Mortal Kombat, Postal And The Real Censorship Of Fantasy Violence

Mortal Kombat, Postal And The Real Censorship Of Fantasy Violence

Mortal Kombat came out in 1992 and Postal arrived in 1997. Both brought with it outrage over the graphic nature of the violence. Censors tried to have them banned and failed. And the struggle helped the video games industry come of age.

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It's interesting to see how little people have learned from the Jack Thompson era.

I live in one of these countries where these games (and many many others) are or were banned. Thanks to the internet (buying from other countries eg.) the situation has become way better but in my teens I missed a lot of games or even didn't know about them because they lacked press and space on a shelve.

For fun copy and paste the article into a word processor and replace violence with "sexism" or "misogyny" or "racism" or "offensiveness" or whatever other accusation words are being thrown around now.

It reads exactly the same.

The same show keeps playing out through history. Busybodys get their jimmies rustled by a creative product. Not because it intrudes on their lives but because they are made aware that something they don't personally approve of exists. Or because the creator of the product dares publicly express an opinion they don't approve of. Then the busybodys use whatever power they have to try to make it stop existing. They use any means they can including shame, force (usually through government), connections, fraud (false copyright claims, false moderation reports), mob intimidation, etc.

I don't see why people can't just leave each other the fuck alone. If you don't like a game (movie, comic book, song) just don't buy it. And don't waste everyones time spamming the internet telling them why they shouldn't buy it. Instead use your creative energy to promote products that support your position and worldview.

People need to stop pretending that being offended is some kind harm. If is a feeling that is made up in their minds and doesn't give them any special rights.

rembrandtqeinstein:
For fun copy and paste the article into a word processor and replace violence with "sexism" or "misogyny" or "racism" or "offensiveness" or whatever other accusation words are being thrown around now.

It reads exactly the same.

The same show keeps playing out through history. Busybodys get their jimmies rustled by a creative product. Not because it intrudes on their lives but because they are made aware that something they don't personally approve of exists. Or because the creator of the product dares publicly express an opinion they don't approve of. Then the busybodys use whatever power they have to try to make it stop existing. They use any means they can including shame, force (usually through government), connections, fraud (false copyright claims, false moderation reports), mob intimidation, etc.

I don't see why people can't just leave each other the fuck alone. If you don't like a game (movie, comic book, song) just don't buy it. And don't waste everyones time spamming the internet telling them why they shouldn't buy it. Instead use your creative energy to promote products that support your position and worldview.

People need to stop pretending that being offended is some kind harm. If is a feeling that is made up in their minds and doesn't give them any special rights.

Amen to that. Offense is something that is taken, not given. It's only overly sensitive little snowflakes who go insane over something as trivial as what happens in entertainment and assumes that just because you read, watch, or play something that has some sort of explicit content that it's going to make you a racist/sexist/murderer/whatever.

I don't get it.
Where the fuck are these morality enforcers when another Saw movie comes out?
Watch all 7.5 movies and then play Postal2 (takes aprox. same time to finish game)
Now honestly answer, which is worse violence-vise?

Contrary to what Lieberman said, parents could "do it alone". The problem is that this required parents to become familiar with the unfamiliar, to accept that video games had become more than Super Mario Bros., and to actually exert their parental responsibility to monitor their children.

Unsurprisingly, many American parents preferred to go screaming to smirking, pandering politicians like Lieberman. "Make the bad thing go away; we don't like it!"

Were they right? Did America turn into a blood-soaked madhouse, with violence-desensitized children rampaging through the streets, killing innocents in blind parroting of their favorite gore-orgy games? Doesn't seem like that happened, no... in fact, violent crime has been steadily decreasing since those alarmist days. And since I don't believe that parents magically figured out how to be proper parents during that time, I'm just going to believe that the fearmongers were either flat-out wrong or flat-out lying, which in an intelligent society would mean that they'd be discredited and ignored on any serious subject thereafter.

Somebody let me know when we get an intelligent society around here.

pressfarttocontinue:
It's interesting to see how little people have learned from the Jack Thompson era.

It's interesting to see how many people completely misunderstand Thompson's opinions on the subject. Granted he couldn't properly communicate his ideas to save his career, but still.

deathbydeath:

pressfarttocontinue:
It's interesting to see how little people have learned from the Jack Thompson era.

It's interesting to see how many people completely misunderstand Thompson's opinions on the subject. Granted he couldn't properly communicate his ideas to save his career, but still.

I actually agree with you there, from everything I was able to read on Thompson his more recent views are not to ban games as adult entertainment but to actually enforce the ESRB.

The most important aspect of freedom of expression is not defending the things you like, but defending the things you don't.

DeepReaver:

deathbydeath:

pressfarttocontinue:
It's interesting to see how little people have learned from the Jack Thompson era.

It's interesting to see how many people completely misunderstand Thompson's opinions on the subject. Granted he couldn't properly communicate his ideas to save his career, but still.

I actually agree with you there, from everything I was able to read on Thompson his more recent views are not to ban games as adult entertainment but to actually enforce the ESRB.

And as soon as similar enforcement is put in place for mature-themed movies, books and music, I'll agree that that is a reasonable stance to take.

"Discipline and self-restraint when practiced by an individual, family, or a company is an effective way to deal with the issue. The same thing when forced on a people by their government or, worse, by a self-appointed watchdog of public morals, is suppression and will not be tolerated in a democratic society." - John Denver, 1985 PMRC Senate Hearing

Oh boy... did someone not foresee the apearance of tumblr and twitter.

With the advent of the hobby offended this statement sadly was proofen to be wrong.

One thing I see mentioned all-too-rarely is the system used by the ESRB's predecessor, the Recreational Software Advisory Council. ESRB ratings are just like MPAA ones- short, simple, and hideously abuseable. RSAC ratings had four categories with four objectively measurable levels of intensity- still abuseable, but much, much less so. Supposedly, the ESRB system won out since parents (apparently) couldn't figure out whether a given game was appropriate for their children. I think, however, that we could hybridize the two and get the best of both worlds.

Great article :D

JMac85:
The most important aspect of freedom of expression is not defending the things you like, but defending the things you don't.

That was fucking deep man.

Fantastic article and one I agree strongly with. The problem is that since the dawn of Human Civilization there have always been perpetually displeased people who seek to banish all things they disagree with and those who actively seek out things to not like so that they may banish it and receive praise and accolades for doing so. We can never truly be rid of people like that, they will always come back, but we can limit their influence if we try.

Willy Rogers:
Fantastic article and one I agree strongly with. The problem is that since the dawn of Human Civilization there have always been perpetually displeased people who seek to banish all things they disagree with and those who actively seek out things to not like so that they may banish it and receive praise and accolades for doing so. We can never truly be rid of people like that, they will always come back, but we can limit their influence if we try.

The part that makes me truly sad is how traditionally the people who attacked gaming or other art forms came from outside of that industry, now it seems to be coming from within. It's the gaming press and other developers who try and censor games now. It's comic creators attacking other creators over provocative art or covers. And now directors criticizing other movies like Whedon with Jurrasic World. I was used to being attacked by politicians or Fox News and laughing it off, but now that I'm watching these industries each each other alive it's getting harder and harder to enjoy things.

I'm 100% certain none of these people actually ever believed in what they were spewing, its about scoring political brownie points without fear of consequences.

Tawanda:
I'm 100% certain none of these people actually ever believed in what they were spewing, its about scoring political brownie points without fear of consequences.

You're probably right. Just look at the recent kerfluffle over "sexism in video games". The vast majority of hot air spewed on this has been complete nonsense, but no one ever loses trying to look morally superior to those "evil gamers".

You'll also notice how these same pundits are happy to to spout how terrible gaming is, but the moment you accuse them of censorship they back peddle as fast as they can because they don't want to face up to that label since it's one that has actual consequences to them based on historical connotations (like as mentioned previously, Jack Thompson). They'll make ludicrous claims like "Only the government can censor!" When it's bloody obvious that when you attack and denounce a product, the company that makes it, and the people who enjoy it, you're certainly trying to bully someone into stopping to make, buy and enjoy that product. But it's not "censorship" according to them. Oh no, only the government can do that. Tee hee.

Frankly, it's actually worse than government censorship in a lot of ways because usually the government has to actually provide guidelines for what they find acceptable or not. These people instead reserve the right to get morally outraged at whatever suits their fancy at the time and for whatever reasons as well as to completely contradict themselves in terms of what's okay and not okay (usually depending on if they're friends with the people who made the product in question - ahem).

Anyway, yeah, these people will keep spouting their garbage because it gets them consequence free attention from the majority of people who are either too uninformed or too apathetic to care about protecting freedom of expression.

Tawanda:
I'm 100% certain none of these people actually ever believed in what they were spewing, its about scoring political brownie points without fear of consequences.

This is something I think constantly when politicians and activists spout something ridiculous.
But then again, malice must be proven, stupidity can be simply observed.
So until proven otherwise I must consider these people misinformed.
It would be intellectually dishonest not to.

I had to stop reading only a few paragraphs in. Mortal Kombat, as much as it pushed the envelope for mature gaming ... was actually originally for kids. This can be seen in a bunch of old advertising, and the devs outright state so in an old interview (didn't come off as sarcasm to me). Not to mention some home versions came with temp tattoos, yeah because teenagers and young adults love that shit.

Edit: Not that I'm pro-censorship in anyway.

A thought provoking article Lizzy.

Aside from Mortal Kombat pushing 'mass consumer gaming' beyond Sonic'esque family friendly cartoon adventures into the glorious pixelated violence of the late 90s - i.e. by servicing a'new' late-teens/young adult market - it is somewhat important to consider the value of controversy and how applying clear information helped the industry to 'get over' the problem.

The controversy surrounding Mortal Kombat ensured it would be a smash hit, no matter what its opponents did.

The ERSB, despite its manifold failures provided clearer information for purchases; although it is oft ignored, those purchasing the games have no-one to blame but themselves.

Perhaps we should add a 'has nice boobies and lurid japes!' tag to games to help regressives get over their recent scandal manufacturing malarky?

InvisibleJim:
A thought provoking article Lizzy.

Aside from Mortal Kombat pushing 'mass consumer gaming' beyond Sonic'esque family friendly cartoon adventures into the glorious pixelated violence of the late 90s - i.e. by servicing a'new' late-teens/young adult market - it is somewhat important to consider the value of controversy and how applying clear information helped the industry to 'get over' the problem.

The controversy surrounding Mortal Kombat ensured it would be a smash hit, no matter what its opponents did.

The ERSB, despite its manifold failures provided clearer information for purchases; although it is oft ignored, those purchasing the games have no-one to blame but themselves.

Perhaps we should add a 'has nice boobies and lurid japes!' tag to games to help regressives get over their recent scandal manufacturing malarky?

One time that I was in a game store I helped a lady that was choosing a game for a child (here in Brazil). She was unaware of the age rating. She thanked me after I helped her with that.

LysanderNemoinis:

rembrandtqeinstein:
For fun copy and paste the article into a word processor and replace violence with "sexism" or "misogyny" or "racism" or "offensiveness" or whatever other accusation words are being thrown around now.

It reads exactly the same.

The same show keeps playing out through history. Busybodys get their jimmies rustled by a creative product. Not because it intrudes on their lives but because they are made aware that something they don't personally approve of exists. Or because the creator of the product dares publicly express an opinion they don't approve of. Then the busybodys use whatever power they have to try to make it stop existing. They use any means they can including shame, force (usually through government), connections, fraud (false copyright claims, false moderation reports), mob intimidation, etc.

I don't see why people can't just leave each other the fuck alone. If you don't like a game (movie, comic book, song) just don't buy it. And don't waste everyones time spamming the internet telling them why they shouldn't buy it. Instead use your creative energy to promote products that support your position and worldview.

People need to stop pretending that being offended is some kind harm. If is a feeling that is made up in their minds and doesn't give them any special rights.

Amen to that. Offense is something that is taken, not given. It's only overly sensitive little snowflakes who go insane over something as trivial as what happens in entertainment and assumes that just because you read, watch, or play something that has some sort of explicit content that it's going to make you a racist/sexist/murderer/whatever.

Now it is like this:

image

http://fbende.deviantart.com/

A brilliant piece of writing. Damn fine work, well-researched and to the point.

Grahav:
One time that I was in a game store I helped a lady that was choosing a game for a child (here in Brazil). She was unaware of the age rating. She thanked me after I helped her with that.

It's important.

Clear and concise information allows any sensible buyer to make appropriate and rational decisions.

It's in all of our interest to acknowledge this information and ensure it maintains its quality and importance.

InvisibleJim:

Grahav:
One time that I was in a game store I helped a lady that was choosing a game for a child (here in Brazil). She was unaware of the age rating. She thanked me after I helped her with that.

It's important.

Clear and concise information allows any sensible buyer to make appropriate and rational decisions.

It's in all of our interest to acknowledge this information and ensure it maintains its quality and importance.

The aspects of gaming that in general are most concerning to people:

Sex, violence, drugs, etc... Covered by the ESRB.

Complexity: A minor one but relevant. A complicated game is no good for a child and non english and non japanese speakers have their enjoyment limited.

Addiction: This is the big one, together with internet or TV addiction. New media gives an easy reward sensation so it is easy to get addicted. Limit your children hours to television, avoid Skinner Box games (random loot), stay the fuck away from freemium and give favor to games where you can play with someone next to you (Wii U is good for that).

blackrave:
I don't get it.
Where the fuck are these morality enforcers when another Saw movie comes out?
Watch all 7.5 movies and then play Postal2 (takes aprox. same time to finish game)
Now honestly answer, which is worse violence-vise?

They are making sure the rated version has their most disturbing scenes cut out. Do you think movies are 100% free of censorship? Don't fool yourself.

CaitSeith:

blackrave:
I don't get it.
Where the fuck are these morality enforcers when another Saw movie comes out?
Watch all 7.5 movies and then play Postal2 (takes aprox. same time to finish game)
Now honestly answer, which is worse violence-vise?

They are making sure the rated version has their most disturbing scenes cut out. Do you think movies are 100% free of censorship? Don't fool yourself.

Slasher movies are being censored?
Then what's the point?
Isn't horrific violence main appeal in such movies?
Mind you, I'm not fan of such movies (have seen few though) so my understanding may be limited here.

Liz, just some advice, you're really pushing the whole "morality in video games" angle a little too hard. You should find something else to write about. All of your articles sound the same and thus far (the past three articles) you haven't really backed up your points very well. It just seems like you're trying to fit a square peg in a round hole with whatever it is that you're attempting with these articles.

Muhahahhahaha .............
You think THIS is censorship? I'm from germany, lady!
When the original Legend of Zelda came out here, it was used as ammunition from the viedeogame haters as "brutal game with too realistic graphics". Yes, i talk about the very first Zelda game that came out in 1986 !
Command and conquer (1995) had no humans in germany, they were replaced by "androids". So they had no blood, but oil and when you crushed them with a tank you got a sound like a tin can beeing crushed under a car.
Postal was, and is still (!!) banned in germany. Doom (the original release from 1993 !) was taken from the banning list in 2011 ! And that only happend because the graphics were superseded by new games, NOT because the board did think it was a harmless game.

Nearly every game with violence is censored, cut or altered here. Don't get me started on games with Nazis in it. It is absolutly illegal for a game containing one swastika. In Wolfenstein (2009) they forgot to remove one, ONE (in numbers: 1) swastika in a diary and that resulted in a total ban of the game. It was illegal to advertise the game, sell the game, even possessing the game was considered as a crime.

So please, forgive me when i sound a little disinterested for small, american problems.

Your best article so far on this website. I found the statement from Running With Scissors to be particularly relevant and you touched, if briefly, upon different kinds of censorship. It takes many forms, not just the constitutionally banned governmental kind, and private censorship campaigns are certainly not illegal but best countered by groups and individuals speaking out and organizing in defense of the threatened expression. The events your described, and the importance they had in shaping the industry, provide context and are certainly worth remembering and taking heed of.

 

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