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Five approaches to 'good' violence in games Exclusive
Five approaches to 'good' violence in games
January 22, 2013 | By Leigh Alexander

January 22, 2013 | By Leigh Alexander
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    42 comments
More: Console/PC, Social/Online, Smartphone/Tablet, Indie, Design, Exclusive



The renewed discussion of violent games has one big problem: It's too abstract. There are nuances to how violence is commonly portrayed in media; for example, in a slasher flick the cartoon violence is the whole point, while in a thoughtful drama, a single gruesome scene becomes an artistic punctuation mark if executed gracefully.

In games, the violence spectrum becomes even more complicated. When the broad question "are games too violent" surfaces, we who make, play and discuss games tend to bristle -- violence is free speech and games don't cause behavior and that should be all, most say.

Yet rarely do we examine or express the fact that all games are different, and the impact (or lack thereof) of violence depends on the context.

What's interesting about the current wave of conversation is that this time, we as a community seem less willing to absolutely reject any criticism of our violent games. We're curious about our commercial shooter culture and the relationship it has to gun fetishism, for one thing; after spending years exalting games as a cultural institution with inherent value and social impact, it's harder now to turn around and say they have no relationship to the human experience.

Maybe the silver lining in the fact we've ended up having this industry-wide gut check again is that we can learn more about the role of violence in games, highlight and study situations where the value of combat, blood or weaponry is considered and evident -- versus simply being the result of obvious design institutions that are just getting more graphically vivid.

When any of us says we're uncomfortable with game violence there's an assumption that we're just prudish, delicate, pacifistic. That doesn't need to be the case -- lots of us enjoy violence when it's well-implemented and feels meaningful.

leigh 1.jpgIt's important to understand that most of the time, conversations that examine violence aren't fearful condemnations, but curiosity about how and why it's being used. That kind of examination can only lead to better games: 30 years ago, essentially making dots collide was the building block of design -- games have better graphics now, but to what extent are they doing more interesting things?

When, from a design standpoint, does violence "work"?

When it's necessary to the narrative. Some of the moments in games that are most widely remembered and appreciated involve acts of violence, like the plot climax of BioShock or the end of Metal Gear Solid 3 -- cases where the player is asked or forced to execute a death in a way that enhances the story.

When an act of violence is a crucial part of a game's story (assuming the story's well-established), the player naturally takes ownership of the action and its implications. That sense of agency is supposed to be one of the strengths of interactive entertainment, so it makes sense to be judicious with it.

Giving players the opportunity to perform any action in a very specific and intentional context virtually requires players to think about what they're doing and be engaged.

When it's absurd. Incredibly grave physical situations have been the backbone of comedy forever. Similarly violence in games takes on a completely different tenor when it's funny; some incredibly violent games are effective because they portray the absurdity of the usual blood sport gamers routinely engage in. It's commonly pointed out that there's some dissonance with, say, the Uncharted series and the suspension of disbelief it requires to see Nathan Drake as a pleasant, likable and resilient guy despite the hundreds-high bodycount hee leaves in his wake.

But games like Hotline Miami or earlier Grand Theft Auto games embrace the silliness inherent in the idea that one of the most common core ideas in games is "endless murder." The ragdoll physics game boom a few years prior emerged in part from our fascination with playing with body shapes and seeing how they crumple -- but games like that rely on a certain extreme absurdity. Even Angry Birds is fundamentally about banged-up animals flying through wood and plate glass, but it works, even for kids, because it's silly.

leigh 2.jpgWhen it comments on itself. Many games have attempted to use violence to comment on violence, or on the nature of games themselves. It's been mixed success so far, really -- Modern Warfare 2's civilian-killing "No Russian" scene sparked a lot of blog posts because of its aim to jar players with the actual horror inherent in the war they were simulating as a team sport, but there was more conversation about why the scene felt cheap or contrived than there were stories of stirring personal impact.

Still, it was an important effort, highlighting the idea that games about horrors could, or should, develop self-awareness. Gamers share poignant memories of Far Cry 2 or, more recently, discuss how Spec Ops: The Line tried to differentiate itself from genre-standard war games by portraying some of the trauma of the experience. The inherent value in making trauma into a game -- at least, such a literal one -- is an open discussion, but the use of shock imagery has the potential to be a valuable narrative tool when it shakes players into thinking about what they're doing and why.

Plenty of games satirize their own mechanics as a way of commenting on themselves, too -- rather than fight the goofy old structure of plowing through henchmen to reach a boss, No More Heroes embraces it, making enemy constructs gleefully sprout blood and coins as the player strives to reach ever more implausible (and oddly-touching) villains.

And there are more delicate ways of being reflective and aware about the nature and structure of games: Shadow of the Colossus gives the player a horse, a princess and a sequence of monsters -- in a surreal and meditative essay on our tendency to fulfill unexamined objectives and to make too many assumptions about who the "monsters" really are.

When it's optional. Violence in games feels meaningful when it's not your only choice. Part of the appeal of stealth games is the friction created when combat actually feels dangerous, a threat best avoided. In those situations, when you find yourself physically confronting an enemy it feels frightening, anxious, regrettable, like a failure. Games that offer players a variety of choices about how to deal with threats -- and then balance the gameplay accordingly -- ensure that conflict is never thoughtless.

leigh 3.jpgThat the player feels more thoughtful and engaged about decisions they make in the game world is a benefit regardless. Outside the stealth genre, games like Fable, Dark Souls and countless others have offered worlds where player behavior affects the world's behavior, showing that all actions have a role in some kind of ecosystem.

When it makes you feel powerful. I have a secret guilt: Despite my devotion to the study and criticism of games as complex, expressive creatures, my interest in championing new mechanics and new ideas, I occasionally like to shoot guys in the face as much as anyone else. I know I'm not alone, either -- those of us who roll our eyes at mass consumerism in public will eventually be found cheering a cornball vehicle scene or a gory splatter in private.

It's not a convenient admission when we're trying to distance games from real-world psychological issues and violent acts, but a lot of people like luxuriantly-violent games because they allow us to examine our worst impulses in some excitingly-amoral vacuum. It's not that most of us have secret fantasies about killing others; it's more like why we like to pop bubble wrap. It scratches an itch that's satisfied by some kind of tactile extreme.

Double-talk or denial won't help us at the discussion table when it comes to the fact that sometimes violent games inexplicably feel good. But we might be able to better defend media that gives us actually-interesting, inventive or meaningful power fantasies. Failing that, it's best to consider context for this pleasure: My favorite combat games are generally abstract and absurd Japanese melee titles, impossible acrobatic bacchanals of guns and fancy shoes and muddled demonic imagery. They're unreal, so I take delight in them.

I'm satisfied, even pleased by aggression when it feels narratively consistent, when it's paced well. It's just that "because he's coming at me" isn't a reason to pull the trigger for 40 hours straight. Having better reasons will create more intelligent, engaging games -- and the added side effect of having valuable answers to all the questions people who don't understand games want to ask about violence.


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Comments


David Navarro
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Maybe I've read it wrong, but... doesn't item number 4 subsume all others, and pretty much *all* of violence in gaming?

Lewis Wakeford
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Number 4 is optional violence, right? Did you mean 5?

Kenneth Blaney
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I didn't think of the article as a list of checkboxes for when violence was okay, rather I felt it read more like some vocabulary to talk about how violence might be okay. Put differently, upon experiencing violence in a video game we will each have a different reaction to it. Not being overwhelmed or turned off by the violence doesn't make you a bad person because you may like it for any of these fairly rational reasons. Similarly, the person making the game with the violence might be doing it in service of these reasons and might not just be a sadist. Conversely, if you are put off by the violence in a game it is probably because it didn't meet any of these thresholds for you.

All that said, I though the "when it is absurd" reason would be the broadest. Video game violence is often fairly absurd in one way or the other with silly ragdoll physics, strange blood spatter, slow motion death animation, etc.

David Navarro
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Lewis, indeed. Posting before coffee, etc.

Jack Nilssen
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Nice article without any finger-wagging/pointing but after reading this I'm kind of at loss to identify any game that does violence "wrong" as accorded by this analysis. Or maybe I just don't think that deeply about it.

Kenneth Blaney
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I think you mean that you can't think of any good game that does violence wrong. That, I think, is a self fulfilling prophecy because if the game was could it probably did the violence correct. Personally, I'd say that Prototype did violence wrong as it doesn't quite fit any of these standards to my mind. (Narrative is weak; realistic aesthetic and setting; no commentary as Ales is unremorseful over the fact he is committing genocide; violence is non-optional; it doesn't make me feel powerful so much as it shows me Alex is powerful.) However, I'm sure others hold different opinions about Prototype than I and to them the violence probably managed to hit one or more of those areas.

Lewis Wakeford
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Yeah I think most games have at least one of these. Usually at least the last one (violence that makes you feel powerful).

I think for an example of a game that does it wrong, I'd say Duke Nukem Forever.

Mostly because the violence isn't really wacky and over the top or super serious but also fails to be a satisfying shooter. Though that really only happened due to bad game feel though, not due to how the violence was presented.

That game also has the pretty gruesome "Alien Hive" level which has some pretty horrible stuff, but as it's presented half way between humorous and horrifying it ends up just making you hate the game for being so stupid. The player isn't even responsible for THAT violence.

Paul Vaille
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Sid Meier's conference "Everything you know is wrong" speaks about why they made their AI so aggressive: the player didn't feel any pleasure to destroy and exterminate someone which seemed weak to him, or at least who was fleeing too easily.

I felt that when i had to kill with my AK-47 some animals in Far Cry 3. I felt pity about them because they was fleeing as soon as i shot on them. I think this is a kind of useless violence, in the way that it is not usefull for storytelling, and with no consequences.

Luis Guimaraes
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"it doesn't make me feel powerful so much as it shows me Alex is powerful."

That's how I feel about most of the games.

"I felt that when i had to kill with my AK-47 some animals in Far Cry 3. I felt pity about them because they was fleeing as soon as i shot on them."

Exactly.

David Wilcox
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Paul: I absolutely agree on feeling pity in "Far Cry 3" and other instances of slaughter violence, but can you say that's useless? In terms of challenge it has little value, but in terms of induced feeling I think it has quite a bit. Especially when provokes reflection on why you're playing the way you are, i.e. why am I killing like this? Then maybe you find yourself coaxed into hunting more "humanely," etc.

Wylie Garvin
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@David:
Exactly. The ultimate version of this is Shadow of the Colossus, which manages to make you feel bad about doing violence to the harmless colossi while not really giving you any other choice if you want to progress through the game. SotC sort of forces you to roleplay as a jerk who kills others for his own selfish reasons. :P Its brilliant because gamers have spent many years being rewarded for that behaviour in other games, and SotC confronts them with that and maybe makes them feel a bit uncomfortable about it.

Waqar Rasool
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"It's not that most of us have secret fantasies about killing others; it's more like why we like to pop bubble wrap. It scratches an itch that's satisfied by some kind of tactile extreme."
Well said....!

Simone Tanzi
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I will probably get beaten, expecially since the franchise is so popular in the US.
But a prime example of Violence done wrong to me is Mortal Kombat.
And still of course is what made it's fortune.
It is not necessary for the narrative, it is not absurd in a comical way (it is absurd in many other ways). It's not a denounce on violence... quite the opposite actually. It's kinda optional but ... there is not an actual choice of options here. Well... you can use friendship or babalities but quite frankly, they are quite pointless as well.
And doesn't actually add much to the game itself, doesn't really make me feel more powerful.
Of course it adds controversy, and basically I think is the only thing MK is based on. Because quite frankly watching at the list of the various fatalities we have witnessed through the years, they are not great either... not only pointless in a game logic sense, but also quite random and poorly designed.
A punch that decapitates you 3 times? a girl that suck you in and spit an impossible amount of bones out? A girl that kisses you until you blow up and explode?
It's just too random too nonsense...
I'm not an anti-violence guy.
Violence is good, and I totally agree with those 5 points. Because with those 5 points in mind violence is a medium.... to the narrative, to the gameplay, to some philosophical dilemma... but is not a goal.
Is the thinking process that sometimes is wrong.
When designers gather around and think about ways to make the game more violent, that to me is the wrong way to use violence.
When they gather and discuss about how much violence they really need to send the message they want to send ... that's the right use of violence in videogames.

Jeremie Sinic
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"A punch that decapitates you 3 times? a girl that suck you in and spit an impossible amount of bones out? A girl that kisses you until you blow up and explode?"

I get your point and I don't think it will get you beaten, but Mortal Kombat 3 quite made me laugh even back in the Megadrive/Genesis days. It's all in the eye of the beholder, but to me the 2D Mortal Kombat games were so quirky that they were funny through and through. If you think about it, it was so over-the-top (e.g. Scorpion and his "Come over here", Johnny Cage punching male characters' groin, Sektor firing guided missiles, etc.) that it was hard to take it seriously. Of course, those are not the first games you'd give a kid to play, but in my opinion, it is less objectionable than the more realistic violence of say, a GTA.

Luis Guimaraes
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"It's just too random too nonsense..."

You're talking about it 20 years later. Whatever was it they did, they did it right.

Axel Cholewa
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"[...] violent games inexplicably feel good."

So here's a (probably pretty lousy) attempt to explain that good feeling.

In societies you always have conflict between the individuum and the whole. Looking at societies of other animals you see a lot of those conflicts solved by violence. Wolf packs, herds of buffalo, gorilla families, they mostly solve inner conflict with violence. And humans did and do so as well.

But for many good reason violence is suppressed in modern societies. We have many ways of solving conflicts, but of course violence is still present. From families to school yards to football "fans", violence is part of our society, even if most of us consider it immoral. And this might be at the heart of why I feel good ripping the eye out of a cyclops head in God of War 2, because violence is the ultimate solver of an individuum's conflicts. Falling back to that, even if just in fantasy and even without thinking of any real world conflict you're going through, might just feel powerful and stengthening to your inner self.

To put it simple, my argument would look something like this:

- violence solves conflict that individua have with and within society
- forbidden by society
- fantasy of violence -> society & its rules overcome -> inner self stronger

I know, it's not 100% thorough. Just an idea.

Michael DeFazio
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agreed

violence within the context of (movies, tv, comics, video games) is always "the solution to the problem" and people cheer their "hero/avatar/main character" for using violence to overcome adversity.

in real life, violence is frowned upon and almost never "the solution to the problem"

perhaps the primitive parts of our brain crave the simplicity of solving problems through direct means rather than using indirect speech, compromise, or passivity... And perhaps to placate this primitve part of our brains we empathize with our virtual "heroes" since they excel at doing what society deems inappropriate.

Bernardo Del Castillo
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Well to be honest I agree, but I would say its even simpler.
Violence is a very natural aspect of life, in fact nature (and history) is far more violent than most games. But as you say, society has blocked out a lot of the direct exposition of violence.

In it's place we have focused on competitiveness, which is a more abstract, less direct struggle to declare superiority.
Victory in a competitive environment gives us the illusion of success. And the easiest way to achieve this in games is by representing the literal violence without the actual moral and personal tie-ins.
By this I mean that videogame violence is rarely ever actual violence. It is little more than pyrotechnic score cues. there is slowdown, flying bits, cinematic flythrough cameras, and a really satisfying sound. There is generally no connection between you and the adversary, they are jsut red dots on the minimap coming at you.
I've met a lot of people that consider Serious Sam extremely violent, but I would say that it is simply a more adult equivalent to Tom & Jerry.
In situations like MGS, and in general Japanese games, violence often stands as a clash of ideologies. It is about will, and moral imperatives, more than about the phisical encounter.

A death, or for example, an actual shot is far less romantic than presented in your average FPS, and less nuanced. It means extreme phisical pain. It actually means that life ends. Concepts which are only abstracted in videogames.

In contrast, when a game treads into actual violence it doesn't actually feel that good, at least not to everyone. I do get that sort of liberating surge from God of war 2, but I personally found myself slightly sickened by some of the god's deaths on God of War 3, and particularly by the violence in games like Manhunt or the PS2 punisher. There's a certain morbid brutality, bordering on torture that I find extremely unsettling.

*********spoiler from GoW 3*********
(I still wonder about that last section where you beat Zeus's head to a pulp, and the screen keeps on covering with blood until it's all red... you can keep hitting it forever.. it seems... Sure, it's fantasy... but is that a comment similar to Spec-OPs on how stupid the violence is? A comment on the state of players? Or is it plain fascination for torture? It does seem as if they were making fun of the player.. but it also seems that by proving a point they are destroying the point)
*********end spoiler*********

This means that the more meaningful and "realistic" the treatment of violence, the less entertaining and the more conflicting it becomes, As stated, Shadow of the colossus does a fantastic job at making you feel that your actions might not be white, while remaining rather subtle and elegant in it's violence. But even the mentioned Manhunt, or Farcry 3 intentionally criticise this aspect, making you feel that you are becoming a monster. In a way, these games don't expect you to enjoy the violence, its similar to the duality of watching an horror movie (You want the scares but it's supposed to make you instinctively reject it while holding on for the ride).

I find it strange actually, that generally when this analysis is made, horror, (and torture) games are rarely mentioned, maybe because they are not nearly as mainstream.
Damn, I got sidetracked.

Anyway, yeah violence can be a very effective driving tool, it can even be a topic, but I feel that as an industry we are a bit stail in the portrayal of interesting conflicts without recurring immediately to it (and rarely thinking about it's implications either ).

Joshua Darlington
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Violence in humans come from hunter instinct / blood lust. It feels good because its a release of instinct.

Violence in games is effective marketing. It's the same as putting tons of fat and sugar in food. It's called supernormal stimuli. It itches a persons instinct at an industrial scale that does not occur in nature.

Violence in computer games is rooted in the design of computers. Historically, one of the main forces driving the development of computers comes from military applications like calculating ballistics tables and etc.

Any sort of abstracted dehumanization of targets may add flavor or faster pacing but the basic success of violence in games comes from the above mechanics esp their success in stimulating human instinct.

If you really want to design games with a meaningful discourse on violence, look to philosophy/ethics. They have their own gaming tradition where they build story problems into their philosophical arguments. For example, look up trolley problems. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem These sort of ethical dilemmas are good for decision systems and morality systems, but would likely slow down pacing of a shooter or SHMUPs.

Toby Grierson
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This is truthy and all but this really needs to be data-driven; not about what type of violence we imagine is OK.

Studies might (for example) reveal that what we paint as the worst senseless violence actually has positive effects and that violence a sense of justification actually reinforces the notion that violence is an appropriate tool of conflict resolution.

Or they might (for example) show that it's all really bad, or that none of it has an effect whatsoever, or . . .

The point is that the practical realities can be very counterintuitive and diverge markedly from what we imagine is OK.

Like abstinence-only education correlating with high teen pregnancy rates or something; someone feels it's perfectly sensible in achieving result X. It does not.

This line of thought could support some classification of games going into a study; you could examine if this or that kind of game has this or that kind of effect. But "this feels like it makes sense to me" is not enough to be any more useful than witchcraft.

Michael Joseph
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"When, from a design standpoint, does violence "work"?"
--

That uninsteresting question seems like a safe retreat from the setup that preceded it. You could add "When it makes lots of money" because who then could argue from a design standpoint it didn't work?

Jake Skinner
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So is competitive multiplayer "bad" violence? Not discussing this is a sin of omission, especially when violent competitive multiplayer is primarily considered a facilitator of racism (http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3604/fixing_online_gaming_i
diocy_a_.php?print=1) and sexism (http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/179563/Misogyny_in_games_Stats
_and_sexism.php), or at least the expression of personally held ideas of the sort.

Also, sources would be nice.

Jonathan Carruthers
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I see where you're coming from and I apologize for not having sources of my own; but, while I agree that there could be more discussion about violence in multiplayer especially competitive multiplayer, I didn't get the same meaning out of those articles that you did. In my reading of the articles, it seemed the authors were discussing online multiplayer in general, in many cases competitve, but I saw no mention of violence as a factor. In fact, from my own experiences and it would seem from those of the authors you cited it is simply the multiplayer and competitive social environments that generate the negative experiences. Violence, in this case, seems irrelevant.

Thus, I don't see those points as relevant to the discussion at hand. But to your overall premise of a discussion about violence in competitive multiplayer as "bad" or "good" I think one could make the case that said violence falls into one or more categories listed in the article.

That said, I don't think the article was meant to be an exclusive checklist whereupon if a game's violence does not measure up it is then "bad." I think it was intended to simply showcase some arguments for places where violence is "good" in games.

Thom Q
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I feel one of the reasons this discussion keeps dragging on, is because people tend to think of it as a black & white, good & bad, right or wrong thing, while in reality it's not that simple of course.

What is wrong & right with regards to art, is totally personal, and the average of all individuals tastes is the norm of a society. I keep getting the impression that people are not taking their personal taste as a relative variable into consideration. Like Leigh did in the article above with the last point: When it makes you feel powerful. It's essentially an all encompassing reason. Leigh might not feel more powerful with a game like Call of Duty, but millions of others do. So in essence, that last reason kind of negates the whole article. No matter what kind of torture dungeon game, there are always people who will powerful by it.

Thom Q
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" I'm satisfied, even pleased by aggression when it feels narratively consistent, when it's paced well. It's just that "because he's coming at me" isn't a reason to pull the trigger for 40 hours straight. Having better reasons will create more intelligent, engaging games "

One of the most interesting and unique experiences I've ever had in gaming is DayZ. With the standalone game coming shortly, I will think this game will solidly introduce a new mechanic which countless others will use from this year on: A game without any narrative at all.

DayZ is not only one of the scariest and adrenaline-rush inducing games, but it also looks at morality on a level I've never experienced in a game before.

TC Weidner
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How many people here have actually been in real violent real life situations? I doubt very many and it shows. Violence in real life is NOTHING like games, nothing. Real life violence is not fun, it makes adrenaline pump at a rate in which you physically shake, it also makes you nauseas afterwards, and in the following days the violence haunts you, in severe cases of violence, it haunts you the rest of your life. Sound like game violence? of course not, sound like something you want to aspire to? of course not.

The danger with game violence lies in the fact that it portrays "violence" as a means to an end,which it isnt. Games/media portray violence as a matter of factly choice, it isnt. It will change your life, and not for the better. The danger is that games/media do not portray violence for what it is, and thus media/games is a giant disinformation campaign.

So why do we use violence so much in games, IMHO its a cheap competition tool, cheap way to create a sense of accomplishment in a "character", lazy design, cheap and easy content.

Thom Q
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"The danger is that games/media do not portray violence for what it is, and thus media/games is a giant disinformation campaign"

I'm not sure I agree. A Video game is an art form. Art does not have to be truthful, and neither does entertainment for that matter. I think that when age guidelines are followed you'll see that children won't hardly be exposed to any violence, and certainly not the amount that we saw when we were kids, at least not where i'm from (EU). And if the enjoyment of violent entertainment or art by adults does not lead to violent behavior, I'm not that bothered about it. I notice that as I get older, I like fast paced violent action games less & less, so i mostly ignore them..

American news-tainment however is definitely responsible to be truthful, and is in my opinion indeed a disinformation campaign. Granted, I don't see that much of it as a European, but the state of journalism, coverage and 'pundits' in the US is really saddening, and one of the real causes of the problem.

Jason Lee
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As a designer, I like this piece as pointing out a set of tools or approaches to take on a particular topic that comes to the forefront of our minds as game makers. Not every game needs these 5 like a checklist, but rather each of these approaches are differing valid approaches. If I were to make the grave sin of drawing a parallel to cinema, a movie like Kill Bill might fall into #2 and #5, and the approach to violence as both satisfying and absurd is used to great effect to create a particular style in that universe. Meanwhile a director like Park Chan Wook uses violence in movies like OldBoy in a deadly serious and gruesome way, but its use is different than glorification or violence porn; each use is symbolic and pushes forward the themes and larger message of the piece.

What Leigh is pointing out I believe is that in games we can stand to be a lot more complex and nuanced with our violence. We are getting to the point where we can point to games as being able to talk about violence in ways besides being a perpetrator of it blindly, and 4 out of these 5 points are tools she's noticed that point out how to create that nuance. At the same time, her final point serves as a reminder that we're allowed to have entertaining bombast, and that Halo has a very meaningful and proper place in our gaming landscape.

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David Peterson
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Most of the time, shooting a nameless, faceless enemy in a typical FPS has no effect on me whatsoever. It is a task to be done, blocking me from my objective of completing the game. Occasionally, I feel a bit more satisfaction (or relief) when a particularly pesky opponent is vanquished. And very rarely, I feel something more when a character who has been developed through the game is defeated.

But something strange happened when I played The Walking Dead on my iPad. Killing random zombies, with no idea who they were prior to their appearance moments ago, would sometimes induce feelings of remorse, dismay, or revulsion. The first time you have to kill a zombie with a blunt instrument, you have to whack it about 5 or 6 times in the head, blood flying. The first hit, no big deal. Second hit, oh, ok, there will probably be 3 required, I guess. 3rd hit, let's get it over with. 4th, urg, really? 5th, gross... 6th, just die, you poor woman.

The physical connection of having to tap the head each time contributed a bit, but just the fact that death was not instantaneous, and went beyond the typical 'three strikes' forced me to confront the act of violence in a way that I do not usually have to. This made me evaluate my actions and turned an anonymous zombie kill into something memorable and actually thought-provoking.

I've killed thousands of minions, and bosses, and hundreds of evil megalomaniacal antagonists over the years, but very few, if any, made me process my act of violence as much as tapping a nameless zombie in the head six times. It doesn't always have to be like that, but I do wish games made me care about the consequences of my actions more often.

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Thom Q
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Chivalry is not AAA, but that's besides the point.

Chivalry is M-rated, and not marketed towards children. It has no effect on violent behavior of adults, those who play it. And you do even see it as art. But you still condemn it?

And I'm not defending nor condemning violent games here. I'm just curious as how to something that is enjoyed by Adults, and even seen by you as art, is depraved & wrong? Isn't the society from where the art comes to blame for actual depravity, that which is reflected in art? Just like with books, music & movies?

Lewis Wakeford
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Personally I don't think there is anything wrong with the gore in Chivalry. The game is tongue-in-cheek and it's fun to splatter your opponent's head into chunky salsa. It is essentially used to enhance your feeling of victory over your opponent. You didn't just kill that guy, you pulped his head into chunky salsa!

I don't really think violence is ever really bad unless it gives a conflicting message. You can have wacky cathartic violence, and serious disturbing violence, you can even have the two in the same game. As long as you don't present violence that should be disturbing as wacky I don't think it's a problem.

For an example of violence done right outside of gaming, look at Tarantino movies. He has violent scenes that are just meant to be enjoyable despite the fact that people are getting dismembered or blow apart, and then he has violent scenes that are just meant to upset or unnerve you. The two are never mixed.

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Daniel Boy
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this: "it's more like why we like to pop bubble wrap"
For me the core concept, why people engage in violent video games or popping bubble wrap is order, its delivery and the feedback concerning changes: The possibility to change something and deliver it onto another clear state. I do something and the result is a very distinctive state change: unpopped/ popped or living/ dead. And great feedback: plop or splatter. A small motion, overcoming the resistance, an unusually large effect, a clear result - satisfaction.
Popping every last bubble is like (-> metaphorically speaking) grazing a space empty: No more change is possible. Everything is popped/eaten clean. The space of possibility is (mostly) cleared. And, behold, I did it. I donated a new order. How great it is to be this I that just has proved, that it has power over something.
This creation of more/another order is closely related to cleaning up a kitchen, tidying up your resume, finishing a jigsaw puzzle of a sleeping cat, solving an equation, making sense out of French philosophers, and: clearing a room as a real-life SWAT team. And the opposite: Messing something up.

John Trauger
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We are a violent, drama-loving people.

I think the crucial question is how well and in what way kids tell reality from fantasy.

I was a kid in the 60s and 70s when people were aghast at the violence in Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner cartoons and censored all the best bits. That censoring, cutting up comedic pieces and robbing them of their fun, is exactly what is being discussed here. It was the exact purpose of the Comics Code Authority at its inception in the 50s. Both have gone by the wayside and rightly should have.

The next question is what our responsibility is to outlying cases. If 99.99% of the kids playing the most violent game you can think of are fine, do we have a responsibility to censor or be censored in the name of a percent of a percent of our players. We're still talking about 10K - 15K of potentially extreme people at risk that could be playing a violent game.

Tyler Shogren
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Perhaps #6 should be 'no mass killing simulators.'

David OConnor
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Violence in entertainment, and violence in society is a fascinating and complex subject.

- We glorify violence
- We make fighting 'cool'
- We admire victors
- We call fighters 'men' etc etc

It is fun to shoot a virtual human in the head. I played Sniper: Ghost Warrior (note the macho title.. glorifying a killer) last night and enjoyed myself thoroughly. I'd really like to find a game 'loop' that is more interesting and engaging than: hid, outmaneuver, shoot, repeat. But I haven't found it yet.

In the meantime, I'll keep playing shooters, but remain aware of the negatives. I'm not sure if playing GTA would have been healthy for me, if I had been 13 (I'm 43 now).

David Lozano
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I would say that if people really want to put down bad usage of weapons, instead of trying to find culpables in other industries (like gamming) they should close weapon factories THAT IS THE SOURCE of all.

You see with old games, they are not used anymore because there are new things to do (like internet, iPad, and other things)... so old toys for gamming are no longer used.

That will also happen if they close that bussiness. People will find other things to do and probably better than kill other humans (for war or peace like you want to call it).


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