Gaming's 10 Biggest Scandals of All-time

July 16, 2007 -
Games are supposed to be fun, right? So why do they make negative headlines so often?

Here at GamePolitics we thought it would be fun to track the most publicized gaming scandals ever and we'd like your help. Check out our Top Ten below and then vote (right sidebar) for your choice of the biggest video game scandal of all time.

25 to Life (2006) - Politicians and police groups decried Eidos' cops & robbers shooter; game reviewers hated it too, but for a different reason: it sucked

Hot Coffee (2005) - needs no introduction. Cheeky Rockstar programmers left hidden sex animations (accidentally or otherwise) buried in the PS2 code of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Modders made sure they didn't stay buried for long. Rockstar's denials only made things worse. And then Hillary got involved...

Xbox 360 Red Rings of Death (2007) - Microsoft hid the extent of the 360's hardware failures for far too long; even now they won't say what caused the failures or how widespread the problem is, but it must be a lot because MS has set aside a billion dollars to deal with it

SimCopter (1996) - a gay programmer making a social statement secretly coded animations of men kissing to appear during game play on certain dates; he got fired and Simcopter was re-released without the guy-smooching

Manhunt 2 (2007) - officialy banned in the U.K. and effectively banned by an AO rating stateside; was it the intense violence level or the ESRB's payback to Take Two for Hot Coffee? Either way, this drama is ongoing as T2 reviews its options

PS3 Launch (2006) - fights, riots, shootings - and we're not talking about the games - these were the unanticipated features of the PS3 launch, fueled by system shortages and overhyped consumer expectations

Columbine (1999) - when it was revealed that Dylan Harris and Eric Klebold were fans of Doom, the news fueled a firestorm of criticism over game violence that reached the Clinton White House and continues even now.

Resistance: Fall of Man (2007) - When religious leaders at Manchester Cathedral learned that PS3 launch title Resistance: Fall of Man included a level based on the interior of the house of worship they demanded a recall, drawing a dubious linkage between Resistance and local gun violence in Manchester. The story made international headlines and earned criticism from then-Prime Minister Tony Blair and Parliament. Sony issued an apology, but officials still aren't satisfied.

Super Columbine Massacre RPG (2006) - Designer Danny Ledonne wanted to use the video game medium to explore the reasons behind the Columbine shootings; Although some acclaimed Ledonne's effort, others hated it; the game was blamed by some for Kimveer Gill's shooting rampage at Montreal's Dawson College and made more headlines when officials of the Slamdance Competition yanked SCMRPG from the event.

Night Trap (1993) - the bloody Sega CD offering featured down on her luck actress Dana Plato and became the subject of hearings in the U.S. Senate over its violence; the controversy helped launch the ESA and, ultmately, the ESRB.

There's no doubt we left out some scandals, but we had to whittle the list down to ten. If we missed your favorite, feel free to let us know in comments, or use the "other" box on the poll.

And be sure to vote for the top video game scandal of all time!



The hot coffee scandal was complete bullshit.

Postal series anyone?

Clyde Wyman, it did not point out the intolerance of Christ. It showcased that the church's understanding of Christ's teachings is prone to mistakes. There's a difference between the behavior of the church and the teachings of Christ.

I know that many find it hip to bash Christianity but don't confuse what the followers do with what the Man taught.

Eve Online's developer misconduct and subsequently, GoonFleet's submission of MORE developer misconduct that was promptly covered up by CCP should have made the list for sure.

an "all-time" list where five out of the ten entries are from the past 18 months? uh yeah.

Jack Thompson wrote:

Jack Thompson, Attorney and You’re Not"

You know that's the kind of thing my 5 year old niece would say. When are you going to grow up Jackie boy?

"One week before “Columbine” I was on NBC’s Today show predicting that male teens would train on Doom to author more school shootings like the one in Paducah, whose victims’ parents were there on the show with me."

Jack if you cannot prove how it is even feasible to train on Doom, then shut the fuck up. Do you know anything about the vast differences between combat in a game and using a gun in real life? Do you know that the gamers in our armed forces laugh hysterically at these claims? You may be able to convince knee-jerk ready soccer-moms of this impossibility but don't think for a split second that your bullshit is going to be spooned up here you baseless half-wit.

So what I'm telling you you Alzheimer addled law monkey is PUT UP OR SHUT UP.

Way too centered on the past 2-3 years.

[...] Le Top 10 des jeux qui ont fait scandale Le 17 juillet 2007 :: par Matthieu à 20h41 [ Réagir sur le forum ] - PostÉ dans : Actualité Vu sur et, la liste des 10 faits qui ont fait scandale (politique) dans le monde si impitoyable des jeux vidéo. Evidemment, le dernier à avoir fait scandale est Manhunt 2, qui a provoqué une véritable polémique sur la limite de la violence dans les jeux vidéo. 25 to Life (2006) Hot Coffee (2005) Xbox 360 Red Rings of Death (2007) SimCopter (1996) Manhunt 2 (2007) PS3 Launch (2006) Columbine (1999) Resistance: Fall of Man (2007) Super Columbine Massacre RPG (2006) Night Trap (1993) J'aurais bien rajouté Carmaggedon mais on me souffle que ce mot est interdit par Familles de France depuis 10 ans environ. Tant pis. Et sinon, il y avait également l'annonce de GTA IV condamnée par le maire de New York au début de l'année. Comme quoi ... [...]

usagi704 Says:
Apparently somebody hasn’t done one bit of real research to realize that Night Trap has absolutely positively no blood in it.

Well, there was a scene where a guy (brother of main character?) was hung upside down to drain his blood into some device ala the cheapest horror effects possible. I think calling it "bloody" was just a throwaway intro line, nothing more.

You know, that Jack Thompson post might be the real deal. The combination of tinfoil hat logic and the fact that he's got quite some time on his hands these days makes me believe this is our Jackie Boy.


Jesus is tolerant. The people who run the Manchester Cathedral, however, are clearly a different story.

Think next time before you post something stupid.

All good points, all well made. I can agree that Night Trap was the most scandalously overblown "scandal" on the list. I never would have thought about the Libby analogy, but that's exactly why I like coming to these boards. Thanks!

[...] Not terribly in depth, but here’s a list of the “Gaming’s 10 Biggest Scandals.” In other news, video games are good for you. [...]

Chris Crawford getting kicked out of the GDC should be on some list some where!

Also, I'd add the "peek-a-boo" Smurfette from Colecovision's Smurf rescue, but I'm not sure anyone got upset about that one.

Hey, it's Jack. Hi Jack! How's it going? Been well? While my opinion of you isn't too high, I have to admit having some respect for you and your persistence and for the fact that you don't target and hate an entire group simply based on their personal beliefs. Anyway, have a good one ^_^

Now, back on topic... I wouldn't really call these scandals. But if I had to choose, I'd say that Hot Coffee was the thing that brought too much political attention to the whole video game industry. However, I will venture to say that Night Trap, while a crappy game, was probably a good thing, as it brought about the creation of the ESRB, which prevents the arguement that the industry never regulates itself. Besides, if Night Trap hadn't resulted in a rating system, then another event or game like;ly would have.

I would have to say that Sim Copter is the biggest. It was one of the first games to include content hidden from the ESRB and set the stage for future work in preventing what developers let slip by when publishing a game.

Sure Hot Coffee got mass media coverage, but Sim Copter came first and it was in a family friendly E game.

@ Stinking Kevin

You are right, about the age crack. I realized some time later that many people might have legit reasons for voting Hot Coffee, but it seems like it's getting votes from being cross-linked from other gaming sites, and simple notoriety, instead of merit. And this is arguably due to the fact that younger gamers (the internet in general) have no recollection of the Night Trap fiasco, or have no knowledge of the existence of another ratings board, as well.

Others have posted that Night Trap wasn't violent or really that bad, and they are correct. That's another reason I voted for it: the most scandalous events, and their ensuing media blitz are known for making mountains out of molehills.

Take the Libby scandal. He outed a CIA operative, right? How is this an issue, when the husband of said CIA operative was on The Daily Show before that, talking all about his wife's secret CIA mission. So, in the great scheme of things Libby's 'outing' wasn't really that big a deal, but the media/political/vote-pandering makes it the largest scandal to date. The same explosion happened over Night Trap. At least in the Hot Coffee blitz, there was at least SOME small level of deception by TTWO. It amounts to a PR mistake, but I believe Night Trap's franzy was over absolutely nothing.

NOTE: I am making an example, I am not taking sides in the Libby debate and have no wish to de-rail this thread. If you have to debate this, PM me in the forums. I am open to that being a bad example.

I dunno if this has been mentioned but what about Video Game addiction as a scandal? Theres been much made of MMOs and WoW in particular about it's *cough* addiction problems.

I would put the red rings far ahead of any of the other scandals. I think it has forever soured the word microsoft and should be the biggest recall ever. Along with the biggest lawsuit ever if they dont actually refund gamers for out of warranty repairs. The esrb and all censorship in general is controlled by the media. They report it and we form an opinion and I cant consider that enough for a scandal in any situation. Games cant kill nor plant seeds in peoples brains so when a game is deemed violent by officials they take action due to parents who are to lazy to do anything themselves. The only other scandalous thing I can think of is the crap employees at gamestop pull and get away with.


Of course, since without body bags he doesn't have acase.

@ kurisu7885

I think he alluded to praying for body counts in interviews(he made a comment regarding Columbine to the factor of ten).

OK, seriously, what is up with Jack? He obsessed with Dennis! He can't seem to post without at least trying to insult him. It's getting pretty annoying. As I said on an earlier thread, Jacks coming off like a spurned lover.

Anyway, to comment on the actual story, I must be younger than I thought. I remember hearing a little about Mortal Kombat's bloody fights, and people making a stink about it, but I've never even heard of Night Trap (then again, I was 9 in 1993). In my opinion, its a close race between Columbine, Hot Coffee, and Night Trap.

I would almost put V-Tech in there, but, as intelligent people know, video games had nothing to do with it. Cho didn't even play a game, that anyone knows of, in 4 years. So there's no scandal in the sense that video games didn't actually have a part in the incident. It was just Massacre Chasers with an agenda to push. At least the Columbine kids did play games.

Using Jack Thompson's logic:

1) He "predicted" Columbine
2) He did nothing to prevent it from happening

Therefore, Jack's responsible for Columbine.

And if that's really Jacky Boy, he should quit whining about a Bar complaint that was justified.

Now practice what you preach, jabroni: Grow up and get a life.

@Jack Thompson

Funny, especially how that BAR complain has to do with harassment and nothing to do with video games.

Also, you are not a prophet, not like you seem to like to believe in your little fantasy world. You said that something MIGHT happen and by chance it did, one of the worst shootings in history.

By the way, thanks for helping it along. It's far more your fault than any video game. If the shooters never got their names famous, there'd be no copycat killers.

You likely prayed for body counts too.


kurisu7885, sane and you are not.

@the1jeffy (from way back up on this page...)
You make good points, as usual, but Hot Coffee voters "showing their age" isn't necessarily one of them. I've been playing video games since the Odyssey was "current gen," and I voted Hot Coffee too. As you point out, Night Trap and Mortal Kombat were cited in the hearings that led the IDSA (I'm old enough to remember it wasn't called the ESA until 2003) to establish the ESRB.

This was monumentally significant in the industry, but it's debatable that those games themselves were as "scandalous" as Hot Coffee, which damaged the political standing of the ESRB, took months to fully vet because Rockstar didn't come completely clean from the start, led to FTC actions, and accelerated a cross-country trend of exactly the sort of anti-game legislation the ESRB was supposed to buffer in the first place.

@[regular GP messageboard readers and fellow fans]
Once again, this "Jack Thompson" poster is probably just a troll. Actually, now that I read the post, even if it is the REAL Massacre Chaser, it's STILL just a troll. I think we should try not to feed it too much, at least until it comes up with something on-topic or relevant to the conversation.

You guys left this one out: Panty Raider (2000), developed by Hypnotix and published by Simon & Schuster. The very concept of taking pictures of girls in underwear just to save the earth from alien invasion was insane enough. Getting the girls to appear in underwear was a bit worse, especially the method of dousing them with a certain goop that dissolves all clothing except underwear. And then there was the alleged comparison of that act to the New York City Park sexual assault incidents at the time where the victims were doused with water before being stripped then molested/raped, and that's when hell broke loose.

Still, there was the obvious fact that the game itself sucked anyway.

@Massacre Chaser:

Perhaps you should focus on your current problems with the Florida Bar instead of this thing with Dennis you keep bringing up as if anyone here actually cares. We concede that every once in a while you come out on top. It's near impossible to be so bad at something that you lose ALL the time. What's funny to us is that for every victory you tout (half of which aren't actual victories anyway), there are a dozen instances where you've fallen flat on your prejudiced ass, yet you still present yourself as some sort of conquering hero. It still amazes me to this day what a deluded prick you are. Duh.

To Soldatlouis,

"Well, I said in a previous message that “it would be very interesting to have the opinion of video game critics”. I guess we heard one of them."

Yeah, so that we can laugh at the ignorance of them. Either way, the critics should learn how to stop embarrassing themselves in the public.

Well, I said in a previous message that "it would be very interesting to have the opinion of video game critics". I guess we heard one of them.

And by the way, it's a good thing that you got balls to show your face on the news. So that the police can put you to swift justice for public nuisance, you may be a lawyer, but everyone is treated equally.

And do you know? That some policemen who did crimes also got jail time and lose their jobs? You could be the same.

Don't make me laugh, Jack Thompson. You are just filth and lies, the world would be a better place without you. And you know what, like the Johnny Cash song title implies, "Sooner or later, God's gonna cut you down."

Although you are a Christian, but to God's eyes you are just a filthy useless mortal.

I was delighted to be a participant in five of the above scandals.

One week before "Columbine" I was on NBC's Today show predicting that male teens would train on Doom to author more school shootings like the one in Paducah, whose victims' parents were there on the show with me.

Guess what happened? That led to my appearance on CBS' 60 Minutes the Sunday after Columbine.

But, Dennis, you missed one of the scandals. It was your filing of a Bar complaint against me on behalf of the video game industry that you failed to disclose to your readers and that was dismissed by The Florida Bar as baseless.

I guess we can't count upon the person responsible for one scandal to report fully on ALL the scandals.


Jack Thompson, Attorney and You're Not

@Koos : I do ! But I haven't heard of any big controversy surrounding "Harvester". Having read Wikipedia entry, it seems that it generated controversy BEFORE its official release, but not after. What a pity, it would have deserved it much more than "Night Trap", because indeed, there was a lot of gore in it.

Why is the 25 to Life thing up there and Bully isn't? The 25 to Life controversy started 7 months before the game was even relased and was pretty short lived. I didn't see people protesting over 25 to Life.

I voted for Columbine. Yeah the Hot Coffee thing probably was the biggest scandal but I don't think we would have even heard about it if it wasn't for Columbine and the other school shootings. Night Trap and Mortal Kombat DID lead to the creation of the ESRB but they didn't lead to FTC investigations and vast changes in the marketing policies of both the game and movie industries.

Bully strikes me as kind of an "anti-scandal." Yes, there was a big stink made by JT, various European bigs, and others. Based on a game that not only had nobody ever played, but one that Rockstar, strangely, allowed very little information to circulate over, until the project was very near completion.

Upon which time the game, which was called a "Columbine simulator" by JT, and various other disparaging terms by the also-rans, was discovered to be...

... Absolutely harmless. Mean-spirited, sure. Slightly nasty, certainly. But probably less violent then your school days were, and certainly not a glorificaiton of school shootings.

The only thing that happened is that the game got renamed in England (I believe).

I think even JT quickly dropped the subject.

I'm not a big fan of Rockstar these days, but I applauded them there- They made a fool out of everyone.

To nudistmonkey,

"Spoke like a true atheist. Seems like you are very intolerant of Christians, making you mr hypocrite. Or are you just incapable of giving Erik a straight answer?"

You're wrong there, I am a agnostic. Anyway, are you aware that there is one stupid fucking Christian monkeying around in the old Gamepolitics livejournal? And I am not a fool, I had checked with some friends who are visitors of Gamepolitics and they said that there is a idiotic Christian in the site.

Anyway, I would give the person a big thank you who chased that insignificant person away. Oh, where was I? And do you know that when Sony apologized to the Manchester Cathedral? They don't give a shit! Manchester Cathedral keeps whining and bitching about Sony making their 'holy' place in their game.

To Clyde,

Spoke like a true atheist. Seems like you are very intolerant of Christians, making you mr hypocrite. Or are you just incapable of giving Erik a straight answer?

To Erik,

"Really? I was unaware that Jesus made an official press release regarding the Resistance debacle."

Spoken like a true Christian indeed.

Anyone remember "Harvester" ?

Kevin R. Brown & Soldatlouis: You are both welcome. I enjoyed that video myself. I especially liked it when the woman that played Lisa was talking about the bathroom scene and noted that it was "Oooh, so scary." :lol:

@ Hart704 : thanks so much for the video, I couldn't help laughing when I saw excerpts of this game. You know, I expected BLOOD and NUDE GIRLS ! Or something that would have justified such a scandal.

By the way, does someone have the full video or the full transcript of these 1993 hearings ? I'd be delighted to hear exactly what everyone had to say about it.

Damn you Night Trap. It was all because of you!!!!


I'd have to agree with Hayabusa75 on that most of these are not scandals at all. Columbine wasn't a scandal, neither is manhunt 2, or the ps3 launch (how is acting idiotic a scandal?).

This may be just me, but I don't see most of the things mentioned here as "scandals". To me, a scandal implies that someone's doing something secret and shady and tries to cover it up by lying or other means. Only Hot Coffee, the SimCopter thing and the XBOX red rings involve actual deceit (a reasonable assumption for the XBOX).

Pushing the envelope openly, whether to make a statement, make money or just plain be an ass, isn't scandalous. Also, incidents like Blagojevich's money-wasting aren't game scandals, they're game-related POLITICAL scandals.

I know I'm kind of splitting hairs, but I think "controversies" would be a better term than "scandals". Just because some goofball didn't like something the game industry did or released doesn't automatically mean the industry is the villain.

[...] Enlace: Gaming’s 10 Biggest Scandals of All-time Escrito a las 5:13 | Envia esta nota por correo electrónico Por Paola Mejia | Lee más de: Consolas, Juegos, Internet, Cultura Otros blogs que comentan acerca de esta anotación [...]

What about the Greek Government banning all computer/console games on the basis of attempting to control gambling. If that isn't the biggest political screwup, what is?

Good point made upthread about Phantom- while it's not really that controversial, it does remind me of the whole Gizmodo thing, which did contains rumblings of corruption.

The non-appearance of the fiasco around the first Manhunt is an odd one, but some "other"-s I'd like to point out are mostly UK based, and predate The Internet, certainly in the mainstream, so it's not a surprise they're not here. But:

#1: Epilepsy- In 1993, a young boy died of an epileptic fit brought on by a SNES game, leading the UK's reasoned, thought-out tabloids to scream- as a front page headline, no less- "NINTENDO KILLED MY SON". The result was the typical media circus, and the inclusion of epilepsy warnings in all subsequent games released.

Sadly, the media never did let go of that one, and a BBC documentary on the financial successes of the company over ten years later felt the need to bring it up like it was a new thing.

That being said, Nintendo never did learn their lesson- an episode of the Pokemon cartoon in Japan gave a load of kids seizures, which was later parodied in The Simpsons.

#2: The Poppy Appeal- anyone remember Cannon Fodder? 1993 again, and Virgin was to release the Sensible Software-developed title with its anti-war message and everything, with a picture of a corn poppy on the box. The poppy happens to be the chosen symbol of WWI veterans and "rememberance day", a day commemorating the sacrifices of war veterans. PR disaster once more, including- and I kid you not- *the* famous headline: BAN THIS SICK FILTH. Oh yes.

The result? Sensible Software gave them £500 and they went away.

#3: Carmageddon- The *other* game the BBFC banned. Re-released with green blood. Then the company released a patch online to make it red again. Tsch. You'd never get that happening nowadays.

And, of course, PS3 price lol. ;P


What about the whole Gizmondo crap?

ya but the RROD is at least twice as much as the DRE's, so meh,plus MS has gotten off its butt and doing something about it,be it tho a bit late but non the less they have shown a reasonable level of consumer support,better late than never,sony keeps dcking around there is a slight difference in the levels of anti consumerness of them,MS seems to be doing a bit better as long as they keep up with the refunds,and free repairs for the next 2-3 years I really can not hate them for their lack of foresight on the 360,dosent mean I like them either :P


Thanks so much for that link.

I wasn't old enough to really catch wind of the Night Trap bit, but man, I have to cast my balot for that. How absolutely senseless. I can't stress enough how this constantly brings to mind the old Patricia Pulling nonsense with D&D and most other pen and paper RPGs (I wasn't old enough for that one, either, but given my current interest in the hobby, it's been a major point of study for me).

I can't help but wonder what new form of entertainment will arise that OUR generation will be so irrationally opposed to.
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Andrew EisenPHX - Yep, we linked that interview last week. - 8:42pm
Matthew WilsonI did a clean install, and have had no issues, it seems they got this right07/29/2015 - 7:43pm
PHX Corp oh look, More Randy pitchford Shooting himself in the foot again07/29/2015 - 7:43pm
Craig R.And even then, I'd say upgrade, make your backup media, and then do a clean install07/29/2015 - 7:29pm
Craig R.Personally, I'm recommending people wait 2-3 months at least before upgrading07/29/2015 - 7:29pm
Matthew Wilsonthat being said I am not normal, I took the upgrade and made a recovery drive, than did a clean install. most issues in os upgrades come from doing the upgrade. doing a fresh install fixes that.07/29/2015 - 6:58pm
Matthew Wilson@james so far hone, no major issues encountered yet. the only issue ?I have is my second wifi adaptor does not work, but I have my built in one. that issue is on netgear to fix though with new drivers07/29/2015 - 6:46pm
TechnogeekSora, the entire reason those clauses are being added everywhere is that they WERE upheld. AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, back in 2011.07/29/2015 - 6:28pm
james_fudgeHow many crashes so far?07/29/2015 - 5:46pm
Matthew Wilsonmost likly not since windows is considered essential, so unreasonable tos wont hold up. that being said, I am using it, and its prity good.07/29/2015 - 5:11pm
Sora-ChanThe question on those is can they be held up in court. From what I can tell those kinds of clauses haven't been challenged in court yet.07/29/2015 - 4:40pm
E. Zachary KnightPapa, Of course thre is. That has now become a permanent part of the EULA boilerplate template.07/29/2015 - 12:56pm
Papa MidnightIn case anyone is interested, there is a clause written into Section 10 of Windows 10's EULA that provides for a Class Action Waiver, and restricts the user to Binding Arbitration.07/29/2015 - 11:15am
TechnogeekNo, that folder is what gets used for the upgrade process. I already had the upgrade go through on my notebook.07/29/2015 - 10:35am
Andrew EisenMatt - And AGAIN, you keep saying "accountable." What exactly does that mean? How is Gamasutra not accounting for the editorial it published? How is it not accountable to its readership (which, AGAIN, is primarily game industry folk, not gamers)?07/29/2015 - 10:10am
james_fudgeThat's the clean install, for anyone asking07/29/2015 - 9:23am
TechnogeekAlso, it's the upgrade that's available for installation now. You might need to forcibly initiate the Windows Update process before it'll start downloading, though. (If there's a C:\$Windows.~BT folder on your computer, then you're in luck.)07/29/2015 - 8:46am
TechnogeekAdmittedly there's more room to push for an advertiser boycott when you get into opinion content versus pure news, but keep in mind that reviews are opinion content as well.07/29/2015 - 8:46am
TechnogeekMatts: There's a difference between "this person regularly says extremely terrible stuff" and "I don't like the phrasing used in this one specific editorial".07/29/2015 - 8:45am
MattsworknameWait, is that for the upgrade or the clean install only? cause I was gonna do the upgrade07/29/2015 - 8:32am

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