The Punisher

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The Punisher character is a Marvel Comics character who was created by writer Gerry Conway and artists John Romita Sr and Ross Andru. The Punisher made his first ever appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #129, which came out in February of 1974! The Punisher game, is a third person shooter video game developed by Volition and published by THQ, it was released for the original Xbox, Playstation 2, and Microsoft Windows and it uses a 3D graphics engine called Havok, to create the world and characters in it. In The Punisher, you play as the character Frank Castle, also known as The Punisher, whose family was murdered by the mafia for witnessing a murder that took place in Central Park, New York. Frank seeks his revenge by engaging in a one man war with any and all criminals. Although the game is called “The Punisher”, it wouldn’t truly be a Marvel product without cameos from other Marvel characters, and the game is riddled with them. Characters such as Ironman, Black Widow, and Nick Fury can be found throughout the playthrough of the game. The Punisher video game is just one piece of the huge Marvel Comics franchise, however it is one of very few Marvel games that allows for you to do some incredibly gruesome acts of violence to criminals. Due to the amount and detail of all the violence in the game, the game has had its fair share of controversy and ethical dilemmas, from the complete removal of some parts of the game to cheat codes and the desensitization of the people that consistently view the violence.


This particular Punisher game created a buzz of controversy due to the games ability to commit very graphic and horrendous murders, as well as some really horrid torture and dismemberment mechanics. The Punisher game was originally given an “Adults Only” rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board, or the ESRB, which is an American self-regulatory organization that assigns age and content ratings to consumer video games. This "Adults Only" rating would have severely hampered the games ability to advertise and market itself in the United States. However, the game was eventually edited down to a “Mature” rating after the developers made some modifications to the torture scenes and death scenes, allowing for the game’s release to take place in 2005. Due to these previously mentioned torture mechanics the ACB, which is Australia’s version of the ESRB, required that the developers remove two entire scenes from the game before they would allow it to be released in Australia. In Germany, the game was thought to be so violent, that it was put on the infamous Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons list. Being on this list put large restrictions on the game’s ability to sell copies as well as its ability to put out advertisements, similar to what the "Adults Only" rating would have done to the game in the United States. Despite the game’s unusually violent nature it managed to rack in some pretty good reviews, receiving an 8/10 from IGN, an 8.5/10 from GameZone(PS2), and a 10/10 from Maxim.

Ethical Issues

Cheat Codes

Cheat codes are in many video games, and are usually activated by typing in a secret code word somewhere within the main menu of a game, or by inputting a specific sequence of buttons on the controller. The Punisher video game is no exception to this, and is filled with cheat codes that the player can take advantage of in order to make their gaming experience much easier. When entered, these cheats have the potential to give the player access to all the missions, challenge modes, punishment modes, armory, war journal stuff, comic covers, concept art, flashbacks, movies, and skins. The only consequences a player will encounter for using cheat codes in The Punisher, is that they can no longer progress through the game's story, and they will no longer be able to earn style points while whatever cheats have been chosen are still active.

Violent and Graphic Content


As previously stated The Punisher video game is incredibly violent, containing violence that ranges from drilling into a NPCs eye and out the back of his head, throwing a NPC into a trash compactor and having him crushed, to even having the ability to throw a NPC into a furnace and being able to watch him burn alive. Having players exposed to that sort of violence raises a lot of ethical questions, the most common question being; does violence in video games encourage violence in real life? According to the American Psychological Association, or the APA, after having finished multiple meta-analyses of the research, it was found that there is a direct association between violent game use and aggressive outcomes[1]. These findings have also been seen over a range of different samples, including those with older children, adolescents, and young adult participants.


Another ethical concern that arises from consistent exposure to violence in video games is whether or not it desensitizes players to real world violence. A study done by several professors found that participants who routinely played violent video games responded less to violent images. This was found by measuring the participant's brain waves with an electrode cap. The participants that played violent video games had less brainwave activity when viewing a violent image[2]. The study also found that the smaller the participant's brainwave reactions were to violent images, the more likely those participants were to behave aggressively in the reaction time test.