Posted by the_red_mage (146 posts) -

I've been thinking about the high number of videogames lately that use combat as their main theme and/or gameplay mechanic and although violence and combat is something that our modern culture is obsessed with I think that this topic is more interesting when it comes to video games.

The first interesting thing is that, compared to other media, video games require interaction from the given audience. This interaction has to be compelling and interesting enough due to the fact that videogames have nowadays an average length of around 8 hours (speaking fo retail games here) and the player will have to perform aforementioned interactions over the course of the entire game.

The second thing that is only required in videogames is a clear win-condition. Basically all you at the beginning of a game are your starting values, a set of valid operators (actions you can perform in the game) and a desired solution. From then on all you do is manipulate the given values using your operators to be closer to the values presented in the desired solution.

So what has this to do with combat and violence? Combat defines the clearest win-/lose-condition of all actions. You win by damaging your opponent until he/she is no longer able to fight back. You lose by not being able to fight anymore. This can be easily expressed in math X amount of health points for both sides and a set of attacks or moves dealing Y amount of damage. This makes combat pretty easy to implement as a gameplay mechanic but doesn't explain why you actually should or why it would be an action interesting enough for the player to perform for 8 hours. And this, THIS is the actual reason why there is so much of this stuff in video games.

Peace is an unnatural state for humans, because it means that everybody is completely happy with the status quo. This can and will never be because we as individuals always tend to want more than we have. We want to improve our situation. We want to optimize. But as you might have noticed, conflicts are solved differently nowadays. They're getting solved with contracts, via agreements etc. and although this is the more civilized and intelligent approach I believe that a part of us as human beings misses the physical confrontation with others. Fighting others means competing with them, it means testing who is fitter (in the Darwin kind of way) and although we compete with other humans via other things today (jobs, popularity, money, relationships etc.) the 'cave men' part of us is still there. And competing with others by bashing each others skull in with a blunt object is what we have done for the larger part of our existence as a species.

So there you have it my theory why fighting is such a common mechanic and theme in video games. It gives the 'cave men' part of ourselves a compelling action and presents a logical optimization problem with a clear win condition to our brain.

Thanks for reading, comments would be great.

#1 Edited by the_red_mage (146 posts) -

I've been thinking about the high number of videogames lately that use combat as their main theme and/or gameplay mechanic and although violence and combat is something that our modern culture is obsessed with I think that this topic is more interesting when it comes to video games.

The first interesting thing is that, compared to other media, video games require interaction from the given audience. This interaction has to be compelling and interesting enough due to the fact that videogames have nowadays an average length of around 8 hours (speaking fo retail games here) and the player will have to perform aforementioned interactions over the course of the entire game.

The second thing that is only required in videogames is a clear win-condition. Basically all you at the beginning of a game are your starting values, a set of valid operators (actions you can perform in the game) and a desired solution. From then on all you do is manipulate the given values using your operators to be closer to the values presented in the desired solution.

So what has this to do with combat and violence? Combat defines the clearest win-/lose-condition of all actions. You win by damaging your opponent until he/she is no longer able to fight back. You lose by not being able to fight anymore. This can be easily expressed in math X amount of health points for both sides and a set of attacks or moves dealing Y amount of damage. This makes combat pretty easy to implement as a gameplay mechanic but doesn't explain why you actually should or why it would be an action interesting enough for the player to perform for 8 hours. And this, THIS is the actual reason why there is so much of this stuff in video games.

Peace is an unnatural state for humans, because it means that everybody is completely happy with the status quo. This can and will never be because we as individuals always tend to want more than we have. We want to improve our situation. We want to optimize. But as you might have noticed, conflicts are solved differently nowadays. They're getting solved with contracts, via agreements etc. and although this is the more civilized and intelligent approach I believe that a part of us as human beings misses the physical confrontation with others. Fighting others means competing with them, it means testing who is fitter (in the Darwin kind of way) and although we compete with other humans via other things today (jobs, popularity, money, relationships etc.) the 'cave men' part of us is still there. And competing with others by bashing each others skull in with a blunt object is what we have done for the larger part of our existence as a species.

So there you have it my theory why fighting is such a common mechanic and theme in video games. It gives the 'cave men' part of ourselves a compelling action and presents a logical optimization problem with a clear win condition to our brain.

Thanks for reading, comments would be great.

#2 Posted by AhmadMetallic (18955 posts) -

Yes, I agree with you. We love fragging others. Frag frag frag. 
I'd love it if more games went the Deus Ex way of giving an actual purposeful experience driven by gameplay tasks and actions that don't involve killing, that entertained you for tens of hours on a skill-demanding and sophisticated level of dedication and concentration, but no, frag frag frag. 
 
Which is why my favorite games are the ones that deliver the killing within a deeper package. For example, Battlefield gives you an actual battlefield where you fight over control points and have to use your brain as you operate the vehicles, not just running around a small map FRAGGING other people. Max Payne turns every kill you make and every life you take into a justifiable and meaningful step towards your revenge.