Violence (noun): Physical force exerted for the purpose of violating, damaging, or abusing.
Is violence in games more pervasive now than it was 20 years ago?
I remember back in the early 80's playing a game on my friend Michael's Apple II called the Bilestoad
You controlled a gladiator in overhead view and would slowly make running passes at another gladiator, swinging your axe. The game used it's own primitive physics, ran slowly, but allowed you to hack off enemy limbs. It didn't look very realistic, but it was enough. It was an injoke that we knew what was going on... parent walked in, 'what's that?'.. 'oh, nothing.. it's a fighting game'...
"Fighting game" is something most parents figured out when Mortal Kombat II
came home on the Super NES years later. Suddenly there was a big problem because you had silly, juven-arty death animations that had moms calling one another. The injoke of that game was knowing some 10 button combination to get a character to pull off a move, and not just one combo, but whole long-ass laundry lists of them. Violent imagery increased, but at the expense of gaming. I never thought of Mortal Kombat as a game- it seemed more like a primitive mo-cap novelty item more than anything. It did sell a lot of units, and many reviewers of the time hailed it as a great game...
Tonight I was playing Prototype
and asking myself what exactly I enjoy about it- it's definitely a guilty pleasure of a game. When it comes down to it, I really like the feeling of being overpowered and dangerous in a quiet moment of the game where I'm just observing things. Not the violence as much as knowing I can. And then, ultimately going on a pointless rampage and throwing a car off a roof at a fleeing crowd of innocent bystanders.
Bad boy. The injoke of Prototype is knowing I'm old enough to know it's a bad game.
Is that the progression, though? Games use violence to sell. The market goes from selling primarily to kids 20 years ago, now to 30 something adults. And with that 'adultness' we get more options for how to kill within the framework of games where violence is the only way to interact with the environment.
More options. Today's games have more options for graphic violence than they used to. You can have moments like in Red Dead Redemption
where you accidentally do an execution kill on a bystander, choke holding them while shooting them through the back. Oops. But if you save a dog, your morality gauge will recover. Handy thing, that.
..he wouldn't hurt a fly...
Film uses different points of view to situate us with the killer or the victim, depending on the narrative, but in videogames we're usually always
the killer, good cause or bad. Since you can't moralize on killing when it's all you get to do, you can't get involved in a narrative. Judgment has to be placed somewhere, as an audience, we don't react in a void. It should be important when people die - if it's not, then we're not really playing games, we're playing abuse and murder sims, right?
When I played Valkyria Chronicles, often at first I would reboot a map if I lost a character I liked, but after a while, I realized that the game became alot more involving when I accepted that I lost someone. My poor tactical decisions had real consequences for my team.
There's alot to be said for that.
Every giant you destroy in Shadow of the Colossus is bringing you closer to a fated death, and redemption. That's meaningful.
Violence can have great effects within a game narrative, if games are brave enough to have narrative. Death of Aeris in Final Fantasy VII. That was the shot heard round the world for gamers.
If you create contexts of consequence, you get a meaningful narrative. If not, you get crap.
And you really have to wonder why entertainment as expensive as videogames are gets bankrolled all the more heavily when the game is a vehicle for bloody violence. Violence perceived as a problem of the children who end up playing the game, not the developers who made it. I don't mean to sound puritanical, there's plenty of good games on the market, and I can have fun with a game like Prototype, but I also feel that making a living by following a company line that violent games without contexts of consequence are acceptable entertainment
Is violence in games more pervasive now than it was 20 years ago.
But not because there's less violence in games, it's just that we're jaded from 20 years of it.