Moral Kombat: How Mortal Kombat Caused Moral Outrage


You can learn much about a media and political culture by examining when it panics, and who it panics about. And we’ve always panicked about video games, from the early arcades until this very day. Whether you are a prudish Christian conservative, or a concerned liberal-minded paternalist, demonizing video games has long been good politics.

On this episode: guest host and lead producer Jay Cockburn travels back to the 90s, and looks at the story of Mortal Kombat. The game was violent, gory, glorious. It was a youth rebellion in miniature. Parents rebelled against the rebellion, staging their own petulant counter-revolution, and politicians embraced it. It triggered a moral panic and even congressional hearings into violence in games. But why did it happen, who did it serve, and what does it tell us about our own culture?

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Your Host

Jay Cockburn

Jay Cockburn is the lead producer on Darts and Letters. He's also produced for 99% Invisible, Spotify/Gimlet Media and before he moved to Canada he worked as a director, producer and engineer at the BBC in the UK. Jay fancies himself a writer and has a book on podcast production out, but really he just wants to write poorly researched science fiction novels and geek out on urbanism.

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