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#1 Edited by White (1386 posts) -

I'm starting to notice that in both games and video, violence or use of force against children is a taboo and no one wants to dip their toe in it.

Why though? It makes the fiction they're writing inconsistent. They make children immortal gods that are shielded by divine plot. If they're so invincible, why not just make them the main protagonist or soldiers of your villain or fiction and be done with it. I'm quite annoyed that there's all these lethal entities that can mutilate and do horrible things to adults, but children are blessed and shielded from danger.

There's nothing more annoying than an ending being considered "good" because the children survived while hundreds of thousands of men died.

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#2 Edited by FreddieFiasco (80 posts) -

Is this a weird joke?

Violence against children is a really touchy subject. Humans in general consider violating a child in any way to be among the worst of actions. That's why games don't like to get into that territory. It could be an ESRB thing too, but I'm not sure about that.

#3 Posted by Wolfgame (820 posts) -

Maybe we left more behind than we realize on the good old dreamcast, I am reminded of Cork Goes to Hell and the lengths he goes to save his beloved Sexy Doll in Illbleed... That poor kid... Someone could make an amazing blog related to that game and the concepts it tackles in games compared to now.

#4 Posted by TruthTellah (9362 posts) -

@white: In general, it's a trope in real life, too. While children are often hurt in war, there is a general human sentiment against the harming of children. Few things undermine power more than the abuse of the powerless, and children are often considered the most powerless. Women also fall into this historical trope.

I'm still not sure why you want to see children hurt more in games, but I wouldn't say their apparent immunity in many games is unfounded. The harm and murder of children is considered to be more heinous in real life, and that carries over into games. Some games, like the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V appear to be trying to push that a bit, with gruesome scenes with young-looking characters with bombs in them, child soldiers, and the protagonist appearing to shoot women and children. I'm not sure how well it will be handled, but hopefully it will be included with good reason and not just for shock value.

Children are often considered "innocents", and it's only natural that we might treat them a bit differently from adults. I'm not personally bothered that discretion is shown in protecting child characters in games, but I wouldn't say it's something universally observed. Some games have and will show the harm of children, usually in service of conveying the inhumanity of a situation.

#5 Posted by Clonedzero (4200 posts) -

I'm not really against it, not really for it either.

I understand why they dont really do it anymore, since it'd get tons of negative press, especially with how overly sensitive games journalists are these days. Plus it wouldnt really add much to the game since most people would avoid killing the kids.

I wont lie though, in Skyrim, in Whiterun those little kids that run up to you can say stupid annoying crap, yeah i'd love to be able to smack em.

#6 Edited by Tennmuerti (8145 posts) -

I feel like you are thinking of some specific examples here.

While the taboo of violence against children is fully understandable, the difference is how the games handle it or don't handle it. For example Fallout 3 made it into a hilarious situation by making kids immortal like you describe on top of a bunch of other issues (ugh... Little Lamplight). Fallout 1/2 fully allowed you to kill children (except in certain regional censored versions) but swiftly labeled your character a child killer which brought a lot of NPC hate on you.

#7 Posted by AnxiousTube (199 posts) -

Very simply. Violence breeds violence. It is a psychological truth backed by empirical evidence.

#8 Edited by mlarrabee (2999 posts) -

I think violence or menace toward children can be a facet of the most powerful storytelling possible. In Fallout 3's Little Lamplight, the ethical and personal reflection the player made would have been much more visceral, more tangible, if they were actually allowed to make a choice about how to treat the children. Children live in the real world. Children often have to deal with the same things that adults do, and, since most of it is fresh and new to them, they experience it shockingly vibrantly. Two kids hashing it out on a school playground is little removed from two adults hashing it out in a boardroom.

It's avoided for the same reason that violence toward women is avoided: it strikes a nerve with the audience, and ratings boards are very strict about it. GOG's versions of Fallout and Fallout 2 were the EU versions, so children could not be harmed. It was just easier and less provoking.

#9 Edited by White (1386 posts) -

I feel like there's some consensus that (killing children) > (killing). The act is already heinous, why are people so bothered whether the person they kill is 5, 10, 20, 30 or 50? The person is already a bad person by forcefully taking someone else's life, why should age matter?

To me, it's no different really. But I don't understand why people make such a big deal out of this.

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#10 Posted by believer258 (12017 posts) -
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#11 Edited by RonGalaxy (3225 posts) -

If you don't know why now, then I don't think you'll understand it if someone tried to explain it. It's just one of those things you don't mess with unless there is a REALLY good reason for it (see the last of us). For games that feature killing for no good reason other than to fulfill humanities thirst for power, I say this: Killing children does not need to be apart of anyone's power fantasy.

#12 Posted by Spoonman671 (4710 posts) -

I'm not sure this really needs explaining.

#13 Edited by syz (252 posts) -

Very simply. Violence breeds violence. It is a psychological truth backed by empirical evidence.

Fake violence has not been proven to breed real violence, however.

#14 Edited by White (1386 posts) -

@syz said:

@anxioustube said:

Very simply. Violence breeds violence. It is a psychological truth backed by empirical evidence.

Fake violence has not been proven to breed real violence, however.

What is fake violence?

There's a TVTrope for that.

I don't personally think it would add anything to the game.

It doesn't. But it's very jarring to see that the children can survive such brutalities where as adult males are as brittle as charcoal. It detracts from the fiction.

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#15 Posted by Hunkulese (2795 posts) -

@syz: that's crazy person talk. People (especially children) imitate fake violence all the time.

#16 Posted by SunBroZak (1212 posts) -

I'm not sure it's just children. I have difficultly attacking/killing animals or defenseless people in games. It's easy to remove the humanity from enemy fodder that is just supposed to be regarded as evil. Especially when "man" has been depicted as evil in several mediums for centuries. But the likes of children are often seen as innocent and carefree. We don't think of them as understanding of good and evil, so they can't do any wrong. When a child kills someone, we don't blame the child, we blame the guardian. So if a child enemy was shooting at me in a game, I might feel uncomfortable killing them, because I would thinking why.

#17 Edited by syz (252 posts) -

@hunkulese said:

@syz: that's crazy person talk. People (especially children) imitate fake violence all the time.

Imitation has zero "empirical" impact in regards to causation. Shaping how violence is enacted is far different than causing it to happen; somebody with tendencies violent enough to harm a child does not need inspiration from a video game, but may very well use it as a stylistic catalyst. There is no "psychological truth" behind depictions of violence (victimless depictions specifically) "breeding" violence. Any psychologist without an agenda knows this to be the case.

And children imitate everything.

#18 Edited by Fredchuckdave (5794 posts) -

Violence against children is as taboo as not having violence against women in any form of media; you must have one and you must never have the other.

#19 Posted by Wolfgame (820 posts) -

@syz: If we as gamers ever concede that video game violence causes actual violence then we would have to accept that video game influences of sexism/racism also play a role in those behaviors. We die as a medium if a serious link is ever established on any of these merits.

#20 Edited by syz (252 posts) -

@wolfgame: It's an incredibly difficult link for any professional field to make. Personality is a hundred million two-way streets of nature and nurture.

The only convincing argument I have ever seen in either psychology or philosophy is Aristotelian virtue ethics, and even then the "victim" is our own personal character as opposed to any of the pixels or actors being harmed on the screen.

#21 Edited by SaintOfKillers (66 posts) -

Childhood i seen nowadays as a time of innocence and therefore must be protected from things that can "ruin" or endanger that innocence and not just violence, that's why cursing or talking about sex in front of children is considered taboo. If you go back and read almost any old fairy tale or children's story really fucked up thing used to happen to children, like little red riding hood (wich is probably more of a warning against sexual predators than actual predators), the pied piper and the boy who cried wolf. I think this change came with romanticism and the emphasis it gave to things like love, innocence and other emotions over more rational stuff but I may be wrong. That's why today Little red riding hood is saved by the lumberjack insted of being eaten by the wolf.

Sorry if my english isn't very good, i'm not used to writing it that often.

#22 Posted by TruthTellah (9362 posts) -

@white said:

I feel like there's some consensus that (killing children) > (killing). The act is already heinous, why are people so bothered whether the person they kill is 5, 10, 20, 30 or 50? The person is already a bad person by forcefully taking someone else's life, why should age matter?

To me, it's no different really. But I don't understand why people make such a big deal out of this.

Again, the issue is usually a matter of power. If you kill an adult, the idea is that they could be an enemy or have the power to defend themselves. A child is generally not capable of the same thing. A child hasn't gotten old enough to decide to actually be a true enemy, and children often don't have the power to defend themselves. What you're referring to is not just "killing children", it's "killing the powerless".

In a war zone, when you kill an adult with a gun, that's usually justified as them being an enemy that was going to possibly kill you. In that same war zone, if you kill an unarmed adult, it's harder to justify, because they were less of an actual threat. And then, if you kill an unarmed child, a small woman, a disabled individual, etc. in that war zone, it's even less justifiable, because they very clearly posed less of a threat. The argument for killing is usually "kill or be killed", and in the case of a child, you should be able to subdue them without fearing that you will be killed.

The discouragement of lethal force on unarmed civilians and children is common within videogames because it's generally frowned upon in real life, as well. In my opinion, videogame-wise, it's also usually less fun. Power fantasies often suffer when faced with abusing the powerless, and frankly, many game designers don't feel it's helpful to having fun. I think there is something to be said for the silly abuse in a game like Saints Row or GTA, but it's still relatively murky in gaming at large. I don't personally feel some big urge to abuse children or kill unarmed people in games, and while I think the implementation of such limitations is sometimes poorly handled, I can understand why many game designers don't want to include killing kids in their games.

#23 Posted by impartialgecko (1642 posts) -

I never find myself looking for some child-beating in videogames. Use of a narrative device or theme is fine if it's in the service of the overall story or tone, but using those devices shouldn't be the sole intent of the work.

#24 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5794 posts) -

@truthtellah: Lethal force against unarmed civilians and children happens all the fucking time in real life; just look at Gaza right now if you want an example; as long they're not Americans it's all cool.

#25 Edited by Wolfgame (820 posts) -

@adam1808: Exactly, I wouldn't be in favor of "Child Beating Sim 2014" or the egregious Rapelay, these concepts can be used responsibly in video games to develop a larger story, but never for the focal point of the gaming experience. Gaming CAN tackle these subjects, it's all about the HOW. If we aren't "allowed" to tread on these topics then we must not be at a point to admit that we have just as much right of expression as tv/movies and books.

Edit: I think we can lasso this topic in a bit to avoid another lock. I know I am making bold statements myself, but it'd be nice to have a tough topic balance between commentary and respect so that the mods don't have to shut it down.

#26 Posted by development (2450 posts) -

I think a lot of you guys underestimate our ability to become desensitized to anything at lightning speed.

#27 Posted by TruthTellah (9362 posts) -
@wolfgame said:

@syz: If we as gamers ever concede that video game violence causes actual violence then we would have to accept that video game influences of sexism/racism also play a role in those behaviors. We die as a medium if a serious link is ever established on any of these merits.

I would have to disagree. I think many things in the world contribute to our culture, and historically, people have been able to acknowledge the positive and negative impacts of those factors. Art has a long history of helping and hurting or reflecting the virtues and troubles of societies. To deny the impact of art is to deny the very point of art.

If we as gamers ever concede that video game violence can contribute to the larger issue of violence in our culture then we would have to accept that video game influences of sexism/racism also play a role in our culture which encourages or discourages such behaviors. We can thrive as a medium when we consider every aspect and impact of the medium we care so much about.

Video games are not just meaningless islands; no more than our words here are meaningless islands. We impact a bigger picture, both today and historically, and when we are open to considering that impact, we can improve the video games we make and the discussion we foster around them.

#28 Posted by pyrodactyl (2202 posts) -

Don't worry, Kojima is on the case

#29 Posted by mosespippy (4303 posts) -

I did a research paper in university about video games ratings boards. Turns out that violence against minors can get your game banned in many places, including Australia, Japan, Germany, New Zealand, Britain and parts of Canada. A lot of that comes from old regulations which have lumped in video game ratings with film ratings, which can also get banned for violence against minors.

#30 Posted by TruthTellah (9362 posts) -

@truthtellah: Lethal force against unarmed civilians and children happens all the fucking time in real life; just look at Gaza right now if you want an example; as long they're not Americans it's all cool.

And it's frowned upon. It's condemnable for a reason.

I imagine you might agree there's already enough of it that does unfortunately happen in real life for us to not need more in videogames.

#31 Posted by TheHumanDove (2523 posts) -

In the old days, alcoholic characters were used in cinema as comedic relief and just light hearted fools. That said, spanking and abuse are completely different things so my first sentence might not apply.

#32 Edited by CornBREDX (5646 posts) -

It's more a thing in games than film. It depends on the director and writer for a movie if they care or not. Most Stephen King stories (and thusly films) have no problem harming kids or even putting kids in very compromising situations (just as an example).

With video games I suspect it's the fact that they are interactive and as such they need to draw the line. It's taboo for a reason. There's nothing lower than hurting children and it's kind of gross that you have a problem with it.

There are games though where kids get hurt or killed (boy and his blob, heart of darkness [which has brutal death animations], and some others I don't remember the name of at the moment). They are protagonists in those, though. There is little to no reason to have children as villains to be mowed down, though. If you feel a need for that you may need to see a psychologist about being a sociopath.

#33 Edited by syz (252 posts) -
@development said:

I think a lot of you guys underestimate our ability to become desensitized to anything at lightning speed.

Tell that to every soldier who comes home with PTSD.

Proximity to real life inhumanity has never stopped being distressing, and it never will be.

#34 Edited by L33T_HAXOR (313 posts) -

@tennmuerti said:

Fallout 1/2 fully allowed you to kill children (except in certain regional censored versions) but swiftly labeled your character a child killer which brought a lot of NPC hate on you.

The current Steam versions have the kids taken out entirely. Like the kids have been replaced with invisible sprites. I never had any desire to hurt the kids in Fallout, but now that I can't actually do it I think its fucking bullshit. Goddamn politicians ruin everything.

Deus Ex let you do it too.

#35 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5794 posts) -
#36 Posted by ArtisanBreads (3890 posts) -

I wonder why there aren't more games about fighting the handicapped as well. Good call OP.

#37 Edited by benpicko (2011 posts) -

I don't think it's really avoided in film is it? I'd imagine it's avoided in video games for the same reason a lot of controversial issues are avoided, and as a lot of people have said, in film it tends to be used as a rather dramatic point in the story, rather than something that just happens and is ignored from then on. In video games, if you just ran about massacring hordes of children for a while, before then moving back onto the story and being the hero it wouldn't quite work

#38 Edited by TruthTellah (9362 posts) -

@fredchuckdave: I'm pretty sure that video is exactly about how it's frowned upon. Sadly, it's often not stopped though. Fear and self-preservation often take precedence over people stepping in to stop such atrocities.

The point in this thread is that killing kids is egregious. We don't need more of -that- in videogames, do we? Does the added option of killing women and children sound like more fun than just killing adult men?

#39 Edited by syz (252 posts) -

Arguments from context are logically unsound. You cannot be willing to kill adult males but nobody else, or kill people for the sake of rescuing the girl from the tower but not just for the sake of doing it. If you're against depictions of murder it must be from the basis of murder being fundamentally morally indefensible.

You cannot pick and choose. Ethically speaking there is no separation between Mortal Kombat and Manhunt and Bioshock Infinite.

#40 Posted by Aetheldod (3642 posts) -

The fact that some of you consider children devoid of evil intent is quite baffling .... you know as I know that from really early age you know the difference between good deeds and bad ones , so dont give all this "they are innocent" bullcrap. As for the question itself , well evidently because taboos and what not and crazy expectations over inocence of the young etc. But how many times would it really matter in a game? Having real impact on the story etc ; rarely and most developers just try to circunvent that complication , heck they are getting enough flack as it is.

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#41 Posted by White (1386 posts) -

I feel like @truthtellah has the most reasonable answer so far. I'm not asking about violence in video games; that's not the point I'm getting at. I'm asking why is violence against children a taboo. Apparently other than being "politically sensitive", the only reasonable conclusion is that overpowering the powerless seems to be frowned upon.

But meh. Give me a break. As long as one has strength over another, it would always be a "strong overpowering the weak" scenario. This is part of our humanity; embrace it. Don't shun it.

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#42 Posted by Hamst3r (4530 posts) -

@truthtellah said:

I imagine you might agree there's already enough of it that does unfortunately happen in real life for us to not need more in videogames.

I do not agree. The pervasiveness of something in real-life, no matter how heinous, should not be used as the reason to avoid or censor the existence of that thing in fiction. Nothing should be off limits within the realm of fiction.

#43 Posted by TruthTellah (9362 posts) -

@syz: Are you referring to real life or videogames?

Because context matters a lot in videogames. Specifically, the context of it being a digital character and not a real person. Still, distinguishing between different kinds of characters and interactions in games is pretty important in the overall enjoyment and function of videogames.

#44 Posted by Gruebacca (535 posts) -

Children haven't fully developed yet. They don't have the fundamental understanding of what's good and what's bad. They're still innocent to how the world works. It's unfair to kill the children in Whiterun (who are absolute fucking assholes) because they're too young to know better. They're the product of their parents in more ways than not. It's more unfair to take a child's life than an adult's because children haven't even made it through the first basic stage of life. Children are not miniature adults. Unless the child is Stewie Griffith, people would be deeply affected by the murder of a child that was caused by them.

As for video games, our values in the real world translate to the virtual. That's all it is, really. If a game is going to allow you the power to kill young ones, then the game would have to punish us much more harshly for us to accept that.

#45 Posted by Nightriff (5161 posts) -

"Press X to Hide in Mass Grave of Children"

#46 Posted by TruthTellah (9362 posts) -
@white said:

I feel like @truthtellah has the most reasonable answer so far. I'm not asking about violence in video games; that's not the point I'm getting at. I'm asking why is violence against children a taboo. Apparently other than being "politically sensitive", the only reasonable conclusion is that overpowering the powerless seems to be frowned upon.

But meh. Give me a break. As long as one has strength over another, it would always be a "strong overpowering the weak" scenario. This is part of our humanity; embrace it. Don't shun it.

I think you're touching on the murkiness of justification. Most human beings struggle with the idea of when violence is necessary or even good, and that leads to degrees of justification. In general, abusing your power to harm the weak is "bad". Unfortunately, in scenarios like war, people often justify such power over the weaker due to the circumstances of a situation; usually, it's because "they are the enemy which poses a real threat to me(or my vision)".

These considerations tend to carry over into videogames, especially ones with distinct narratives or characters. Thus why open world games are usually the closest gaming gets to empowering players to be able to kill children. I personally don't see the appeal of wanting to be able to abuse or kill child characters in games, but it's certainly on a similar scale with the abuse and killing of any kind of character in games.

#47 Posted by HatKing (6034 posts) -

Mass Effect 3.

#48 Edited by White (1386 posts) -

@truthtellah said:
@white said:

I feel like @truthtellah has the most reasonable answer so far. I'm not asking about violence in video games; that's not the point I'm getting at. I'm asking why is violence against children a taboo. Apparently other than being "politically sensitive", the only reasonable conclusion is that overpowering the powerless seems to be frowned upon.

But meh. Give me a break. As long as one has strength over another, it would always be a "strong overpowering the weak" scenario. This is part of our humanity; embrace it. Don't shun it.

I think you're touching on the murkiness of justification. Most human beings struggle with the idea of when violence is necessary or even good, and that leads to degrees of justification. In general, abusing your power to harm the weak is "bad". Unfortunately, in scenarios like war, people often justify such power over the weaker due to the circumstances of a situation; usually, it's because "they are the enemy which poses a real threat to me(or my vision)".

Why is there even a need to rationalize this? Why do we need to contextualize whether the powerless we're oppressing is "bad" or good"? Those are just merely concepts we develop at our own convenience to justify ourselves for our actions; concepts that we freely alter as and when we need to give a positive justification. You're already killing someone. Doesn't matter what/who/how/where/why.

I'm really disappointed in humanity. We can overwhelm weaker enemy soldiers without guilt but killing a kitten or a child breaks our psyche.

How are we supposed to evolve if this keeps up?

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#49 Edited by TruthTellah (9362 posts) -
@hamst3r said:

@truthtellah said:

I imagine you might agree there's already enough of it that does unfortunately happen in real life for us to not need more in videogames.

I do not agree. The pervasiveness of something in real-life, no matter how heinous, should not be used as the reason to avoid or censor the existence of that thing in fiction. Nothing should be off limits within the realm of fiction.

I think the pervasiveness of something in real-life is a fine reason to decide to avoid it in your fiction. It doesn't mean you have to avoid it if it might assist in the story you're trying to tell, but it makes sense that people may decide to not include something in fiction which is in reality. It's fiction, after all.

Nothing should be off limits within the realm of fiction, but if creators of fiction decide they don't want things in their fiction, I would say that's as valid as any other decision they make in designing their creation.

I may not see many compelling reasons for wanting child abuse and murder to show up in more games, but I would not be in favor of banning it. I don't see a need for having players do their taxes in more games or splitting up titles into bundles of expensive DLC either, but if someone decided they could make it fit well into their vision for a game, then that's their right to do.

#50 Edited by Dan_CiTi (3386 posts) -

Because they are children. Depiction of violence of any kind against children, especially from non-children is toxic, vile, and generally repulsive. But hey, it is a thing you can do...it is just a completely negative thing. Children are underdeveloped physically, mentally naive, and generally inexperienced. Anyway this thread is pretty silly/ridiculous.