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Old 07-06-2010, 11:01 PM   #1
RandomRob
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Violence, a rant

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 kinda sucks.

Is violence in games more pervasive now than it was 20 years ago.


No.


But not because there's less violence in games, it's just that we're jaded from 20 years of it.
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Old 07-07-2010, 03:22 AM   #2
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Re: Violence, a rant

I think violence has hardly changed in games. The visuals got better, while the responsible persons for the narrative still seem overstrained in most cases to write stories that work for 5 or more hours, so some don't even try hard.

I don't think it's a bigger "problem" than splatter movies are for movies. Ultraviolent and violent games are still the minority, as is Saw, Hostel ... respectively Crank, AvP ...

Do i think death shouldn't matter? No.
But it don't has to in every game. And when it doesn't matter it's no murder sim it's what games are about: playing according to the rules of it and maybe beating it.
That's my reason why i don't like CoD anymore. It could have so easily a good story but it just wants to be game, a simple minded game with bombastic drama were i am not concerned with its figures (characters would be the wrong word).
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Old 07-09-2010, 07:49 PM   #3
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Re: Violence, a rant

I couldn't say if games have more violence, but they definitely have more gore.
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Old 07-11-2010, 12:55 AM   #4
Richard Naik
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Re: Violence, a rant

Nice work Rob. As I've said before, a coherent story is often a secondary concern in games simply because most games aren't carried by their story, thus the lack of contexts of consequence as you call it. I have no problem at all with violence in media, but violence for the sake of violence (see: God of War 3) is a cop-out.
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Old 07-11-2010, 02:35 AM   #5
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Re: Violence, a rant

I have often been disurbed by all of the forced violence. For decades, I have been forced to kill ALL of my enemies.

If I had a dollar, for every game that forced me to murder every single thing on screen, before the exit would magically open... I would have enough to buy a fancy new TV.

I can remember so many times, I would make it through a level, only to find the exit locked. And the reason it was still locked, was because some where there was one stray guard I had not killed.

There were other games, where I painstakingly snuck past a guy (in a non-stealth game) only to find that killing him was required to proceed (for no reason).

Its the basic mechanic in most games, that you have to kill to win. Normally the only games that considers doing something else, are really deeply story driven games.

I would like to see more action games, where you are not required to murder everything you see.
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Old 07-11-2010, 05:26 AM   #6
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Re: Violence, a rant

Quote:
Originally Posted by joetbd View Post
I would like to see more action games, where you are not required to murder everything you see.
You just summed up everything I was saying in one sentence. Yes!
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Old 07-12-2010, 03:38 AM   #7
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Re: Violence, a rant

Quote:
Originally Posted by joetbd View Post
I would like to see more action games, where you are not required to murder everything you see.
Deus Ex allows to completely play through without killing anyone.
In Splinter Cell 1 i played the first 3 or 4 levels without shooting anyone, but then lost patience...
I think Vampire Bloodlines would allow a lot of quests to be solved by choosing the right answers, but there are segments where you only can survive by killing.
Mirrors Edge can be played without shooting. I can't remember if the guys are just knocked out or killed by disarming attacks.

Anyone knows other games? Or is this really it?
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