January 2017 Update: Added an addendum and clarification to the final paragraph.
Progressive and feminist video game naysayers regularly claim their criticism may be loud, but ultimately minimally effective since they argue video games will survive regardless of what they say. And while this is true for the most part, these agenda-driven critics are loathe to admit the lengths they employ—participating in moral crusades on social media, for example—to vilify in hopes of ultimately censoring the art they despise.
Their scored reviews carry weight on review aggregators like Metacritic, which many mainstream games publishers use as a benchmark for their products, hampering the creativity of the artists and developers. Not all criticism is bad, of course. But criticizing video games based on critical theory often results in censorship.
In 2016, numerous titles were censored because of complaints from the cultural gatekeepers who dominate the landscape of games journalism. Here are the year’s most egregious, and therefore best examples of political correctness gone wrong.
Growing sensitivity towards cultural appropriation, and given that Bravely Second was set in North America, caused its publisher, Square Enix, to turn the Tomahawk character class—originally depicted as an American Indian—into a cowgirl, replete with a Southern drawl. Female characters were also covered up, and artwork depicting these characters was even removed from the accompanying art book. To top it off, the localizers removed any player-driven moral choices that would cause characters to die.
Dead Rising 4
The fourth installment in Capcom’s zombie-killing series was declared verboten in Germany for its violent content. Like the other titles in the franchise, Dead Rising 4 is in legal violation of German penal law. Curiously, the equally violent Mortal Kombat X and Killing Floor 2 did not fall under the executioner’s axe.
Tales of Berseria
The International release of Bandai Namco’s RPG was censored, including alterations like deleted scenes and characters that depicted violence. To keep the game’s PEGI 16+ age rating in Europe, the publisher had to “rework” a scene depicting the violent death of a younger character. The scene in question didn’t contain any blood or gore, but it was enough to get the game censored.
Genital Jousting is an amusing little party game in which players wiggle around as flaccid Johnsons. Shortly after its release, it was added to Twitch’s list of prohibited games, alongside titles like Indigo Prophecy and Rockstar Games’ Manhunt. The streaming platform has yet to explain why some games are included in the list, but not others.
Watch Dogs 2
Ubisoft’s open-world game, Watch Dogs 2, has no problem depicting male genitalia in full view of the player, but the inclusion of female private parts caused Sony to ban players from its PSN service for taking in-game screenshots and sharing them on social media. Ubisoft was then forced to remove the offending character textures and lobby on behalf of the banned players to reverse Sony’s heavy-handed actions.
The Uncharted series has always featured a bonus mode called “Doughnut Drake.” It allowed players to play an obese version of Nathan Drake. The plus-sized protagonist was removed from Uncharted 4 mid-development because of the developers’ fears that they might offend someone through its inclusion. Way to exclude people of size, Naughty Dog.
There are video games that deserve to be censored or even banned. Titles like NIS America’s Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors, which depicts under-age girls in non-consensual sexual situations where players “punish” them, normalize sexual relationships between adults and children. Germany’s USK ratings board found that the game promoted a link between sexuality and violence, which was compounded by how young its characters look.
Addendum: Video games are products, first and foremost. It’s understandable as to why ratings boards would prohibit the sale of these (pedophilia-normalizing) materials, citing their potential to cause harm, and backing up their reasoning with facts.