Violence has been a part of video games since their inception. There are entire genres of video games, such as the first person shooters, which require the player to commit acts of violence to progress by nature of their design. As the visuals in video games become more and more realistic due to more powerful computer hardware, these fictional depictions of violence can become difficult to distinguish from reality.
Some have accused violent video games of inspiring real life acts of violence. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the infamous perpetrators of the Columbine school shooting, were known to play video games such as Doom and Wolfenstein 3D. Some have argued that after getting in trouble and having their computer use restricted, the pair was forced to seek alternate means to vent their anger. In a move that can only be taken as either a brilliant act of artistic creation or a display of complete tastelessness, an independent party has created a role playing game depiction of the shootings.
Several governments have implemented measures to restrict graphic depictions of violence in video games. In Australia, after controversy over violent video games such as Mortal Kombat, a classification scheme for video games was introduced in 1994; games which did not meet the fairly strict requirements for a MA 15+ rating were effectively banned. This has lead to situations such as the release of Left 4 Dead 2 in 2009, where after having their game rejected by the Australian Classification Board, the developers were forced to create a version of the game with toned down gore in order to sell their game in the Australian market.
The game play of Left 4 Dead 2 involves the player and three other survivors cooperating to fight off a seemingly endless onslaught of infected, humans who have contracted a virus which transforms them into a violent zombie-like state, using a diverse array of close quarters and ranged weaponry. In the "uncensored" version of the game, the player's weapons can cause grotesque damage to the infected, severing limbs and causing body parts to explode. During intense battles, the player's screen can become so inundated with blood splatters that it can be difficult to play the game. The level of gore is strongly toned down in the Australian version. The player's weapons no longer causes the infected to graphically lose body parts, the amount of blood produced during combat is drastically reduced, and the screen no longer becomes clouded by blood splatters. However, even though the gore is reduced, the core gameplay of the game is still, at its essence, highly violent.
Examples such as the Australian release of Left 4 Dead 2 have been criticized as examples of government censorship. In the United States, fictional depictions of violence in video games are relatively unrestricted, although games with sexual content such as The Witcher have had "censored" versions released for the American market. Government restrictions on the content of video games are especially contentious as there does not appear to be a clear correlation between playing video games and aggressive behavior. If violent content in video games cannot be shown to have an effect on aggressive behavior, how can this censorship be justified and does a government have a right to restrict the content in video games in the first place? Furthermore, how can such a rule be fairly enforced? It would be difficult to quantify the level of violence in a video game - or sexuality or any other quality worthy of censorship, for that matter - and the classification schemes in place rely on an entirely subjective judgement call.