This week’s State of Play gives me hope for non-violent video games

Non-violent games are on the rise

The Sony State of Play on Wednesday had to be one of the best we’ve seen in a long time, because that half-hour was chalked full of some really great titles we’ll be looking forward to in the coming months. From the gorgeous Resident Evil 4 remake they announced, to the immersive VR adventures, to genre-bending titles like Rollerdome and Eternights, it’s easy to see why PlayStation is killing it right now, despite the chip shortage situation. Of all the announcements, though, there are two non-violent games that really stuck out to me this time around: Season and Stray.

In a mix of action games, these were the only two titles that didn’t have combat mechanics on display. Gamers and developers alike have been asking for games that imagine ways for us to interact with the world other than just by killing things, and while some non-violent games have always existed to a certain extent, having two huge, beautiful, highly anticipated titles showcased in a major press conference is certainly a step in the right direction.

Season: A letter to the future features a character who, in the midst of a doomed land, decides to fight back not with a weapon, but by setting out to capture photographs, audio recordings, and interviews, to capture the true beauty of the world and pass them along to future generations. This might be me being saccharine again, but that’s one of the most moving descriptions of a game I might have ever heard, especially when it feels so timely right now.

Season looks existential and thoughtful in a way that reminds me of Spirited Away, and seeing it alongside heavy-hitters like Resident Evil, Final Fantasy, and Street Fighter makes me excited to see the new kinds of experiences players are open to these days.

Then there’s Stray, a game that we’ve all been stoked for since the announcement trailer dropped. Every time I see something new about it, I feel like I’m more and more impressed. This time around, I was absolutely blown away by the animation and sound design on this freaking cat. As a cat owner myself, it’s so real, and I never thought the perspective of playing as a cat would be so convincing.

Stray does have some fantasy violence, as told by the ESRB rating at the start of the trailer, but it doesn’t seem to be the focus of the game in any way. I feel like I can let it slide in this case because the idea of a game taking on the perspective of a realistic cat is so creative, and gives us unexpected. I mean, of course I’m excited to play this game because there’s a kitty cat in it, but even more than that, I’m excited to see what kind of unique mechanics and set pieces they fill the run time with, because I have a feeling it’s going to be unlike anything we’ve seen before.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be making violent games at all, but when that’s all we have, it can start to be a bit exhausting. I happen to really love shooters and action games that rely heavily on combat mechanics (hell, The Last of Us is my favorite game of all time), but given the oversaturation of the market and the current state of the world, it is so unbelievably refreshing to see that more and more developers are thinking outside the box of what we know games to be. Non-violent games have a place in this industry, and I look forward to seeing more of them alongside our favorite bombastic action titles.

Noelle Warner