Get real - gaming in the real world

Written by James Morris

July 4, 2006 | 09:38

Tags: #carmageddon #death-race #ethics #real-world

Controversy reloaded

We previously looked at a timeline for computer game violence, but here's a recap.

The computer game has courted controversy for over thirty years. You’d need to be particularly puritanical to place any danger at the door of Pong or Pac Man. But back in 1976, the arcade game Death Race provoked the first protests against a video game, and was eventually banned. Based on the popular science fiction movie Death Race 2000, this game involved driving your very rudimentary car graphic over as many ‘gremlins’ attempting to cross your path as possible.

But not only did these gremlins scream as they died, they looked like people too – and Death Race’s development codename was ‘Pedestrian’. So the true theme of running over people wasn’t particularly well hidden. Clearly, Death Race’s critics felt it was glorifying hit-and-run, although there was no evidence of the game’s connection to real incidents. Still, the arcade systems are now as rare as hen’s teeth and fetch a high price at auction.

Get real - gaming in the real world Controversy reloaded Get real - gaming in the real world Controversy reloaded
Death Race, left, and JFK Reloaded, right
Since then, Carmageddon has revisited similar themes and met with similar controversy. It was banned by most retailers in France (maybe too close to the way the French really drive…) and received an 18 certificate in Germany. But the most infamous car-related game of all time is the hugely successful Grand Theft Auto series. This was entirely intended, though, and Take 2 actually hired world-renown publicist Max Clifford to stir the flames. The fact that Grand Theft Auto: Vice City allowed you to have sexual relations with a prostitute then kill her to get your money back probably enhanced its reputation with would-be buyers as much as it diminished it amongst the moralising elements in society. More recently, the furore over the ‘Hot Coffee’ sequence buried in the latest Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas incident continues to rumble on even now.

In November 2004, the game JFK Reloaded became notorious. The aim of this upsetting title was to recreate the murder of US President John F Kennedy as perfectly as possible. The developer Traffic Games alleged it was attempting to show that the Warren Commission’s report on the assassination was correct, and anyone who got the murderous snipe spot on would win a cash prize. But the site shut down in August 2005, allegedly after the Kennedy family threatened legal action.
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