Note: This is a response to Allistar Pinsof's piece "David Cage is wrong: Violence is essential", which you can find here: http://www.destructoid.com/david-cage-is-wrong-violence-is-essential-244548.phtml
First of all, I canít say I fully agree with David Cageís views on the industry, although I do think thereís a need for innovation and exploration of new themes, but I think that Cage, like other videogame gurus such as Peter Molyneux, are a bit out of touch with everything that is going on in the industry. That and the fact that both of them speak very eloquently about how games should be and then go on to make games that are acceptable at best, making all their initial claims rather meaningless.
That said, letís get down to the actual response.
I think the main misinterpretation that annoys me about those defending violence in videogames as something that shouldnít change (at least for the moment) is the idea that if big publishers start investing in games where violence doesnít have the main role, somehow violent videogames will cease to exist; there will be no yearly CoDís around and we will all be condemned to pressing W while a bunch of pretentious crap is thrown at our face. Let me quote him here:
ď[...] weíve suffered too many boring, navel-gazing indie games that are based on the theories that Spector and Cage now preach. The idea of a talented designer-following suit with a multimillion dollar project, an edge case should one like it ever exist, is too much to bear.Ē
Well, that was a sudden injection of subjectivity. The number of relatively popular games based on exploration and that have an absence of violence can be counted with the fingers of my hand. How can you possibly imply that there have been too many of them? And in favor of what? Violent videogames? If you look through any game collection from this generation you can hardly see a cover where the protagonist isnít wielding a weapon. Non-violent videogames are the exception, not the rule. How can you be so close minded that you canít even bear the existence of something out of what you consider interesting?
There are books about everything, there are movies about everything, there are songs about everything, yet you defend that games should be exclusively about violence or stuff that can enable violence to exist? How can somebody who claims to love videogames want itís medium to be so centered around a single element? Who would want the medium they love to be so constricted in the limits of itís creative expression? Which brings me to the next big misinterpretation in your article: The idea that artís primary objective is immersion.
But thatís not what art is. Yes, immersion plays a role in any artistic creation, but itís not itís core, itís not itís reason of being. What is in the core of any artistic creation is expression. Creativity, inventiveness, imagination. Itís the exploration of these ideas that engenders art, not the other way around.
ďAction can exist without violence (harm against another thing), but there is no more immersive action than violence. Would Journey have been a more compelling experience if the player wielded a shotgun and gunned down hordes of enemies? Yes, it would have; but it wouldn't have maintained the same tone and sense of space. In other words, it wouldn't have been Journey.Ē
Exactly. The reason Journey is being recognized almost universally as a relevant piece of art is because it manages to express something, and it does so through itís own language. That is transcendence, that is meaningful, that is engaging. Or at least it is for me. Maybe testing the velocity of your eye-hand coordination while watching enemies die is more engaging to you, and I would respect that, I donít mind blowing some heads off once in a while myself, but donít talk as if what you find compelling or immersive is by definition what all gamers should find compelling or immersive. In fact, I think that the reason videogames are looked down upon as an art form is greatly influenced by the abundance of violence as the main theme and interaction. Now, weíve seen the videogame market expand a lot in the last few years; people of all ages have played videogames in one form or another. The level of violence in those games is surprisingly low though. I guess most people donít find violence so engaging after all.
Another misinterpretation is that games need 3d sci-fi like technology in order to convey something other than ďshoot the evil terrorist, heís really badĒ, and that because games are in a screen and are controlled with physical devices, they canít be truly engaging. Well, what about movies then? What about books? How is it possible that an audiovisual interactive medium canít possibly express more while a medium based on putting ink over some paper is the main source of creative expression and information of the history of humankind?
Yes, videogames are necessarily spacial, and like everything else, they need some sort of conflict in order to remain interesting, but that conflict by no means has to have to do with violence. Scoring a goal on a football game, solving a mystery on an adventure game, building a tower in Minecraft, or ascending with an unknown partner towards Journeyís end, can be just as or even more engaging an experience as you seem to think violent videogames are. Also, we have seen how violence creates immersion. It is a one-way street, but non-violent videogames are just starting to explore how to create engaging experiences through mainly non-violent activities, and the possibilities are much less limited, or dare I say it, limitless. Maybe in a future game youíll play a bird that has to migrate, crossing entire continents while resisting the harsh weather and managing the limited resources. Maybe youíll play a paparazzi that has to infiltrate private parties, or a historical figure who decides to do things differently. Maybe you want to be pointing and shooting for the rest of your life. Well, some of us donít.