Video games banned in the UK

Some video games are bound to be controversial. Since many revolve around at least one form of violence, the developers are meant to push the boundaries of what is considered socially acceptable. The UK, a country that developed a rather tough stance on film violence throughout the 1980s and 1990s, was actually quite lax when it came to banning controversial video games. Nevertheless, some games have been deemed too distasteful and objectionable to be released in the country.

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Before we take a look at some of these banned titles, some key facts should be explained. First, it’s technically impossible to ban a video game in the UK unless it breaks some sort of law. Therefore, the majority of games banned in the UK are in fact games that have been ‘disallowed classification’. The problem here is that it is illegal to sell a video game without an age rating in the UK. Prior to 2010, these ratings were assigned by the British Board of Film Classification, although from 2010 responsibility was transferred to the Video Standards Council (a pan-European body). Second, some of these “banned” games have been given the rating of an 18. The problem with this is that many game retailers in the UK would often refuse to sell games rated 18, especially if they contain material of a sexual nature.

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6 Space Vixens

Space Vixens was not a well-received game when it was initially released in 1988. The quality of the game was considered so poor that a Swedish gaming magazine (Datormagazin) even stated, “Sex Vixens can be summed up in one word: avoid! “The overtly sexual nature of the game meant it received good attention in the UK. However, this attention was not of the right kind.

The game was deemed “pornographic” by British customs. Hardcore pornography and sexual content that could potentially end up in the hands of minors was dealt with extremely harshly during this time, with an almost complete crackdown on such material. This led to the customs office destroying all newly imported copies of the game that arrived in the UK in late 1988, effectively ending the sale of the game.


5 Carmageddon

When originally released in the UK in 1997, Carmageddon was denied classification due to the game’s violent focus, with the player being asked to kill innocent civilians in their cars. Although this is all presented in an ironic way, it’s not hard to see why UK officials weren’t too fond of this game and refused to rank it even after substantial changes were made to the game’s content. .

Fortunately for the game’s publishers, Sales Curve Interactive, appeals could be made against the British Board of Film Classification (which was then in charge of video game age ratings) to independent bodies to review the BBFC’s decision. It was later found that the BBFC had been too harsh on Carmaggedonwith the board allowing the game to be released in its original form.


4 under the ashes

Unlike some of the other games that have been “banned” in the UK, under the ashes has never been officially released in the UK and has therefore never been officially restricted by any media governing body. The game, developed by Afkar Media, is a first-person shooter that sees the main character, a Palestinian liberation fighter, face off against the Israel Defense Forces. The game was originally conceived as a response to the growing trend in Western games that often saw people from the Middle East being portrayed as “bad guys” in the post-9/11 climate, with the game The American army being cited as a prime example by the developers.

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Domestically in Syria and throughout the Middle East, the game has reportedly sold tens of thousands of copies. However, when it comes to international distribution, no video game publisher wanted to be associated with the title, so it never really came out of the Middle East. Adding to its notoriety, following the 2005 London bombings, the game was briefly added to a list of media cited as “terrorist propaganda”. It’s not really clear if this ban is still in place, as in any case it’s almost impossible to obtain this game legally in the UK.


3 The Punisher

The Punisher is a fairly well-known video game adaptation of the 2004 film of the same name. Unlike its cinematic counterpart, however, this adaptation is extremely brutal, not only in its instant gameplay, but also in its “special interrogation scenes” which see the player brutally torturing and murdering various NPCs. This was deemed ‘potentially harmful’ to children by the BBFC, who later declined to give the game’s classification.

While tough on media violence, the BBFC is always willing to compromise on its decisions with publishers and developers. In the case of The Punisher, the board worked with THQ to make the torture scenes less “brutal”, suggesting changes such as fading the screen to black and white and moving the camera away from the violence. Once THQ implemented these changes, the game was then allowed to release with an age rating of 18, along with free media coverage due to the original ban, which helped to increase sales in the region.


2 Manhunt 2

Manhunt 2 is not an enjoyable video game. The entire objective of the game places the player in a “kill or be killed” atmosphere from a story perspective, with gameplay focusing heavily on creative and violent killing straight out of the most brutal slasher movies. David Cooke, then director of the BBFC said at the time that the board was still trying to suggest changes for the games so they could still be released. However, he felt that “it was not possible” with Manhunt 2.

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The game was finally deemed acceptable for release after the developers, Rockstar, appealed to the Video Appeals Committee (the organization that oversees BBFC decisions), who then voted to allow the game. of the case, except that the BBFC then took the case to the High Court of the Royal Courts of Justice, defending their decision, with the courts sided with the BBFC. This forced the VAC to re-evaluate the game, and they eventually reached an agreement with the BBFC to finally do so. All of these legal battles ended up seeing the game released over a year after the original release date.


1 Omega Labyrinth Z

Omega Labyrinth Z has the dubious honor of being the most recent game to be completely restricted in the UK. The Video Standards Council (the body which, since 2012, replaced the BBFC as the UK’s main video game regulator) said the game was “likely to cause harm to a potential viewer, for example children or young people”.

Without going into too many dark details, the game was turned down due to its inappropriate attitudes towards supposedly underage characters. An interesting loophole regarding video game classification in the UK is that when the BBFC (when it was still in charge) and the Video Standards Council restrict a game, it only applies to physical release. However, very often video game publishers do not want to test the waters legally by releasing the banned game online.

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Carolyn M. Daniel