Censorship and Cultural Sensitivity: The Global Challenges of PC Shooting Games

First-person shooters have dominated the multiplayer gaming sector for more than two decades. As well as being one of the most popular games to play, shooting games are also among the most-watched esports around. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive regularly brings in more than 43 million every month, while newer titles like Call of Duty: Modern Ware bring in more than 7 million monthly players on Steam alone. While the appetite for shooting games can’t be denied, the genre is one of the more controversial ones. 

Why Are Shooting Games So Controversial? 

While some first-person shooters like Fortnite and Valorant veer toward the fantastical, some of the most popular franchises around take their inspirations from real life. Take the Call of Duty series as one example. Launched in 2003, many Call of Duty titles have been heavily borrowed from actual conflicts or lifted directly from history. Released in 2017, Call of Duty: WWII met with a favorable response from critics and players. However, its all-too-real content proved too much for some, with many singling out scenes of torture and graphic violence going too far. 

In fairness, developers Sledgehammer Games had tried to avoid significant controversy ahead of the game’s release. While initial versions featured inflammatory content like swastikas, these offensive symbols were ultimately removed from certain game modes. Despite this, the Call of Duty franchise continues to dominate sales charts. Over the past 20 years, it’s sold more than 400 million units and brought in revenues of more than $30 billion

Call of Duty’s contentious use of the swastika symbol is the perfect example of why using real-world influences isn’t always a good idea in this genre. The content found in franchises like Wolfenstein, Medal of Honor, and Battlefield can invoke powerful responses in people. There’s also the issue of stereotyping to consider. It’s easy to see why developers reach for generalizations when designing enemy NPCs, but there’s an argument to be made that these clichés have no place in 21st-century mass media. 

How Different Cultures Deal with Violence 

Although many younger gamers are playing first-person shooters, some countries have a much tougher stance on video game violence than Europe and the United States. In places like Japan, games like Call of Duty and Gears of War have been heavily edited before being made available for physical sales and downloads. Despite Japanese developers and publishers putting out some of the most controversial video games of all time, Japan actually employs a dual-rating 

system. It’s down to the Computer Entertainment Rating Organization (CERO) and the Ethics Organization of Computer Software (ECOS) to ultimately decide the suitable age rating of a video game. Unsurprisingly, this dual-rating approach has led to many games being heavily adapted. 

Which Countries Have Banned the Most Games? 

While Japan might be a little heavy-handed in its approach to game ratings, relatively few games are banned outright. South Korea is a particularly interesting example. Although this Asian country is considered the birthplace of modern-day esports, it also tends to ban games that have enjoyed considerable success elsewhere. All the usual suspects are on South Korea’s banned list, including the likes of Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt from Rockstar Games. The United Arab Emirates is another territory that video game developers face an uphill battle with. Owing to the UAE’s censorship laws, very few blockbuster games can make much of an impression here. 

In recent years, countries like Russia have talked about banning first-person shooters like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. This would be a bold move when you consider that some of the best CS:GO players of all time have emerged from the country. However, you don’t need to worry about CS:GO and other FPS games going anywhere fast. They’re certain to remain a fixture of esports for years to come. Have you missed the latest match played by your favorite team? Find out how you’re esports are getting on by heading to