The 10 biggest controversies in video games

By and large, video games are still a relatively new form of media, but they haven’t been without controversy.

They’re firmly established as an integral part of popular culture today, but over the years there have been many naysayers and many who still blame video games for all the ills in the world.

The GTA series is no stranger to controversy.

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The GTA series is no stranger to controversy.Photo credit: Rockstar

Such a view is ridiculous at this point, but there were still times when certain video games deserved public outrage.

Be it shady dealings, publishers pushing the envelope, or unethical marketing, there is no shortage of controversy in gaming history.

We’ve picked ten of the biggest gaming stories, explaining why they happened and what the consequences were.

Atari sued over Pong

We’re not going to sit here and describe pong. For a short time in history it was “the video game”. However, it wasn’t the first home video game ever released, as some might have you believe.

The truth is that Pong was more or less an exact copy of a game called Table Tennis for the Magnavox Odyssey. 1974 Magnavox sued Atari for $1.5 million and forced Atari to pay a license fee to keep Pong on the market.

The story would eventually prove Atari the true winner as the company proliferated while Magnavox faded into oblivion.

Star Wars Battlefront II loot boxes

By 2017, players had resisted the increasingly predatory monetization methods of Triple-A games for a while, but that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The game aggressively shoved loot boxes in players’ faces and locked popular Star Wars characters behind either a paywall or more than 40 hours of grinding.

Fans expressed their outrage online and the EA community team’s response became a single Comment with the most downvotes in Reddit history and prompted EA to temporarily disable in-game purchases entirely.

Hot coffee

Hidden within the files for GTA: San Andreas were deleted scenes that gave you interactive sex, fully animated in all of its blocky PS2-era glory.

This wasn’t a problem per se – they were deleted scenes, after all – but a bright spark modded them back into the PC version, and then the mainstream media found out.

As you might expect, many people didn’t realize that this content wasn’t included in the standard version of the game, and the ESRB upped the game’s rating to Adults Only, meaning many stores wouldn’t carry it.

In response, Rockstar re-released the game and completely removed the Hot Coffee content from the game’s files, allowing them to regain their maturity rating.

The disastrous launch of No Man’s Sky

When it comes to building an overzealous fan base, 2016’s No Man’s Sky couldn’t be beat.

Anyone who said anything negative about the game would be instantly ambushed by fans angrily defending something they had never played. Imagine the outrage when it came out and the consensus was that it was mediocre at best.

At worst, it was completely disappointing and lacked many of the features director Sean Murray personally promised the game would have.

Many were outraged by the game for underperforming, while others were inexplicably outraged by all the people outraged. It has created a very uncomfortable cycle in online communities.

By all accounts, the game has been updated in the years since to be much closer to what was initially promised.

GTA 5’s non-skippable interactive torture scene

GTA is no stranger to over-the-top violence, but it is a scene in Grand Theft Auto 5 was a step too far for most people.

This torture scene involved hitting a defenseless person with a wrench, electrocuting them, or almost drowning them, all with very graphic animations.

It made people very uncomfortable, especially as there was no option to skip it or not attend.

Watch Dogs trailers exaggerate the graphics

Watch Dogs seemed like a groundbreaking title when it was first revealed at E3 2012, especially when its delayed launch coincided with the next-gen Xbox One and PS4.

The gameplay trailers made the game look incredible, but on release day people were very disappointed. The game still looked good, but nowhere near the quality shown in the trailers.

Worse still, data miners eventually found the updated graphics in the files for the PC version, leading many to accuse Ubisoft of deliberately downgrading the PC version to avoid making the new consoles look bad.

Konami splits with Hideo Kojima

Whether you think he’s a genius or a madman, there’s no denying that Hideo Kojima is making headlines.

Kojima had a decade-long partnership with Konami, but it couldn’t last forever, and in 2015 Kojima was let go.

Silent Hills teaser PT has been removed from the PlayStation Store, the highly anticipated game has been canceled and Kojima’s name has been completely removed from all marketing related to the Metal Gear Solid series.

Just in case they hadn’t pissed off enough people already, Konami banned Kojima from collecting his awards at the 2015 Game Awards, where Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain won Best Action/Adventure and Best Score/Soundtrack won.

Cyberpunk 2077 was a mess at launch

Few games have had as much hype as Cyberpunk 2077. People had a lot of faith in CD Projekt Red after The Witcher 3, and it was exciting to see what the studio would do with such a drastically different IP.

The game faced several delays leading up to launch, with fans increasingly annoyed at having to wait longer and longer, but it finally came out in December 2020 and there were some major issues.

All versions of the games were full of bugs, both hilarious and frustrating. The Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game were particularly broken, leading to a large number of refund requests. Sony even removed the game from its store until June 2021 due to so many refund requests.

Diablo Immortal’s announcement was booed by fans

When Diablo immortal was announced as a mobile-only title at BlizzCon 2018, fans were furious. The people in the crowd booed the announcement and the developers were stunned.

In a rather numb joke, the game’s lead designer asked the crowd, “Don’t you guys have phones?” which only fueled the flames of outrage when a fan in the crowd asked if the announcement was an off-season April Fool’s joke.

Eventually, Blizzard relented and launched the game on PC as well, but it was not well received and hence has the lowest user rating on Metacritic.

The birth of the ESRB

Violent games have long been the target of politicians and parent organizations alike. In 1993, two games fanned the flames enough for the US government to get involved.

The two games in question are legendary bloody brawler Mortal Kombat and FMV horror game Night Trap.

It’s hilarious by modern standards that these games should cause such outrage, but in a congressional hearing, the gaming industry was told to either create a ratings panel or have one created for them.

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The solution was the ESRB, which rates games on a scale from E for everyone to AO for adults only.

Many countries would follow suit with their own rating systems in the years to come. For example, Europe introduced PEGI in 2003, which rates things by age, and Australia uses the ACB, which is responsible for rating all media published in the country.

Written by Ryan Woodrow on behalf of GOOD LUCK AND HAVE FUN.

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