As many gamers probably know, video games are rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board not unlike how movies are rated by the Motion Picture of America Association. However, what some might not know is that the ESRB is actually fairly recent when compared to the history of video games as a whole. The ESRB is about to celebrate its 22nd anniversary of being established in just about two months after this editorial’s publication while the “Super Mario” franchise, starting with Donkey Kong is about 13 years older. Though, this does not mean that action was not asked to be taken previously as there had been many video games prior to the creation of the ESRB that were questioned and criticized heavily for their content. So, this editorial will cover three of these “morally outrageous” games and see what the fuss was all about.
First up, is the infamous title Night Trap which released for multiple platforms back in October of 1992. The game places the player as part of the Special Control Attack Team, which has to keep some young women at a slumber party safe as they are being hunted by vampiric beings known as Augers who crave women’s blood. After getting past that ridiculous premise, Night Trap does actually have a lot to offer being a full-motion video game where the player can switch cameras to activate traps and protect the girls to make sure they have the most radical slumber party they can. Besides this, the game also has a ridiculously catchy theme song and a pretty dark sense of humor that lets the player actually kill one of their allies at the end of the game. Of course, these are not the reasons why the game was so controversial, which instead can be found in a specific scene where one of the women is wearing a nightgown as she is kidnapped by an Auger. While no inappropriate acts are performed on the women in the game and the blood-draining device was purposely changed to look unrealistic to prevent issues like this, Night Trap was pulled from stores two weeks before the release and outrage was sparked throughout news outlets. Meanwhile, Mortal Kombat was still being sold in stores at the time and Night Trap ended up earning itself Congressional hearings involving violence in video games because that is how crazy people can be and how easy it is to generate controversy over what many would claim is a non-issue. No matter, the game released to very drastically different reviews either praising it for the full-motion video included and the replayability or criticizing it for its campiness, and as the years pass these negative reviews only increase. Now, the developers of Night Trap did try to start a Kickstarter, because why would they not, in order to remake the title which was unsuccessfully funded. But the future of Night Trap will never truly be known, viva la Night Trap.
Next, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, while Mortal Kombat was still being sold at the time of the Night Trap controversy this did not mean it did not generate controversy of its own. The high amount of blood, gore, and graphic bodily mutilation drew outrage from a large group of people and some could argue that it was the tipping point for the ESRB to be created as it released in 1992 and the ESRB was formed in 1994. Even the then President of Nintendo of America, Howard Lincoln, spoke out against both Night Trap and Mortal Kombat calling them “very violent and offensive games.” As a result, the SNES only received a censored version of the game, without the blood or gore, while then-rival Sega decided to release the game with the MA-13 rating leading to a much larger commercial success. Almost seems as if gamers do not particularly like it when their games are censored and prefer to buy the original version, hmm. Thankfully, the developers have not backed down since and have continued to go only more and more ridiculous with future game’s fatalities which just end up generating more controversy that many gamers will few as being silly fifteen years after the back.
Last in the rotation is the original Doom which was released back in 1993 on good ol’ MS-DOS. A brief way to explain the game is that a space marine (named by many as Doomguy), has been posted to Mars after he made some mistakes with his commanding officer. While Mars was previously considered the most boring planet to be assigned, shit hits the fan and suddenly Doomguy has to kill a bunch of demon enemies. The game itself released to an insane amount of popularity and positive reviews as it revolutionized its own genre at the time, taking over computers all over the world as it was reported that anywhere from 15 – 20 million people played the game in its first two years released due to the first third of the game being given out as shareware. Unfortunately, this popularity was not without backlash as many were upset by the level of violence and satanic imagery. What really sent the masses over the edge though, was the tragic Columbine Massacre when it was found out that the shooters played Doom a lot in their spare time, leading one of them, Eric Harris to actually design levels for the game which were aptly named the “Harris levels.” Unfortunately, even though there have been studies that prove otherwise, people at the time and people now still believe that violent video games lead to violent acts in real life which is just untrue.
So, that is it for this editorial, if you have any opinions you would like to share, any critiques with the editorial itself, or requests for future ones, make sure to leave a comment below!