The developer of bullet-time platformer My Friend Pedro (opens in new tab) was allowed to play Doom as a kid, but only if he didn't use the chainsaw. Shooting bad guys with bullets and rockets was fine, but chainsawing them was right out. He grew up to create a game about killing people with bullets, frying pans, and sometimes parts of their friend's bodies, but no chainsaws. The system works!
What weren't you allowed to play when you were a kid? Did your family turn on the parental controls so you couldn't see blood and nipples? Or were they happy for you to play anything you wanted? Here are all the things we were and weren't allowed to play, and we turned out fine.
Samuel Roberts: GTA Vice City
I was 13 when GTA 3 first came out, and I managed to convince my dad to buy it for me that Christmas. If I hadn't done that, I genuinely don't think I'd be doing this job right now—it's not the most interesting choice for a life-changing game, given how successful it was, but the impact of this first modern open world game was enormous. It felt like DMA Design had figured out where games were going next in terms of atmosphere, detail and size. And somehow, just a year later, it made a sequel to that in an entirely new location. But, by then, my mum had found out that my dad had bought me an 18-rated game. There was no chance I was getting Vice City as well. We did get Medal of Honor: Allied Assault that year, though, which definitely lessened the blow. But it means I've never had much affection for Vice City, since I ended up playing it in 2008, which was far too late.
It's weird: I absolutely agree with the principles of age ratings, but I wouldn't take my experience with GTA 3 back. It arrived at the right age for me to dream about what games could be one day, and sure enough, we're now drowning in 50-hour open world games with a million icons on the map, and I don't like most of them.
Another example: my parents thought Altered Beast on Mega Drive was too adult for me, but thought Ecco The Dolphin, a nice game about a dolphin, would be perfectly fine. And yet, it's the most messed up game I think I've ever played. Here's the last boss, a vibrating alien head that emits weird balls:
Joanna Nelius: Nothing
My dad would let me play anything uncensored. By the time I was nine, I picked-up women in Leisure Suit Larry: Land of the Lounge Lizards, learned fart and sex jokes from Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist, and sprayed the walls with alien blood in Duke Nukem 3D. I also played games like Mickey's 123: The Big Surprise Party, Mixed-Up Fairy Tales, and Catz. I'm pretty sure those age-appropriate games are the only reason why I grew up to be a functioning adult—and why I was well into my elementary school years before my mom caught on to what my dad was letting me play.
John Strike: The naughty bits of Duke Nukem 3D
I remember playing Duke 3D at my Aunty and Uncle's house on their son-in-law's PC, and in 1996 I guess I must have been around 12. Many have forgotten the game did actually have a parental lock, which for me was always on and stayed on. It removed the explosive gore and took out the flashing strippers, nipple-tassles-n-all. Bizarrely 3D Realms had coded the strippers to just become invisible in parental mode, so they created these weird invisible blocks that you could press spacebar at, and hands wads of cash to. I remember showing my Uncle's son in law to see if he knew what was going on. "Oh that's a bug." he muttered. Awkward.
James Davenport: Everything
Videogames were outlawed in my house. So I mowed lawns and swept sidewalks to save up for a Game Boy Color to play behind my pop's back. Tons of obscure shareware games on the PC too, most faded from memory. I eventually saved up for a Gamecube and hid it under my bed. Using some wireless controllers, I'd lock myself in my room and play Resident Evil, Smash, and Metroid Prime on a shit TV I had to smack to stabilize the image. I was only able to get into PC gaming once I convinced my parents the family PC needed an upgrade, and being the only one that knew anything about computers, they let me customize the thing. I threw a decent budget GPU in that thing, picked up the Valve Complete Collection during a sale, and the rest is history.
Fraser Brown: Nothing, but for limited hours
My parents had no idea that some games might not entirely be appropriate for kids. Leisure Suit Larry might as well have been Monkey Island. I could have taken advantage of that more than I did, but I still saw some pixel boobs and immediately became horrendous deviant, unfit for polite society. Unfortunately, they were still a bit strict about how much I could play, so I wasn't able to fill my days with rude jokes and naughty bits. Just the weekends.
Tim Clark: Disney games
My dad went apeshit at me once when he walked in and found me playing QuackShot on the MegaDrive. It was a 2D platformer that starred Donald Duck as a proto-Nathan Drake explorer. I think he (my dad, not the duck) had gone through some kind problematic business dealing with Disney and regarded the game's presence as a personal attack. Not the kind of thing you can anticipate as an actual child, which meant growing up in the Clark household could be pretty fraught. Much easier to hide what you're playing on PC, honestly, which I suspect has appealed to many of us at some point.
Jarred Walton: Nothing
My dad was a computer guy and my mom was an artist, so she couldn’t be bothered to watch what I was doing and my dad was simply impressed with my budding computer skills. Not to mention that in the 80s video games tended to not be very objectionable. By the time anything arrived that my mom might have tried to censor, I was out of the house and on my own. And now I get to be the bad guy telling my kids not to watch me testing violent video games. #hypocrite
Chris Livington: Nothing, too
I really don't remember my parents having a problem with any game I played, though they probably weren't thrilled with how often I played them. But I left home in 1990 so it's not like there was a lot at the time to really find objectionable—I'd had a ColecoVision and an NES, and was playing games on our Apple IIe. I mean, the violence in Choplifter wasn't exactly graphic. I did have a strip poker game for the Apple II (pirated—nearly all my Apple II games were copies of cracked games) but I think I probably only played it when no one was home.
Shaun Prescott: Smut
I love my parents but they were wildly inconsistent. I wasn't allowed to listen to the Public Enemy album Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age because it had too much swearing: my parents took it back to the record store and exchanged it for, regrettably, C+C Music Factory. When it came to videogames, I wasn't policed much: I played Doom and Rise of the Triad from a very young age. There was only one "game" I remember begin forbidden. Dad bought a secondhand Commodore 64 and it came with nearly a hundred discs. Excitedly flicking through the box of discs, I found one crudely labelled "smut". It was very quickly confiscated and destroyed.