Mortal Kombat Review
The early 1990s were another one of those troubling times in America. We were no longer riding the high of successfully defeating Iraq in the Gulf War. People were starting to become jaded, not realizing just how good we had it under the careful watch of George H.W. Bush. Sure, it was not as wonderful as the Reagan years, but that is almost asking for Heaven on Earth. By 1992, we as a nation, decided to turn our backs on President Bush and a relative unknown from Arkansas managed to win the presidency by the end of the year. It was in this climate that Midway Games started to develop a new video game that was to be the “classic”, Mortal Kombat.
Capcom’s Street Fighter 2 appeared in arcades in 1991 and had taking the gaming world by storm. Midway tasked two of its designers with coming up with a similar game that could compete for teenaged America’s quarters. The result of their work was the hyper-violent tournament fighter, Mortal Kombat. Going for a more realistic feel, the game used digitized footage of actors instead of relying on character sprites like the Street Fighter series. Also, Midway’s offering included blood when punches connected and included the option to “finish” an opponent at the end of a match. The “fatalities” became not only a selling point for Mortal Kombat but also brought with it justifiable criticisms.
By 1994, and in a surprising show of good taste, one of the first politicians to speak out on the atrocities of this game was liberal Senator Herb Kohl. Senator Kohl showed brutal clips from the game to shocked attendees of a Congressional hearing on video game violence. Kohl’s intent was to show that the game industry had spun out of control and needed to reigned in. One of the good things to come from this game was the founding of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) which was founded in the wake of the outcry of deplorable video games like Mortal Kombat being marketed to America’s children.
When Mortal Kombat was ported to home console systems, Nintendo refused to include the fatalities and replaced the blood in the Super Nintendo version with sweat. Sega, however, hid the violence behind a secret “blood code” in their Genesis edition. The unwashed masses of Clinton’s America ate it up and the Sega port outsold the Nintendo version.
Mortal Kombat set a disturbing precedent of game developers trying to outdo each other by ramping up the violence and other objectionable content in their games. It’s clear there is a problem when even liberal Democrats are stepping up to the plate to complain about what the video game industry was getting away with. Considering by the end of the decade we’d learn the man steering the ship during these years had rather loose morals; it is no surprise that one of the most infamous video games of all time was hatched during that time.
Midway definitely left a mark in the history books with Mortal Kombat. Gone were the family oriented games like Duck Hunt, which promoted healthy, outdoor activities or the equally important religious games that Wisdom Tree were producing. The video game industry was set to go into some dark times in the mid to late 90s. One would be remiss to not fault Mortal Kombat for being the spark that set the flame of those troubling times alight.