Banned Or Censored Video Games In Singapore
Ah, video games. If our younger selves had our way, we’d all probably be playing our favourite games as a full-time job.
On second thought…
While Singapore rarely bans games outright, there are still a few games deemed unacceptable for Singaporean consumption.
Here are 4 video games that we didn’t get to indulge in, as well as why they were banned or censored.
1. Half-Life (Violence)
Half-Life is perhaps known as the best gaming franchise to never receive a third entry.
Weirdly enough, Valve’s legendary game had been released for two years before the decision was made to pull it from shelves.
The Government objected to the game’s depiction of violence, which was admittedly graphic for its time.
There were even alleged reports of officials raiding LAN shops, looking for the offending content.
The gaming community responded by starting online petitions and sending strongly worded letters to their MPs.
In an unprecedented turn of events, the Government relented a week after the ban was implemented.
Reasons cited for the reversal included:
- The game being released over a year ago
- The ban’s potential impact on LAN hosting sites and video game retailers, namely a sizeable portion of their income
The enduring spirit of affecting change through petitions lives on.
2. Mass Effect (Sexual content)
Over the years, Bioware has cemented its reputation as one of the premier Western RPG game developers.
In a repertoire that ranges from Baldur’s Gate to Dragon Age and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, the Canadian company is best known for the intergalactic wayfaring epic series Mass Effect.
Of course, I’m talking about the original trilogy.
The one that featured movie stars and established actors such as actor Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now), Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix, Jessica Jones), Seth Green (Family Guy) and Keith David (The Thing).
So, the less said about Mass Effect: Andromeda the better.
However, we almost didn’t get to play this game on our shores — thanks to a feature of the game that allows you to customise your character.
The game also boasts the ability to romance certain members of the alien persuasion – regardless of their gender – or yours.
Add the two together with a dash of early 2000’s video game graphics, and you got an awkward stew consisting of sometimes inter-species, sometimes inter-gender sex scenes.
When word got out that the Media Development Authority (MDA) wanted to lay the ban-hammer on the game, wave upon wave of public outcry crashed upon MDA’s shores.
They soon relented and reclassified the game as M18.
Interestingly enough, this case also introduced a new precedent for a classification system, that’s used to rate games in Singapore today.
3. The Darkness (Violence)
The Darkness is a very common name in entertainment. Literally.
Unlike the embedded song, the video game named The Darkness isn’t about believing in love.
Rather, it’s the death of love.
Protagonist Jackie Estacado (voiced by Kirk Avecedo) has his body taken over by an eldritch entity known only as The Darkness.
The Darkness gives him all manner of spooky powers, such as summoning little imp-like creatures to assault his foes, or scouting ahead with dark tendrils to plan his next move.
Said powers can also be used to execute one’s opponents, medieval-style.
Of course, the sheer amount of graphic violence coupled with various religiously offensive expletives that were peppered throughout the game, meant that it was banned.
However, like how Mass Effect was branded M18, The Darkness was slapped with a similar rating.
Guess you could say, The Darkness finally got to see the light.
Which is ironic, because staying too long in the presence of light weakens you in the game.
4. Grand Theft Auto (Almost banned for violence, 2D Car-stealing)
If Half-Life and The Darkness taught you about wanton violence and Mass Effect instructed you in the ways of sexual deviancy, Grand Theft Auto (GTA) would have taught you everything in between.
It’s common practice to hate on GTA, the sandbox video game that lets you get up to whatever mischief your little rebel heart can scheme up.
Apparently, our neighbours in Thailand have disallowed this franchise in its entirety.
In fact, every single title under the GTA banner has been indefinitely banned in the country ever since an 18-year old gamer stabbed a taxi driver in Bangkok.
Definitely do not punch cops in real life.
While Singapore has not outright banned any of the GTA titles, check out this 12-year old article from now-defunct local gaming magazine GameAxis Unwired.
Which sheds a little more light on MDA’s initial response to murmurings of banning GTA games.
Saints Row, another video game series that can only be described as “GTA, but sillier”, was also rumoured to be banned from our shores back in the day.
Bonus: Fight of Gods
This last one is actually more of a bonus piece — a game banned by our neighbours.
If you thought that MDA’s tough on sensitive content, Malaysia clearly takes a stauncher stance on such games.
They once banned the ENTIRE Steam store in a bid to prevent Malaysians from playing Fight of Gods – a game that pits gods and deities from various pantheons against each other.
Touting themselves as answering gamers’ prayers, the game allows you to settle the fight between who is stronger, Guan Gong or Anubis?
The Malaysian government’s ban was quickly overturned after Valve agreed to geoblock the game for Malaysian audiences.
A look at this trailer tells us that they probably had a point.
Enforcing a ban is hard nowadays
In the current day, physical bans have largely been reduced to being purely ceremonial.
This is due to the rise of digital distribution, which is harder to regulate, compared to banning the sale of video games housed on CDs back then.
In the digital age, even complete digital bans are easily overcome with the aid of a VPN.
Of course, you’re strictly not advised to do so, even if you know how.
Because that will soon be reason enough for officers to knock on your doors, if you’re suspected to have ‘unlawful media’ on hand.