The 10 biggest controversies in video games

In the grand scheme of things, video games are still a relatively new form of media, but they haven’t been without controversy.

They’ve firmly established themselves as a staple of popular culture today, but there have been plenty of naysayers over the years, and many still blame video games for all the ills in the world.


The GTA series is no stranger to controversy.Credit: Rockstar

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

Whether it’s shady dealings, publishers crossing the line, or unethical marketing, there’s no shortage of controversy in gaming history.

We’ve picked out ten of the greatest in gaming history and we’ll explain why they happened and what consequences they had.

Atari sued for Pong

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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 Magnavox’s Odyssey. In 1974, Magnavox sued Atari for $1.5 million and forced Atari to pay a royalty to keep Pong in the market.

As time went on, history would eventually prove that Atari was the real winner, as the company grew while Magnavox fell into obscurity.

Star Wars Battlefront II Loot Boxes

In 2017, gamers had been objecting to the increasingly predatory monetization methods of triple-A games for some time, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The game aggressively pushed loot boxes into players’ faces and locked beloved Star Wars characters behind a paywall or over 40 hours of grinding.

Fans expressed their outrage online, and the response from the EA community team infamously became the most criticized comment in Reddit history and caused EA to temporarily disable in-game purchases altogether.

Hot coffee

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

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

As you’d expect, a lot of people didn’t realize that this content wasn’t in the standard version of the game, and the ESRB upped the game’s rating to Adults Only, which means a lot of stores don’t have it. would not store.

In response, Rockstar re-released the game, completely removing the Hot Coffee content from the game files, allowing them to regain their Mature rating.

The disastrous launch of No Man’s Sky

When it comes to building an overzealous fan base, nothing could beat 2016’s No Man’s Sky.

Anyone who said anything negative about the game would be immediately attacked by fans furiously 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 features that director Sean Murray had personally promised for the game.

Many were outraged at the game for underdelivery, while others were inexplicably outraged at all the outraged people. This has created a very unpleasant cycle in online communities.

By all accounts, the game has been updated over the years to be much closer to what was originally promised.

GTA 5’s must-see interactive torture scene

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

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

It made people very uncomfortable, especially since there was no way to skip it or opt out.

Watch Dogs Trailers Oversell Graphics

Watch Dogs was looking to be a landmark 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 amazing, but on launch day people were very disappointed. The game still looked good, but nowhere near the quality that was displayed in the trailers.

Worse still, data miners eventually found the upgraded graphics in the PC version files, leading many to accuse Ubisoft of deliberately downgrading the PC version to avoid giving the new consoles a bad image.

Konami part ways 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 decades-long partnership with Konami, but it couldn’t last forever, and in 2015 Kojima was released.

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

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

Cyberpunk 2077 was a mess at launch

Few games have had as much hype behind them 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 was subject to multiple delays in the run up to launch, with fans growing annoyed that they had to wait longer and longer, but in December 2020 it was finally released and there were big problems.

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 huge amount of refund requests. Sony even pulled the game from its store until June 2021 due to the number of refunds requested.

Diablo Immortal announcement booed by fans

When Diablo Immortal was announced at BlizzCon 2018 as a mobile-only title, fans were furious. Attendees booed the announcement and the developers were left baffled.

In a rather tone-deaf joke, the game’s lead designer asked the crowd, “You don’t have a phone?” which only fanned the flames of outrage, as a fan in the crowd asked if the announcement was an off-season April Fool’s Day joke.

Eventually, Blizzard relented and released the game on PC as well, but it didn’t do well, and thus it has the lowest user score on Metacritic.

The birth of the ESRB

Violent games have long been the target of politicians and parent groups. In 1993, two games fanned the flames to the point that the US government got involved.

The two games in question are Mortal Kombat, an iconic and gory horror game, and the FMV horror game, Night Trap.

By modern standards, it’s hilarious that these games cause such an outrage, but during a congressional hearing, the games industry was told to create a league table or create one 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 will follow suit in the following years with their own rating systems. For example, Europe created the PEGI in 2003, which rates things based on age, and Australia uses the ACB, which is responsible for rating all media published in the country.

Written by Ryan Woodrow on behalf of GLHF.

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