What made the Mortal Kombat franchise so controversial? From a publisher’s perspective, how could having a game labeled “controversial” or “violent” be a good thing? How can it be a bad thing?
The first Mortal Kombat game released in 1992, and instantly sparked controversy because of its “Fatalities,” which are finishing moves where one player brutally kills another. The graphic and bloody violence of the game led to the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), the first ratings system for games in North America.
Months after the game was released, chief executive Gregory Fischbach was asked to make some alterations for the game, such as changing the blood from red to green, editing the fatalities, and removing some of the violent background images, according to BBC.
Although the game was meant for mature audiences, there was no law that prevented children from accessing them, especially because Toys R Us, a store intended for children, was the biggest distributor of games in the U.S.
The mature content of Mortal Kombat truly paved the way for a new era in the video game industry, because teenagers and adults began playing games too.
Gregory Fischbach said, “It was the beginning of video games coming of age.”
“At one point in time, games were just meant for children, and nobody really took them seriously. But it was with the launch of Mortal Kombat that people who controlled the media began to look at it differently.”
In 2015, Mortal Kombat X came out, and the violence has become more detailed and gruesome compared to the original games.
Mortal Kombat 1 Arcade All Fatalities
Mortal Kombat X – All Fatalities
From a publisher’s perspective, Mortal Kombat being considered “controversial” or “violent” would probably make people want to buy it even more, because it would mean that the game has a lot of action and fighting sequences. The Mortal Kombat games pushed boundaries, and as the graphics became more detailed, the more fun it would be for the player. In the case of the Mortal Kombat games, people enjoyed it so much that it also turned into movies, television shows, comic books, and card games.
However, labeling a game “controversial” would also mean mean that it could potentially be banned or censored in some countries. For example, some of the Mortal Kombat games were previously banned in Germany, Australia, and South Korea, and was also censored in Japan. This would result in loss of profits.