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Violence

Shao Kahn vs. M. Bison photo
Shao Kahn vs. M. Bison

Who would win: Shao Kahn or M. Bison?


Closest thing to Mortal Kombat X Street Fighter we'll ever get
Jun 28
// Tony Ponce
We're never going to get that Mortal Kombat / Street Fighter crossover, so what are we to do? Harness our "Imagination," that's what! ScrewAttack's DEATH BATTLE! pits the big bosses of the MK and SF universes against one ano...
John Stossel wins photo
John Stossel wins

John Stossel wins the violent videogames argument


Fox News host uses this funny thing called 'logic'
Jun 22
// Tony Ponce
It's not every day that you can say a Fox News personality makes a rational argument regarding any of today's hottest trends and hobbies, but stranger things have happened. In a recent segment of his talk show, John Stossel ...
Pac-Man noir photo
Pac-Man noir

Pac-Man, the cocky, pinstripe suit-wearing noir hero


Cock of the walk
May 25
// Tony Ponce
A hyper-stylized version of Pac-Man that exaggerates the violence of the rather tame arcade original? Yeah, we've gone down that road before. "Goodnight Sweet Pakman" may be no different in that regard, but I can't stop watching the opening 40 seconds over and over again. That A Night at the Roxbury head bob gets me every single time! Goodnight Sweet Pakman [YouTube]
Rockstar photo
Rockstar

Ex-GTA producer won't make another ultra-violent game


Jeremy Pope happier making games that focus on player interaction
May 20
// Alasdair Duncan
When you work on titles like Grand Theft Auto III and Max Payne, you've clearly been exposed to a healthy amount of videogame violence but it was this experience that prompted a change of heart for former Rockstar producer Je...
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Biden: No legal reason why 'violent' games can't be taxed


Vice President tells Reverend Asshole that'd be just fine
May 14
// Jim Sterling
Vice President Joe Biden recently had a meeting with religious leaders to discuss gun control, and violent media was discussed. God forbid we don't obfuscate the gun discussion with more demented strawmen.  Reverend Fran...
Red Dead vs. Metal Gear photo
Red Dead vs. Metal Gear

John Marston vs. Revolver Ocelot's ridiculous mustache


The gunslingers of Red Dead Redemption and Metal Gear Solid duke it out
May 13
// Tony Ponce
John Marston: outlaw turned hero of the Old West. Revolver Ocelot: two-faced Russian gunslinger with a flair for the dramatic. What happens when these two square off in a a shootout to the death? Ocelot wins. Duh. What, was ...
Violence promoted blog photo
Violence promoted blog

Promoted blog: In defense of violence


Promoted from our Community Blogs!
May 11
// Revuhlooshun
[For his Bloggers Wanted essay response, Destructoid community blogger Revuhlooshun goes to bat for violent games, then uses that bat to smash a bunch of shit. Want to see your own words appear on the front page? Go write som...
Electronic Arts photo
Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts distancing itself from gun manufacturers


Plans to use branded weapons without licenses going forward
May 08
// Kyle MacGregor
Electronic Arts is distancing itself from the gun industry. Well, sort of. The publisher plans to cut ties with gun manufacturers while still using branded weapons in its future titles. In the past, EA has approached gun comp...
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Boy tries to rape mom, kills her, over Call of Duty ban


Uses the gun he was given at 11-years-old
May 04
// Jim Sterling
A 14-year-old boy from rural Iowa has been charged with first degree murder after shooting his mother with a .22 caliber rifle he received as a present. Noah Crooks, who was 13 at the time, attempted to rape his mother i...
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Guardian: Over half of 2012's top 50 games are violent


Apparently Super Mario 3D Land is violent
May 02
// Dale North
The Guardian has put together this very slick interactive infographic using their analysis of the top 50 videogames of 2012. They found that more than half of the top games of last year contain violent labeling as assigned by...
Call of Duty photo
Call of Duty

PBS asks: Is buying Call of Duty a moral choice?


Videogames!
Apr 16
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
PBS's latest Here's An Idea series takes a look at videogames that feature real portrayals of guns such as Call of Duty, Battlefield, and the like and asks whether buying these type of games is a moral choice. It brings up many interesting points, including how game companies have to pay gun makers licenses in order to represent their real guns in videogames. What do you think?
Bloggers Wanted photo
Bloggers Wanted

Bloggers Wanted: Ultra violence?


Get your blog on Destructoid's front page!
Apr 14
// Mr Andy Dixon
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write a response, and you may see your blog promoted to the front page!] There's been a lot of talk lately ab...

Why does BioShock Infinite need to be non-violent?

Apr 12 // Jim Sterling
BioShock Infinite is a game about violence. It's not just a game about racism, or religion, or any of the other "heady" themes it touches upon. The floating city of Columbia is a city steeped in blood, visited by a protagonist with a past of brutality, rescuing a woman who is, in many ways, a product of humanity's most selfish and oppressive traits. Like BioShock before it, violent acts are a key, fundamental, crucial part of the experience. To demand the option of sidestepping such a thing is to miss perhaps the strongest narrative element of the game.  Ludonarrative dissonance is brought up in discussion, as if the gameplay and the story are somehow conflicting. This is so far from the truth, I have to believe those using the term don't understand the game at all. There's no dissonance, not like there potentially was in the recently released Tomb Raider. In Tomb Raider, Lara Croft is presented as an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances, as vulnerable as any of us would be -- traumatically wounded in cutscenes, nowhere near as strong and experienced as the vicious inhabitants of the island she's stranded on. The gameplay contradicts this by way of violent empowerment, giving players access to machine guns, fire arrows, grenades, and a plethora of excessively nasty stealth kills. There is a very clear difference between Lara's story, and Lara's interactive behavior. This is ludonarrative dissonance.  By contrast, Infinite's Booker DeWitt is a war veteran, whose activities at Wounded Knee were excessive even by the generally horrific standards of the massacre. Though he feels guilt for what he did, he's a violent man at heart, who inescapably resorts to butchery to solve his problems, and he's in a city that, while beautiful and charming at first glance, soon bares its teeth and reveals a world ruled by a man whose acclimation to force rivals that of the protagonist. It's violence meets violence, and the result can only be more violence. This is quite the opposite of ludonarrative dissonance -- it's an integration of story and gameplay rarely seen in even the very best videogames. Ludonarrative dissonance does not, by the way, mean "violence." The term has been bandied about a lot lately, and I'm growing more convinced that many people using it do not appreciate what the term means. If they did, they wouldn't use it as an interchangeable term for "combat" like they do. The violence does not contradict the story in any way. The excess of the violence is not going against the narrative established. It sounds smart to use the term, but only if you misunderstand BioShock Infinite's plot. Misunderstanding it is the only way you could believe there's any dissonance at play.  The violence witnessed in Columbia is excessive because it has to be -- when his blood is up and enemies are at their weakest, Booker carves them up in unbelievably horrific ways. He expresses a dissatisfaction with his history of combat, and yet is frequently reminded by other characters that, deep down, he's a cold-blooded killer. Even as Booker protests, he's being fed victims by the likes of Slate and Fink, who set out to prove he's exactly the man he claims he's not. Booker's claims of regret ring hollow when he's mashing faces to pieces with his whirly claw of death -- and they're supposed to. His entire story is one of denial, of claiming he's better than those around him, and ultimately, devastatingly, being proven wrong. That first time he gladly grinds a spinning metal claw into somebody's face is the first clue that Booker's claims of putting his past behind him are bullshit.  In fact, giving Booker the option of non-violent discourse would in fact be the very dissonance some people claim to dislike. That goes against everything natural to Booker, and everything natural to Columbia. This is not a world of reason, and the "peace keepers" of Father Comstock's oppressive will are not rational individuals, out for a debate. They're fanatical, paranoid, dangerous people, and stopping to have a chat with them would simply not make sense. Likewise, the hero is a man who kills, who does stupid things without thinking them through, and ultimately proves everybody right when they say he's a monster. His story would not work if he reached the conclusion with nothing but speech checks to his name. Furthermore, though some may think it a "shame" that the otherwise beautiful environment of Columbia gets torn apart by conflict, the downfall of the city is crucial to the story. Columbia is Stepford -- a smiling, bright, utterly artificial society, based upon the visually resplendent but cheaply contrived White City of Chicago, built in 1905. Like White City, Columbia is a place of surface-level beauty with a dark side (the cheap plaster buildings of White City looked gorgeous, yet were stalked by the sadistic serial killer H.H. Holmes). We're supposed to realize that Columbia is a fake, a sham, with an atmosphere of horror under its manufactured surface. In reality, the city is a heavily armed, potentially apocalyptic weapon. We're introduced to this fact early on in the game, and we're supposed to realize that underneath the gloss, there's nothing but sheer ugliness.  It strikes me as wholly ironic that we're picking on BioShock Infinite to make our point about violence, when it's more justified here than anywhere else. Even the brilliant Half-Life 2 has to ignore its own backstory to make sense as a game. Gordon Freeman, as pointed out by the antagonist Dr. Breen, is a theoretical physicist. He's not a super soldier, he's not magic, he's just a doctor -- yet the only evidence of this ability is his plugging a machine into a wall socket. The rest of the game is about firing rockets, smashing zombies with crowbars, and sucking up dead bodies to throw at brainwashed soldiers. Similarly, the Uncharted series is borderline creepy when you stop to consider how Nathan Drake is just looking for treasure, yet guns down hundreds upon hundreds of human beings while making wisecracks. We have to compartmentalize a lot when we play story-driven games -- and yet BioShock Infinite is one of the few (outside of war games) where we don't, and here we are singling it out as the example of why violent gameplay doesn't work. Talk about a total misfire. Those asking for a non-violent BioShock Infinite are asking for a different game entirely, an issue made doubly silly when you realize such games already exist. If you want a shooter with more player choice, with less violent options, with chances to talk down the antagonists, you have Deus Ex. That kind of player agency is something Deus Ex excels at, because that's part of the series' core philosophy.BioShock has never tried to do that, never led anybody to believe it would do that, and I don't understand where people suddenly started thinking it would. BioShock's core philosophy does not include that level of player agency, that level of non-aggression. It never has. It wouldn't work for Infinite's story if it did.  Not every game needs player choice. Not every game needs a non-violent path. To ask for such things in a game designed entirely around violence is to ask for yet more homogenization in games, to want every single game to cater to everybody at all times. That's the same attitude that sees multiplayer options shoehorned into otherwise excellent solo experiences. You may believe your motives are more high-minded, but the result is the same. You want to crack and break a game to fit your one template for creative success.  Gaming pundits have a history of insecurity. We worry what "they" will think of videogames, we fret over what "they" will think of gamers. I'm not sure who "they" are, these ever-faceless societal judges who apparently witness and condemn every little thing we do, but we need to get over our fear of them. People saying the violence in BioShock Infinite is "embarrassing" betray their own lack of esteem for the medium, concerned as they are with what other people might think, and disregarding the fact that many of humanity's greatest artistry -- from the plays of Shakespeare to the many paintings depicting Jesus Christ's death -- are soaked in and driven by violence. We're a violent species, and that is reflected in much of our art. That's not say all art is violent, but it does say that, if you're reading Sophie's Choice and wishing it was a choose-your-own-adventure, you're looking for the wrong kind of art in the wrong kind of place.  BioShock Infinite is not your game if you want a non-violent exploration of its themes, because Infinite's themes revolve around violence as a core concept. It may not be to your taste, and you may have many other issues with BioShock Infinite's story, but to complain about its violence, as if only non-violent art can credibly explore "mature" ideas, makes you sound less mature than you think you sound. Your argument is shallow, hinged upon the idea that violence in art is simply wrong, and automatically undoes anything else such art tries to do. That is not true. Violence may be all-too prevalent in videogames, but that doesn't make it bad, it doesn't make it pointless, and it doesn't undo anything -- especially when it's thoroughly justified.  So why does BioShock Infinite need to be less violent? It doesn't. It simply does not. Not for the game it successfully manages to be, and the story is expertly manages to tell. I am glad the conversations about game content are finally happening ... but pick an actual good example, people!
Violent BioShock Infinite photo
'It always ends in blood'
"I want a BioShock where we have the OPTION to resolve confrontation without the use of guns," said one gamer to me today. As I consider his comment, I can't help but think more and more it's like saying you want a Metal Gear...

Chainsaw Pogo Gorilla photo
Chainsaw Pogo Gorilla

I-Mockery's next game is Bionic Chainsaw Pogo Gorilla


Man's greatest question answered
Apr 11
// Tony Ponce
Last year, fans of I-Mockery's irreverent brand of pop culture humor were treated to Abobo's Big Adventure, a mashup of all things NES starring the muscle-bound Double Dragon boss Abobo. As hilarious as Abobo's Big Adventure ...
Violent videogames photo
Violent videogames

Denied the chance to steal, people turn to violent games


A little gaming carnage makes everything better
Apr 03
// Taylor Stein
A new study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University explores the relationship between criminality, frustration, and violent videogames, reports Science Daily. Based on a series of experiments, Brad Bushman and his c...
Mega64 photo
Mega64

Mega64 beats the sh*t out of one another


OUCH!
Apr 02
// Tony Ponce
I haven't played Hotline Miami yet. I haven't played many games yet. I'm so buried in backlog that I wonder if it's even worth buying anything new when I barely even touch the stuff I do buy. But that's a discussion for anot...
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Marketers wanted guns on Beyond: Two Souls promo art


Quantic 'categorically refused' generic action artwork
Mar 22
// Jim Sterling
Beyond: Two Souls had to fight to stop its promo art being reduced to a character holding a gun like 90% of the rest of videogame advertising, Quantic Dream recently revealed. Had marketers had their way, Ellen Page would be ...
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Sandy Hook shooter allegedly trying to beat a high score


The only game hurting society is the blame game
Mar 18
// Jim Sterling
An anonymous "law enforcement veteran" claims the Sandy Hook shooter was comparing "high scores" of previous mass murderers and intended to beat a record. According to this totally responsible and not-at-all reckless source, ...

Teen shoots parents with pistol, blames violent games

Mar 14 // Jim Sterling
As we saw with Norway shooter Anders Brevik, it's looking like killers have taken note of the fact they can shift accusing eyes away from themselves by pointing at violent videogames -- a tactic eagerly swallowed up by news sources, parents, and politicians. Thanks entirely to the efforts of FOX News, CNN, Leland Yee, and a host of other reckless disseminators of assumption-posing-as-fact, videogames are an easy way for a criminal to pass the buck and take some of the heat off themselves. It might not be a "get out of jail free" card -- yet -- but it's demonstrably effective in allowing murderers respite from their own responsibility.  That someone can kill people in cold blood, blame videogames ... and actually have that blame accepted by influential people, is beyond atrocious. Nathan Brooks won't be the last one to try it, either, and he won't be the last to find a society more than willing to hear him out. Utterly disgusting.  14-Year-Old Shoots Parents, Blames Video Games [GamePolitics] [Image source]
'Violent games' defense photo
This is what killers have learned to do now
A Washington state teen has been charged with murder, the 14-year-old having shot his mother and father in the head after he was grounded from electronic devices. Nathon Brooks may be tried as an adult for the crime, tho...

Hotline Miami photo
Hotline Miami

Hotline Miami fan film is full of murder, and kids


The label clearly states rated M for Mature!
Mar 07
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
I quite enjoy fan films, and was really digging this one for Hotline Miami. Then I started to notice the actors here all look very ... young. And then that child gets brutality shot up near the end. Kids these days! Still, bravo for the editing and effects. [Via @HotlineMiami]

You should feel bad, but games don't want you to

Mar 06 // Steven Hansen
While I’ve yet to play Tomb Raider in its entirety, it does seem we have yet another case of ludonarrative dissonance, in which the design aims (game based around doing gruesome murders) don’t jive with the narrative (“good,” and in this case wet behind the ears, lead character) and the developers have to work extra hard to try and bridge this gap. You can wax poetic about what it means or takes to commit murder all you want, but it's old hat after the seventieth bloke kisses his trachea goodbye courtesy of your pick axe. It’s the same reason why the enemies in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune spout incendiary cussing outs, egging you on, just begging you to kill them and to wipe that audible smirk off their goddamn faces. Games more open about their wanton violence, like most sandbox games, are gleeful in their use if civilians as set dressing. It's pleasant to run down civilians in Twisted Metal 2 and see their vague, pixel bodies fly into your screen with a screech that sounds like an interrupted dial up connection. Pleasant, albeit dark. But what about when you're playing a good guy in a narratively driven game? A super human one, no less? It goes beyond saying that other humans pose little threat to you. That's why the enemy stakes have to be upped. Take the thugs in Rocksteady's Arkham franchise. Are we to believe that every criminal in Gotham lifts weights with Chris Redfield and Marcus Fenix? Every single one of them looks imposing enough that Ving Rhames wouldn’t want to meet them in a dark alleyway. It's not an attempt to even the playing fields for the Batman, who can take out 40 of those steroid-seeping freaks in one combo despite their Herculean physiques. It's a sly character design choice to make you feel better about yourself, you monster. Batman is brutal in the Arkham games. Even with foes that look intimidating, I'll cringe as Bats effortlessly breaks a thigh-thick arm in three places and leaves them unconscious. The worst is always the vicious kicks to the knee that you know will ensure the victim never walks right again. Oh, did I say victim? I meant criminal scum. Throw some more inane cursing and provocation at me before my human tendency towards empathy kicks in and I regret collapsing some punk's solar plexus and leaving him to probably choke on his own fluids, alone and in an alley -- but I didn’t kill him. Not directly. Not as far as I am blissfully unaware. With Arkham, Rocksteady wants you to have your cake and eat it, too. You’re playing at Batman the same way a child might. You get all the perks (unstoppable force of the night) without the draw backs (physical harm, dead parents, Peter Pan complex, fear of the theatre). Insofar as I can tell, Rocksteady isn’t concerned with unsettling the Batman mythos and questioning the sanity of the character in the manner seminal works like The Killing Joke and Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth have, and that’s fine. But despite my cringing at Bats’ brutality in the Arkham games, I got over it. While Arkham might not hit hard on these elements, its Batman doesn’t parade around as a handsome John Q. Everyhero. And at least as Batman I wasn't committing mass murder, ala Nathan Drake. Just leaving a disaffected group of individuals with a much lower quality of life and a serious drain on public healthcare. Though Gotham is probably heavily anti "socialist," so no public healthcare, but because the penal system is undoubtedly mandated to aid in the recuperation of criminals, I’m sure it’ll cost some tax dollars. Anyway. The failure to put you at proper odds with your foes can trouble single-player games striving for a particularly heroic or redemptive narrative. Playing John Marston with an insatiable bloodlust in Red Dead Redemption flies in the face of the narrative. Giving the player the option to be repellant when the character is meant to be repentant can be problematic. Worse still is when the design demands they be repellant. I love the Uncharted franchise, but its third installment does not sit well with me. The heavy, wave based onslaught of enemies requires you to massacre endlessly while Drake smirks, cracks wise, and is generally handsome. It's a tough sell. I was able to stomach it in the first two, to mind the disconnect, but Drake's Deception felt so oppressive to me. I could see the seams in the enemy waves and strung together set pieces serving no purpose but to give me another butchering ground. Occasionally I felt a little bad busting skulls in Arkham City. I felt like a monster in Uncharted. I turned to melee “kills” more than half of the time because they looked non-lethal and I felt a little better about myself. Hopefully Drake wasn’t ending lives with equal ruthlessness with those swift kicks to the nuts. Definitely a good chance he preemptively ended the lives of the thugs' unborn children, I suppose. Dark Sector was one of the early “next-gen” games I was hyped for, but never picked up until I saw it sitting lonesome on a shelf with a $6 price tag affixed; I wouldn’t play it for months still. What a filthy game. It’s nasty, grim, dirty feel permeates every inch of it. You rip limbs from their owners and they just sit there and scream in agony. Not just a gurgling exaltation and then they’re dead. It’s a nonstop, lengthy cacophony of pitiful, dying men yelling. I couldn’t handle that ad nauseum and stopped playing. You're not supposed to feel bad for your obstacles. It's one if the biggest reasons there are so many games in which you gleefully murder robots or aliens or even humans with masked faces -- some semblance of distancing from the spine-tingling truth. It's why zombies have been so long in vogue. Gone is the almost half century old social commentary. They're fodder, allowing for the primal release of killing ostensible humans en masse without the moral quandaries and look of disdain from the ESRB. Mainstream games are too steeped in rudimentary notions of conflict in which somehow besting another person or thing is the only means of progression. This forever conflicts with trying to present straightforward, serious narratives with likeable leads. Less killing, more, well, anything else, really. Exploring. Journey-ing. Dancing. How about a proper detective game? Fevered dreamscapes in which existential and interpersonal issues manifest as ovis-infested, hellish block climbing puzzles? Or at least stop thinly veiling escapist power fantasies and humanizing monstrous murderkillers. I nearly gagged when Drake reached into the quicksand in Uncharted 3. At least Kratos knew his shtick. At least Far Cry 3 reveled in its depravity. At least Spec Ops asked why the hell you were playing in the first place.
Violence & vindication photo
Violence and vindication: The seedy psychology behind a sociopathic medium
You monster. Outside of the casual and educational spheres, violence abounds in games. Even Mario is violent, albeit not gratuitous. Combative, at least. Much of the game is purely avoiding obstacles, but eventually some form...

Videogames & Violence photo
Videogames & Violence

Poll: Playing videogames correlates with violent behavior


The debate rages on
Feb 26
// Kyle MacGregor
In the wake of the recent string of violent acts across the United States, many are still looking for someone or something to blame. A majority of Americans (58 percent) believe playing videogames contributes to increased lev...
Hotline Miami photo
Hotline Miami

Hotline Miami coming to PS3 and PS Vita this spring


Murder and get murdered on Sony consoles
Feb 19
// Jonathan Holmes
It's been interesting to witness the rise of games that have a love/hate relationship with violence. Spec Ops: The Line and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance are two high-profile examples. Less well known, but just as effective...
Violence photo
Violence

David Cage is right: Violence is not essential


Even if it is jolly good fun
Feb 12
// Fraser Brown
Earlier this week, Allistair suggested that violence is integral to immersion, that it could draw us into games that lack it even more. This was in response to a presentation given by serial pompous twit and occasio...

David Cage is wrong: Violence is essential

Feb 11 // Allistair Pinsof
The notion of senselessly unloading a fire arm into houses is a distressing one, naturally. It's also far from a necessity in order to feel attached to my environment and reality, since my senses guide me, even as my mind wanders. And I'm not the least bit schizophrenic (no, really.) David Cage, and to a lesser extent Warren Spector, gave speeches at D.I.C.E. last week that called for industry action in steering away from violent games and creating ones that reflect our lives and the complexities that come with them: Caring for family, facing familial and employment crises, or simply appreciating the beauty that surrounds us; the subjects we often come across in film and literature. It's nothing that hasn't been said by dozens before -- or attempted by many indies -- but that these ideas are being delivered from directors of multimillion dollar productions makes these declarations of anti-violence have a special, headline-grabbing impact. After the chin-stroking, blogging, back-patting, and heavy drinking that industry conferences bring, all parties go on their way, acting on market demands at the office while continuing the discussion of ethical theories in private. I'm not going to explain immersion, the necessity of violence (action), and the future of technology for developers' benefit; no, this is for the public's: we 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. I am not here to claim Journey didn't have an emotional impact on me, to call misty-eyed bloggers a bunch of sissypants, or to say we shouldn't have another game like it. Instead, I wish to focus on why Journey had impact and speculate just how far that impact can go, given the current state of technology. On immersion: From the Greeks to videogames today, the focus of art has always been on immersion: the ability for a creator to envision a reality and convey it with viewers. Art gives us an escape to another reality, while offering the ability to let us return with renewed strength and insight. That immersion increased as Greeks evolved from pottery to Hellenistic sculptures that tower above the viewer with lifelike details. And so it was with the theater that gave way to the cinema: A place where sound and vision surrounds the viewer, as increasingly convincing fantasies play out. And so it is, too, with games. How we have gone from the basic lines of Spacewar! to the complex narrative decisions of Warren Spector's Deus Ex (though time has indicated it may have been more of Harvey Smith's Deus Ex that I love so much) in such a short time is one of the most remarkable evolutions of an art form since time began. So, what makes videogames the most immersive art form, following the logic that pottery -> sculptures/paintings -> plays -> film -> videogames (factoring where novels and music fit is a can of worms I rather not open here)? The most immersive aspect of each art form is embodied in the ones that follow. Plays contain props (pottery) and backdrops (sculptures/paintings); film carry all those and takes out the set and fixed perspective; videogames carry all those and then grants the viewer agency in narrative and interaction in a fictional world, thus granting entrance to devised alternative realities that can be believed through their own logic and rules, so long as they don't break the ones they previously establish (tsk tsk). So, there we are then: videogames. If the evolution of art depends on immersion, then how do we make games more immersive? After all, a game of Tetris can be as immersive as a stroll through the lush world of Ni no Kuni or navigating player choices of Dishonored. Immersion can come from mechanics, aesthetics or system-deep narrative interplay. Like a game of basketball, an intense round of Street Figther or Tetris has a way of dimming the lights on the real world. Taking in the sweeping vistas of Journey makes us temporarily forget there is a controller in the hands. Realizing that choices made hours ago led to a moment unique to one's playthrough in Dishonored has a way of making a dead reality feel alive. When a game has all three of these types of immersion, transcendence is achieved, but even this transcendence is only temporary. Cordless or not, the controller and distance to the television serves as a constant reminder that we are only peeking our head below sea level, not quite swimming. On the necessity of violence: Have you ever played a game where the world is ugly and the gameplay is a chore, yet you feel compelled to continue for the story? But, what about the opposite: A game where the action is all that counts? Immersion in game world come from our actual senses: touch, sight, and sound. More specifically, immersion in game worlds comes from the combination of all these things, i.e. feedback and sense of possibility (or possibility space). Proteus is more immersive than Dear Esther because the possibility space is larger (not a set path) and feedback is more noticeable (environment reacts to your movement and presence). How could Proteus be made even more immersive? Violence! Put a gun in the player's hand, surround the island with threats on legs, and let the code bring the two together. Action has a way of immediately increasing our investment in a game world, since it triggers our reptile brain and makes us focus on a threatening non-reality than the harmless actual reality that our body is inhabiting. If a distinct lack of enjoyment (through faulty programming and design) is present, the illusion is ruined. Going back to the opening of this essay, violence can make me more aware of my current environment but the power of my senses does that enough. This can also be true of games. Antichamber has no immediate threats -- one can argue falling and losing a small amount of progress, I guess, but that's a stretch -- it finds immersion through sight and sound. The abstract architecture overpowers our tendency to compare to reality, and the sound design is rich and ubiquitous. Puzzles, objectives, and first-person movement maintain the immersion. The ability to shoot (action) increases it. Perhaps it sounds like I'm backpedaling here, but I'm not: Action 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. Journey is something of a compromise between immersion and aesthetics. To make the game more immersive through action, it would no longer maintain the same emotional complexity and impact (aesthetics). Journey stands out because its developer focused on feedback and possibility space. The sense of weight, flight, and movement is convincing. The environments are large and freely flowing, expanding while directing the player in slight ways. It's hard to imagine what can improve the experience without changing its expression. On the future: I have a lot of admiration for id Software's John Carmack, but I didn't expect him to agree with the above. Yet, he did just that when I interviewed him at QuakeCon, last year. Carmack admitted to making games with guns in first-person because it's more immersive. Firing a gun introduces possibilities for feedback that are unparalleled in games. I then expected him to tell me how the Oculus Rift VR headset, that he is promoting and tweaking, would further improve this. Instead, he told me how it'd change this, ushering in a new era of non-violent games. By introducing head-tracking (interaction via touch) and enclosed panoramic HD visuals, a new state of environmental immersion will be introduced, easing pressure off the necessity for action. The Oculus Rift is a baby step toward this future, but the jump from 2D to 3D could also be considered a baby step from where we now stand. I am not under the impression that the visual impact will be enough to do away with violence and immediate threats in games, but it will open the door for games like Journey that favor expression over immersion (even if not by design) to become more believable. No longer having the world confined to a screen in a living room, or the player's view fixed (or guided by a camera), will create a more intuitive world; one where the impact from moving may compare to the impact of virtual violence without a VR headset. Take away the weight of the headset, add realistic body feedback, introduce smell, and you can have realities that are virtual in name only. It's a frightening Snow Crash future that may exist in a Mad Max world, but that's the only way games will be able to tell stories of emotional impact without relying on violence. In a way, film and novels are still more immersive than games, since they carry a greater level of immersion to more kinds of stories. Recreate episodes of Mad Men or a great novel in a videogame world and you'd be bored silly. Our mind and senses guide us through art; our bodies occupying an almost catatonic state. This state, however, cannot be reached with games that require us to push buttons and fiddle with thumbsticks -- things we cannot do without thinking about them. And putting the controller aside for cutscenes forsakes the medium (sorry, Walking Dead). Dear David Cage: Dreaming of games without violence is a lofty goal. One that we may achieve in the near future. But, before we tell the masses that it's time to do away with violence, we must wait for technology to catch up to artistic expression, first, through new and improved ways of interacting with our senses. For now, let's get emotional with our fists. [Image courtesy of Jeuxactu]
David Cage is wrong photo
On immersion, violence, and the virtual
How is it that a walk around the golf course outside my house, with its scummy pond, ugly ducklings, boring grass, and the dull sky above is so much more immersive than exploring the psychedelic world of Proteus or mystical l...

Violent Videogames photo
Violent Videogames

Poll: Violent videogames more dangerous than guns


The saga continues
Feb 09
// Kyle MacGregor
Apparently, violent videogames are more dangerous than guns. That's what 67 percent of Republicans think, anyway. Over two thirds of those surveyed in a recent national poll believe plastic discs are a "bigger safety thr...
Warren Spector D.I.C.E. photo
Warren Spector D.I.C.E.

Warren Spector addresses violent games again at D.I.C.E.


Cites Lollipop Chainsaw as a game that 'should just not be made'
Feb 07
// Chris Carter
Speaking at the 2013 D.I.C.E. Summit today, designer Warren Spector took on the concept of how gaming content has changed over time, how tastes may change as you age, and how developers need to address those changes. To stres...
 photo

David Jaffe launches glorious verbal attack on CNN anchor


Developer gives Erin Burnett a furious piece of his mind
Feb 06
// Jim Sterling
Last week, we talked about how CNN anchor Erin Burnett desperately tried to link videogames to violent crime, attempting as she did to lead a psychologist into agreeing with her, and appearing flustered when he didn't. She wa...

Whoa! A gun violence talk that does NOT blame games!

Feb 01 // Tony Ponce
[embed]243782:46668:0[/embed] You ought to check out the entire thing, but if you just want to watch the videogames segment, it's this clip labeled "The mental health stigma and violence." Cheryl Olson, co-author of the games violence research book Grand Theft Childhood, was on hand to once again point out there is little evidence to support any link between violent games and real-world violence. From her studies, she learned, "[T]he typical 13-year-old boy is playing at least one mature-rated violent game on a regular basis. And when you are looking at something very rare like a school shooting, and something that's statistically normal like playing violent videogames, it's kind of hard to make that link." Cooper agrees, "I looked at the study in ten different countries between gun violence and videogame sales, and it doesn't seem like there's a link in all these different countries." The discussion then shifts towards children suffering from mental health issues, and from there the panelists begin talking about the difficulties parents face in getting even so much as a proper diagnosis and treatment for their mentally ill kids. Audience member Liza Long is invited to stand up and share the story of her 13-year-old son, who exhibits great mental instability and a proclivity towards violence. Long fears that her son has the potential to be a school shooter one day, but her efforts to seek proper treatment are hindered by doctors who would rather throw more medicine at him and authorities who would rather throw the boy in prison. As it turns out, Long's son does not play first-person shooters and its ilk, instead preferring Minecraft and Dungeons & Dragons. His issues clearly do not stem from the media he consumes, yet because current laws and medical policies are reactive rather than proactive, there's very little Long can do to prevent a potential incident down the road. Granted, videogames are but a small portion of the entire Town Hall, but when it is touched upon, it's done with serious class. This may not seem like the most mind-blowing discourse to you -- these are the kinds of conclusions game bloggers and other pro-game outlets draw on a regular basis -- but considering it's a public forum held in front of possibly millions of viewers, it's very refreshing to hear. So yeah, more of that on TV, please.
Gun violence photo
Anderson Cooper's Town Hall special discusses gun violence
It might be easy to label all major news pundits as being dangerously ignorant of videogames, especially when it concerns sexual or violent content. However, we ought to know better than to paint everyone with the same broad ...

CNN host tries and fails to link videogames to violence

Feb 01 // Jim Sterling
"You kill a prostitute, and that's a big thing, you get to win points," lied Burnett. "I find that offensive. But does that mean that those people who play that game are more likely to kill people?" Pollack's answer? No. He said there was absolutely no evidence, though admitted gamers may be less willing to break up fights and may engage in domestic violence. As questionable and alarmist as even that is, it clearly wasn't the answer the CNN reporter had hoped for.  As the interview concludes, I urge you to take a moment to observe Erin Burnett, stuttering, dejected, and visibly disappointed -- a far cry from the look of petulant smugness she begins the interview wearing. She wanted a psychologist to say violent videogames cause killers, and got one who said they don't. She wanted her assumptions to be backed up, and was told there no evidence supported her opinion. The sorrow on her face says it all.  Naturally, Erin and her sordid ilk will continue to bang on the same drum, and can find any number of alleged psychologists who will say anything they want. With that in mind, it's a small comfort, but it is nice to see a panic-mongering hack squirm after utterly failing to get the story she so pitifully and obviously tried to claw for herself.
JOURNALISM photo
Erin Burnett wants psychologist to say things he doesn't believe
CNN's Erin Burnett last night tried desperately to make a psychologist blame videogames for gun violence, attempting to coerce him into agreeing with her that "violent" games make people more likely to kill.  "There's a...


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