First of all, this has turned into an insanely long blog post, so if you read it all, that's a credit to your virtue and I thank you. If not, well, I don't blame you. It's just a wordy Sunday morning.
So, after watching that ridiculous Moral Kombat video and reading EternalDeathSlayer's blog, I began thinking about my own
gaming experiences and whether or not they influenced the man I've grown up to be. This is what I came up with.
My first console was a NES, when I was about 3. At this point, my mom was intensely into games and I have fond memories of watching her complete Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda (A game I'd later go on to make my personal favourite of all time). I'm sure we all know that back then, graphics were far too basic to ever really be considered a 'threat to society' as they are now. A small pixellated green guy 'hitting' a small pixellated red, multi-armed rock-spitting thing with a small pixellated brown stick isn't going to incite a young kid to go and smash someone's face in.
Then I progressed to a SNES, which was, for the first time, truly 'my' console (As I'd shared the NES with my mom). This opened up a whole new world of games to me and things started to get a little more violent. Things like Street Fighter, Super Smash TV, Killer Instinct etc. But for the most part, I didn't gravitate to them. Infact, the only reason I WANTED a SNES was to play Link to the Past (Incidentally, I'm British, so I didn't get the luxury of playing Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger back then).
Almost simultaneously, I got hold of a Mega Drive. Again, even with prominent titles like Streets of Rage and Road Rash, I moved towards the more colourful, 'game-like' games, like Sonic and Landstalker. I never once, in this period of my life, made any kind of link between supposedly dark, violent games and real life violence.
Only part of this changed when I acquired a Playstation. Originally, things went the same way they had for my life up until that point, as my first game was Crash Bandicoot - Hardly the pastime of a future serial killer. But in that bundle of games I got on that fateful christmas, I also had Mortal Kombat 3, Tekken 2 and Street Fighter Alpha. Gradually, the 'violence' level creeped up.
As we all know, the Playstation was the true era of 3D, when the majority of developers took those first, ugly steps towards dedicated 3D console gaming. Because of this, the saturation of dire 'fantasy' 3D platformers (Jersey Devil, Johnny Bazookatone, Gex 3D and FUCKING CROC) led a lot of developers to move to darker themes for their games. Things like Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Nightmare Creatures and that game that was based on a Fighting Fantasy book that I can't remember the name of. And honestly? I loved them. But it wasn't for the violence. I just loved having new worlds to run around in, new skills to learn, new things to do. I've always been like that and I still am today.
I also picked up a Saturn, but over on that ill-fated console, things were different. Aside from picking up the original Tomb Raider (and hating it) on recommendation from friends who were just NOW getting into a hobby that until then had branded me a geek, my Saturn followed the trend of my past. NiGHTS led the charge, along with games like Guardian Heroes, Panzer Dragoon and Shining Force. Fantasy games, essentially.
Eventually I, like I imagine most of Dtoid, picked up the original Grand Theft Auto. I was about 12 and should quite obviously have not been allowed near it, but that's just how things went back then. Now the thing is, after seeing some seriously graphic stuff in Resident Evil (A game I didn't personally own, but had seen played) and the previously mentioned 3D adventure games, I actually saw GTA as MORE fantasy than, I dunno, Crash Bandicoot. I honestly can't see how the style of the game could genuinely translate to real-life violence, at all. I remember a fantastic quote from a magazine at the time, something like "How can anyone be in uproar over this when the people you're killing end up like badly rendered pizzas on the pavement?". My sentiments exactly.
My Nintendo64 was used almost exclusively for first-party games, which again took me into the fantasy worlds I've been used to (I bought it for Ocarina of Time, after all). Games like Mischief Makers, Kid Chameleon and even Body Harvest just seemed like more, admittedly very pretty, completely unbelievable worlds where I could just play.
I suppose the first time I really consciously began to CHOOSE violence was with the ushering in of the PS2. I actually wanted one purely for Devil May Cry at that point, a game which rewards you for being stylish in your execution of hordes of monsters. The PS2 built on the 3D Adventure genre that had really taken off on the original PS1 and with it, the dark themes began to flow, eventually leading to the now immortal GTAIII.
And, as I've progressed through Dreamcast (A console which remained true to my 'fantasy' history) into Xbox360 (Skipping the original Xbox for reasons of finance and... well, not wanting to play Halo) I have to admit that I buy a lot more violent games now than I ever would've as a kid. But isn't that the point? I'm 20 years old. I'm now the target audience
for these games, so why shouldn't they be made? I think what people need to realise is that the majority of us playing these games are not 13 year old foul-mouthed sociopathic internet bigboy wannabes who shout the word 'PWNT' at any given opportunity. We're just people who like games.
Maybe I'm an exception. I do, after all, play my Wii far more than my 360 and I'd prefer Zelda over GTA/Call of Duty/Halo any day of the week. Thing is, I don't see games FOR the violence factor. If it helps to create an atmosphere and experience (Survival horror games in general, and what they TRIED to do with Manhunt 2), then I'll see it as such. But when you start making violent games for the sake of it, you end up with 50 Cent Bulletproof and NOBODY wants that.
So I suppose the conclusion I can reach is yes, I've been exposed to violence and yes, these days it's a conscious choice that I make. But it doesn't mean I'm maladjusted; it means I like videogames. All types, all genres, all styles. Violence comes under that, but so does Mario Galaxy.
And so, Destructoid, I ask you. Have any elements of your videogame past influenced how you've grown up, in any way? I'm not too sure mine have, really, but I'm open to the idea.