Gaming History 101

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Podcast: 2013 on the 5s and 10s

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Happy New Year!  This week we discuss an old Retronauts tradition of delving into the past in 5 and 10 year intervals.  We discuss 1973, 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, and 2003 including all the significance to gaming Fred can cram into 90 minutes.  There’s also an early special announcement of our show going live on All Games starting Sunday, January 6.

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 2, 2013 at 8:10 pm

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Video Game Violence Heats Up

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I remember going to the roller skating rink on Thursday nights and even though I was an avid gamer, puberty had started to kick in and girls were much more interesting to me.  That is, until Mortal Kombat.  I had already seen and gotten my butt kicked by most of the Street Fighter II players, but that game was too cartoon-like and I didn’t much care for it.  Mortal Kombat was different.  It had digitized actors playing as each of the fighters, heavy blows to the face would result in large globs of blood spraying across the floor, and I’ll never forget the first time someone won a round with Johnny Cage and the words “Finish Him!” flashed on-screen.  The player walked up to his opponent and did what looked like a complex combination of buttons, the screen darkened, and Johnny Cage straight up punched the guys head off.  Blood erupted from the severed stump while the head bounced on the floor while Johnny Cage put his sunglasses on and struck a pose.  That was my first experience with a “fatality,” which would go on to be one of the most controversial subjects in gaming history.

Senator Joseph Lieberman

In the arcades it was all good and well but once this content hit home consoles in 1992 suddenly governmental groups took notice, namely senators Joe Lieberman (Connecticut) and Herb Kohl (Wisconsin).  They decided that video game companies were pandering violence to children, using these “toys” (game consoles) as the vehicle, and in December 1993 decided to take it to congress.  At that time both Nintendo and Sega had versions of Mortal Kombat on the market, but each had its own way of handling the questionable content.  Nintendo thought it was taking the moral high ground by converting the blood to gray sweat – hardcore SNES players of the time used Game Genie to turn it back to red – and changed the fatalities to bloodless “finishing moves.”  Sega, being the more salacious of the bunch, kept all the violence and fatalities intact on its consoles and instead opted for a code to unlock it – every Sega player remembers “ABACABB” and “DULLARD” for the Genesis as well as “212DU” for Game Gear.  Sega had decided to self-police its titles and implemented a rating system on its games, mostly taking queues from the motion picture industry.  There were 3 ratings: GA (general audiences), MA-13 (parental advisory under 13), and MA-17 (parental advisory under 17).  For one reason or another Mortal Kombat received an MA-13 from Sega.  Not that any of this mattered.

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Senator Kohl

To the senators, changing fatalities were finishing moves didn’t change the fact that Scorpion would still char the opponent to bones.  As for the rating system, especially one that was self-established, it may as well have been a promotional logo.  To further explain their opinions, the senators screened what they claimed was the Sega Genesis version of Mortal Kombat.  Since anyone who played that version knows how rough and fake it looks, they opted to show off the much more crisp and clear arcade version.  Semantics, sure, but still valid.  It’s important to note that Mortal Kombat was not alone in these hearings.  Night Trap, Lethal Enforcers, and Doom shared the spotlight.

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Written by Fred Rojas

November 8, 2011 at 2:18 pm