Just because something is cute and innocent on the outside doesn’t mean that it isn’t harboring some dark, inner secrets. Though this list of ten seemingly innocuous video games meant no harm, they bear a hint of controversy that, once made known, simply cannot be ignored.
The Stanley Parable
The Stanley Parable is an interactive story that was a result of a mod built on Valve’s Source engine. Lacking any sort of combat and action, the Stanley Parable is a passive experience that follows Stanley, who works a mundane job in an office. When one day his computer screen goes blank, Stanley begins to explore the office. Seems pretty hard for controversy to breed from this scenario, but it most certainly did when complaints of an image of a white business man holding a cigarette up to the face of a black child was revealed. The game’s creator, Davey Wreden, moved quick to remove the content, though many were more upset over the game changing than the image itself.
It’s easy to get offended when everything that you hear is taken either out of context or a little too far. In the case of Portal 2, this is exactly what happened. The game’s guiding robot turned antagonist, Wheatley, turned what was a mostly innocent title into a CBS News debacle by uttering the phrase “Fatty fatty no parents.” In the context of Portal’s setting, the insult is actually quite funny, but when the parents of an adopted girl caught wind of the robots quip, it turned into a bit of gaming controversy. After the parents reported the insult for its insensitivity, CBS News jumped on the bandwagon and deemed the game offensive to adopted children. Is it possible, as a society, we are getting just a little too sensitive to everything?
You don’t get much more innocent than Sony’s lovable new mascot, Sackboy, which is why it’s tough to believe that the little guy was the focus of a little religious scandal prior to the release of LittleBig Planet. The game faced delays when it was revealed that passages from the Quran were featured in a licensed track from the game’s “Swinging Safari” stage. It was requested that the track be removed, as it is considered offensives for pop music to feature anything from a holy book. Sony was able to rectify the situation rather quickly and the innocent slip up was swept under the rug by Sackboys adorable little face.
Mind Quiz was a Nintendo DS and PSP game that touted itself as a mental trainer, meant to improve upon certain parts of the brain with a variety of puzzles and quizzes. It didn’t fare well in reviews and was pretty much panned against far more successful trainers like Brain Age. What Mind Quiz became best known for, though, was a little bit of controversy when it launched in 2007. In the game, the word “Spastic” is used to reference the gamer, and as we learned with Mario Party 8, which was victim of the same mistake a month later, the use of the term is a complete no-no in the United Kingdom. Ubisoft worked fast with retailers to have the game pulled, and even though controversy sometimes breeds popularity, Mind Quiz never really met any sort of fame.
Mario Party 8
Sometimes to stir the pot of controversial stew, all it takes is the muttering of one word. In one version of the extremely family friendly party game, the blue wizard Magikoopa utters the word “spastic.” In American dialect, the world isn’t all that insulting and is often revered as a cute trait, but once one heads overseas, it takes an entirely different connotation. The United Kingdom release of Mario Party 8 was meant to have that section removed, but the wrong version was put on the shelves. It didn’t take long for the game to be pulled and for Nintendo to issue a formal apology, as spastic is an offensive slur for someone with cerebral palsy.
The Sims 2
A lot can go wrong with a game that lets you trap simulated people in a room with no escape and then allow you the means to set that room on fire; but The Sims 2 controversy goes way beyond the sadistic minds of its players. Like Tomb Raider, the controversy surrounding EA’s innocent family Sim was user created when an individual created a mod that removed the blur from any naked Sim. Springing immediately into action was famed anti-gamer, Jack Thompson, who was quick to accuse EA from releasing a game that featured full frontal nudity. As the mod was a third-party maneuver, EA really caught no flack from the general public, but Jack Thompson’s stamp of disapproval will always be there on The Sims 2.
Sometimes it’s not even the developers own doing that lands the game in the historical archives of controversy. In the case of Tomb Raider, a bit of clever coding by someone who clearly had too much time on their hands spawned what is so accurately referred to as Nude Raider. Stripping Lara Croft of her top, the Nude Raider patch lets gamers raid some tombs while also enjoying the view of Croft’s more notable assets. The controversial patch quickly dissolved Croft’s image as a strong feminine figure, nearly negating the entire point of Croft’s strong personality.
Absolutely nothing about a simulated helicopter pilot game could be controversial, right? You would think so, at least, but there is a little story to SimCopter that earns it a place in the history of video game controversy. Designer Jacque Servin, who helped develop SimCopter at the game’s development house, Maxis, had quite the chip on his shoulder regarding work conditions. So much so that he aired his grievances in SimCopter’s coding, adding Speedo-clad “himbo” characters who would move around, hugging and kissing each other, with florescent nipples. They may not have fit into the SimCopters original purpose, but they at least added a little finesse to the game.
Punch-Out!! seems like such a harmless concept as a video game that essentially acts as an adaptation to Sylvester Stalone’s Rocky. If you look into the history of Nintendo’s arcade boxer, you’ll find that not everything about the game was so easily swallowed by everyone. Each of Little Macs opponents hails from a different country, and many believed that the way these fighters were represented were completely racist. Take, for instance, the Frenchman, Glass Joe, who is the weakest and is quick to surrender, and Piston Honda, the camera-obsessed Japanese fighter, lovingly named after a car from the same country. Whether or not the team at Nintendo intended to be outright insensitive with these racial tropes doesn’t really matter when people are so quick to call them out. The damage had already been done.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
When games like Ocarina of Time are pegged with bits of controversy, it makes you wonder just how any game leaves the development floor without offending someone. For Nintendo’s fifth Zelda game, it featured a background track in the Fire Temple that had within it a Muslim prayer. The chant has been traced back to being a quote from the Qur’an. To avoid offending an entire religion when Ocarina of Time finally did release, Nintendo completely replaced Muslim chanting in later versions the game. There wasn’t much of an outcry that stemmed from the inclusion of the chant, so it seems Nintendo was able to keep this from blowing out of proportion.