DISCLAIMER: Information presented in this article is based off translation assistance tools and therefore may have slight inconsistencies in some of the information presented.
Ban: to prohibit by legal means in an official capacity.
What lines would a video game have to cross to receive this treatment? In this article we will be taking a look at Lover Boy, a video game that has received such a mark.
In this foray into banned games, we're going to step back in time to the year 1983. To set the stage for younger readers, arcades were just starting to pick up and countries were developing addicted youths. While most of these accessible arcades were kid-friendly, there were small areas, mostly in bars or set aside in the back room of a bar, that had gambling arcade machines that specialized in card games such as blackjack and poker. For most countries and establishments this was fine, as waitresses or bartenders were able to monitor this area so that kids wouldn't be playing. Should they be negligent, they could face legal ramifications.
As arcade cabinets grew in popularity so did the age of the clientele. Older teens and adult men started to populate the scene in addition to the children. This resulted in all ages games being the most popular as they resulted in the most return for the owners. On the contrary, establishments that didn't permit children on the premises, such as bars or adult entertainment venues, couldn't get as much revenue because of the clientele difference. "Why not make an arcade game just for adults? They are the ones with jobs to put money into these games." This was what certain game publishers and developers thought. Thus, a new genre was born.
With that bit of background out of the way, let's talk about the focus of this article, Lover Boy. Lover Boy is an arcade puzzle/maze game made by the studio G. T. Enterprise and was produced by Global Corporation Tokyo, with the game's copyright listed as 1983. This also seems to be the only game under their belt.
In Lover Boy you play as a black gentleman in his birthday suit, aside from a purple fedora. He runs through town attempting to have sex with four different girls while avoiding the police and police dogs. These girls are named Lisa, Rose Marie, Linda, and Maria. As you approach them, they start running in an opposite direction yelling "HELP!" Catching up to them initiates a sexual encounter. Using the "action" button on the arcade cabinet you try to attempt to find the right rhythm and timing for yours and her pleasure. If you succeed in filling up yours and hers "love meter" you both cum, or what assumes to be cumming. This also eliminates the girl you caught from the map so you can continue to the next girl. Should you not fill her meter and only succeed in filling up your own love meter, or let your meter empty out, you will have to chase them down a second time. After the second encounter, regardless of success or failure, they are removed from that map.
Sounds simple enough, but there is some challenge to it. At the start of the round a policeman and a police dog are roaming about and will chase you should they get within range of your character. Take too long in chasing down all the girls, and more policemen spawn. Upon having sex with all four girls you proceed to the next level which is a pallet swap of the first with all the same mechanics. There are two lives per credit. Upon losing both lives you are dropped back to the first level. There are bonus pickups in the stage most are for score, but one, the perfume, makes your character move faster. Simple enough gameplay.
While researching this, most web sites agreed that this is a banned game. Very few, if any, of the English language sites give the history of it, or why it was banned. They mistakenly assumed that just because it contained rape and nudity that it was deemed bannable. There's a bit more to the story than that. Put on your school uniforms, it's time for a history lesson.
As I stated previously the game's copyright is listed in 1983, however, its story begins a year before that in Germany. Arcade cabinets for Lover Boy were available for play in various strip clubs, bars, and adult entertainment centers. Not everyone was happy with this because arcade cabinets were supposedly only intended for the youth, and having a sexual game with rape available is a big no-no.
During this time there was an association set up in Germany specifically to deal with various coin operated machinery that had computerized components. This was the Automaten-Selbst-Kontrolle [roughly translated: automated machine self-regulation association], hereafter referred to as ASK. The ASK decided that Lover Boy did not comply with the association's standards for proper morals. As a result of this, the game became a target of the ASK. The fact that most, if not all, of these arcade machines were in establishments in which children were not encouraged did not matter to them. What did matter is that the ASK viewed arcade cabinets not as a multi-age entertainment source, but rather something exclusively for the youth.
As the ASK was a self-policing association they had no governmental power at that time. They had to take their case to a higher tier. The ASK then went before German Parliament to raise the question of whether an arcade game like Lover Boy, which promoted rape and sexual indecency, should be made available to the general public, particularly young children. After some debate, parliament subsequently gave them limited policing power. Using this power they chose to take all the arcade boards for Lover Boy on the market and destroy them. This also resulted in the ASK becoming a permanent fixture in Germany which still influences the rating system for arcades today.
With that bit of the game's history under our belt let's discuss the reason it was banned in the first place. To do so, there will be three specific points to cover: the time, the region, and the culture. In covering each point, we'll see why or why not this game deserves the ill-reputation it was given.
As stated before it was the early 1980s. Personal electronics were just becoming mainstream. Anything that had a "game" connotation towards it were looked at by the public in general as being something for the family. A football game could be watched by adults and children alike. There were also board games which were picking up steam during this era. Since most arcade games, sans video poker cabinets, were intended for any person to play, there was a general acceptance they were intended for all ages. Compare Lover Boy with its contemporary at that time Pac-Man. When viewed from afar, they both have a similar maze style screen.
Because of the limitations for video graphics in these machines most of the imagery was simple pixelated characters and backgrounds. Here's where Lover Boy differed. Upon catching a girl, an action scene will take place showing bare breasts and genitals in very high detail, for the time period. In addition to a graphic display, a two frame animation was shown each time. This was just too much change in the market too fast. Radical changes in technology bring about radical groups, which brought about the rise of the ASK.
Now, let's talk about Germany. I've already covered the rise of the ASK, but there was another law on the books in Germany at the time which was called "verstößt gegen die guten Sitten" [roughly translated: "violation of good moral standards"]. The ASK saw Lover Boy as a violation of Germany's good morals. This brought about the petition to parliament to ban the game as it not only promoted rape, but also had no redeeming values, and thus is an offense to good moral standards law. Parliament readily accepted this argument. It is not known whether GT Corporation or Global Corporation Tokyo entered a defense to this. The general consensus is probably not as the cost to put on a defense for parliament would far exceed what sales they would make in cabinets.
The culture in Germany in the early 1980s was rather fierce. Germany was just getting back on its feet after the effects of World War II. Since the bombing of the country forty years prior it regained and modernized what buildings it could while still trying to retain some of its German aesthetic. However, it could not fully repair itself as the Cold War was still in full effect. The enemy was right on the border, with a single concrete wall separating them. Her fate was tied between two super powers with whom they had no control. While the moral standards law may appear as if the country was very prudish and moral, it did not reflect the attitude of the countrymen. There were brothels operating during this time as well as the production of pornographic films. The laws and legislature were simply not ready to accept the change in attitudes just yet.
Does Lover Boy warrant the ban and destruction it received? There is an argument for both sides of the case. The ASK has a valid argument in that the game does promote rape and seems to have no redeeming values. Conversely, this game was supposedly only going to be played by adults who you can assume know the difference between fantasy and reality. They should be allowed to play the game and spend money on it should they choose to. Though a ban may be appropriate in this case, I believe destruction of all said items is extreme.
It is by sheer luck that we have pictures, let alone an ability to play this game today. There are a few surviving cabinets that exist in private collections. Secondly, those collectors copied the board to a digital format. Which they then shared across the Internet allowing hundreds of thousands of people to play this game.
Today, the actual cabinet for Lover Boy is only available in showrooms of a few collectors. If you would like to try it out, your best choice is probably to get a multiple arcade machine emulator software and separate ROM for the game itself.