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Dear Industry: I Am Not a Psychopath

by Handy   //   6:20 PM on 08.13.2012

(Back to blogging! Itís been far too long, after another stint in the hospital and some minor surgery Iím finally feeling well enough to start writing again, if all goes well I can keep it up semi-regularly again.)

(Iím sure youíre thrilled)


Hey games industry, how ya been? Itís been a while, havenít seen you around lately, the summer lull I guess. Listen thereís something I wanted to talk to you about, the way youíve been acting lately is kind of...concerning. I hear youíve been coming home later and later these nights, youíre covered in cuts and bruises, youíre starting random fights, in the face of violence you donít seem scared or aggressive anymore, youíre just nonchalant about it, itís getting kind of creepy. Also, Iím going to stop talking to you like youíre a person now, because thatís also getting kind of creepy, and this is starting to sound like an abusive relationship break up blog.

So yeah, violence, arguably a cornerstone of gaming, after all most games are about overcoming obstacles to achieve a goal, and killing things is a really fun obstacle to overcome, so whatís the problem? Well, in my humble-as-a-cottage-with-self-esteem-issues opinion, the depiction of violence has gotten way out of hand as of late, to the point of stupidity actually, half the trailers out there seem to follow the same distinct and disappointing pattern. We start with a slow build up, setting the tone, building tension and interest, probably lots of CG, things are going well, then the gameplay footage kicks in, and heads start exploding, and people get impaled in slow motion, and tomahawks meet faces, Iím not really sure what happens after that because my eyes tend to roll back so far I can actually see my brain cells dying, but all I can recall before I pass out is the faint whisper of dubstep in my ear. The point is, ultraviolence has become a scarily commonplace thing in gaming.



I really hate to use that word, ďultraviolenceĒ is the kind of sensationalist term reserved by the Daily Mail to depict Marioís treatment of turtles, but there really is no other suitable phrase. This isnít a realistic portrayal of violence, Iíd encourage that, these are games that, for lack of a better term, luxuriate in it, they relish in their own gratuitous sadism, they think itís cool, and whatís worse, they think we think itís cool. Even the more tame games still come across as disturbing when compared to other media, shoot a guy in any generic FPS these days and the wound explodes with a giant red glob like he was a suicide bomber on a practice run with jam jars strapped to his chest, giant geysers of blood erupt from bullet holes, in the world of gaming blood meeting metal reacts in the same way as Coca-Cola and Polos, God forbid you shoot someone in the head, lest the game stop everything , go into slow motion, change camera angles, and show us in detail what a cranium being penetrated looks like as a reward for our accuracy.

It just cheapens everything, it cheapens the experience, it cheapens our actions, it cheapens death, and it cheapens their profit margins because the game gets rated higher and reaches a smaller audience. Who does it help? It cheapens gaming, just imagine for a second that you know nothing of games, itís just not your thing, you hear about the hottest new game everybodyís playing and the first picture you see is this....


Judging from his face I guess weíre both supposed to be getting off on this.

This is where the myth of games making people violent comes from, of course we all know its rubbish and games donít affect peopleís behaviour, but if you look at it from an outside perspective can you really blame them for coming to that conclusion? Itís really easy to connect those dots. Weíve become desensitized to violence in games, we do so much fucked up shit, I just killed a priest and ate him in Skyrim, and that gameís somewhat subdued with the violence. Have you seen footage of Dishonoured? For a game that promises a pacifist playthrough they sure love stabbing people in the face. From what I played of Condemned 2 itís a game dedicated to caving in the heads of homeless people with blunt objects. Dead Space replaced actual horror with gore porn. At one point in God of War 3 I thumbed in a manís eyeballs!



This is what weíve come to, slow-mo x-ray cross sections of Nazis getting shot in the balls.
Also the DLC is historically inaccurate as Hitler only had one testicle.

Iím not against ultraviolence in and of itself, but games like Mortal Kombat and Gears of War can only get away with going that far because thereís a level of self awareness there, they know theyíre being superfluous and over the top, camp even. But a game canít take itself seriously if they go that far, Prototype 2 was filled with relentless gore, the secret government wetworks organisation was full of rednecks who constantly talked about enjoying civilian massacres and slipped ďfuckiníĒ into every sentence, the game is desperate to look mature and comes across like it was written by a fourteen year old for all its effort. The only good line in the entire game involves a threat to ďsoul fuckĒ someone and thatís only good because itís the one time the game acknowledges how thoroughly horrible your actions are.



All the Jonny Cash in the world canít make this not stupid

Iíll admit I laughed the first time I shot someone in Fallout and his head flew off and rolled down a hill, but after the four hundredth time it gets old, you phase it out, and when someone walks in and sees my non-reaction to it I look mental. Graham Linehan once said that he vastly prefers playing Driver to GTA because of the simple fact that in Driver pedestrians will always jump out of the way, not only does it evoke the feel of seventies cop shows and movies, reinforcing the games themes and aesthetics, but itís guilt free. Whereas getting from A to B in GTA involves watching peopleís heads thunk of my windshield in all the bonecracking glory of the Euphoria engine, then Niko Bellic complains about the ďcrazy AmericansĒ before agreeing to kill the boyfriend of a mob bossí daughter because he doesnít like him, for fifty dollars. Itís a bit jarring.



So please Games Industry, stop treating me like a psychopath, I enjoy a good power fantasy as much as the next guy, but stop making me feel like a total bastard. Youíre embarrassing yourself, all the blood and guts comes across as desperate pandering, the videogame equivalent of a backwards cap and sunglasses, youíre better than this, weíre better than this, give us and yourself a little credit, show some class and tone it down a bit.

Except for the Tomb Raider reboot, because I like to imagine that all the knocks Lara gets in the prequel is setting up why she hates nature so much and spent the last ten games shooting endangered species.Photo Photo Photo view gallery
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