Violence in games is nothing new, but with new technology we are able to render in gruesome detail what was merely the psychotic fever dream of a very.....lets say interesting few. Now we can not just visualize it, but we can see a video game character get his throat torn out, or see a man torn asunder by a horror beyond description. Even back before these graphics, games like fallout let you blow peoples chest cavities out. Violence has been embedded in our games DNA since their inception, with the violent slaughter of countless blocks in Block breaker, or the horrible treatment of one innocent pixel ball in Pong. Yet this raises the specter of whether or not violence is truly something we want associated with our increasingly scrutinized industry, as more and more forces look upon the worst and see a nightmare where we see monotony. Violence is not bad, even if there are cases where it is stupid. Allow me to extrapolate your mind out.
Violence with meaning
Nothing is more heartwrenching than watching someone you have grown to love or at least care about be devoured in the most horrible way possible. The Walking Dead adventure game shows this off beautifully, as we watch characters we have grown to care about be violently ripped apart This is not done only to shock the player, but to dishearten and bring true sadness. Here violence is appropriate because it hits home how horrifying this new world is and that no one is truly safe. Violence is an efficient tool to deliver brutality, moreso than any words could ever be. Violence is a tool, and like any tool when used properly it can augment a great experience, but when used badly it may result in hurting the overall product, like a chainsaw to the groin. When the violence means something it can be a very useful aspect indeed. Deep experiences use this to their advantage, such as Spec Ops:The Line's horrific kills as the game progresses, hammering home the point that you are no hero but a monster who uses violence to try and solve his problems, but only causes yet more pain and suffering. Hotline Miami ties killing to points, with horrible violence hidden behind a cartoonish facade that slowly unravels as you characters sanity drains away, showing the consequences of violence against ones fellow man. The original Bioshock played around with the idea of player agency, revealing at the end of a twisting journey how many people you had killed at the behest of someone asking nicely, putting into perspective your more loathsome acts as those performed not out of necessity but hunger for more violence and more tools to inflict that violence. Fallout 3 has you blowing the heads off of raiders, sometimes horrifically dismembering your enemies as their bloody stumps let fly arms, legs and eyes. That drives home the brutal world you inhabit, one where you are just as brutal as your enemies in your attempt to survive this violent, cold world. Yet there are many more games out there that have violence for the sake of violence, and those are-
Violence without meaning
Fallout 3 also pops up here again, because incidently those scenes are awesome. Perhaps that sounds juvenile, but there's something enthralling about blowing off a super-mutants head and watching it fly across the room. Violence is also cathartic, and for some reason we seem to be attracted to it, even if just in video games. God of War and Dead Space are both dripping with gore, in some ways literally, with limbs being shorn off, heads being torn off, and one particularly violent scene wherein you beat a man to death using a door. This is done for the sake of violence, and while in the case of GOW it weakens the story a bit because it is done for its own sake, it is also enjoyable and visceral to do these things.It is engrossing to see just what line will be crossed next, and it is darkly enjoyable to partake in the violence. And while it does get to a point where it disgusts or annoys rather than enthralls, most games can toe the line between fun and morally reprehensible, like beating defenseless people or killing womens and being rewarded with a trophy. Man did not survive for thousands of years by being nice, and video games could be seen as being close to a gladiatorial combat thing. We like outlets to dispense our rage and latent instincts at, something to let us vent or be the badasses we long to be, in a similar method to post apocalypse games. We enjoy the blood-sport, but ultimately that brings me to the main point which is that-
Violence in games is no bad
When I play a violent game like God of War 3, I may cringe but I never really get disgusted. No, that happens when I watch a TV show and someone gets their fingernail ripped off, a scene that didn't bother me nearly as much in GOW3. And herein lies the difference. Fallout 3 and all the other games that fall into category 2 are almost cartoonish in their violence, and we can immediately tell the difference between this and reality. And therein lies the key. See, we like the catharsis of playing as kratos, but if someone said "here, take this murderer rapist who is also downloads music illegally and beat him to death with you bare fists" I like to believe most of us wouldn't do it, because that's real life. With the exception of some of the mentally ill, we can tell the difference between reality and games, and that is why it doesn't monstrously impact our day to day lives. Perhaps it does to a small degree, but it also doesn't cause us to go out and beat people to death with clubs. Violence in games is something that can be used effectively or entertainingly for a player, but it does not change who we are in the end, and only serves to entertain. Violence is not bad in games, but it should serve a purpose, whether to drive along the story or to be entertaining to that sick part of our minds that enjoy the blood. Violence should be a part of games, because using it we can blow off some steam, but more importantly we can explore the deepest regions of our minds, and question deeply held beliefs or be emotionally impacted. A video game world without violence would be a cleaner, nicer place. But the world is not a place like that, which is what can make games so compelling. Not all games need violence, but it is foolish to argue that not all games should not have violence as well. Because video games are a reflection of us, and violence is as much a part of as as artistry or music, and we must explore that, whether it leads to hunger for more or a hunger of evolving beyond it. Leave comments below and tell me what you think! I look forward to agreeing and discussing or disagreeing culminating in me TAKING YOU DOWN TO PAIN TOWN!!!!!
- “If you don't like bacteria, you're on the wrong planet.”
― Stewart Brand
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