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Sims, GTA banned: Uzbekistan bars 34 video games for 'threatening political stability'

Catch Team | Updated on: 31 May 2017, 16:18 IST

If you thought India was alone in issuing bizarre diktats to foster nationalism, think again.

Keeping India company in the march towards full nationalist compliance is Uzbekistan. The central Asian country has just banned 34 video games for, among other things, “the distortion of its [Uzbekistan's] historic, cultural and spiritual values.”

While some of these games are erotic ones, which quite clearly fall foul of Uzbekistan's conservative Muslim values, these only account for two of the 34-game-long list.

The rest of the list is made up of everything ranging from successful action franchises like Call of Duty, to the decidedly tame Sims franchise. Strangely, even among these franchises, only certain games have been banned, though, logic has seldom been a barrier when it comes to nationalism.

The ban is similar to China's move to ban 50 games back in 2005, though some may argue the Chinese ban was harsher, given the fact that even a sports title like FIFA 2005 was banned.

Though the Uzbekistan government's move may seem both misguided and drastic, the extreme wording of the government's order makes it a minor miracle that only 34 games have been banned.

The order states that the games involved also “propagate violence, pornography, threaten security and social and political stability,” and are capable of harming “civil peace and inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony.”

Social media makes merry

While Uzbek gamers are not smiling, social media users outside Uzbekistan had a field day with the news. Besides the ban itself, the focus on some positively archaic games was also fodder for ridicule.

In illustrious company

That Uzbekistan, a largely conservative Muslim country just emerging from 25 years of tyrant Islam Karimov's rule, would ban these games should come as no surprise. However, countries considered far more progressive than Uzbekistan also have a pretty bad record when it comes to banning games.

Australia, for example, has a notoriously stringent censorship policy when it comes to video games. However, their stance on 2006's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure is particularly bizarre.

The game, which centres around graffiti, doesn't feature violence, nudity, or crass language. Despite this, it was effectively banned as Australian authorities felt it might encourage people to tag walls with spray paint.

Not to be outdone, Singapore sought to ban the critically acclaimed RPG Mass Effect. Why? Interspecies lesbianism.

A scene in the game showed a human woman caressing an apparently female alien. That the alien species had only one gender though, didn't cut any ice with the Singaporean authorities. Fan and distributor outrage at the decision led to the loosening of the ban, with the game being given an 18+ rating instead.

For all of this though, the most extreme case of video game censorship belongs to Venezuela. The South American nation banned all video games that included weapons. This came after then-President Hugo Chavez termed such games “poison” for society.

While the law is in effect, and even carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, it doesn't seem to have helped the Venezuelan government too much in the face of widespread unrest. In fact, reports as recently as last month stated that anti-government protesters were hurling “poo bombs” at Venezuelan security forces.

First published: 31 May 2017, 16:06 IST