Gamasutra has a book extract that covers the development of the US games rating system, spurred on by Joseph Lieberman’s hearings and the threat of having a government ban on violent games. Mortal Kombat and Night Trap were two key examples in those hearings and my, don’t they look tame by today’s standards?
Funnily enough, I’d recently watched a Night Trap playthrough on YouTube: it is in five parts (starting with this one) and if it had been released as a film it probably would have been PG at worst. However, because it was a video game, it was (or still is?) seen to be much more powerful in impacting on audience / player behaviour.
Anyway, I was unaware that after Rob Fulop’s Night Trap got him so much negative attention, the next game he went out and developed was Petz.
Another thing that emerges from that article is how video games in the 1990s were considered to have an extremely limited racial, gender and sexual palette – game heroes were largely white, hetero males who were going to save the poor helpless girl, to take a crude summary. It’s hard to see that much has changed in that area (and no, that there are more player elves in-game than ever before is not a sign of increasing racial diversity).
The impact of violent video games are still being determined – that such titles can have a greater impact on those predisposed to becoming easily angry / upset and who lack empathy probably shouldn’t be surprising – and it is an issue that the video games industry will constantly have to face as more and more attention is put into making sure that (for instance) bodily fluids have the correct dynamics as they spurt through the limbs you’ve just cut off and that the real-time blood splatter looks appropriate.