decided to drag special guests Nick Suttner and Matthew Allen into an unexpectedly heavy discussion about five of the most controversial, moral panic-inducing games of the past 30 years. We also take the time to chat about Burnout Paradise Remastered, last week’s Nintendo Direct, and the games you discovered thanks to monthly freebies from PlayStation Plus and others.

Question of the Week
What’s a game that was controversial to you personally (i.e. a game you had to hide from family, or that caused you personal trouble)?

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27 thoughts on “Vidjagame Apocalypse 256 – Moral Panics!

  1. QotW: I guess the most “controversial” game I played was the original MK for Genesis. My parents really didn’t give a shit, so I never had to hide the game, but at the time, it was in the news.

  2. QotW: like many other kids at the time, my parents barred me from playing Pokemon for awhile due to their belief that it would cause seizures like the anime did in Japan. It took a few months to finally convince them that they removed the offending episode and the game wasn’t really an issue.

  3. My family was real cool with letting me play whatever I wanted. However as a thirty-something married man I find myself feeling rather uncomfortable playing games around my wife. I.E. Lollipop Chainsaw – the game itself is obviously ridiculous but there’s a boss battle where the bad guy literally throws curse words at you.

    His name is Zed – he’s loud and rude, my wife is VERY PC so having a man call a woman a whore or saying he just “jizzed” his pants put me in a weird spot. My wife obviously doesn’t say anything and probably doesn’t care but It’s my own uncomfortableness that make me feel this way. Now excuse me I’m going to play Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball in front of her…WISH ME LUCK!

  4. QOTW: my parents were really good with media as I was growing up, both because they were pretty media literate (especially my dad), and I have 3 older siblings so any potential issues had been faced before, and my siblings grew up playing games from the 80s anyway (we were a Nintendo household). The only games I was steered away from by parents were the Grand Theft Auto games and the 2005 Punisher video game, because in both cases my brothers played them and due to all the obscenity were like “he’s too young for this” and thus my parents told me I couldn’t play them for a few years (in 05 I was 9) so I didn’t get to the Punisher until I was probably 13, and I never got into GTA until I was 17 anyway because V was coming out and I decided I should check out IV (for like $19.99) before the new entry was out.

  5. QOTW: I never had to hide a game from my parents, though I do remember EB Games refusing to sell my friend and I a copy of the first Grand Theft Auto. We had to get his mom and she was really irritated that they wouldn’t just sell it to us, which was kind of funny. I did get Mortal Kombat for Genesis the year it came out. “Santa” brought me the Genesis, while my Grandma got me the game. She had no idea what it was about, and then it wasn’t long before it was featured on all of her favorite news programs. She seemed slightly embarrassed, but not regretful since I never decapitated anyone or set them on fire. That game made me the coolest kid in the neighborhood though, so thanks, Grandma!

  6. Perhaps finding Pokemon in a church is a dig at corruption?

    Those hellfire preachers really stick on to the most popular games because I can count on one hand where YOU ARE Satan, like in Persona 5.

  7. QOTW: For me it was probably vice city, which my parents actually bought me in 4th grade, probably not knowing anything about it (mom didnt game and dad played mostly sports and fighting games),. I played it for a long time, beat it, and got in trouble for cursing out the teacher (yeah I was a real dick in elementary school, I was basically craig and got in trouble for cursing out teachers and flipping them off all the time, but I have ADHD and was still finding the right medication, so maybe they could back off?) After that, my parents took Vice city away (I eventually got it back in like gth or 7th grade or something) but I dont think they realized where they had hid it, and as something of a latch key kid, it was super easy for me to keep playing it and then sliding it back on top of their wardrobe in the bedroom before they got home from work.

    There was also a time when walmart refused to sell me a game, I couldnt even remember what it was, because my parents werent with me at that moment, though they were at the store. So I had to track my dad down who proceeded to tell the clerk how stupid the whole thing was.

  8. QOTW: Duke Nukem 3D.

    Back in 1997, I had just moved to a new school, where my new class had a pretty solid PC for classroom use. The teacher let us install games on it without issue (Monster Truck Madness and Chex Quest were already class favorites by the time I arrived). Even at the age of 11, I knew that Duke 3D wasn’t a game that I should install on that computer, but the install disc did have a demo for Wacky Wheels that was pretty fun to play, so I brought the game in with the intention of only installing Wacky Wheels.

    Obviously that didn’t happen, and one of my classmates went ahead and installed D3D. At first, my teacher didn’t really seem to mind or even pay any attention to my classmates playing the game until she noticed whenever the boys in my class would play that game, they always seemed to stay in the same level (Red Light District), at the same spot (the strip club), pressing the spacebar repeatedly to get the same two voice clips and actions. I’m pretty sure most people can guess what part of the game upset her so much. Hint: It wasn’t the violence.

    Queue my teacher yelling at me in front of the class that I should be ashamed that I brought this filth into the school and that she was going to have me suspended, etc etc. The only reason it didn’t come to pass is that a few other students vouched that I didn’t install the game, and the principal seemed more pissed off at my teacher that she had allowed us to install any games on the computer, let alone D3D. The whole thing was quickly dropped thankfully, but it was a fun sneak preview of the moral outrage over sexual content in video games.

  9. QotW: As a church-going youth, I was stoked when my Sunday mass was going to be all about videogames but to my horror was actually 20-minute long sermon about how video games, especially Mortal Kombat, were created by the devil himself to corrupt young minds. My biggest take away was the priest didn’t know anything about Mortal Kombat. This guy thought Raiden’s electric attack was a finishing move and every round had spike pits. What a maroon.

    After church, my parents were furious at me as if I had been getting away with something. “But I play street fighter! You bought it for me!” made the punishment worse. All they knew was I must be playing Mortal Kombat and doing drugs and whatever else young satanist in training do. Only after weeks of being grounded from video games, some stellar parent-teacher conferences and earning my PARVULI DEI award (earned relgious excellence in Cub scouts) was I allowed to play video games again. My dad even offered to rent Mortal Kombat so we could play it together. He wanted to make his own opinion. After a night of playing he grabbed my shoulder, looked me in the eye and said,” this is stupid.” and the violent video game argument never came back until Grand Theft Auto. To this day we are still a street fighter household.

  10. QotW: During the Call of Duty World War 2 beta I decided to try it out in order to see how far I can push my PC’s graphics card. I jump into a multiplayer match and start oooing and ahhing at the game. Then some random guy comes up to me with a shotgun that for some reason also shoots fire with each shot kills me and I have to sit there watching my dude scream bloody murder as the respawn timer goes down. I think to myself “Jesus tap-dancing Christ” and just turn off the game. Needless to say I didn’t buy the game at lunch but I did get it for my younger brother because I’m the cool older brother.

  11. QotW: Microsoft Flight Simulator (actually the entire flying sim genre).

    Not actually my answer, I just wanted you guys to notice that you missed the biggest, and quietest round of game censorship that ever happened.
    Something happened on the morning of 9/11/01 that completely killed a genre.

    Before then, flight sims weren’t going strong, but there was a decent sized market and plenty of HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) options ranging from base level to $200+. They were the first premium peripherals.

    But hard-cutting journos latched onto the fact that the terrorists familiarized themselves with the controls of a 737 with Microsoft Flight Simulator which would for a long time be known as “terrorist simulators”.

    Soon, no big box store would stock them. And there were no digital storefronts at that time and Amazon was still balls deep in book delivers, not day/date game deliveries. If you couldn’t keep your game in Best Buy or Circuit City and other stores, then it was dead.

    And an entire genre died. The lack of peripheral support likely helped kill space sims as well. (Plus consoles got more powerful, controllers standardized and got twin analog sticks, etc… lots of reasons helped it stay dead)

    So with no new games, it really became an underground thing to mod, update and share mods for Microsoft Flight Sim for years.
    *I was more on the fringe of the flight sim mod community. My dad was a pilot for a time and I learned a lot from the old sims, so I was mildly distraught over the censorship. But I was more into the MechWarrior Mercs mods and Star Trek Bridge Commander mods in the early-mid 2000’s.

    I only thought about this recently when I bought a decent HOTAS for less than my Switch Pro Controller in order to play Elite Dangerous last year. (It’s basically Wing Commander Privateer for the modern age)

    TL;DR – Flight Sims aka “Terrorists simulators” are probably the biggest controversy to ever effect the gaming industry after Sept 2001. The news media very measurably killed a genre.

  12. you can tell that the one guy really *was* a football player in highschool, since he thought “random encounters ended in the 16 bit era”

  13. Hey guys. I don’t have an answer to the question this week; I just want to say that I really enjoyed this episode, and appreciated listening to all of your opinions on this topic. You all sounded very passionate about what you were talking about, and I think that’s great.

    Have a great week, and thanks

    Lightwatch

  14. QOTW: My older brother and I formed a strong bond growing up in the late 80s with our NES. . . until we hit the sports games.

    Tecmo Bowl and Baseball Stars were frowned upon by our parents, especially when they hosted friends and family, as inevitably my brother and I would engage in adolescent fistifcuffs after a cheap grand slam or a “run 50 yards in reverse and heave a hail mary touchdown” victory was claimed. However, the greatest offender, one that was so bad we were banned from playing together to the point where our parents literally took the cartridge with them while my brother was on babysitting duty for me, was Double Dribble.

    Double Dribble was a good game marred by two critical flaws that made it a cursed artifact for our parents. First, the opening “Star-Spangled Banner,” which went on just long enough for my brother and I to get bored and start hitting each other before the game even began. Second, and most egregious, were the painfully easy-to-remember “hot spots” for shooting. In theory, this made for solid on-screen offensive and defensive strategy choices for both players. In practice, this made for incredibly painful off-screen strategy, wherein we would instantly start beating the shit out of the other once one of us positioned a player in a “hot-spot.” Contests were frequently single-digit affairs as few baskets were ever actually attempted, forced to an end either by the accelerated game clock, or our parents frustration over our lack of compassion towards each other.

    While my brother and I have fond memories of our physically abuse time together during the NES days, our parents still stare off into the middle-distance upon mention of “that wretched basketball game.”

    In non-vidjagame but still game-based embarrassment, me and my awkward nerd friends were convinced that our parents were under the guise of the “satanic panic” around Dungeons and Dragons in the early 1990s, and we played in-secret in our friends’ mold and radon saturated basement. While we all believed we were being edgy and “cool” with our secret meetings of “satan’s game,” my parents years later revealed that they knew what we were doing and reminded me that I was an idiot tween without a fully-developed brain, and that they weren’t stupid enough to believe that a “fairy-tale game with dice” would lead me to evil. While the radon poisoning probably did cause some lingering brain damage and an increased risk of cancer, the real damage was learning that my awkward lameness was actually more awkward and lame that I could have imagined.

    Thanks, VGA, for the nostalgia trip and reminding me that my parents were actually saints for somehow raising me to not be a complete fuck-up.

  15. Hey VGA! My controversial game is a little unorthodox. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Blue Team was a game I was obsessed with, unfortunately around the time it came out I’d gotten into hot water about bad grades so I wasn’t allowed to play video games. My parents must’ve forgotten about my de because every night when everyone went to sleep I would sneak into the bathroom, lock the door and play for an hour or so. My parents let me know that they were aware of all the time I spent in the bathroom and while I’m sure they thought I was masturbating, that put an end to my sneaky Pokémon bathroom sessions. Keep up the good work!

  16. Hey guys,

    Just listened to this and you mentioned the Jack Chick Tract, Dark Dungeons. I actually made a (officially adapted) movie based on that tract called … wait for it …. Dark Dungeons the Movie. I’d love to talk with you guys about possibly doing something on Lasertime about my film. I think it would be a good fit. My email is my name at gmail.com Cheers! jrralls

  17. QotW: (I shared this story here once, but not as an answer to the QotW)
    I used to write for a smaller game blog – no GamesRadar, but we did alright. One day, my editor sent me an email saying that Joystiq was looking for someone to write a review for Monster Hunter Tri, since none of their writers had any experience with the series. I sent in some samples of articles I had written about MHFU, and got a call from Justin McElroy that night telling me that I got the job. I thought “awesome! This is my big break!”
    I played through the game, wrote my article, got feedback, made changes – the whole nine yards. There was a lot of game there, and I had a strict word count, so I had to cram a lot into a couple thousand words. If you boiled down my review to a sentence, it would be “this is a good Monster Hunter game, but it’s not going to be the game that converts all of your friends.” When the deadline rolled around, Justin called me to ask for a brief bio, and let me know that the review would go up that night. He went out of his way to let me know that he thought the review was entertaining, insightful and fun to read (if you didn’t already know, Justin McElroy is a super nice guy). I was STOKED!
    The next morning, I get another email from Justin: “Just wanted to let you know, I still think that you nailed it. You sounded authoritative and funny and likable. Great stuff.” So now I’m thinking “that’s a nice thing for him to send, apropos of nothing. I think I’ll check the article to see how it’s doing!”
    IT WAS ON FIRE! Poor Justin was in the trenches, responding to every blisteringly negative post – I was either too harsh or not harsh enough. I was unqualified. I was a Capcom plant, or maybe I was just trying to kill Monster Hunter outright. Didn’t matter, the point was that Joystiq offered their sizable audience the opportunity to get published and they were going to lash out at whomever got picked. I was always told not to read the comments, so I closed the window and took a deep breath.
    Next I get a call from my editor: our site was quickly becoming a 4chan parody. Every article I had ever written – every review, every editorial, every podcast episode – went from 5 or so comments from our regular readers to dozens from angry Monster Hunter fans, picking apart everything I had ever done. They attacked my voice, my tastes, my writing style, our site – all in some attempt to disqualify my GENERALLY POSITIVE review on a major site.
    And honestly, if it had stopped there, I probably would have gotten over it.
    Instead, I get a call from my wife asking if she had gotten “hacked.” Complete strangers were @ing her and sharing pictures of us from Facebook, calling her ugly and, of course, calling me gay. She was terrified and angry. I was embarrassed and disheartened.
    All this, again, because I said nice things about a game that they like.
    It took a few weeks to die down. The whole experience wasn’t really worth the $100 I got for writing the article. I still wrote for our blog for a few more months, but eventually, the little jabs I would see every time a Monster Hunter game was announced or released got to me. Honestly, I’m not thick-skinned enough to deal with that kind of abuse. As it stands, I haven’t written anything in almost 5 years. I’ll still boot up MHFU from time to time, but I haven’t touched a new game since Tri.

  18. QotW: Growing up in a strict, Christian home, I’ve had many experiences with controversial games. Aside from Pokemon and other games that are obviously satanic, my most notable confrontation was with Fire Emblem for GBA. I’ve always loved the Super Smash Bros. series and after playing as Marth and Roy in SSB Melee, I knew I needed to play whatever game they were featured in. I was around 10 when I got my first copy of Fire Emblem, but little did I know that this game contained multiple forms of magic and, at certain points, allowed you to visit a fortune teller to discuss strategy. Somehow mom found out and mommy no-likey. She immediately “suggested” that I throw it away. I did, but bought it again with my own money sometime later, after convincing her that it really was an acceptable form of entertainment. She changed her mind. I threw it away again. Waited a while. Bought it again secretly. Mom found it. The process continued but I guess at that point my soul was sold and my brain washed. I’ve bought Fire Emblem at least 5 times. I love that game.

  19. QotW: I didn’t grow up in a strict household, but maybe a stern, Catholic midwestern one. I never pushed any boundaries growing up. I remember how big of a deal it felt like to rent Rampage: World Tour for the N64 because it was rated Teen. Part of my self-censoring was when playing Cruisin’ USA. If my parents were in the room, I’d sit right in front of the tv and put my foot over the bikini-wearing starter girl, covering the image so my parents wouldn’t see… a game rated KA.

    Years later in an actual coup, I got my mom to buy me GTA 3, having placed my finger conveniently over the M rating. I then played it in secrecy, except for taxi and firefighting gameplay. Did my parents actually care or was it all needlessly self-imposed? I don’t know. The only game they ever wouldn’t buy me was Contra: Shattered Soldier.

  20. I don’t have a comment regarding the topics discussed, but kudos for choosing the music from Lufia (SNES) playing in the background. Who chooses what music is played during these episodes? Is it Michael himself?

  21. Qotw: My parents never cared about video games and actually supported me in my obsession of games. But I remember having a class project in which the teacher picked the groups so instead of being paired with any of my actual friends I was paired with a very nerdy guy that I never actually talked to. After talking to him for the first time I found out that his dad was a pastor and his parents wanted me to stay the night on the weekend to work on the project. I could almost guarantee the most boring sleepover in my life. To my surprise he was a gamer as well and we played many of the same games and we bonded over metal gear solid 2 sons of liberty. After getting our work done and playing a few hours of mgs2 he told me his dad was a car nut and bought him a racing game he hadn’t tried yet and asked if I wanted to try it out with him. He pulled up the game, grand theft auto 3. His dad bought it without knowing anything about it he just saw cars and was sold on it. So after playing the game until morning with no sleep with many a hooker murdered and many a head popped off with the sniper rifle his dad walks in to let us know breakfast was ready. To his surprise we were in the middle of courting a lady of the night to the sounds of “rush rush to the yayo”. He blows up in a rage and yelled at his son telling him that I’m a bad influence on him and immediately gathers me up to take me home meanwhile telling me that I’m a godless person. I basically did a tuck and roll when I got back to my house as he threw the game out the window. So I ended up with a new game and new outlook at religion, the realization that religion is stupid. Thanks guys your the best.

  22. QOTW: My mom was scared of GTA thanks to a news report. My dumb teenager mind told me that it must have been the best game ever. So I snuck a copy of GTA III into the house when a friend let me borrow it. I started playing it one night after my parents went to bed, and I found myself playing the most boring game I’ve ever played. That was the night I found out I didn’t like open world games.

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