Videogames get banned. It happens. Sometimes it’s for violence, but sometimes it’s for reasons you might not have foreseen. It can be surprising to see the reasoning behind the decisions some governments make about games. Each of the games in today’s gallery got banned in at least one country, and the reason might not be what you’d expect.
Think we missed a good one? Let us know what it is in the comments!
Banned in: Brazil
Banned for: Including a Brazilian slum
Seeing that Counter-Strike was banned immediately makes you think it would be for the violence involved in the game. But in Brazil, all it takes is the inclusion of a user-made map that features a Brazilian slum, known as a favela. Strangely, the ban didn’t go into effect until 2007, after Counter-Strike had been on shelves for over a decade. As you can imagine, this was a ban that didn’t stay in place very long.
Football Manager 2005
Banned in: China
Banned for: Recognizing Tibet’s independence
Your first thought upon seeing Football Manager 2005 on the list should have been, “How the hell does a game about soccer get banned anywhere?” The answer is simple: By including Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Tibet as independent, playable nations. China took offense, and promptly banned the game in December of 2004. The twist is that the version of the game the country took offense to was not the Chinese version, as it had not yet been released. That version included Taiwan as a part of China. Instead, the ban was in response to copies that were downloaded, burned to CD, and being sold in illegal software shops. Yay, piracy!
Command & Conquer: Generals
Banned in: China
Banned for: Blowing up China
If EA was actually trying to get a game banned in China, they couldn’t have done better than they did with Command & Conquer: Generals. The campaign for the China faction kicks off with a nuke going off in Beijing, and later in the campaign you’ll take out the Hong Kong Convention Center and the Three Gorges Dam. The Chinese government wasted little time in banning the game, which they believed cast the country in a bad light due to forcing them to blow up their own infrastructure.
Banned in: Saudi Arabia
Banned for: Promoting gambling and having religious symbolism
It’s hard to imagine that the Pokemon franchise could be banned anywhere. After all, it’s a game played by kids all over the world. But in Saudi Arabia, the game has been banned since 2001, when the country’s highest religious authority (called the mufti) banned the game. The ban stated that the video game and cards promote Zionism and encourage gambling. Despite the ban, the games and cards are still sold in Saudi Arabia, but many local distributors choose not to carry them.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 / Medal of Honor: Warfighter
Banned in: Pakistan
Banned for: Equating the country with terrorism
In January of 2013, the Pakistani government levied a ban on two first-person shooters: Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Medal of Honor: Warfighter, stating that they show the country in a poor light by portraying it as a safe haven for terrorism. While the ban isn’t surprising, the lackluster effort to enforce it is. On the day the ban supposedly went into effect, the owner of one of the largest game stores in Islamabad claimed to have never heard of it, and another anonymous shop owner said that, “The nationalists and the religious ones don’t like them but I’m not going to stop selling them.”
Banned in: Brazil
Banned for: Being set in a school
Rockstar’s games always seem to wind up in the spotlight, and Bully was no exception. While plenty of people took exception to the title, Brazil went so far as to ban it entirely. Why? According to Rio Grande do Sul prosecutor Alcindo Bastos, it’s because the game, “takes place inside a school [and] that is not acceptable.” The fact that the main focus of the game is bringing peace to the school by shutting down bullies didn’t seem to mitigate the response at all.
Banned in: Australia
Banned for: Drug use
Lots of games have been banned (technically “refused classification”) in Australia, so it’s not a huge surprise that Fallout 3 was briefly on that list. What is a bit surprising is why. It wasn’t the gore, the decapitation, or all the violence. No, the board chose to refuse classification because of the drug use in the game. At issue was not only the inclusion of drugs, but the “realistic visual representations of drugs and their delivery method [bringing] the ‘science-fiction’ drugs in line with ‘real-world’ drugs.” Add in the fact that one of the drugs included was morphine, something available in the real world, and you’ve got a ban on your hands. Bethesda removed morphine from the game and replaced it with Med-X, a fictional drug that nonetheless has the exact same effects.
Grand Theft Auto 4
Banned in: Thailand
Banned for: Being blamed for a murder
Grand Theft Auto 4 was on store shelves in Thailand, and everything was fine until August of 2008. That’s when an 18-year-old Bangkok high school student stabbed a cab driver to death. According to Bangkok police, the teenager, “Wanted to find out if it was as easy in real life to rob a taxi as it was in the game.” Following that statement, the game was pulled from store shelves, and police were “empowered to immediately arrest shopkeepers if they find any Grand Theft Auto games on sale,” according to a police spokesman.