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No 3DS release for  The Binding of Isaac  due to 'questionable religious content'
No 3DS release for The Binding of Isaac due to 'questionable religious content'
February 29, 2012 | By Mike Rose

February 29, 2012 | By Mike Rose
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    42 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



Newsbrief: Edmund McMillen's hit indie title The Binding of Isaac is no longer getting a Nintendo 3DS eShop release, due to "questionable religious content" in the game."

McMillen was looking to release a 3DS version of his dungeon crawler, which he recently revealed has sold over 450,000 copies on PC. However, he explained today via Twitter, "After a long internal debate Nintendo has decided not to allow The Binding of Isaac on the 3DS."

He noted that the reason was due to the game's religious connotations, and added cheekily, "Thank God Steam exists!" referring to the successful sales of the game via Valve's Steam platform.


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Comments


El Winchestro
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That sucks for nintendo

Joe Zachery
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We all know that some politicians would use this against Nintendo.

Mike Smith
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... what, for being sensitive to people of faith?

Eric Geer
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Sad, I probably would have played this on a handheld. Doesn't seem like a game I would spend time on at my PC.

Kris Graft
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It's really good though! You might be surprised.

David Holmin
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Sounds a bit strange. The Shin Megami Tensei games are released in the US, after all. But I guess it's Nintendo of America stopping this, not Nintendo in Japan.

Matthew Mouras
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And Shin Megami doesn't touch on many western religious themes.

Matthew Mouras
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@Joe - Keyword in my statement being "themes". I find that descriptive without being verbose :)

A W
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Mortal Kombat... is that you?

David Amador
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Oh Nintendo, why? First Super Meat Boy, now this? Are you pissed at them for making SMB controls more responsive than Mario?

David Gonzales
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isn't this censorship? a game is denied because it has a plot that could potentially make religious people go wa wa wa?

Mike Smith
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Yes, this is censorship. It's called having standards and quality control.

Robert Boyd
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Sure, it's censorship. But it's Nintendo's console and they're free to allow or disallow whatever they want on it. They're under no obligation to allow any and everything to release on their system.

E Zachary Knight
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Nintendo has a long history of blocking games from being released based on many arbitrary factors. Religious references were one of those. It seems that although they have moved past sexual and violent content, they are still jittery on Religious themes. Honestly, I find this sad.

While this is censorship in action, it is not censorship legally. The game is still available, just not on the 3DS.

Joe,

While what you say is true, it doesn't change the simple fact that the 3DS is a walled garden controlled by Nintendo. They have the final say on what games and content is allowed. It would be nice for us if they were more open, but they feel it doesn't fit their brand.

Adam Bishop
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A private company can not engage in censorship. Only the government can censor.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Mike Smith
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Look, let's be clear. The game was blatantly offensive and attacked people of religious faith. Nintendo generally tries to appeal to a family oriented audience most of whom are religious. Why would you want to offend your core audience? If I were Nintendo I wouldn't carry it either.

Jonathon Yurth
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Have you played the game?

Do you have a citation for the comment about their core audience being religious?

Adam Culberson
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I am not religious but I own both nintendo consoles. Please don't paint things with such a broad paintbrush. Also, I was not offended when the game, "Left Behind", was made in which people like me would go to hell while everyone else went to magic candy land. I just didn't buy the crappy thing.

Robert Boyd
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I've played the game and I thought it was somewhat offensive.

They took a major story from the Old Testament and perverted it. Also, among other things, you can play as Cain and you can enter into pacts with the devil for power.

But to be honest, I mostly just didn't like the gameplay. Combat is clunky and even for a roguelike, it's far too dependent on random number generators.

Robert Boyd
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El Shaddai is not from the bible, it's based on the apocrypha (non-canon works). Xenogears uses religious imagery to make it appear more important than it actually is but has little actual religious connection. And Shin Megami Tensei uses mythological and religious characters liberally but is generally respectful of the source material and is not focused on any one particular religion.

The story of Abraham is a touching one with two major takeaways.

1 - God asks Abraham to do something that he finds morally repulsive but he trusts God that things will turn out good in the end and they do.
2 - Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac is symbolic of God being willing to sacrifice his son.

Given that Abraham is one of the major prophets in both Judaism and Christianity, replacing him with an evil psychopath is bound to be offensive for a lot of people.

Jonathon Yurth
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I feel like saying they perverted the story seems a little heavy handed. Speaking specifically about the opening sequence, I do not see how it strays from the bible story much, if at all. I have only 8 hours or so into the game, so maybe things change further in. I don't know.

Robert, I'm glad you brought up the Cain aspect. I can understand why religous people would be sensitive about that aspect of the game. The odd thing, for me, is that I don't see that come up in conversations much. In my experience the conversations center around the emotions of religious people feeling like they need to defend themselves from this game attacking them and rarely, if ever, actually go into specifics. It seems the people who feel attacked aren't familiar with the content of this game, so I'm puzzled as to how they draw the conclusion they need to defend something.

In my opinion I am glad we have games like this. They are uncomfortable for people, but they make you think.

E Zachary Knight
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Perhaps I didn't play the game long enough, but I am struggling to be offended by it.

Sure I can see why some people would find the game offensive, but I also see how the portrayal of Isaac's mom is a commentary on the Biblical story by someone who is not religious. If you were not religious and read the story, yes it sounds crazy. However, those of a religious background can more easily recognize the spiritual significance of the story.

So while the game does express the view that the Abraham and Isaac story was the result of a fevered hallucination, It is part of the narrative the author chose to express. I can't fault him for that.

Nou Phabmixay
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I'm pretty offended that Nintendo is thought of as a family oriented platform. There's some really violent games on their systems. Or maybe killing is okay. Then I'm even more offended at the suggestion that religious families support killing.

Robert Boyd
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And see, developers are perfectly free to take religious stories and present them from an atheist point of view. However, they shouldn't be surprised when such an approach offends some people. And if those people you offend includes a platform holder, that can cost you a lot of money.

Nou Phabmixay
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Lets see if Sony works out this "game drought" problem.

Todd Masten
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This just sold a ton of copies on alternate platforms.

Markus Schaefer
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The people defending Nintendo's decision seem to have a hefty double standard. Religious sensibilities are given special protection while nonbelievers generally have to accept being cast as deeply flawed persons with a direct ticket to damnation.

Robert Boyd
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Non-believers are damned is not the message of many religions (including my own).

Jason Withrow
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There is a major difference between being offended by someone creating a pro-faith game versus being offended by someone creating an anti-faith game.

Tom Baird
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Granted, I've not 100% checked everywhere in game, but I don't think this is an anti-faith game.It does a retelling of a biblical tale, from the stand-point of someone non-religious. If the voice is not assumed to be a higher being, then there aren't a lot of options, other than the person hearing voices telling them to kill their child is outright crazy. Just because it's not how you imagined the tale to have been acted out, doesn't mean it's offensive to tell it that way.

If this offends you, you are offended much to easily. I would understand if the claim was "This doesn't mesh with my understanding with the story", or "This runs counter to my beliefs", but "This offends me" is ridiculous.

Jason Withrow
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@Alex T: I'm not sure what there is to explain. If I said "Thing A is great!" that's pro-Thing A. If I said "Thing A is bad!" that's anti-Thing A. Would atheists get offended if someone created a pro-bible game? No, they likely wouldn't care, and haven't. Would atheists be offended if someone created an effective anti-atheist game? Some of them would. That's the point.

@Tom Baird: Trying to say someone has no right to be offended by something that offended them is being disrespectful to their feelings. If you feel Binding of Isaac made a good point, which I do, that doesn't change the fact that people will be offended by that point. Being offended is a feeling, and it's a useful feeling at times. You can't order someone not to be offended any more than you could order them to not be happy or sad.

Tom Baird
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@Jason
True, they can be offended. A better way to put it is that just because certain people find it offensive is no reason to ban or limit the message. It should not be insulting, but as-is much of the arguments for Nintendo is that it's an unflattering retelling of a biblical story. So What? How many war games contain unflattering portrayals of people in the Middle East? Or unflattering Russian stereotypes? If you are offended you can (and maybe should)debate the message, but being offended because it's counter to your beliefs in no way signifies that the message should be blocked. If that were the case, we'd still be the center of the universe, in our 5000 year old earth. Being offended and actually debating is healthy, being offended and blocking is not.

You are right, you can be offended, but no-one should do anything about it.

Markus Schaefer
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@Robert Boyd:
I never said that it was the message of ALL religions.

Leon T
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I doubt this is a big loss to team meat or nintendo. I didn't like the game too much anyway. The eshop is already off to a great start without this game.

Leon T
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I doubt this is a big loss to team meat or nintendo. I didn't like the game too much anyway. The eshop is already off to a great start without this game.

Brett Williams
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Nintendo is free to do what they want on their closed system. That's how closed systems work, and it is also why PC gaming will never die and consoles will never fully embrace the internet. The internet and the PC are founded on the principals of being open.

I don't think anyone really loses here. Nintendo keeps their good name, and people can still enjoy the game through other channels.

Nintendo doesn't have to like anyones games and they don't have to allow anyone to put games on their system.

However, my concern about this is that it doesn't cast Nintendo's idea that they are willing to embrace and target a more adult demographic. From everything they have been talking about in the recent press with the developments of the Wii U is that they want to change their target demographic to support the male 18 to 35 audience and bring more games to their consoles rated higher in the spectrum.

This is one of those games that is not targeted at children. It is for designed for adults that can understand the messages and can remain mature about them. The message Nintendo is sending here is that while they want to support these things with Wii U, they aren't sure internally how to do that and they won't start with their other platforms.

This leads me to believe they want to hit the ground running with the Wii U by opening their arms to this content in a short period of time exclusively to that platform. I don't think that point is a sell, I think that's a detriment to their goals of changing their demographic.

But then again that's just my point of view. I'll buy a Wii U and fire rockets into corpses and cause them to explode into pieces of flesh, and then wonder if Isaac would be such a bad game for them to support...

Leon T
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"
the developments of the Wii U is that they want to change their target demographic to support the male 18 to 35 audience and bring more games to their consoles rated higher in the spectrum."


Nintendo can have the next GTA, Resident Evil, COD, Battlefield, Dead Space, Bioshock, and Ninja Gaiden as year long exclusives when the Wii U launches and they still would be seen a family company that mainly makes games for kids and families.

The reason for that is that Nintendo's software (New Super Mario Bros. Mii) will still be the most popular software on Nintendo's hardware. Nintendo needs to make their own GTA, Binding of issac, or Battlefield if they really want to speak to that demographic.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

George Blott
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too bad for the 3ds. Binding of Isaac is a great game.

Josh Foreman
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@Joe Wreschnig: "as far as I know it never comes out and says "hey if you're religious you're a idiot fuck you.""

No, I don't think it "comes out and says" that. But I think it is the obvious message. Johnathan Swift and Dante never came out and said "Hey conservative aristocracy, you're idiots! Fuck you!" But their work accomplished communicating that message far better than if they had simply said it that way. I think it's silly to make a distinction between the foundation for a person's faith and the faith itself. Obviously criticizing the foundation is the same thing as criticizing the faith. "It's stupid to believe X." when speaking to one who believes X, is the same as saying "You are stupid." This isn't complicated.

Personally I agree with strong critiques of Biblical stories. I enjoy open debate about them and the issues that arise from doing so. I think people of all beliefs should be open to vigorous debate about what they believe and why. But when it comes to making business decisions it seems pretty obvious to me that I wouldn't want products associated with my platform to say "You're stupid" to my customers.

David Gonzales
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regardless if nintendo has the right to say no to this game its still censorship because of the reason for not allowing it.
and for nintendo trying to stay in the image of FAMILY entertainment, please explain resident evil, dead space, manhunt, etc. far as i can tell those games should be waaaay more offensive than a game that satires a religious story, get over yourselves, there was a game called " left behind " shouldn't i have been offended by a game that says non believers go to hell? no, i just simply didnt buy the game, i didnt go out and say " THIS GAME OFFENDS ME! D:< "
you only find it offensive because you dont like the portrayal of YOUR religious stories so what? we have to be careful around your religious beliefs? what makes you so god damn special? i didnt see anyone bitch about the god of war series that portrays all the greek gods in some way or another didnt see complaints about that, what about games that depict wars between heaven and hell, like bayanetta, plenty of games for the past 10 years depicted some kind of religious elements, but it just seems like this particular game is offensive because you want a reason to be offended and say " nintendo was right to deny this game" like i said get over yourself, this game from what ive seen seems like an original type story of the childs perspective of a situation that ive seen plenty of times in the bible
( but exaggerated with the child defeating monsters)
i think your offended because it shows whats in your religious book and you might feel kinda awkward that its being shown to the general public and your afraid youd have to explain and be like " nuh uh nuh uh thats not what happened, its out of context!" , since ive read many times of god telling a follower to kill their child to prove their loyalty. wasn't just in one bible story, dont act like your religion is nothing but sunshine and rainbows. the game is not offensive you just want it to be.


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