Over the line

Last weekend, I had dinner with my fiancée’s mother. She spent a good part of that meal talking about how harrowing it had been living in war-torn Vietnam through four decades of conflict before finally emigrating to America in the ’70s. She talked about being forced to seek bomb shelters daily during the Japanese bombings of World War II, about her uncle who didn’t make it to a shelter on time and was literally eviscerated by shrapnel from a Japanese bomb. She told me that before her uncle’s younger brother could bring his body home, he had to gather the dead man’s scattered organs and shove them indelicately back into his abdomen. She explained how terrifying the Tết Offensive was, since America’s war in Vietnam was largely restricted to the countryside; no one had expected the conflict to come to the cities, least of all on a holiday for which a cease fire had been declared.

A day later, I found myself sitting in a press conference in Los Angeles, watching a couple of guys demo a videogame on a wall-sized screen. Their avatars hijacked a Russian helicopter, guns blazing, then took off from a jungle clearing before peppering villages of Vietnamese shanty huts with turret fire and missiles.

With the previous day’s conversation fresh in my mind, it made for an uncomfortable juxtaposition — one that that no one else in the theatre experienced, of course, but no less unsettling for its specificity. What are videogames if not an experiential medium whose greatest strength is the way they adapt to everyone’s individual approaches and yield so many different results?

Honestly, I don’t even remember which game was being demoed — Medal of Honor? Black Ops? All the shooters I saw at this week’s conferences kind of blurred together for me in a stream of non-stop explosions and guns and “ripped from the headlines” power fantasies… and my rigid E3 schedule and general lack of sleep certainly didn’t help. I think it was the former, but I suppose that doesn’t matter so much as what I do remember… namely, the sensation that the games industry has forgotten how to communicate by any means other than screaming at the top of its lungs about the awesomeness of lovingly rendered gore.

I get that violence is a part of videogames; it always has been. Arguably the first videogame ever was Computer Space, which consisted of using detailed physics models to blow up someone else’s spaceship. Most of the games I enjoy are fairly violent as well, or at least use conflict as their primary mechanic. After thinking about it for most of the past week, I’ve come to the conclusion that what upsets me about most of this year’s E3 press conferences is that most of them opened up by focusing on games that cross a line. It’s an invisible, but it’s one that — for me, at least — is very real. It’s a line built of motivation, of intent, of tone. The near side of the line is a place where violence exists as a means to an end; on the far side, violence is the end in and of itself, and the goal is to explore it with sociopathic abandon.

This is, of course, the point at which everyone comes out of the woodwork to tell me I’m a puritanical idiot who doesn’t understand the concept of escapism, which is to be expected. But my gaming tastes have always been defined to some degree by that invisible line. I couldn’t stomach Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain when I realized that the game forces you to survive by killing innocent people who have been chained up in dungeons; I couldn’t find any joy in the premise of Wild 9, whose advertising tagline gushed about how thrilling it is to torture enemies. That same part of me watched Cliff Bleszinki present Bulletstorm with increasing unease as he showed off the game’s focus on brutally slaughtering random bad guys in increasingly violent ways to the accompaniment of sub-comic-book tough-guy dialog. Shortly before that, the part of me that plays through every Metal Gear Solid game with the MK-22 tranquilizer gun as my primary weapon and could only watch the Rising trailer with horror as Raiden visibly cut human enemies into graphically rendered meat slices.

(Incidentally, the first thing I asked in our Rising roundtable interview is whether or not it’s actually possible to take a non-lethal approach to the game. Supposedly, you can; disarming human enemies — and not literally dis-arming them, I mean by destroying their weapons — is a valid tactic, while the game will provide lots of robot foes in order to give you things to cut more directly without feeling bad about it. So that’s something, I guess.)

I really enjoyed Sam Keith’s The Maxx in high school, and a sequence in the comic’s sixth issue has stuck with me over the years. The protagonist is ambushed by an assassin named Mako, who sets about pummeling Maxx as the scene cuts back and forth to a conversation about violence in the media; meanwhile, the comic’s villain (of sorts), Mr. Gone, narrates the Maxx/Mako battle, editorializing on the manipulative nature of how violence is presented: “An’ here’s where th’ hero is trapped! The evil villain is unstoppable! Look how strong he is! How powerful! ‘Fight back!’ we scream. ‘Don’t just take it! Fight back!'” And of course, the villain wails on the hero until a turning point is reached and the hero is finally able cut loose in retaliation — but his own use of violence is of course fully justified by all that’s been inflicted on him, so we can feel good about him resorting to the same means as the bad guy, because the bad guy deserves it.

Terry Pratchett touched on the same topic in The Fifth Elephant as surly-but-good guy Sam Vimes barely survives a werewolf’s game of cat-and-mouse (er, dog-and-mouse?) and is eventually forced to kill the villain out of desperate self-protection. At that moment, Vimes rejects the urge to make an action hero quip as he strikes the fatal blow, aware that the moment he takes pleasure in the act he’s reduced himself to a monster, same as the villain.

For me, those are two defining statements on the role and nature of violence in the media, and they’re all the more effective for the way in which they’re delivered in the context of media. I don’t know that anyone’s ever done the same thing with gaming, though — BioShock‘s golf club sequence is the closest thing that comes to mind, or maybe The Sorrow in Metal Gear Solid 3, which is a shame given how thoroughly violence is woven into the fabric of gaming. You’d think someone would have stepped back and said, “Wait, here’s another way.” Unfortunately, it’s clear from E3 that games are still very much in their creative adolescence, and that no one’s really questioning why violence is so intrinsic to the medium — for the moment, the only question anyone seems to be asking is, “How much more over-the-top can we make the killing aspect of our game?”

I don’t question that there was a lot of creativity on display in this year’s E3 demos! But so much of it was centered around interesting new ways to pierce, dismember, and brutalize the bodies of enemies, and that bothers me. It’s one thing for a game like, to take an example from my current playlist, Persona 3 Portable to send you into a dungeon every midnight to slay demonic shadows that threaten to consume the world of the living, and quite another thing altogether to earn bonus point for chasing down a mutant who’s running from you in terror and killing it by emptying a machine gun into its anus. (Achievement unlocked: “Fire in the Hole.”) One of these places the player in the role of protector, the other in the role of psychopath. Personally, it’s not a jump I’m comfortable making.

I realize it’s pointless for me to write about this, though. People already have opinions, and they’re not about to sway one way or another because of a blog post. People who agree will say, “Right on!” while those who don’t will tell me to chill out, lighten up, grow a brain/spine/sense of humor, etc., etc. It’s a shame, because I’d like to see a rational dialog on this subject, but the change can ultimately only come from within the medium… and as long as there’s money to be made from pushing boundaries, those boundaries will continue to be pushed. And hey, fair enough; there’s range for all manner of expression in the medium. My concern is that, at the moment, this freedom expression seems to be weighted disproportionately toward a particularly vicious end of the spectrum.

Here’s hoping for a little balance sooner than later. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just dwell here on the boring, puritanical side of the line and watch the happenings on the other side with dismay.

69 thoughts on “Over the line

  1. Just another sign of a medium stuck forever in its infancy, while steeped in pseudo-maturity. Sometimes the games industry is like young kid who thinks being “mature” is swearing a lot and talking about sex.

    Not to beat a dead horse, but the vague hope we held in the nineties, that a wide variety of subjects and styles coming from a multitude of countries would render games a diverse playground of ideas, has been eroded by far more economic concerns. American developers have found what sells, and they’re delivering. The Japanese, who used to lead, are scrambling to keep up, and desperate to cater to the same audiences.

    It’s not so much the violence. The violence is a symptom. It’s the blatant fear of ideas in the face of financial risk. How do you sell a game that you can’t explain to the consumer in 15 seconds or less? Whose going to finance that? Far easier to say, “Your a mercenary hired to blow some shit up in country X. Then aliens show up.” The end. Sold.

    Well… handhelds and indie games, right? Handhelds and indie games.

  2. “What… what game has you chasing down mutants to fire bullets into their asses?”

    That would be Bulletstorm.

  3. The best damn game in town!

    Actually, I remember first playing the original Syphon Filter, and there was a mission where you need to infiltrate some enemy base and kill a bunch of their scientists. It really bothered me that some of the scientists were unarmed, and you had to actively chase them down. I don’t think I ever finished that sequence.

    Then again, I never had any problem firing rockets into crowds of largely innocent bystanders in order to kill a handful of gang members in Crackdown. Perhaps it’s the way the random folks are depicted.

  4. No, Parish, this isn’t a pointless article. It’s one of the most interesting things I’ve ever read about violence in video games. It’s not necessarily complaining about the violence; it’s just saying, ‘wait – there must be something more than this.’

    Maybe we’re moving away from all that, a little bit, with these new genres and sub-genres (non-games, for hardcore gamers) like music and dance and puzzle and Sims games, etc. I mean, the fact that no less than 4 Ace Attorney games were released in the states is a good sign, to me.

    But these shooters… yikes. I wish they had stayed quarantined over in the PC gaming world. The most interesting use of violence is probably something like Bioshock, where you might be presented with a moral dilemma. I don’t really feel bad when a game asks me to kill some unarmed scientists or whatever, but it’s not really something I’m going to take joy in, either.

    @ZRofel – you make an interesting point about Crackdown and other similar games. GTA games, for example, don’t encourage you to mow down innocent pedestrians (usually), and in fact you’re penalized for it – but they’re not really presented as sympathetic characters, either. So, while the game penalizes you by increasing your notoriety or whatever, you still want to mow these people down because they’re all just annoying sterotypes who spout off ridiculous phrases when you walk by them.

    Maybe there’s some merit to that type of escapism; maybe it’s the root of all evil. But making it so visceral is just not a good idea. Sid Meier’s Pirates! is a good example of how you can do something incredibly ruthless without it having to be so cruel.

    Game violence has moved beyond escapist and turned into something much more hateful and cruel. So, for another comic book reference, most video games these days remind me of Mark Millar’s writing (Wanted, Kickass, Ultimates, etc.)

    Thank god for handheld games. /endrant

  5. I didn’t like the world in Mario Galaxy 2 where you have to kill everything on every planet to advance.

  6. Sorry to be cliche about this but, “Right On!”

    Actually I think we did cover this in the forums. Lemme see here… Bugger. Can only search so far back in my posts.

  7. You know, I’d be all “right On!” with you except that would make me a bit of a hippocrite. In MGS1 on the Level you find the Nikita Missiles and fight PsychoMantis I can’t help but always, and I mean always shoot the peeing guy in the back of the head. Now when I get the stealth camo I just punch him out, but still.

  8. Going to focus on Call of Duty Black Ops, and the Call of Duty and similar stuff in general.

    I never felt very comfortable going through all the WW2 FPS SinglePlayer campaigns for very similar reasons you’ve brought up. The ONLY exception is probably Call of Duty 5 World at War. Reason being that, for me, it presented both sides in both theaters as flawed and barbaric. It was hell on earth, whichever side you were on. There was no glory to it, and if the characters saw it as that in the mission… the overwhelming feeling was that it was hell on earth no matter the framing.

    Though I could see World at War being thrown in the same pile as the rest of war games, and violence porn in general.

    Multiplayer doesn’t bug me nearly as much, if at all. I really enjoy using weapons based on real life guns, with vaguely similar stats and differences. But I overall don’t get the mainstream love of retreating the purgatory of long dead wars.

    Overall, it’s just… weird to be playing inside of a REAL WAR as entertainment. Unless it’s some souless multiplayer mode where just the weapons and equipment of a war are being used for the sake of game balancing/fun. Keep the story and emotions to history, please.

  9. Great read, Jeremy. I’ve often thought of the sad fact that violence is the oil that powers the interactive parts of our games. The guys on the Idle Thumbs podcast pointed out how one of the easiest things to program in a game is to connect a line between your gun and dude’s face(paraphrasing,here). Even games without human enemies get me down sometimes. In the Etrian Odyssey series you kill thousands of what are essentially animals and sentient plants for pure fame and fortune. Then the game has the balls to go Studio Ghibli on us and talk about the enviroment!? I was sad from just completing Red Dead Redemption, and now I’m even more sad.

  10. You think that’s bad? I couldn’t play Monster Hunter because the first thing the game makes you do is murder innocent, grazing herbivores alongside their young. :(

  11. I’m trying to think about my love of action games and how this relates to this issue of violence as a recurring front-and-center feature.

    I do tend to stay away from the gratuitous stuff, admittedly — but see, otherwise, in action games, I love the skill & reflexes normally required of ’em. Though, I’m having trouble trying to think of situations where the action games I’ve played would exist wholly without any sort of violence, not even the slightest hint of aggression toward, say, a robot or anything of the sort. There are games like N, of course, but (maybe it’s just what I’ve seen) — it’s an obstacle course devoid of any intelligent opponent.

    I’m also trying to think of potential combatless games — maybe one involving deft maneuvers away from a robot’s lasers, trying to reach a switch to just shut off the robot? That’s the best I can think of, though it would still involve aggression from a non-player controlled character.

    I don’t know — I kind of envision the same sorts of difficulties, at least in trying to divorce the action genre from violence or aggression, as one would have trying to get a steak enthusiast to convert to a vegan diet. There are great substitutes, certainly, but ultimately the steak enthusiast might feel that something’s missing.

    It’s an interesting topic to think about.

  12. I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with your feeling this way; I completely sympathize. Game violence sees far too little SotC-type introspection and far too much M-M-M-M-MONSTER KILLing. But I nevertheless feel there is a place for the latter, even though I can’t say why. To draw an analogy, I find most gangster rap tiresome. There are certainly exceptions, but when Ice Cube complains that a “jew broke up” his crew, I don’t see a sense of irony or the “reporting” argument some rappers fall back on. But I also think “Midnight Rambler” is an absolutely brilliant song, one of the most authentic and dirty thrills ever put to music. My spine tingles every time I listen to it, and it’s a song about a man breaking into a house and murdering someone, probably a woman. The entire point of the song is the thrill of that kill. All I can say in its defense is that I think the Stones know what they’re doing and that they have a sense of irony, but there’s no irony to that song, so what the hell does that mean? And if I got the same thrill from Ice Cube’s early stuff as I do from that, would I just write it off the same way?

    I also wanted to register amazement that the 1up discussion has been so civil. Unbelievable!

  13. Parish, you NEED to watch Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs if you haven’t seen it. It’s basically a cinematic treatise on the double-standard of villainous brutality versus heroic brutality.

  14. What you said in the last paragraph is exactly what is needed – balance. It’s okay for that violent crap to exist, it does in every medium, but it shouldn’t dominate the entire climate of releases.

    Maybe game companies just haven’t seen the money in non-violent subject matter. If you look up like the 20 top-selling game franchises, only a couple are really violent. The real most popular games are sports and simulators.

  15. Nice article except for the fact that you ignore everything Nintendo is doing in the industry. It seems to me that if you are going to hate on the sadistic nature of the videogame industry and it’s “hardcore” values (as we all should), that you would also praise the only major company that does not go down that route and has a set of values which are the polar opposite of the industry as it stands today.

  16. The line you have drawn seems like a good one to me. Henceforth I think I will probably pay more attention to the violence in games and ask whether it is really an “appropriate” amount. Whatever that means.

    While I would like for games to focus less on violence, I do not really want to see the sort of introspection you mentioned (from MGS3 and BioShock). I just want to see more original ideas for games than “kill people (and maybe some crates).”

  17. I have to admit, I kinda glossed over how violent the games were EXCEPT for Metal Gear Solid Rising. I guess I’ve just become too desensitized to most of it, but when a game like that shows that much violence in a series that has increasingly shied away from killing it does give pause. Nice to know it isn’t the only option afterall though!

  18. @ turkish101
    I would point out the original Mercenaries. The game never actually required you to shot anyone, from the first NPC you meet to the final boss. True, the North Koreans were free game if you wanted to shoot them (you could say they shoot at you first if you needed justification). If you shot anyone else, the game would penalize you in some way. Sure, you could kill everyone you saw, but you better have the money to bribe the faction doorman of the next mission if you wanted to continue the game’s story. Additionally, it would immediately punish you if you killed civilians, by lowering your standing with three of the five factions.

    @ R.R. Bigman
    I would point you to Lorne Lanning’s interview in ‘Moral Kombat’ which is a good film that presents both sides of this topic without picking one (ignore the inflammatory and misleading trailer). He said that since the beginning of video games that it was always easier to remove lines of code and bits of data than to create them.
    That blasting individual space invaders out of the sky was easier with the code than say, telling the player to walk across the screen, water the ground and watch a plant grow. (that’s my example, not his) Never mind that that would be an incredibly boring arcade game.
    He then postulated that games haven’t really moved too far beyond this point; that we’re still in this mindset created by those first games.

    And Finally
    @ parish
    Good article. Very personal. It makes me think. That’s what I’ve always liked about your writing, very thoughtful, thought provoking, introspective, intelligent.

    Oh, and could you please activate my Talking Time account.

  19. The games industry is absolutely no different from any other entertainment industry: for every Rambo, you get a Bambi. For every Gears, we have Mario.

    What exactly is the big deal? Variety is the spice of life. And you’re RIGHT, it is an outlet to escape reality. I’m a Catholic and I killed the Pope in Assassin’s Creed. I beat the game, turned it off, and went on with my life. I’m an adult who can discern between fantasy and reality. If a game concerns me for one reason or another, I won’t play it, and I might even be vocal in condemning the game.

    What bothers me is hypocrisy. I could hold it against you that a game you praise– Persona 3– has teenagers committing suicide (however they spin it in the context of the game). But I won’t; I say let the consumers decide. I don’t think you’re hypocritical, because you’re not proposing that we ban those games or anything. But I don’t really understand the reason for your (very unfortunate) story in the beginning about your fiancee’s mother. The war in Vietnam was a lot of things to a lot of people, and it has been approached from every angle imaginable.

  20. On one hand, I’m totally unable to relate to the sense that there’s anything at all wrong with committing violent acts on “innocent” game characters. They’re so shallow and artificial, it’s not any less moral to me than clicking a link on a web page, and doesn’t make me feel any worse. On the other hand, I’m very much bothered that games still rely so heavily on violent conflict, and am especially turned off by those that revel in it for its own sake. It doesn’t bother me because I’m sensitive to the violence, it bothers me because it feels creatively vacant, and has grown very tiresome. When “combat” is all there is to gameplay, I’m not interested.

    By the way, what if robots have feelings too?

  21. @scrubking: I’ve heaped more than enough praise on Nintendo this week, including a blog post expressing my gratitude for their providing a counterpoint to this trend (http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=9033943).

    @Hero “But I don’t really understand the reason for your (very unfortunate) story in the beginning about your fiancee’s mother.” I’m not really surprised to hear that.

  22. I feel like this is one of those “which came first?” questions: are thoughtlessly hella awesome violent games a self perpetuating thing, or do they exist/thrive because it’s what the majority of people want?

    The original Modern Warfare may have attempted some commentary on war and revenge and the like, but I can tell you from personal experience that the majority of people I ran into while playing it online are the sort who would think Bulletstorm is the greatest game ever.

    I’m not even saying I don’t like super violent stuff with no ideas behind it. Ultimately it comes down to what sells more than it does what game creators want to make for most big game companies. This is the same reason Saw movies are still being made; I quite liked the original Saw, but it was, arguably, unnecessarily violent and didn’t seem to have much to say about violence, torture, justice, etc.

  23. For a while (especially after my daughter was born), I held this same view, but I’ve recently begun turning my opinion in the opposite direction. The one and only point that has caused this turn is the fact that no actual, physical violence is occurring in these games (or movies or books). It is all a simulation. No ones asshole was actually shot, and non of the “innocent” people are actually people, but are instead all ones and zeroes. I do find it interesting how these simulations can still have emotional impact on us. Do you think we’ll ever reach a point where we can completely separate ourselves from simulation and avoid emotional reaction? Is that a good thing?

  24. Great article, Jeremy, and I believe a very important one. I just wish you wouldn’t temper your response so. These kinds of dialogues are exactly what we need to move gaming culture, bit by bit. They’re absolutely not without effect.

    I first want to encourage you to check out Moon: Remix RPG Adventure. It’s a reflection on violence (and more) in RPGs, and a pretty spectacular game all around. It was never localized, but there’s an outstanding article and summary (including links to a playthrough) here: http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=376513

    The article is long and overwrought in places, but you’ll thank me (and especially GhaleonQ) if you take a look.

    As for Bulletstorm, Cliff’s explanation of it is discouraging. I first heard him talking about all the cool weapons and abilities in the game, and I was honestly hopeful that it might mean new gameplay elements – new ways to approach encounters. Instead he explains that they just allow you to kill enemies in super-stylistic ways, as if curb-stomping was what compelled us to enjoy GoW. He doesn’t sound like a game designer, but instead just speaks to all the thoughtlessness and foux-maturity in the industry today.

  25. I don’t think the problem is the game’s themselves. I was entertained by Bulletstorm, not just because of the over the top violence, but if I’m going to partake in that, I’d rather it be something that doesn’t try to take itself so seriously like Gears of War (that’s not including that it included interesting mechanics). The real issue is the gamers who let themselves be desensitized by the material.

    Earlier this year I argued with people in Talking Time over the anti-war messages within Modern Warfare. It’s there, subtle, but at least I see it. We can argue whether or not the message is hypocritical, it’s not really the point. The point is at the end of the day, I can at least think about what I’m playing and why. Anyone else who plays it isn’t going to be attracted to these subtle themes necessarily, so while I don’t think its the intention of the developer, it’s going to end with people glorifying violence.

    This really isn’t meant to be me disagreeing with you: I understand exactly how you feel and commend you for being able to express it. But I do think that immature material that appeals to our base senses is always going to exist in all mediums, and its each person’s responsibility to understand that violence isn’t to be glorified.

  26. Parish, you speak of starting meaningful discussion yet you completely ignore the entirety of my post? I’m insulted.

    The Vietnam war is a popular subject. If it’s a touchy subject for you as it is for many, understand that’s why I brought up the point of teen suicide in Persona 3. Where and how do you know where to draw the line so as to not offend someone?

    I can relate to you with war movies (not so much with games, they are rarely subtle enough). You can approach war from many different angles because both sides see things differently. The best example I can think of to parallel the violent games example would be the Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket. On one hand, you have the stereotypical patriotic parts of the film, with the good guys killing the bad guys. You can sympathize with them and feel their anger, and it’s sort of like a Pavlovian trigger that creeps up on you if you’re not careful; it’s not as if you enjoy war, but it’s justified. Just when you feel comfortable, they juxtapose that with a scene of complete excess and unnecessary violence that erases the feeling of satisfaction and makes you feel sick to your stomach and brings you back to the cold reality of human nature.

    With games, I’m playing them for the gameplay. That’s why I can understand being excited when I blow the head off of a zombie or a bad guy; it’s a gameplay hook, it adds a visual element that makes your actions feel even more visceral. There’s not as much of a human element as there is with other mediums such as films; you’re often a faceless avatar that spends 100% of his time looking at the barrel of your gun. Show me a game that can tastefully portray war while still being fun for the player and I’ll concede the point.

  27. I think there might’ve been a mental disconnect when some commenters started talking about Nintendo.

    I mean, given Parish’s mention of Computer Space as an example of early game violence — when we do talk about violence here in this comments section, we are including Mario stomping on Goombas & Fox blowing up apes and lizards in their ships, right? Not just ultra-violent excess, right?

  28. I go through phases of playing “visceral” (quite literally?) shooters. But they sure don’t demo well, and they don’t make me long for them months before release.

    This year’s E3 kind of bummed me out. I’ve had a rough month and have been bummed out in general, but nearly to the last developer the western games on display were variants on the military shooter. This depresses me. (Having no emotional attachment to Nintendo properties means that the 3DS launch was pretty much lost on me too, but that’s another story.)

    There was so little of the adventure game or non-gun-oriented RPG genres on display tha my more cerebral nerd tastes were unsatisfied. Though the final line of the Portal 2 trailer did make me grin. So, thanks Valve. Here’s hoping Telltale comes out with some more information on Jurassic Park and Back to the Future, games which probably won’t devolve into Soldier of Fortune style limb removal. Probably.

  29. @Warg: I don’t really think so. See, Parish specifically mentioned the distinction between the ‘protector’ type of violence (another entire debate, there), and the type of violence we see in CoD, for example. The point of Mario is to jump around. I get more satisfaction out of narrowly avoiding enemies than I do stomping on them. Whereas in something like Bulletstorm, well… you’re encouraged to chase cowardly little enemies down so you can literally put a bullet up their ass.

    Maybe ‘game violence’ isn’t the best phrase to use to describe what Parish, in my opinion, was talking about. I think it’s more about cruelty and sadism. I don’t think we should compare CoD to the violence in war movies; rather, it’s more like the torture-porn of movies like Saw and Hostel.

    Because these games are interactive, and we’re put in the role of the torturer, essentially. Even if it has a coating of war background or whatever. The ‘satisfaction point’ of the game – the thing that draws you in to keep playing – is not the brilliant narrative, the likable characters, or the authenticity – we keep playing games like Bulletstorm (multiplayer not included – that’s another story) because we get a thrill out of these increasingly brutal kills. Without this type of violence, these games are nothing. Really. NOTHING.

    I think that’s the big issue here. Not that games are violent – because they always will be. But rather, that these AAA titles like Bulletstorm, Gears, etc. – use this type of cruel, sadistic violence as the main selling point of the game, without even so much as a strong narrative or fresh commentary to back it up. And there’s just something not right about that.

  30. See, this is why Team Fortress 2 is so great; it nails that sweet spot between mindless violence and tactical gameplay. I mean, there’s giant blood geysers everywhere, but it takes some planning to make them happen all at once.

    Plus it’s just so darn wacky that it’s difficult to take too seriously. If we’re going to have violence in our games, it may as well be in the Warner Bros. style.

  31. This was a great article, Parish. Thank you for making me not feel alone in being totally creeped out by this year’s E3 gore-fest.

  32. I remember playing Rise of the Triad when I was a kid and being so disgusted with the game that I quit and removed it from my drive over something like what you’re talking about. Sometimes enemies would apparently drop their weapons and beg for their lives, then “faint”. If you didn’t kill them anyway, they would jump up and steal one of your weapons or something and shoot you, which meant the game was basically encouraging you to shoot unarmed enemies who were begging for their lives. I found it so distasteful and sociopathic as a gameplay element that even as an adolescent I refused to continue to play the game.

  33. I can’t really say where I line up in this debate, but it’s a definite turnoff when I think a line has been crossed. Wild 9 bothered me the same way, but I had no problem with Kagero: Deception 2, for example. No More Heroes struck me as funny, while MadWorld just repulsed me. I wish I understood what the difference is, internally.

  34. I think it’s just the nature with which we can sense the developer’s intent. There are some developers who are testing new ideas, using “sadistic” – the quotes are for personal evaluation here – backdrops to justify some gameplay mechanics.

    For example, to use SonicPanda’s example:

    In Kagero: Deception 2, the gameplay mechanic is essentially cat and mouse. You are someone who could not physically overcome your foes, so you opt to trap them, using traps and the like. At its base, the gameplay mechanic is innocent: use your brains instead of brawn. The overlaying violence and gore is a little messy, true, but the system that the game is built on is innocent of torture. It’s survival, and theoretically, you are a weaker person using what you can to survive.

    Something like Bulletstorm, though, is just “rageragerage”. There’s no “survival” element here – in fact, it’s very typical of most XBOX360 shooters, I find. Because of the implementation of achievements, the gameplay system is to find “new”, “interesting”, “quirky”, and/or “humourous” (and that’s a *very* skeptical sense, but that’s my opinion) ways to kill your opponents. “Fire in the hole” is not about survival. It’s not about brains, or strategy, nor does it comply to some element of ruleset. It’s literally designers in a room, chuckling and drinking beer, going, “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if you got an achievement for blowing up this guy’s asshole?” It’s sophomoric, sad, and while I admit I chuckled – bad me! – it’s not justified in any way, shape, or form as a gameplay *mechanic*.

    That’s just my view, though.

  35. The Vietnam war is a popular subject. If it’s a touchy subject for you as it is for many, understand that’s why I brought up the point of teen suicide in Persona 3. Where and how do you know where to draw the line so as to not offend someone?

    I’m pretty sure this isn’t what Parish was getting at. This isn’t about censorship or first amendment rights or anything like that, dude; it’s about the industry needing to grow up.

    And the difference between Bulletstorm’s rampant violence and the Ritualistic Suicides in Persona 3 is one of actual artistic merit. The bloody gore in Bulletstorm is for it’s own sake, violence for the sake of fun. That the characters have to shoot themselves in the heads to evoke avatars of their own psyches ties deeply into the plot and overall theme in P3.

  36. @Parish I like that you did take a step back and look at what is going on theme wise with how violence affected a situation in real life compared to the games.As said by others P3 gun to the head is purely symbolic but if a modern day fps tried something similar I think it would be lost in the masses.

  37. This matter is part of the reason why I do not have a 360 or PS3. I prefer the game design of the Wii and PS1/PS2. The Xbox seems to have started this trend.

    Are there this many FPS in Japan? I remember reading an article circa the early 90s that explained how poorly Mortal Kombat was taken in Japan due to the violence. Is this still the case? Or has the western FPS violence avalanche managed to get a hold there now.

  38. For me the problem isn’t so much the existence of gratuitous violence in games, it’s the relative lack of anything else (like you say). I’ve always been upset by the unwillingness of the American public (some of us, anyway) to engage with the nude human form, but the willingness to portray and commit violence. As far as television is concerned, a nipple slip is worse than a beheading. It’s shocking that that is a statement of fact, not hyperbole.

    That said, as far as violent games are concerned, it’s not clear to me how to responsibly present the violence. Adding a moral element, as in Mass Effect 2, can give a violent game depth, but can be tedious if you just want a quick escape. There’s also the question of whether realism actually matters — is Gears of War worse than Geometry Wars? It’s not clear to me that we’re crossing any line when we blow up a digital representation of a humanoid — that the thing on screen is ever even remotely equivalent to a living creature, that it desensitizes us in some way.

    But I hear what you’re saying about the gratuity. Fortunately, though, the indie scene has become the antidote to the AAA game developers.

  39. Wild 9? you’re actually bringing up Wild 9? wow. I didn’t think anyone ever remembered that game. I’d consider Wild 9 an exception. It wasn’t originally meant to be what it turned out to be, you are talking about a game that was complete vaporware for years having advertisements before there was even any computer code for it. Wild 9 was also a game with an exceptionally mismanaged development phase where half the game would be made and then discarded multiple times. There’s a strange story about Wild 9 where in an earlier version, Dave Perry or a director or executive or someone said everything about that version sucked with the exception of a tank an artist rendered; that was awesome we can’t get rid of that we have to find a way to use it in our game no matter what. And sure enough, in the final build of the game there’s the tank, its on fire, and its only purpose is for a platforming puzzle. Anyhow, I’m not quite sure what Wild 9 should have been, but what it is, is thanks to some eccentric who wanted the game to be ‘original’ and ‘do things no other game does’ so essentially the game was hurredly designed around a single gimmick and not much else. Yes, it was a dark, grizly, and masochistic game, but its likely the way it is because its looking into the soul of whoever responsible for it. Man, I actually remember the commercial for Wild 9, it was kind of mocking the development phase of the game since they literally had nothing but concept art and spent most of their time sitting around a room (and failing) to think up creative new ideas. Anyway, Wild 9 is forgotten for good reason: it sucked. Shiny had years to make the game, and what they released was hastily coded in few short months.

    Anyhow, I always hate reading about the topic you’re writing about. The last time it was taken seriously, the argument fell into the hands of retarded culture Nazis who essentially felt they needed to create a system of morality judgement so ill defined and lopsided that even something as innocent or child friendly as Mario jumping on a goomba was considered an “act of violence” which rendered just about every single video game ever made “evil” and therefore “dangerous”. The said system rendered Mario as one of the most violent video games ever. And this system was like that because those Nazis hate videogames and want to make the people who enjoy playing them sad, because making people sad and unhappy is the purpose of their religion.

    I think you’re off base tho. Game media, like any other culture subject to fads, goes through phases. If you don’t believe me, you are having to resort to PS1 games to back up your point… Huh, this moment and argument vaguely reminds me of some other time and place right around the same time, actually. Anyway, ever play Black Belt on the Sega Master System? Everytime you punch or kick a guy, he disintegrates into blocks. When I first saw that, I thought it was awesome. Several years later, I discovered Black Belt was secretly a Fist of the North Star game with different music and slightly altered graphics which is strange because in Fist of the North star, everyone generally explodes in gysers of blood. Busting apart into a bunch of cubes seems extremely innocent in comparison. It also reminds me of Persian immortals, because every stage is populated with generic clones, and the Persion definition of immortal is some guy who looks exactly like the guy you just killed taking the place of the guy you just killed and this concept is perhaps the most overused device used in mass media jluk. Persian Immortals are awesome; very theraputic. And they’re never in short supply.

  40. I get uneasy beating down the bosses in Mario games. That baby piranha dinosaur in the Galaxy games! I just hate to do it. So I’m one of those folks that’s going to be saying simply, “right on”.

  41. To be honest, I never really play violent video games all that much. So I’m not very qualified to speak on that issue, am I! I’ve only played around 2 to 3 FPSs (all Valve made), and the only M rated games I own are SMT games. But I have to say, there are quite a lot of games that do look past raw violence. All you have to do is look at Fumito Ueda for some examples. In Ico, you’re helplessly running away from a nigh impossible enemy, trying to save a girl for no pragmatic reason. In Shadow Of The Colossus, your main character in effect, makes a deal with the devil to save his loved one. When you kill the huge behemoths, you feel a sense of regret, as if poaching off the last of an extinct species, and Wanderer (the main character) gets more corrupted for each one he kills.

    “Unfortunately, it’s clear from E3 that games are still very much in their creative adolescence, and that no one’s really questioning why violence is so intrinsic to the medium”

    Read above. While not overtly, Ueda is indeed questioning these values.

  42. @Hero

    Persona 3 doesn’t depict teen suicide. It depicts at worst the aestheticization of self-harm, and even that is dicey IMO since no actual self-harm occurs. It’s metaphoric.

    Contrast your misrepresentation of that to Jeremy’s rather concrete discussion of Vietnam and it’s an even more laughable point.

  43. The point of the shaggy dog Vietnam stuff wasn’t even that I’m angry that another game is being set there. I’m not. The point was that the reality of Vietnam’s history of conflict was very fresh in my mind as I watched Microsoft, EA, and Konami crank the macho awesomeness of war and violence up to 11. It simply made for a jarring counterpart that caused me to stop and consider the message the industry was very noisily sending out to the public last week.

  44. Self-harm? Did you just make that up?

    I see some kids shooting themselves in the face. Yes, I own the game. Never completed it, but plan on doing so when it hits the PSP.

    Besides, that’s one example that I came up with only because Persona was brought up. If Black Ops trivializes war (which is not the intent if Modern Warfare is any indication, multiplayer notwithstanding), surely the suicide theme in Persona would be a hot button topic in Japan, of all places.

  45. @Parish I understand what you’re saying for sure–I just saw the Black Ops commercial which was about as in your face as you can get, rap music and all. They’re trying to simulate the adrenaline rush of war, and honestly, it’s not much different than something you’d see/hear in the movie Hurt Locker, which is a supposed realistic depiction of war. Yeah, you’ll probably kill a ton of people throughout the campaign in Black Ops, but it’s a game about shooting things. That’s the only gameplay mechanic.

    That’s certainly not the only message I got from E3, though. We had more diversity this E3 than any in recent memory: 2-D platformers, a Nintendo renaissance, the move toward motion controls and family-friendly games, etc. And then we see something like Bulletstorm, which (allegedly) lets you be as cruel a bastard as you want to be. I’d say that’s the exception rather than the rule, and furthermore, the game doesn’t try to hide what it is at the very least.

  46. @Hero

    “Did you just make that up?”

    I’m not even sure what you mean by this question, but let me try to answer it anyway.

    The kids in Persona 3 do not literally shoot themselves in the head with real guns/live ammunition and thus do not create actual physical injuries. This is plainly obvious from observation of the results within the context of the game even prior to any explicit explanation of this act within the game’s fiction. It was obvious to me the first time I saw this visual in a trailer, prior to the game’s release, that this act was not literal.

    Thus the visuals, while superficially representative of an act such as teen suicide do not in fact show this act being committed and that is readily apparent.

    Meanwhile, visuals of soldiers blowing the hell out of jungle villages in war games are literally doing what they seem to be doing, and that is also readily apparent.

    Basically, your argument is either disingenuous or weak. Take your pick.

  47. Er, then I’m sorry I misinterpreted what you said. But seriously, what a wierd coincidence.

  48. Yes, there was a wonderfully diverse software lineup at E3, but the point I’m making is that most of the press conferences — the public showings that were streamed live to giant screens in Times Square! — put the ultraviolence front-and-center. These games are the medium’s ambassadors to the public. They are the games publishers have chosen to use as their vanguard, as their public faces, as the framework by which to define their businesses. That is my complaint: That this E3, the biggest publishers in the industry said, “You know all those stereotypes about games and gamers? They’re totally true!”

  49. I have found Suda 51’s games kind of odd in this regard. Killer 7 is a horrifically gruesome game, but the way I interpreted it (which is not the same way as others have) is that the game fundamentally came down to a realization that you are a horrible monster being used by others. At that point you have to make a choice between following your order and killing again or to refuse even if it means others will get hurt.

    Both No More Heroes seems like a cometary on the violence in video games with Travis touchdown playing the part of the player. He enjoys the senseless violence when it is against nameless goons or crazed evil psychopaths, but when he is forced to kill someone who he feels fights with honor or who he feels is in some way innocent he refuses (they tend to get killed anyway much to his disappointment). In fact the end of the second game is especially conscious of the title with him admitting that he is no hero, but in a way that makes you feel he really wishes he was. Also, while he starts the second game to seek revenge he ends it hoping that his victory will end the cycle of violence that he was a part of.

  50. Wait, that was really streamed live in Times Square?

    As much as the part of me that enjoys tasteless humor wants to laugh at the idea of hearing “You scared the dick off me!” being shouted loudly over a sea of thousands of people, the combination of that and the visceral images depicted actually makes me a little sick to the stomach.

  51. Great read Parish. I only skimmed through the comments, so I imagine I’m maybe going to repeat what someone already pointed out.

    I think in terms of game design, there already is that balance you speak of. There are plenty of titles out there that don’t involve killing someone. The real issue here is that for whatever reason, FPS and ultra violent games in general are the ones that companies choose to put up front and center.

    I too couldn’t stand the press conferences on Monday. EA went so far as to introduce a “Bullet Club” as all four or five of their shooters just blended into one big game. Having G4 on in the background during the days, all they did was demo FPS games, rarely did they show anything else. So apparently, this is what the media wants to see, and this is what the media shows. This doesn’t fall onto the shoulders of designers, it falls onto the shoulders of marketing people still hung up on the days of Mortal Kombat 1 where violence is cool and makes people lots and lots of money.

  52. I remember looking at Bust a Groove a while ago, and thinking that it felt more like a fighting game than a music game. In fact, most fighting games, when taken to their extreme, can be seen as a sort of dancing game. I punch, you block, etc. Losing simply means you couldn’t keep up with your partner.

    The violence in most games comes from the player. Not just actions, but your own interpretation of those actions. From what little I’ve seen of Bullet Storm, the appeal had more to do with creating combos of violence. In a way, I’d say it’s the Tony Hawk to Borderland’s Diablo. Would the violence still stand if the enemies didn’t bleed?

    Even Wild 9 as an example, had more to do with using the enemies as platforms, weapons, and whatnot. Aside from presentation, how different is it from say, Klonoa?

  53. Am I late for the party? Well I had a good thought when I read this on 1up, so what the hell… This sorta thing speaks once again brings to mind Ebert, God love ’em, and that misguided essay about authorial intentionality… The sort of sadism being described here seems a bit different from the sadism I’m more familiar with, randomly murdering people on GTA3 back when that sort of thing was novel. It’s still kinda messed up if you think about it, but at the same time it only seemed as subversive as shooting whipped cream directly into your mouth or using a Game Genie, it was just that feeling of doing something you weren’t really supposed to do. Sandbox games do give you a control over the narrative in a sense, although some might say it’s a tad grandiose to refer to “guy runs people over with a stolen car” as a narrative. But there’s a difference between a developer allowing you to do that sorta thing and explicitly TELLING you to do it, and/or rewarding you for it. There’s more authorial intentionality, there, fer sure.

  54. @Adam “Aside from presentation, how different is it from say, Klonoa?”

    It’s all about presentation, and creator intent. All that Dave Perry could talk about when it came to Wild 9 was how awesome it was to torture and maim enemies, and that’s all the ads really focused on. That was how the creators sold their game, the thing they found most important about it. Not the platforming, not the grappling, not the puzzle solving. The maiming. At no point in any Klonoa interview or ad that I’ve ever seen has anyone mentioned how totally sweet it is to use infinitely respawning magical dream bunnies as platforms; there, it’s a mechanic, but not the point.

    Your post walks a dangerous line. Anyone can use reductivism to argue Mario games are as sociopathic as the Postal series — you kill so many Goombas!! — but that’s disingenuous. I’d like to think we’re better than that!

  55. It’s pretty obvious the industry has been heading this way for a long time. I still think everything changed with Mortal Kombat. Compared to Street Fighter II, the game was pretty weak, but the emphasis on blood and gore catapulted it to top-tier status in the minds of teens that thought they were getting away with something, being “subversive” or “cool”.

    So, if we’re over-glorifying violence (and I would argue that we most assuredly are, with each developer trying to up the ante over the last, much as in action films), what is the culprit? Is it the developers? Is it that the consumer keeps buying it? Is it a statement on the culture as a whole? If video games had existed in, say, the 50’s, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t see anything like what we’re seeing now. We’ve changed so much as a culture since then, in a few ways for the good, and in a lot of ways for the worse.

    Thing is, I’m not entirely sure how to fix it. I figure there’s some culpability on both sides of the equation. And don’t mistake me, I don’t want to see violence excised from gaming completely. It’s just that there’s an uncomfortable line that even in a fictional environment should probably not be crossed, and our industry, often to its detriment, does so routinely.

  56. This is a very good article. I’ve never enjoyed over the top violent games. The most violent game that I really liked (that I can think of) is Assassin’s Creed 2. And I always felt uncomfortable assassinating the marks in the game. Other violent games that I’ve played are the Metal Gear Solid games and the Uncharted games. MGS never really bothered me, but Uncharted is a little too much in terms of the amount of enemies you kill.

    I know your editorial won’t change anyone’s mind. But it will definitely make me pay closer attention to the invisible line. I hope developers also keep this invisible violence line in mind when making games.

    Keep up the good work Jeremy!

  57. To start, thank you Jeremy for your consistent, thoughtful contributions to 1UP over the years. I’ve finally found my way to your personal blog and it will be a daily destination from now on.

    I share your sentiment regarding the gratuitous and oftentimes juvenile exploration of violence in high budget, mainstream games. It saddens me that a significant portion of medium-defining games, at least in the eyes of the general public, revel in the maiming and slaughter of the human (or human like) characters they so faithfully represent.

    Yet, as you have also so faithfully reported, the games industry is not completely given over to guns, gore and tits (if you buy new at Gamestop!) even if these more measured, often thoughtful games are now special for not taking the industry standard tone of violence for violence’s sake.

    Reflecting on a rationale for the current state of mainstream games, I’d like to try out a possible reason for the current prevalence of violence as the main mode of interaction. Early games were constrained by hardware limitations so as to make elaborate single player experiences much harder to realize. The computer simply wasn’t powerful enough to play against the player or to render a space that would be interesting to explore for its own sake (Myst for example or the upcoming Journey).

    One solution to this problem, one that I suspect wasn’t recognized as a problem for some time, was to have the computer or console mediate a player vs player experience. It is at least the easiest solution on the face of it as another human being, even now, is potentially much better than any AI algorithm (and a whole lot easier to implement to boot). Moreover, the easiest type of interaction to implement is combat. One player does something to further his own ends at the expense of another, whether that be abstracted out in any number of material-based resource systems, or by getting right to the point and ripping out someone’s spine.

    Many and probably most early games didn’t fit the player vs player mold but I’d wager that almost all of the viscerally exciting ones did. That Infocom text adventure of yore might have been gripping, but it didn’t have you yelling, your heart racing, as any number of games at the local arcade did. That we are now flooded with a glut of ultraviolent games is largely due to historical contingency. Games came of age with our burgeoning technology and it was the latter that not only constrained the scope, but also the direction, of games for decades.

    The status quo is never static though and revolutions in art (and science) seem to be inevitable. I think we’re in the midst of one, when games like Farmville and Pokemon touch the lives of more people than all of this year’s “murder simulators” combined. Here’s hoping at least.

  58. I’ve yet to find my limit in terms of violence in video games. World at War’s flamethrowers unnerved me a little but then you’re doing it over and over and it’s no big deal. Soldier of Fortune II was probably the most violent game I’ve played, the gore effects were impressive at the time. I also tried to wipe out the entire Mardi Gras level in Hitman: Blood Money but ended up not sure if it was possible. The only time I didn’t choose the violent option in a game was in Heavy Rain (spoilers ahead) when Ethan is being forced to shoot a drug dealer dad. But I guess that got counter-balanced when I let the dentist conduct medicine on Madison Paige.

    Ah, to be a violent video gamer~

  59. Modern games tend to be violent* because of two things: the need for conflict and the limitations of the technology.

    Like any kind of entertainment, there has to be some kind of conflict in order to keep the audience engaged. In film, television, novels or whatever, this conflict can be anything – it can be a wholly internal struggle of a man versus his ideals, it can be that abstract. And it can be an abstract conflict because those are all passive media. We’re just watching. But, and this feels stupid and obvious to write out, gaming is INTERACTIVE. So players have to be put in the position of resolving that conflict themselves. Since the easiest kind of conflict to express is an external conflict – this goomba is in my way, I must get past it – is most easily solved by violent action – I am going to stomp on this goomba’s head, he will no longer be in my way – most games are violent.

    This brings me to the limits of the technology. Any kind of non-violent conflict in fiction is usually dramatic, involving people with complicated emotions and reactions, things that require a good deal of creativity and interaction on the part of the characters for the resolution to feel satisfying. Look at, say, the TV Show Spaced (This is the first DVD within reach. Yes, I am a caricature). The conflict in that show is the “will they wont they” of Tim and Daisy, and watching these characters learn about themselves and maybe come together in the end. Le me ask you, how to you represent this kind of conflict in a game? I mean, it’s easy to write that dialog and have those characters interact that way in a cut-scene (look at the Uncharted Series for an incredible example), but what does the player DO in that kind of game? This is where they bump up against current limitations – the only kind of way we have to players to interact with other characters in a game, non-violently, is through pre-canned dialog options, adventure game-style. While this can be entertaining for a small demographic of players, I wouldn’t say this is typically meaningful in any real way.

    So that leaves us with, largely, three kinds of games. Games that aren’t centered on that are so open ended in their gameplay that they lack any conflict at all (Animal Crossing, Nintendogs), games that try to express conflict and give players non-interactive options that are intensely linear (Rock Band, Phoenix Wright), and games that use violence to resolve conflict, which fall in the middle (Mario, every other game ever made). In these games you can interact with whatever you want in this small space, given the limited ways to interact with things we’ve given you, most of which are “shoot it” or “hit it.” Because, in these games, you’re actually resolving something yourself, and you feel in control because you’re given just the right amount of freedom and limitations, these are easily the most popular games.

    What we’re starting to see, is that with the Wii, the PlayStation Move, and Kinect, the fidelity of those controls are opening up. Games can now see and hear players and feel players, and hopefully as developers get smarter about how to use this tech, and as the hardware opens new possibilities for AI and player interaction, we can move away from just kill kill kill. But it’s going to be a while, and until then, violence is definitely going to be the path of least resistance for games.

    That being said, Jeremy is right that there are lines, and we as an industry shouldn’t be so gleefully kicking dirt on them as we cross over. I’m not a fan of the Gears/God of War aesthetic, this hyper violent blood-spewing attitude. I think that’s emblematic of a bigger problem with the industry, a kind of arrested development that’s happened where we’re treating the entirety of the player base like they’re 15 year old boys. But when Call of Duty sells 6 million copies in a day, it’s incredibly difficult to argue that we want to be treated any other way.


    * Now, when I talk about “violence,” I’m talking about any kind of combat whatsoever, from Mario Galaxy to GTA IV.

  60. I suspect the reason these were featured so prominently in the press conferences was to reassure hardcore gamers that they haven’t been forgotten–because a lot of the big new things in gaming these days aren’t violent or extreme or any of that. The only people who actually pay attention to the press conferences are the hardcore, so it’s a way of saying “Hey, we’re still cool! We love shooting people, just like you!” The general public is only going to hear about the stuff that shows up on CNN, which is more likely to be some motion game than Call of Duty. They just don’t need to put that front-and-center because our moms aren’t watching the live stream.

    I agree with most of what you said, but I just think this is why these seemed to get such a big push. Overall, I think the industry is actually working its way toward some kind of maturity, albeit slowly.

  61. No offense, but if everyone hear is so against the prominence of violence, why hasn’t anyone else written about it? Am I stupid and ignorant and just can’t find these things? Is everyone else too lazy? Or is this just the minority of gamers speaking?

  62. @Casey: Your entire argument is kind of undone by two simple words: Metal Gear. Yeah, you can slaughter everything in that game, but you’re given the means, and are actively encouraged to non-violently play the game. I just played Peace Walker by either avoiding, tranquilizing, or holding up every enemy I came by, and that was on a humble little PSP. Games can be fun without having to participate in rage-fueled bloodbaths, but developers just don’t care enough to figure it out when Halos and GoWs sell just fine as is.

  63. Frankly, I find killing perfectly justifiable in the MGS series, despite the games desperately attempting to make a case for pacifism. In pretty much every MGS game, the enemies are career soldiers, they should know already that violent death is a hazard of the job, especially when they assist in schemes to unleash nuclear disaster on innocent populations.

  64. I recently paid a visit to my brother. When I got there, he told me he bought Modern Warfare 2, and said I “had to play it”. So, he turns on his PS3, hooked-up to a nice 40″, 1080p TV, and goes to a level where you play as an agent that’s undercover in a Russian terrorist group. Your mission: Slowly walk through an airport, and help brutally gun-down every single innocent civilian you see.

    W. T. F.

    I told him that’s some serious Columbine shit right there. He said “Oh, they give you a warning and an option to skip that level”, but the fact that it’s in there and playable by default actually disgusts me. Naturally, he called me a loser because I didn’t want to play.

    I’m not a proponent of censorship, but I still wonder how that game got to the shelves. One of the biggest selling titles of the year, and you’re encouraged to mercilessly gun down innocent people in realistic, full 1080p glory. It still bothers me.

  65. It’s never pointless to write about what you think. Great Post that, yes indeed, made me think. Thanks

Comments are closed.