Controversy tends to follow games whether developers and fans want it or not. Some on a grand scale like Rockstar's Bully. Many thought the game was promoting bullying and potentially teaching children that it was okay to be a bully. There's also the lesser known Propeller Arena, which was going to be released on the Sega Dreamcast. It featured airplane battles high in the sky but was canceled due to the September 11 terrorist attacks. Propeller Arena was originally going to release on September 19, 2001. One stage in the game, Tower City, so closely resembled New York that the developers decided it would be poor taste to still release the game.
These two examples are very obvious controversies, ones that many people could take offense to. But there are many many other times when controversy affects video games on a much smaller scale. Most recently there was a gesture removed from Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in which the Inkling Girl from Splatoon would commit a rude move. Raising one arm and grabbing your bicep with another is equivalent to flipping the bird is in other parts of the world. Nintendo removed it from the game in a show of good faith to those who were offended. Another instance of Nintendo sparking controversy is Mario Party 8. The word “spastic” was used in the game, but in the UK it's a derogatory word for someone with mental handicaps. This word was also used in Nintendo's 2006 Mind Quiz. Both games were recalled and the word replaced with “erratic.”
Another really recent example of small controversies is the wildly popular Persona 5. The opening sequence of the game shows the character Ryuji with a Rising Sun flag design on his sneakers. This is a bit of an inflammatory symbol for South Koreans, so they were surprised to see this design included in the opening sequence video uploaded to YouTube. In this case, it was apparently just a mistake in video upload. The symbol had actually already been removed for the Korean version of the game, but the incorrect opening video had been uploaded to the PlayStation Korea account.
Let's go just slightly back in time for another example. Imagine in your mind's eye the Left 4 Dead 2 cover art. It depicts a zombie's hand clawing upwards just like the original game. On the Left 4 Dead 2 box art two of the zombies fingers are outstretched to signify the sequel. In the UK this is the same thing as showing your middle finger, so the cover was changed for those in the United Kingdom. The box art stayed the same for the rest of the world in this case, so UK fans of the game still had to see a rude gesture practically everywhere online.
There's one other really interesting example of video game controversy that I would like to cover before we conclude and that is Gotcha. Don't worry, I had never heard of this game until I started to write this article either. Gotcha was an arcade game from 1973 released by Atari. Supposedly, you played as a young woman who was running through a maze to escape a man chasing her. The original cabinet had a set of controllers that looked eerily like something else. Rather than normal controllers (which to be fair can be seen as dirty if you try hard enough too), the Gotcha cabinet had two pink domes that you used to control the game. In case you didn't catch what I'm getting at here, the controllers looked like breasts. Atari changed the cabinet before release so that the game had standard controllers to avoid a PR nightmare.
All of these controversies, big and small, ended up having some kind of impact on the games they belonged to. Companies made often minute, but sometimes large changes to their game to avoid confrontation with audiences. Many would say that the world is becoming far too sensitive and that these changes didn't need to be made, people just need to buck up and stop being special snowflakes. The other side that I would argue is if these changes could be made by companies, why wouldn't they? They're just small changes, and they have the potential to anger entire regions of gamers. To be fair, it's really just good business. If you're going to potentially alienate part of your audience, there's absolutely no reason to not make the change.
What do you think though? Are companies just feeding into the culture of over-sensitivity? Or do they have every right to make whatever changes they want, especially if it's for commercial reasons? Let me know in the comments!