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Besides receiving accolades for their gameplay, controversial video games have received flak from various organizations, parents and educators for being violent in nature. Games like Doom, Postal 2, and Bully have always hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons and have been criticized for influencing young minds to commit acts of violence. While research proves that there isn’t any evidence which suggests video games are directly responsible for violent committed by youth, the debate between critics like David Grossman and game developers (and gamers) does not seem to end so soon.
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This 1993 groundbreaking first-person shooter title sparked controversy for its violence and gore. It was described as a “mass murder simulator" by author and longtime critic of violent games David Grossman.
The game was also criticized for being heavily influenced by Satanism. The diabolical connotation Doom carries was severely disapproved of by religious organizations. The game was dragged into controversy once again in 1999 when two high school seniors Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 13 people and then committed suicide at the Columbine High School library. Doom’s detractors claimed that Eric Harris was influenced by Doom and rumors spread that he designed a Doom high school mod and practiced shooting at “virtual classmates" days before the massacre took place. Before the High school massacre Doom earned a place in many top-ten controversial PC video games lists soon after this incident.
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6. Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat, along with Doom, was one of the prime reasons for setting up of the ESRB game rating system in the mid-90s. Fatalities in MK – cut-scenes that appear after player defeats the opponent in a one-on-one fight – were criticized for their gory scenes. The fatalities can be invoked by pressing a series of keys. The game was surrounded by controversies soon after its release, and was criticized for violence and death scenes.
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5. Reservoir Dogs
In addition to being one of the poorest crime-themed action games, Reservoir Dogs also earns the “controversial" title for its in-game bank heist, which allows gamers to take hostages and kill them, if need be. The violent nature of the game attracted criticism and was banned from sale in Australia and New Zealand.
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Controversy’s child Rockstar Games received severe criticisms from parents and educators after their new game Bully was released. The game was criticized for sexual content and for glorifying bullying in schools by various organizations like Peaceaholics. The sexual theme of the game also raised eyebrows, and hence given a T rating by the ESRB. Some of the in-game missions were high on sexual themes and required the main character to complete quests to earn rewards.
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3. Postal 2
This first-person shooter received flak due to its graphic nature and was banned in several countries, including Australia. The violence depicted in the game involves decapitating people or setting their bodies on fire using Molotov cocktails and matches. An achievement is unlocked if a gamer is successful in burning an individual to death.
The game was also criticized for brutality and offensive scenes. Players can engage in stun-gunning people, kicking severed heads after decapitating non-player characters and watching them crawl after dismembering those using chainsaws (this aspect could be unlocked through a game modification).
Postal 2 has references to various real-life incidents, including the Columbine School Massacre. Incidentally, the incident was related to another controversial game – Doom.
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2. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
Known for the infamous Hot Coffee Mod, San Andreas attracted criticisms, which forced Rockstar Games to withdraw it from the market and release the game minus the mod. The modification, which was created by a Netherlands-based modder, allowed gamers to play a sex-themed mini-game. The game modification was released in June 2005 and soon compelled ESRB to change the rating to Adults Only. The game, besides being controversial for its violence and crime theme, is one of the most controversial video games of the decade.
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While Manhunt is famous for its stealth game mechanic, its graphic violence surpasses even the most violent games like Doom, Reservoir Dogs and the Grand Theft Auto series. The game’s “three-level execution" system allows the player to execute people in the most violent way possible. The game earned notoriety for its gory death scenes after the third-level execution and got banned in several countries, including New Zealand - where possession is an offense – Australia and Germany.
The game was again dragged into controversy during the Stephen Pakeerah murder trial. The victim’s mother claimed that the accused Warren Leblanc was influenced by the game. However, the police did not find any link with the game and the murder citing the motive was robbery.