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Violence through the eyes of a salvadoran game developer

by Sergio Rosa on 06/19/12 11:47:00 am

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


This is going to be a rather short post because what can be said about the subject is very "to the point."

El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in the world, with one of the highest murder rates. Like it or not, that changes how one can perceive violence, compared to "more peaceful" countries. Put it under perspective: there are 6 million people in the country, and the country is 0.002133 times smaller than the U.S.

There are surely only a handful or people on this site from El Salvador (or less; since I only know one active Gamasutra member from El Salvador, besides me, obviously), and thus it's sad this is not an "all happy together" post, but after everything I've been reading lately (and a couple of back-and-forth emails with someone) I decided to share the perspective with everyone else.

What comes next may not be the kind of thing you read while you're eating your pretzels:

  • It’s a country that was struck by civil war a few years ago, where soldiers went into a University in the middle of the night and killed all the priests (and maids) living there. Not only they killed them, they broke the priests bones, crushed their skulls and spread their brains on the grass/pavement. Save for the women, because they were headshot, with a shotgun, at close range, so they had no head to crush.
  • Gangs from our country will set a bus on fire, with people still in it, and shot people, in the legs, so they can’t get out unless they crawl, and die in the fire, and then you think “I’m never getting on a bus again”.
  • Drivers in our country will sometimes speed up when you’re crossing the street just “to scare you.”
  • I read on the newspaper once that some guys raped a 70-something years old woman and then killed her. I should add this is the kind of country where not only women are raped, but also men, and kids... and babies...
  • Sometimes unwanted babies will be left in dumpsters or under tables of street markets to die, because idiotic mothers thought that was “more acceptable” than sending the baby to an orphanage, or even aborting (please note that I’m against abortion, so I vote for the orphanage).
  • You can’t give a security guard “that look” because you end up with a bullet in the chest. You can't get into trouble defending your girlfriend in a bar either, because you will also get shot. And you can't give "that look" to another driver because he'll pursuit you, hit your car so you stop, then shoot you.
  • A few years ago there was this serial killer that would only kill male-prostitutes (I mean homosexual men that prostituted themselves).
  • A husband will beat up and kill his wife because "dinner is not ready on time."
  • A robber will shoot you over 25 cents or a crappy cellphone (like one of those with green/yellow screens that' can't even send 50-character long messages). For every raped person there are 10 to 15 people who will never see his father/mother/brother/sister alive again because of those 25 cents.

Why do I care if you know all of this? Because It was not until very recently that I've been reading how "alarmingly violent"games are today, and certain "other" themes. I may not be the right person to talk about violence in video games because the game I'm developing now *is* violent, it will not make killing fun (in part because you won't have the almighty shotgun everyone loves to have in a game).

So, again, why do I care? Because I see something wrong when it comes to dealing with violence in games. One day people talk about "rape culture," and the next day they talk about how this year's E3 was almost about the "old ultra-violence," BUT the next day it's all about designing the prefect headshot, the perfect run-over-pedestrians routine and the best "crush your enemy's head" animation, slap an M on the box and call it a day.

As I said, I may not the most suitable person to talk about violence in games, and I'm not saying "let's go Disney-friendly, then." I'm just not acting like certain specific form of violence is THE form of violence that deserves the "don't even touch that!" label, while other forms of violence are just fine because they are not emotionally traumatic (tell that to the mother who lost her son to that bus on fire, she'll find that extremely comforting). Now feel free to make a game where you don't make players feel cool when shooting prostitues or blowing someone else's head at close range  with a shotgun.

I certainly hope I won't be getting a lot of hate on this post, because I just pictured my country as one of the worst places on earth so that you understand how violence (and thus all the talk about violence in games) is perceived through the eyes of someone from El Salvador.

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