This piece originally appeared on Pixeltheque.com in a slightly modified format. It has been included here to discuss how unintended consequences of legislation can radically change art, particularly new forms that are based on emerging technology.
People decried the influence of video games on popular culture long before Mortal Kombat. Arcades were time- and money-wasters. Tetris rotted your brain. Portable gaming systems destroyed kids’ patience (or tried that of their parents, really). If you are a gamer who grew up in the 80’s, you know what I’m talking about.
These were just the typical technology-as-portents-of-doom and proved to be almost entirely without base. Most people knew it. How dangerous could dumping blocks on top of each other really be? Were Mario Mario and his brother, Luigi Mario, worse than the A-Team? Hadn’t people heard the same kind of arguments about film, television, and rock n’ roll? Despite a couple busts, video games got more and more popular every year with little-to-no outside intervention regarding their content.
…that is, until 1992, when a gamer could finally rip the still-beating heart out of an opponent’s chest.
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