So one of the usual discussions on games is this sort of thing and I thought why not get more peoples opinion. This originally came about due to everyone talking about Bioshock Infinite (please no spoilers ;) ).
So violence in video games. It is something to worry about slightly. When you try and tell friends/family about a game you may be playing and how amazing it is, realistically should you be saying how the game is amazing because you can “no scope 360″ someone from across the map? or “the screen splatters with their blood”? Not really, not even close.
Violence is within all of us, and it’s there from the beginning, I mean you have to teach children to share and play with each other because initially they might batter the other kid for trying to play with the build-a-blocks or whatever children do now-a-days. We all get angry and very few know how to vent it, some unfortunately decide to throw things (maybe their controller) or hit walls but hopefully not others. Some people look to games to vent, look at http://www.gamessavedmylife.com/ and you’ll see that everyday people use games to release stress or let go of anger due to the violence in the game or the message that it conveys.
A while back I wrote 2 game reviews, the very first two I actually ever wrote and they were about Far Cry 3 and Spec Ops The Line, little did I know how much these 2 games were actually bucking the trend of violence vs the player. In fact recently 2 writers from both those games did several pieces on http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/talking about the future of games and how they dealt with the systems that game designers put in place and also how they met head on the issues of; What happens after the fight? It is a good question, what happens when your character stops, when they give up, when they retire. How does Commander Sheppard deal with all the violence he’s seen? In fact recently I finished Halo 4 for the first time and a line that stuck out beautifully was “Find out which one of us is the machine”. It came from Cortana (Jen Taylor) and it struck a chord with this theme I feel. The Master Chief has been slaughtering his way across galaxies and through several Halos, is maybe the rampancy that Cortana is going through a foreboding for what may come for Master Chief?
Now some games deal with violence not in a serious, what happens manner, but just a funny manner. Who really feels bad at Borderlands? No-one because its imbibed with humour, it detracts from the rather serious fact that you are still massacring your way through swaths of humans.
Obviously games try to rationalise what the player does (or at least many good games do), i.e. there is a just cause for this, there is a war, people were wronged, what they’re doing isn’t right etc. Now I had a conversation with my friend about Lord of the Rings which I feel applies here too, he said that “people want to live in middle earth because its painted in a very beautiful way, but more so because the lines between good and evil are clear and absolute”. Now many of the games i’ve played walk that line too, there seems to be little middle ground, think CoD people are on your side or evil. I’d be much more interested to play, instead of a cool game like Far Cry 3 or Spec Ops The Line, a game where characters have their own intentions and aren’t necessarily fighting for you or the other side, because the world isn’t black and white, not everything is right and wrong, we like to think they are but people have cause and motivation and they aren’t always wrong, however thats another discussion.
Obviously some games don’t deal with death but they do violence, imagine Pokemon or Sonic, you fight and battle other pokemon/eggman but they don’t die. Whose to say which is worse? However I do feel that games that avoid violence or at least avoid fighting proper stick in your mind more, I still remember Abe’s Odyssey from when I was a child, and you never fought in that game, it was a puzzler with deadly consequences, Jet Set Radio was a game where violence was replaced with paint and art instead of bullets and guns, Portal admittedly uses a gun but not for nefarious purposes.
I feel like a fair bit of the violence we see in games today is actually up to the player. I played through the entirety of Mirrors Edge without killing anyone because my thought process was “They’re accusing me of being something I’m not, so i’ll prove to them how wrong they are” not “Well they think i’m a killer so i’ll just have fun with it”. Its an important distinction, I recently wrote a review on the way I played Dishonored as thats another game that gives the player the choice to be good or bad and pays the player with a difference in the way the game plays out. When I was young an RTS essentially meant all that happened was I build up the biggest army I could and then flooded the enemies encampment with 10x their soldier count, however a great popular example that counteracts that is Civ 5 (with a DLC coming introducing 9 new Civs, and a couple new victory paths) where you can have a cultural victory, not necessarily a military one.
Overall I think violence is probably used too much by game developers and they may try to distract us from it by justifying it or making it somehow amusing or okay, but ultimately I think it comes down to the player choice in games where they do have one. Does the player just mimic what they’ve done for everything else, or do they make a conscious decision to take the high road and win not through body count but through actions.
Thanks for Reading ;) Please feel free to check out: http://willza99.wordpress.com/ for my reviews and hopefully more discussions like this in the future :)