Arcade America is a humorous platform game where you control the rather overweight Joey. Each level consists of a couple of smaller micro-levels and is set in an iconic location within the States, such as Alcatraz or Las Vegas, and has its own specific enemies.
In the United States, freedom of expression is guaranteed under the First Amendment of the Constitution. While this means that video game companies can release pretty much any game they want, it doesn't mean they won't face consequences in the marketplace when they release a product that's overtly violent, controversial, or overall tasteless. Individuals, cities, and the court system have stepped in a few times to try to recall, cancel, or destroy video games considered unsuitable for audiences—and here's a look at the long, lurid history of some of the most memorable examples.
The Guy Game
Young heterosexual dudes will always be desperate to see women remove their clothes, although the delivery method has taken on different forms over the years. In the early 2000s, guys got their nudity fix with Girls Gone Wild, the bestselling line of softcore pornography consisting largely of footage of college-age women partying and stripping during spring break. GGW copycats hit the market, too, including the 2004 interactive title The Guy Game.
Released by a classily named publisher called Top Heavy Studios, the console and PC game required players to guess how scantily clad women would answer a trivia question. If the player predicted correctly, their reward was a clip of a real San Padre Island reveler disrobing. After the game hit stores, one of the topless women featured in The Guy Gamesued—because she was only 17 when she stripped for the camera. Seeing as how The Guy Game was now child pornography, the Travis County, Texas, judge who heard the suit ordered all copies to be removed from stores.
In August 1998, gaming juggernaut Electronic Arts purchased large swaths of Virgin Interactive, acquiring not just an extensive back catalog of games, but also the rights to yet-to-be-released titles, such as the PlayStation title Thrill Kill. An extraordinarily violent and gory fighting game in the vein of Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter, Thrill Kill was even more violent and gory. It pitted contestants sent to Hell against one another, fighting for the right to return to Earth by employing strategies like ripping off an opponent's arm and beating them with it, or shoving a cattle prod into their adversary's throat. For such content, Thrill Kill earned an AO, or 'Adults Only' rating from the ESRB. That only confirmed EA's decision to pull the game from the release schedule. 'We have to be responsible for the content that we make available to the marketplace,' said Pat Becker, EA director of corporate communications.' 'We felt that this was not the kind of title that we wanted to see in the market.'
Various Pac-Man clones
In the early 1980s, Pac-Man was a cultural phenomenon—and a cash cow. Unsurprisingly, other companies released their own circle-eats-dots-in-a-maze games, and Pac-Man rights holders Atari and Midway fiercely defended their property in court, seeking and receiving injunctions to end the sale of clones. Among the games pulled were the arcade title Mighty Mouth and a handheld game called Packri-Monster. Not only was that game's name a likely cribbing, but so was the premise: The game's packaging depicted a round blob, a ghost-like creature, and the tagline 'Gobble or be gobbled!' Midway also stopped a company called Arctic, which sold printed circuit boards with which computer enthusiasts could build their own video game called Puckman. It was such a thorough copy of Pac-Man that it took the game's original title and included a glitch from the Pac-Man code.
Despite pixelated, typical-for-1982 graphics, Custer's Revenge didn't leave much to the imagination. The player controlled real-life 19th century military leader General George Custer...who is naked, sports an erection, and tries to rape Native American women.
Needless to say, the game was highly controversial. It was built for play on consoles made by Atari, which suedCuster's Revenge manufacturer Mystique to keep the game from hitting stores. In some places, such as Oklahoma City, it was available only at adult bookstores. Oklahoma City's city council also passed a resolution that called Custer's Revenge 'distasteful' and 'not in the best interests of the community.' Other groups protesting the game included the Urban League, the Young Women's Christian Association, and multiple Native American associations. While no government ever technically banned the game, Custer's Revenge's manufacturer responded to the negative attention by voluntarily ending production on the title.
By and large, smartphone games are simple, straightforward, and easy to play. The objective of Angry Birds is easy to understand (fling birds at stuff), as is Sikalosoft's Baby Shaker. A picture of a baby appears on the screen, and it cries and shrieks. The player shakes their phone until the baby stops crying and two red Xs appear over its eyes—because it's dead. Soon after Baby Shaker hit Apple's App Store in 2009, the protests began. For example, Patrick Donohue of the Sarah Jane Foundation, a pediatric brain injury awareness group, wrote a letter to Apple decrying how the game made a joke out of child abuse and/or infanticide. Apple quickly pulled the game.
Too Human and X-Men: Destiny
Countless games featuring Marvel's crusading mutants have been released over the years, so what was it about X-Men: Destiny (and the science-fiction/mythological action game Too Human) that got it yanked out of stores? Copyright issues. In 2004, Epic Games debuted Unreal Engine 3, a revolutionary set of software development tools that made games more detailed and lifelike than ever. Epic was very careful about which studios got to use the engine and how—and a company called Silicon Knights became so frustrated working with Epic (and Unreal Engine 3) that it sued for breach of contract. Further, the suit claimed Epic had willfully sabotaged 'efforts by Silicon Knights and others to develop their own video games.' Silicon Knights ultimately lost the suit, and a district judge found that the developer had 'repeatedly and deliberately copied significant portions of Epic Games's code containing trade secrets.' Silicon Knights was ordered to pay Epic $9 million, as well as recall and destroy any and all unsold copies of X-Men Destiny and Too Human.
Compared to today's video games—especially the violent ones—the 1976 arcade game Death Race seems innocuous and quaint. Small white 'gremlins' run around a black background, while with a steering wheel mounted on the cabinet, players controlled a car. When the player ran over a gremlin, the game would let out an eerie scream, and the gremlin was replaced with a tombstone. In other words, it was a driving game where the objective was to nail pedestrians. (Game creator Exidy reportedly developed Death Race with the working title Pedestrian.)
When Death Race cabinets started to show up in arcades, bars, restaurants, and amusement parks, it became the center of one of the very first video game controversies. A local politician in Spokane, Washington, quoted Dr. Gerald Driessen of the National Safety Council, who called the game 'gross.' After receiving complaints, an amusement park in Illinois removed the game from an arcade, while a distributor in Chicago stopped offering the game and owners of arcades and other businesses simply refused to buy or rent a Death Race cabinet. Of course, in some places, it had the opposite effect—Exidy moved more than 1,000 machines, at least doubling its sales figures.
The AO rating
In the U.S., determining the proper audience for most works of entertainment is fairly cut and dried. The Motion Picture Association of America rates movies anywhere from 'G' to 'NC-17' to help parents determine if they're appropriate for their kids. TV shows bear a similar rating, such as 'Y' (for 'youth') or 'MA' (for 'mature audiences'). The video game industry's rating system is more complicated.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (or ESRB) calls itself a 'self-regulatory body that assigns ratings for video games and apps so parents can make informed choices.' That means the game industry polices itself. The ESRB doesn't outright ban anything, nor does it have the authority to do so—the most it can do with an ultra-violent or sexually explicit game is slap it with an 'AO' or 'Adults Only' rating.
Even that doesn't really do much to halt sales to minors. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that video games are a form of constitutionally protected art, and to restrict their sale based on violent content is illegal. Nevertheless, the ESRB operates the ESRB Retail Council, whose member retail stores promise to not sell AO-rated games to kids. Some stores, such as GameStop, go even further and don't mess with selling controversy-riling AO tiles whatsoever.
All arcade games (in Marshfield, Massachusetts)
The early years of video gaming produced a lot of controversies—so much so that one town decided it didn't want any games at all. In 1982, the residents of Marshfield, Massachusetts decided that arcade games qualified as 'coin-operated amusement devices,' which the town had banned a decade earlier. Result: A ban on all public video game cabinets. When local businesses that wanted to offer video games challenged the ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the ban. Two more town-wide votes over the years affirmed the ruling. Finally, in 2014, the law was rescinded, and arcade games—long since rendered virtually obsolete by sophisticated home gaming consoles—finally popped up in Marshfield restaurants and bars.
Designed, developed, and distributed directly by the United States Army, this game offers an insider's perspective on the real-life adventures of an American soldier. America's Army is broken into two modes of play, which follow the daily life of an American soldier and the fast-paced field action of trained operatives in do-or-die missions.
The Soldiers mode is a 2D role-playing game in which the player guides his character through an Army career by setting personal values, resources, and goals. By choosing the right motivations, the player steers his character toward success. Begin as any other recruit, in basic training, then move to through Airborne and Sniper School on the way to becoming an Army Ranger. The Soldiers portion of America's Army is designed to demonstrate the challenge, pleasure, and honor of life as a soldier.
The Operations mode of play is more action-oriented, as players take the first-person roles of skilled soldiers in the field to accomplish a variety of missions. Challenges are squad-based and the team must work together for success. The player character's particular role on the squad is determined by such factors as his leadership ability and MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). Operations is designed to deliver the excitement of a contemporary 3D shooter with the authenticity of the world's most powerful army.
America's Army is a tactical first-person simulation of none other than the United States Army, from boot camp and full-blown tactical combat, to Army policy and procedure, medical training, and even the military brig if you violate RoE (Rules of Engagement). Version 1.0 was released in 2002 and well-received, but suffered from multiplayer stability issues. Version 2.0, subtitled Special Forces, adds new maps, new rules, updated graphics, and a significantly more stable multiplayer experience. In short, 2.0 takes a fairly good game and revs it into a great one.
As in the first release, after installing and creating an account, you must complete a series of localized basic training missions that simultaneously teach you elementary game controls as well as textbook military principles. This includes assault rifle target practice (shoot controls), the obligatory obstacle course (movement controls), special U.S. weapons (learn how to 'cook' a grenade), and a quick scoot through a building where you shoot 'dummy' targets while avoiding civilians.
After basic, which must be completed before you can continue, you may optionally pursue more advanced training, from airborne school (jump from a 250 ft tower, then a C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane), to medic training (attend lectures, pass a written exam, and perform field triage), to advanced marksmanship (master bipod and scope based rifles). In all cases, the focus is on realism, real physics, real ballistics, real fire rates, and real bark-happy drill instructors.
The instructional sections are interesting enough, and act as a basic primer to Army fundamentals, but the heart of America's Army is its deployment mode, which drops your sorry green butt into full-scale combat operations minus training wheels. Here, teams of dozens pit themselves against each other across an assortment of maps ranging from bridge assaults to HQ raids to stealthy extraction missions generally running on ten-minute timers. It is here that America's Army dishes up a real-time first-person experience unlike anything else on the market.
The level of detail is on par in terms of realism with something like the Combat Mission series, meaning that everything from movement/speed, weapon range and accuracy, reload rates (for that matter, reload choreography), and jams are all modeled with the emphasis on 'the way it actually works' as opposed to fantasy physics and comic book gameplay. There's even a full array of hand signals ('ready,' 'negative,' 'stop,' 'double-time,' 'look this way,' etc.) if you want to simulate silent visual communication tactics. Think of America's Army as a virtual simulation of real-world combat that demands serious engagement and considerable practice to master. Put another way, you get shot once, you go down, as in 'munch dirt, sucker.'
Teams are composed of different classes, ranging from sergeants and captains to Special Forces, riflemen, marksmen, medics, and grenadiers. Games are laid out in rounds (most victories out of x-number wins) and you can switch sides (assault, defend) or change your soldier class periodically. At the start of each match, you pick a class (first come, first serve), the selection of which determines your primary weapon and inventory load (frag grenades, smoke grenades, etc.). Marksmen have access to sharpshooter weapons like the M24 SWS or the M82A1M, riflemen use the standard M16A2 rifle, grenadiers wield the deadly M203, and automatic riflemen rain hell on the battlefield with the M249 SAW, which holds 200 rounds a clip. In addition to projectile weapons, accessories like night goggles, binoculars, frag, smoke, stun, and incendiary grenades, and a slew of weapons modifications ranging from bipods and suppressors to gunsights and scopes opens a world of possibilities to the discriminating tactician.
With the stakes this high, approaching an engagement is as much a stealth psyche-out as a team effort. After playing literally hundreds of online games, the most immediately obvious common sense theme is that gung-ho 'heroes' wreck battles. Conventional FPS tactics don't apply here, and some may discover that the inability to take hundreds of bullets in the kisser or glide over health or shield 'power-ups' to be unbearable. Deal with it or step aside, because America's Army rewards mental discipline and tactical excellence, not BFG-happy lunatics. Learning how to deploy your riflemen to cover blind spots, position sharpshooters in arch windows, keep in touch by reporting your position as you exceed visual range, and go prone at just the right angle over the lip of an incline makes 100% of the difference between survival or being fragged out.
As you might expect, the controls are notably more complex than your average first-person shooter, and it's telling that the game includes a key-map printout that recalls the sort of layout you'd be more likely to find in a flight simulator. In addition to the standard WASD stuff, you can do things like 'fix jam,' 'swap hands,' 'call medic,' 'use binoculars,' 'set squad position,' 'shoulder weapon,' 'report position,' and many more.
New to the second edition of America's Army are things like the Special Forces Escape and Evade course, where you're tasked with dropping out of a Blackhawk helicopter and running through a training course while evading the enemy. It's no Splinter Cell, but it's tough enough. Other new additions include the ability to play as indigenous forces, the highly customizable SOPMOD M4 Carbine, SPR rifle, M9 pistol, and the absolutely darling (deadly, that is) rocket-lobbing RPG. There are also four new maps, including the Special Forces: Hospital escort mission (protect the V.I.P.), and the very cool Special Forces: CSAR map, where your task is to either defend or assault the pilot of a downed Blackhawk and his helicopter. Over time, you accumulate honor points, which in turn contribute to your ability to play the Special Forces classes and providing access to new equipment.
Second time's a visual charm, too, and this advanced version of the Unreal engine is delectable. On a medium rig, it's not a stretch to say you'll see high framerates with the resolution and detail cranked to 'ultra high.' Soldier details are dramatically improved, and faces, which looked blocky and horrid in 1.0, have a smooth detailed look that's competitive with current mainstream technology. Like other Unreal derivative games, the polygon count tends to be lower, but is helped by the exceptionally detailed textures. The sound effects (there's no music) are as good as anything you'll find elsewhere, but the sound physics are exceptional. There's nothing like hearing the visceral crunch of your opponent's footsteps in the snow as he tries to creep past your unspotted hiding nook, or the sound of an incoming rocket as you attempt, frantically, to hit the dirt.
In case you're wondering, it's worth noting that though America's Army more than likely was funded contingent upon some sort of business justification involving recruiting numbers, there is absolutely no overt attempt in or out of the game to pitch you toward a recruiter or push you into enlistment. The Army won't even proactively contact you unless you contact them first; at this point, the game seems to be more of a marketing tool than one used for recruitment. You may have your own opinions on this, but there's little argument that America's Army has provided a lot more entertainment (and education, probably) than yet another series of Army commercials.
To play America's Army is like slipping into a fascinating experiment. As players come and go, you're witness to riveting displays of heroism and cowardice, brilliant tactical bluffs, and awesomely awful blunders. Remember back in the mid-nineties when the Army was goofing around with the DOOM engine for tactical combat simulation? As they say, you've come a long way, kid. Here's an exciting and cutting-edge multiplayer game for the thinking crowd, and all it costs, bizarrely enough, is the time it takes to play it.
People who downloaded America's Army have also downloaded:
Alpha Prime, Air Raid: This is Not a Drill, Army Ranger: Mogadishu, Aliens versus Predator 2, Battlefield Vietnam, Aliens versus Predator, Battlefield 1942, Battlefield 2
Alpha Prime, Air Raid: This is Not a Drill, Army Ranger: Mogadishu, Aliens versus Predator 2, Battlefield Vietnam, Aliens versus Predator, Battlefield 1942, Battlefield 2