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By carefully playing games such as those reviewed below, people can base their answers to eBrief issues such as: 
* What is a computer game
* What is an interactive movie
* Are children and/or women in any way degraded or otherwise harmed through the violent and/or sexual content contained within these games?
upon actual personal experience with what they are talking about.  Furthermore, many of these games contain optional internal censorship features that demonstrate how computer games developers have responded in regard to concerns over controversial content in their products. 

It should be noted that, on this page, the general term of "computer games" is used to cover computer games, video games, and interactive movies.  All these alphabetically ordered games were chosen because of their controversial nature - they are representatives of the controversies (that lead to censorship) surrounding computer games, even if they are not truly representative of computer gaming as a whole. 

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The 11th Hour. (1995). Designers Rob Landeros and Graeme Devine. Virgin Interactive and Trilobyte.

In this pioneering interactive movie on cd-rom directed by David Wheeler, the player must solve a series of bizarre puzzles within a haunted house in order to gradually reveal a storyline connected to the house that involves supernatural assault, murder, and temptation spanning several decades.  Movie scenes contain adult themes, sexual references, violence, and horror.  This title is the direct ancestor of Tender Loving Care and Point of View, although The 11th Hour was not banned in Australia (M 15+ rating from the Office of Film and Literature Classification).

The 11th Hour game box
Back cover of The 11th Hour game box showing game play screens and extensive descriptions of the game's contents.

Custer's Revenge. (1982). [Designer unknown]. Mystique.

Often incorrectly referred to as Custer's Last Stand by Government proponents of computer games censorship in the mid-1990s, this is a highly obscure and unpopular video game whose blocky cartoon graphics and stick figures are extremely crude by today's standards.  It allows the player to take the role of a naked US Cavalry trooper from the 1800s who tries to rape a naked Native American woman tied to a post in the desert while her people shoot at him with arrows.  There is no evidence Custer's Revenge was ever available in Australia and any information about it is very hard to find, but see Kent, 2000.

Custer's Revenge screen shot
Screen shot from Custer's Revenge during game play.  A single black arrow can be seen at the top right.  The two 4s are actually supposed to be cactus plants.

Alternative discussion of Custer's Revenge by Anthony Larme

Doom. (1993). Designer John Romero. Id Software.

One of the pivotal and most popular titles in computer gaming history which spawned numerous imitations, Doom presents a nightmarish world of space bases overrun by demons where the player is cast in the role of a well-armed marine sent to eliminate this menace, even to the point of entering Hell itself.  All this ultra-violent, but still relatively crude cartoonish action, is presented in first-person perspective. Doom caused plenty of controversy worldwide for its violence and occasional Satanic imagery, but it was not banned in Australia (MA 15+ rating from the OFLC).

Carnage in Doom
Typical example of the carnage in the aftermath of combat in Doom.  Here, the player's character has just defeated some demon-possessed human soldiers with a rocket launcher.  His current health and weapons statistics lie in the thick horizontal bar at the bottom of the screen.

Satanic imagery in Doom
Armed only with a chainsaw, the fearless space marine battles fireball-casting demons and imps at the entryway to Hell.

Dream Web. (1994). Designer Neil Dodwell. Empire Software and Creative Reality.

Players of this crude cartoon-like computer game that is viewed from an overhead perspective take on the role of an assassin who is sent on a mission by powerful supernatural beings to eliminate a group of people who threaten to disrupt the fabric of the universe.  One target needs to be shot while he is engaged in sex with an unknown woman.  The woman cannot be harmed and has nothing to do with the plot, but Dream Web was nonetheless banned in Australia for containing what the OFLC considered to be sexualised violence (i.e. where sex and violence are deemed to be connected in some way, even if very loosely).  An appropriately modified version was briefly available for sale in later years with an M 15+ rating.

Dream Web death sceneTypical game play screen in Dream Web
Examples of Dream Web game screens.  On the left, an evil man lies dead.  At the top right of the picture on the right, the game's cursor (in the shape of a hand) may be seen.

Alternative discussion of Dream Web by Anthony Larme

Duke Nukem 3D. (1996). Designers Todd Replogle and Allen H. Blum III. 3D Realms Entertainment.

Similar in many ways to Doom, this popular computer game caused considerable controversy for its perceived sexual content.  Such contentious depictions include scantily clad women in red light district style occupations, and similar women who have been tied up for breeding or food supply purposes for the evil aliens who have overrun Earth (presumably killing almost all the men in the process).  Duke Nukem is the character controlled by the player who battles to reclaim Earth for humanity and save as many of his fellow humans as possible.  Overblown, satirical, and often hilarious, Duke Nukem 3D was never meant to be taken seriously.  Originally, it was allowed into Australia only with the game's internal censorship feature (that removed all the women) turned permanently on, but this ruling was later overturned and it was placed on sale unmodified (MA 15+ rating from the OFLC in both instances).  See also Mackay, 1996 and Hafner, 1996.

Duke Nukem successfully battles evil aliens
Duke Nukem in shown on the cover of the game's instruction booklet triumphant over his evil alien adversaries.

Duke battles aliens in this typical game play screen shot
Typical example of game play in Duke Nukem 3D.  Here, Duke battles aliens which possess some of the physical features of tigers and wart hogs.

Exotic dancer in Duke Nukem 3DBound women in Duke Nukem 3D
Very rarely, Duke encounters women in situations such as these.  When he does, he makes comments to show that he abhors their condition and resolves to fight even harder to save humanity from the alien threat.

Alternative discussion of Duke Nukem 3D by Anthony Larme

Harvester. (1996). Designer G. P. Austin. DigiFx Interactive and Merit Studios.

Harvester is a cd-rom based interactive movie that presents a plot of chilling extreme horror that, according to the game's manufacturers, contains something to offend everyone.  The player takes on the role of a young man, Steve Mason, trapped in a crazed parody of 1950s small town America that turns out to be a virtual-reality based training ground for a cult of serial killers.  This game frequently engages in clever social commentary on matters of sex, violence, and censorship.  Although this much delayed title was mentioned numerous times as justification for the creation of games censorship schemes around the world, it was never put to the test in Australia as no one submitted it for classification and thus it was never sold here.

Harvester game box
The front cover of the Harvester game box shows the scythe-wielding virtual reality representation of the head trainer of the cult of serial killers.  In the bottom right corner, its M 17+ rating from the USA's ESRB may be seen.

Harvester's gruesome climactic scene
Players who want Steve to join the cult of serial killers can have him pass his final exam through the gruesome murder of his girlfriend.  Those who wish otherwise can see him marry her in the virtual world only to witness his death in the real world immediately afterwards. 

Alternative discussion of Harvester by Anthony Larme

Night Trap. (1993+). [Designer unknown]. Sega/Acclaim.

This interactive B-grade horror movie that was released in a variety of formats for various video and computer games systems played perhaps the largest role in the development of a system of computer games censorship for Australia.  It places the player in the role of a protector of a group of young women dressed in sleepwear who are being threatened with having their blood drained from their necks by a strange race of vampires.  Night Trap's realism particularly shocked Labor Senator Margaret Reynolds who initiated a process that led to Australia's current games censorship system, which, incidentally, allowed this game on sale with the second-highest possible classification (M 15+).

Night Trap's instruction booklet
A woman in sleepwear is threatened by a vampire on the front cover of Night Trap's instruction booklet.

Failure in Night Trap results in blood drain
If protective measures fail, one or more women are drained of blood by having hideous suction devices attached to their necks and activated by the vampires.

Alternative discussion of Night Trap by Anthony Larme

Phantasmagoria. (1995). Designer Roberta Williams. Sierra On-Line.

As the product of one of the computer games industry's top designers and largest companies, Phantasmagoria was one of the most expensive cd-rom based interactive movies ever made and one of its best-selling.  Its detailed plot spans a century and primarily involves a young woman, author Adrienne Delaney (the player's character), surviving and partly triumphing over a haunted mansion and her demon-possessed husband.  A scene of non-interactive rape banned this game for Australians, although no comment was made on many other controversial scenes involving evil and horror. 

Phantasmagoria game box - front cover
Phantasmagoria's game box - front cover.  In the bottom right corner, its M 17+ rating from the USA's ESRB may be seen.  The woman's missing head and the stream of blood foreshadows the contents of several key scenes in the game.

Adrienne from Phantasmagoria
Adrienne encounters yet another eerie supernatural phenomenon inside the Phantasmagoria mansion.

Extensive Phantasmagoria Web site by Anthony Larme

Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh. [Phantasmagoria 2] (1996). Designer Lorelei Shannon. Sierra On-Line.

In a similar manner to its predecessor, the cd-rom based interactive horror movie Phantasmagoria 2 caused considerable controversy for its violent and sexual content.  Its contemporary storyline contains themes of corporate greed and immorality, psychological breakdown, and alien invasion.  This time, however, there was no sexual violence, so this title was allowed in Australia with the game's internal censorship feature turned on permanently (MA 15+ rating from the OFLC).  See also Van Raay, 1997a and 1997b.

Front of the Phantasmagoria 2 game box
The game box for Phantasmagoria 2 shows a symbolic representation of the player's character, tormented technical writer Curtis Craig, on the front cover.

Typical Phantasmagoria 2 game play screen
This is a typical Phantasmagoria 2 game play screen.  It depicts Curtis standing near his work cubicle at the corrupt Wyntech chemical corporation.  At the bottom of the screen lie pictorial representations of various items he has collected so far and may use to advance the plot upon using them at the appropriate time.

Extensive Phantasmagoria 2 Web site by Anthony Larme

Point of View. (2001). Designer Rob Landeros. Digital Circus. [DVD version].

Written and directed by The 11th Hour director David Wheeler, Point of View is the most recent example of an interactive movie and shows acting and plot at a sophisticated, mature level rarely seen in gaming.  Its complex storyline that encompasses numerous adult themes centres on a young, introverted, mysterious artist and ex-model, Jane Bole, who gradually regains her self-confidence in matters of romance as she comes to terms with a dark event in her past.  Interactivity primarily involves the player periodically answering multiple-choice questions based on one's personal interpretation of the movie scenes that have just been shown.  Based on these responses, future scenes are modified, substituted, or omitted entirely.  This title has not yet been rated as either a film or a computer game in Australia, but would likely be banned in its upcoming cd-rom version as that would be considered a computer game and thus its two non-interactive inexplicit consensual sex scenes be deemed totally unacceptable.

Jane from Point of View
The enigmatic yet sympathetic artist/model Jane Bole.

Multiple-choice question from Point of View
One of dozens of multiple-choice questions within Point of View.

Extensive Point of View Web site by Anthony Larme

Strip Poker. (1995). [Designer unknown]. Artworx.

Strip Poker is based on the real-world card game of the same name and presents a scenario where the losing participants remove articles of their clothing.  Such participants are usually in the form of a series of clear, static pictures of young women in various states of undress.  The real-world game player, if visually represented at all, is usually just a crude stick figure.  All non-educational nudity is banned in games sold in Australia, so this game (and its variants) is likewise banned.

Strip Poker game screen
Screen shot from Strip Poker during game play.  The black and red Censored sign has been added by the author of this page in the interests of complying with Australia's Internet censorship regulations.  It hides real female nudity.  At the bottom left of the picture, the player is represented by a crude stick figure.  The current hand of cards held by the player lies immediately to the right.

Alternative discussion of Strip Poker by Anthony Larme

Tender Loving Care. (1998). Designer Rob Landeros. Aftermath Media. [cd-rom version].

Yet another interactive movie directed by David Wheeler, Tender Loving Care was banned in Australia in its cd-rom version as it was considered a computer game in which non-educational nudity is not permitted.  Such controversial depictions are part of a complex thriller plot in which an evil psychiatric nurse, Kathryn Randolph, comes to stay with a traumatised young married couple, Michael and Allison Overton, who are trying to recover from the death of their daughter in a recent car accident.  She sexually teases the husband while psychologically dominating his wife until the murderous finale.  As with Point of View, periodic questions asked of the player have some influence in determining the outcome.

Kathryn from Tender Loving Care (cd-rom version)
Kathryn Randolph looks up from her laptop computer to speak with Michael Overton in the cd-rom version of Tender Loving Care.

Tender Loving Care. (1999). Designer Rob Landeros. Aftermath Media. [DVD version].

An additional entry is required for this title as the DVD version was allowed for sale in Australia as a film with an MA 15+ film rating.  It is exactly the same as the banned cd-rom version, with the exception that all movie scenes are much clearer owing to the visual benefits of the DVD medium.  This decision exposed glaring inconsistencies in Australia's overall censorship system - part of the reason the current review of the Games Classification Guidelines is taking place.

Michael and Allison from Tender Loving Care (dvd version)

Michael comforts his wife, Allison, at the conclusion to one possible ending to Tender Loving Care.

Voyeur. (1994). Designer David Riordan. Interplay.

While using a video camera to spy on the home of a controversial potential US Presidential candidate in this cd-rom based interactive movie, the player might encounter a scene where the man's daughter accuses him of sexually molesting her as a child.  Sexually explicit language is not permitted in games sold in Australia, so Voyeur was banned.  Other non-interactive scenes in this title that involve non-explicit, brief instances of kinky consensual sexual games did not receive any comment.

Voyeur game screen
Confrontation time in Voyeur.

Alternative discussion of Voyeur by Anthony Larme


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