Top 10 Biggest Gaming Controversies of the Generation

Top 10 Biggest Gaming Controversies of the Generation

Written Friday, November 15, 2013 By Lee Bradley
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The end is nigh. As the Xbox 360 nears the end of its tenure as Microsoft’s leading console, X360A is remembering some of this generation’s highlights. So, in the run up to the launch of the Xbox One, we’ll be publishing features that celebrate the very best the current-gen console has to offer. This time, it’s controversies.

If there’s one thing this generation of consoles has had in abundance, it’s controversies. From gamer outrages, to industry mud-slinging, mainstream media sensationalism and the ever-present violence debate, there’s been plenty to talk about. Below you’ll find our pick of the 10 biggest, encompassing sex, red rings of death, Tim Schafer calling Bobby Kotick a prick and beyond. Buckle up.

Activision vs. Jason West and Vince Zampella

It all started with a strange news report in March 2010. Infinity Ward founders Jason West and Vince Zampella had been escorted from their own offices at the behest of Activision “bouncer types”, and nobody knew why. It ended two years and dozens of stories later with an out of court settlement. But by then everyone had been dragged through the mud.

Activision accused West and Zamepella of insubordination for talking to EA about new projects (which turned out to be Titanfall), West and Zampella accused Activision of holding out on royalty payments for Modern Warfare 2 and it all came out in the grubbiest bit of dirty laundry washing the industry has ever seen. It was a long-running soap opera of recriminations, legal action and video games, acted out by the creators of the world’s biggest game franchise and the world’s largest publisher. Drama!

Xbox 360 Red Ring of Death

Those blinking lights still haunt many of us. Indicating the failure of an Xbox 360 unit, the Red Ring of Death affected between 23.7 and 54.2 per cent of all early models of the console, depending on whose survey you believe. It was a controversy that ran for years and reportedly cost Microsoft more than $1 billion to rectify. Ouch.

Various causes for the problem have been touted, from graphics chip failures to overheating and even the use of the wrong type of solder. Whatever it was, whatever the reason, it was a scandal that caused consumers a major pain in the ass and fuelled angry forum rants and fanboy fights on a scale we hadn’t seen before. Good job console wars are a thing of the past, right? Oh wait.

Phil Fish

Good old Phil Fish is no stranger to a contentious headline. Outspoken, sometimes misunderstood and endlessly quotable, the creator of Fez caused outrage in 2012 when he said that Japanese games “just suck.” Subsequently challenged by a Japanese games journalist, he added on Twitter, "I'm sorry Japanese guy! I was a bit rough, but your country's games are fucking terrible nowadays."

That’s nothing compared to Fish’s meltdown earlier this year though, in which the developer seemingly ragequit the industry and cancelled the development of Fez II, after GameTrailers host Marcus Beer called Fish a "hipster," a "tosspot," a "wanker" and a "fucking asshole.” On his studio’s website, Fish wrote “I am done. I take the money and run. This is as much as I can stomach. This isn’t the result of any one thing, but the end of a long, bloody campaign. You win.”

Mass Effect Sexy Times

"Mass Effect can be customized to sodomise whatever, whomever, however, the game player wishes," and "with its 'over the net' capabilities virtual orgasmic rape is just the push of a button away.” These were the quotes that lead to a brainless, confused, ill-informed campaign of waffle by mainstream media concerning our favourite space opera RPG. It was all bollocks.

That didn’t stop Fox News from getting involved though, with a televised debate that stopped short of accusing the game of customisable sodomy, but was almost as spurious. In Mass Effect, said Fox, teenage boys can engage in “full graphic sex" that "leaves nothing to the imagination" while playing as a character whose mission it is to decide who he bonks. Confirming reactionary fears about the effect of video games, the Mass Effect controversy is notable thanks to the sheer amount of misinformation it helped spread.

Bobby Kotick vs. Tim Schafer

Less of an explosive controversy and more of a back and forth of hilariously cutting remarks from Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and Double Fine boss Tim Schafer, this one’s a cracker.

Schafer kicked it all off by saying that while Kotick’s obligations are to his shareholders, he “doesn’t have to be as much of a dick about it, does he? I think there is a way he can do it without being a total prick… [but] it’s not something he’s interested in.”

Kotick responded by ripping Schafer to pieces: “The guy comes out and says I'm a prick. I've never met him in my life, I’ve never had anything to do with him. I was in one meeting where the guys looked at [Double Fine’s Brutal Legend] and said, 'He's late, he's missed every milestone, he's overspent the budget and it doesn't seem like a good game. We're going to cancel it.’

"And do you know what? That seemed like a sensible thing to do. And it turns out, he was late, he missed every milestone, the game was not a particularly good game.”

Who knew a face-off between “the most hated man in video games” and a beloved indie dev could be so funny?

Online Passes & Microtransactions

This generation has seen publishers come up with a number of ways to combat pre-owned game sales and drive up revenues, very few of which have been popular with fans. The online pass is one of these methods, blocking off multiplayer content from those that haven’t bought the game new. Initially considered an outrage before becoming the norm, online passes are now going the way of the dodo. Few tears will be shed.

In place of online passes, microtransactions are now on the rise, leading to fears that in some cases gamers are being encouraged to “pay to win”. Whether used in an underhanded manner or not, they’ve been widely dismissed by gamers as further evidence of nickel and dime tactics by greedy publishers. The days when you could just buy a game in a store and receive access to the entire experience are sadly gone. 

Mass Effect 3 Ending

Has there ever been a bigger fan outrage? The narrative climax of the Mass Effect trilogy, as originally envisaged by BioWare, upset dedicated players to such a degree that forums, comments threads and blogs were filled with angry dissatisfaction. BioWare had no choice but to respond.

To be fair to the developers, they did so in style, first by addressing fan concerns and offering greater closure to the story with the free release of the Extended Cut DLC, and then later by giving Shepard and crew the send off they deserved with the brilliant Citadel expansion. Such a response was unprecedented and a mark of BioWare’s class, going some way to repairing tense relations with outspoken fans. A happy ending to a sad story.

Anders Breivik

Video games have long been linked to video game violence, but never so explicitly as in the case of Anders Breivik. On 22nd July 2011, Breivik bombed government buildings in Oslo, then gunned down 69 people on a nearby island, in one of Norway’s greatest tragedies. When he appeared in court, Breivik said he had trained for the massacre by playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

At trial, the confused killer described the game as a simulator for the use of red dot sights, which are so effective that you could give them to “your grandmother and she would have been a super marksman.” Clearly disturbed, Breivik’s comments tapped directly into fears from some that games are capable encouraging potentially dangerous behaviour. However misguided those beliefs may be, it was a dark day for the industry.

Resident Evil 5 “Racism”

The allegations started before Resident Evil 5 even came out. Commenting on the game’s announcement trailer, Newsweek editor N'Gai Croal suggested that the African set zombie title, “dovetailed with classic racist imagery.” The claim was quickly shot down by Capcom, but thanks to previews that supported the accusations, question marks persisted, leading to discussion over the nature of race representation not just in Resi 5, but the medium itself.

In the end, however, many believed the allegations were overblown, including noted social anthropologists and the BBFC, who said that “We do take racism very seriously, but in this case there is no issue around racism.” Despite this, it was a controversy that sparked heated debate.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - No Russian

Call of Duty has been responsible for countless murders over the years, but Modern Warfare 2 was different. Part of the game’s single-player campaign, the mission 'No Russian' featured a vicious airport massacre, in which defenceless, screaming civilians are gunned down and mercilessly executed as they attempt to crawl to safety. It caused headlines around the world.

You didn’t have to take part in the bloodshed, but you could. Taking the role of an undercover officer, you had the choice of merely watching passively as innocent people died around you, or actively taking part in the slaughter. Mainstream media, especially right-leaning outlets, leapt on the chance to attack the “simulated terrorism” being acted out by “8 year-old boys.” Video game dramas rarely spill out into the wider consciousness, but this one did so with force.


User Comments

Forum Posts: 269
Comment #1 by gabwe
Friday, November 15, 2013 @ 04:45:24 PM
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Dat ass.

Forum Posts: 6
Comment #2 by RedSaber
Friday, November 15, 2013 @ 07:14:24 PM
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Despite the fact that this is the 360 site, I would definitely say that the biggest by far would be the PSN hack.

Forum Posts: 77
Comment #3 by Exe the Hero
Friday, November 15, 2013 @ 10:33:13 PM
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I agree with 2. The title IS "Biggest Gaming Controversies of the Generation," not just "on 360."

That point aside, very nicely written Lee! I was actually unaware (I guess I live under a rock?) of the Kotick vs. Schafer drama!

Forum Posts: 98
Comment #4 by Groudon199
Friday, November 15, 2013 @ 11:34:35 PM
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Either the first picture looks like crap or those two are actually that wide in real life.

Forum Posts: 9025
Comment #5 by StayonTarget
Saturday, November 16, 2013 @ 12:05:03 PM
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I still believe to this day that No Russian shouldn't have been in the game. A cutscene maybe. But it went over the edge trying to "prove a point" that the bad guys were bad. Especially in an already mediocre story it really didn't accomplish much.

Forum Posts: 378
Comment #7 by Bohemian
Saturday, November 16, 2013 @ 04:46:51 PM
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Is it just me that liked playing the No Russian level in Modern Warfare 2? I enjoyed taking part in the massacre against NON REAL LIFE people in a VIDEO GAME. Doesn't mean i'm going to go out and do it in real life. It was a bit extreme but necessary for the story(however limited it was).

Forum Posts: 868
Comment #8 by Hurricane Of 87
Saturday, November 16, 2013 @ 05:38:37 PM
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Strip out Kotick/Schafer high school gossip and replace it with Curt Schilling landing his Kingdom Of Amalur devs with second mortgages. The cunt.

Forum Posts: 868
Comment #9 by Hurricane Of 87
Saturday, November 16, 2013 @ 05:46:48 PM
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Also, I don't remember Anders Brevik and CoD being linked in the mainstream media since I'm quite fond of rolling my eyes at such happenings.

He did reflect badly on Top Gear fans though!

Forum Posts: 3
Comment #10 by Scobiwan31
Sunday, November 17, 2013 @ 09:05:33 AM
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Can I put forward honorable mentions for Gearbox screwing everyone with Aliens: Colonial Marines, Cevat Yerli continually misunderstanding what gamers want and Stuart Black's continuing failure to understand that it's him that's the dick and not everyone else in the world. Oh, and that bloke from Silicon Knights refusing to take the blame for making Too Human completely shite!

Forum Posts: 2161
Comment #11 by mjc0961
Sunday, November 17, 2013 @ 09:55:55 AM
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@10: Yes you an put forward an honorable mention for Gearbox and Aliens Colonial Marines. I will never give those fuckers money again.

@2: It's on the sister site's version, where 360 specific things like the RROD were omitted.

Also I would argue that the RROD thing is a much bigger controversy than the PSN hack. PSN got hacked, yeah, and Sony was slow out of the gate to tell people and do things about it. But eventually they stepped up and made things right to the point where PSN signups grew and grew faster than ever. And while PSN was down, you could still play offline. Not to mention that shit like that gets hacked all the time, and it was only notable to gamers this time because it was a gaming network.

Ultimately not quite as bad as having at minimum a quarter of your systems failing. The thing that pisses me off the most about RROD is that Microsoft didn't really fix it until years into the 360's life. Yeah, they offered warranty extensions, but that doesn't FIX the problem. It just gets you another ticking time bomb free of charge. After I sent in my first 360 because of RROD, that should have been the end of it. But nope, Microsoft hadn't actually fixed whatever problem there was in the manufacturing process because THAT 360 also RROD'd too after about the same period of time as the first one. Why the fuck did they send me a broken console to replace the broken console I sent in? They should have been sending out consoles where the issue was fixed, not sending out the same broken shit and saying "Okay, have fun for a while again, call us back up when this one shits the bed too."

They didn't fix this shit for good until the Xbox 360 S, which was in 2010. That's 5 years of selling broken consoles, which I rank as significantly worse than PSN getting hacked and being down for just under a month.

That said, PSN getting hacked is absolutely the second biggest controversy this gen. But RROD is ahead of it by miles in my book. Microsoft should be fucking ashamed of themselves.

Forum Posts: 1517
Comment #12 by gazmaster1
Sunday, November 17, 2013 @ 12:55:27 PM
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Phil Fish... he will live on in my memory as the biggest hipster I will ever have the fortune to know. He put his life and soul into Fez and every one took a giant dump on him which continued after every small mistake he made. I suggest people check out ''indie game, the movie'' just to get an insight into the pressures an indie dev goes through.

Apart from that the only thing that still sticks in my mind as shocking/controversial was the No Russian mission, probably the only time I felt uncomfortable playing a game, almost as bad as me watching a Serbian movie uncut.

Forum Posts: 1770
Comment #13 by RDrules
Sunday, November 17, 2013 @ 04:29:19 PM
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@12 to be fair he was pretty insufferable, always putting his foot in his mouth and im pretty sure FEZ is still broken on 360

the way in which people acted i dont agree with but he wasent such a great guy himself

Forum Posts: 33
Comment #14 by IIDXholic
Sunday, November 17, 2013 @ 07:40:29 PM
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I had no problem playing the level "No Russian". It added to the evilness of the antagonist, and felt it was just showing the player his side of things and why he needs to be taken out.

Forum Posts: 96
Comment #15 by Aliasalpha
Monday, November 18, 2013 @ 01:39:10 AM
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No mention of Horse Armour? That one thing that has quite regularly been used as a synonym for a ripoff?

Forum Posts: 277
Comment #16 by Dazz
Monday, November 18, 2013 @ 02:56:21 PM
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I still don't understand the fuss that caused the ME3 ending to have to be changed thanks to the outcry of whiners, forcing a dev to change their original vision. It'd be like a band re-releasing an album with slightly different songs due to "fan" rage ("fan" in inverted commas because I don't think any real fans of anything would be as ridiculous as they were with that ending).

I also had no idea who Phil Fish was or what Fez was and after reading the article, i still have no clue. He seems like an idiot though.

Forum Posts: 277
Comment #17 by Dazz
Monday, November 18, 2013 @ 03:02:01 PM
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I also have to add, I bought my first 360 in late 2007 and never had RROD whatsoever with it. I only got a new one (the bulky black one) because I ran out of space on the HD and so far, that's worked fine too with no problems.

It's like the people who complained about the Wiimote slipping out of their hands when I've had a Wii since launch date in November 2006 and never had that happen to me either.

Forum Posts: 14
Comment #18 by ChomskyKnows
Monday, November 18, 2013 @ 10:06:59 PM
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Remember that the FoxNews "analyst" that was morally outraged by Mass Effect's sexcapades hadn't actually PLAYED the game. She turned out to be a really bad author that had books on Amazon and gamers (that hadn't actually read her books) fucked her up big time by flooding her with bad reviews. Fair is fair.

Forum Posts: 51
Comment #19 by Agent Mantis
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 @ 02:39:34 AM
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I had three consoles RRoD on me, makes me a little wary to be an early adopter this coming gen. Phil Fish was a thin-skinned hipster wanker, the guy was a one trick pony.

Forum Posts: 27
Comment #21 by FreiZeitGeipel
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 @ 02:27:25 PM
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@17 Then you clearly belong to the lucky 45.8% who never experienced the RRoD. I bought my 360 around Christmas 2008 and the ring appeared within the first hour of playing. Then it took about two weeks until MS replaced the console. I still hate thinking about that...

Forum Posts: 11
Comment #22 by bigred75x
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 @ 04:02:49 PM
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Have to reiterate #10: Aliens Colonial Marines was a huge stink of controversy. From the delays, to the quality, to "who actually made it?".

Forum Posts: 192
Comment #23 by GalrenCreptus
Wednesday, November 20, 2013 @ 01:41:24 PM
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Phil Fish is a clear example of the idiots that think their opinion is actually fact and that everyone must feel the same way they do. Never demonstrated better than by his comment about Japanese games and his comment to the Japanese games journalist. Just because he doesn't like them doesn't mean they suck. I don't like sports games but I'm not such an idiot that I'm going to say they suck because I know better. I know it is my opinion and an opinion is neither right nor wrong, it just is.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #24 by gtafreaksydney
Friday, November 22, 2013 @ 08:06:16 AM
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#23 Agreed, and I know it came out on PS2 but Persona 4 came out technicaly this Gen (During 2009) so yeah, One of the BEST JRPG's (let alone GAMES) of all time, Explain THAT Phil Fish you F'ing Wanker xD

Forum Posts: 232
Comment #25 by DragonessAthena
Friday, November 22, 2013 @ 08:48:58 AM
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"A happy ending to a sad story"? Let me guess... Upset because the game didn't end with Shepard sailing off into the sunset? There was nothing wrong with the ending, considering it was the 2nd ending they had made due to the complaining about the FIRST ending that had been leaked. Yes, the one that shipped was the 2nd ending since the script had been leaked on the internet a few months before and all the fans whined about it and BioWare had to come up with a whole new ending. Fans should have no say in what a writer does. It's the writer's work, and they're the ones that have the final say.

Forum Posts: 526
Comment #27 by artphobia
Monday, November 25, 2013 @ 04:46:26 PM
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So the ARMA 3 imprisonment isnt even in the top 10?

Forum Posts: 24
Comment #28 by EmDee-Gee
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 @ 07:35:31 PM
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That was a nice read. Personally, I was hoping some words would be in there about the so-called DLC-packs that were nothing more than unlock keys for content that was already on the disk. Assassin's Creed II and Gears of War 3 come to mind here. Especially the former was bad, with sequences from the middle of the game blatantly missing, and the DLC-packs themselves were less than 1 Mb in size. Horrible.

Forum Posts: 868
Comment #30 by Hurricane Of 87
Friday, November 29, 2013 @ 08:15:13 AM
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Played MW2 recently and it was fantastic (those Washington levels let it down a bit). No Russian is great. Really.
The way your 'teammates' walk slowly taking their time to hit everyone. Walking through the metal detector like they don't give a fuck. The way some civilians just stand there caught in the headlights while others run for their lives. Those who've already taken a bullet and are crawling for salvation or propped up against a wall waiting for death, tempting you to put them out of their mercy. Some heavy stuff. Bizarre in how much it DOESN'T tell you what to do for a CoD game.
It is let down slightly by 3 things:
1. The civilians are repeated over and over, even within the first group. The women in the purple top, the man in the orange/brown plaid, etc.
2. Typical CoD 'spolsions with the restaurant awning collapsing and the glass elevator being blown up.
3. The battle against actual trained marksmen on the tarmac seems a bit superfluous to the story they were trying to tell and just shoehorning in some Shoot These Dudes gameplay where it wasn't necessary.

#14: True, but it slightly fails within MW2 itself as you don't see Makarov again and only gets his comeupance in MW3

#25: I was fine with the Mass Effect 3 ending, the final choice is really set up for you to pick the middle one since it's a MASSIVE BLINDING LIGHT the other hidden in comparative darkness. You only have to walk in a straight line. Plus it sounded the best so I walked for it...
Shepard drops the gun *LEGEND*
Shepard picks up speed *UNWAVERING*
Shepard jumps off the platform *INSANITY*
Shepard dives into the beam of light *LONG SERVICE MEDAL*

Forum Posts: 595
Comment #31 by GR4V1G0R3
Saturday, November 30, 2013 @ 10:27:53 AM
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very surprised to see that the ending to ME getting in there, yet gearbox stealing $6m from sega, and however much they got for pre-orders of A:CM by showing that demo of a completely different game at E3 didn't make it in - also, I didn't know that the mental guy had claimed CoD was involved, that's something that wasn't really picked up on by the British media [or not as much as fox and its bullshit campaign against gaming, and gun control] and I expected server closures by EA to make the list

guessing that this is only the MS side of things, as the PSN hack should really be in there too - this generation has been all about fucking the customer over for a larger profit margin, like the rest of the sales industry [make something for as little as possible, and weasel as much money out of the consumer as possible, wait, we can rip bits out and sell them separately, sweet, lets do that [essentially like selling a television as just a panel, then selling the surround, speakers, remote et al separately]

Forum Posts: 8
Comment #35 by SPARTAN 8554
Wednesday, December 04, 2013 @ 07:40:54 AM
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Playing Call of Duty makes you a better marksman as watching Harry Potter makes you a better magician. Fucking ridiculous.

Forum Posts: 403
Comment #36 by banej
Saturday, December 07, 2013 @ 09:20:26 AM
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#Comment 15: Agreed. Thanks to Oblivion in-game micro transaction for the horse armour, we are now paying for every in game customisation that should be free.

Forum Posts: 109
Comment #38 by eHeadache
Sunday, December 08, 2013 @ 03:00:30 PM
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Forum Posts: 3353
Comment #39 by Jack Frost
Wednesday, December 11, 2013 @ 09:48:42 PM
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I fully have to agree with #8's mention that the Kingdoms of Amalur debacle needs to be on this list. It's not the most-well known game in the world, obviously, but that doesn't detract from the absolutely criminal ways in which it came about.

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