Violence and Video Games

Yes, it’s that time of the year again. Another discussion about violence in video games. This time however, the discussion is not led by hypocritical media or lazy parents, no, it’s the venerable Warren Spector himself.

But is he right?
Rabidgames deems: Yes, and no.

Yes, there are games where we see only violence for its own sake – and honestly, it has become boring at best and tedious at worst. Just take a look at Max Payne 3 – you always blow the last guy in a room to pieces. Given the fact one level in Max Payne 3 has roughly 248 rooms, half your playtimes goes into slow-mo cams of dying bad guys. If you don’t know what Rabidgames is talking about, have a look at one of the many Max Payne 3 Killcam videos you can find:

And seeing some close-up killings from Sam Fisher or from Agent 47 in some of the E3 trailers, it really seems this kind of violence is just a means to attract the combined forces of Michael Bay watchers and Call of Duty gamers – “look, blood, headshots and  a shitload of explosions. Yay!” In all those games, violence is nothing but a cheap selling point to promote a game – and of course, the most brutal image, the goriest decapitation, the slowest slitting of a throat will always win. Speaking of Call of Duty, Battlefield and all those generic war shooters – do people really believe that’s what war is like: Colourful explosions everywhere, and one Nolan North lookalike hero riding the winds of nuclear fire, freeing princess America to ride off into a black, white and blue sunset? Really?

It’s not violence itself which is the problem, it is the depiction of violence, the humanisation of murder, the glorification of war. And we are right to blame Rockstar for the sensational grisliness of Max Payne 3 – after all, Rockstar is one of the few companies which can handle violence in a mature way. Look at Red Dead Redemption or L.A. Noire, and compare their stories, characters and adult violence to the adolescent and meaningless bloodbaths in Max Payne 3. And still, Max Payne 3 is roughly 10 levels above the numb and dumb yet patriotic and heroic cardboard slaughter feasts in contemporary military shooters … So publishers still have to prove the world they can deliver the gaming equivalent to Apocalypse Now. Yes, we need a serious anti-war game.

On the other hand, though, violence can perfectly fine. Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row, Mortal Kombat, Bulletstorm … all those games are what the likes of Tarantino, Rodriguez or the Coen brothers are to movies: Sometimes you want mindless fun, and then you get it. However, not one sane person on earth would ever take Kill Bill seriously – so why do people whine about the violence in GTA? It ain’t real, folks. It’s not even meant to be taken seriously.

Rabidgames finishes: It’s not the whole video game industry which has to grow up. What we need is a great game which tells a compelling story with characters you care about – and it must contain some really intense violence, too. But that violence should really shock you instead of just making you laugh at the screen. And then there’s this light-hearted violence in video games which has always been there and it will always be there. Why? Cos it’s fun, simple as that.


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