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Blacklisted: the world's banned video games

One game smears China's army. Another promotes the assassination of Fidel.

Video games, Call of Duty
U.S Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Propst plays "Call of Duty" with a small group of service members at Kandahar Air Field, Dec. 8, 2010. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

BOSTON — "Call of Duty: Black Ops" easily broke sales records when it was released last month, scoring the best one-day and five-day sales in video game history, racking up more than $600 million in less than a week and dwarfing the opening gross of blockbuster movies like "Avatar."

But the Cuban government is decidedly less enthusiastic about "Black Ops," the latest in the eight-title franchise of warfare shooter games. Taking place during the height of Cold War tensions, the game includes a mission where the objective is to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Cuba's state-run media condemned the game. The news service Cubadebate said the United States government was trying to virtually accomplish “what they couldn’t in more than 50 years.”

“Black Ops" is hardly the first game to fall prey to political censure around the world. GlobalPost looks at other countries that have banned or criticized video games — for reasons that go far beyond violence and extend to unflattering content and insults to national sovereignty.


Australian law prohibits the sale of video games that promote any illegal activity. Many games are banned for violent and sexual content, but the law creates some stranger rationales as well. For example, Mark Ecko’s "Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure," a game about graffiti tagging, is banned because graffiti is illegal in Australia.


Countries from Australia to Saudi Arabia have banned games in the "Grand Theft Auto" series for their violent content and glorification of criminal lifestyles. But a Brazilian court recently blocked the sale of the latest installment, "Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City," for a more surprising reason. The game features the song “Congo Kid,” which a Sao Paulo court ruled is an unauthorized remix of the song “Bota o Dedinho pro Alto,” by the Brazilian composer Hamilton Lourenco da Silva, sung by the composer’s 8-year-old son. The judge ordered the game pulled from shelves worldwide because of the copyright violation.


A law prohibits video games that “hurt China’s national dignity and interests,” and are seen to undermine China’s reputation, sovereignty or territorial integrity. The strategy game "Command and Conquer: Generals" was outlawed for "smearing the image of China and the Chinese army," and the Swedish game "Hearts of Iron" for "distorting history and damaging China's sovereignty and territorial integrity."


German law prohibits “the use of symbols of unconstitutional organizations,” which includes the depiction of Nazi imagery or symbols. Therefore any game involving Nazis and containing swastika iconography is banned, even if Nazis are the antagonists.

Germany routinely bans video games that are deemed to contain “high impact violence.” In June 2009, after a string of shooting rampages, Germany’s interior ministers formally asked the Bundestag to pass a ban on the production and distribution of all violent video games. The ban was supported by then-President Horst Kohler. A petition opposing the proposed ban gathered more than 73,000 signatures, leading the effort to be scrapped.