E3 Day Zero: When Game Violence Becomes Vile

By Nathan Grayson on June 5th, 2012 at 5:00 pm.

One of the most striking scenes of yesterday’s E3 press conference gauntlet didn’t take place on a stage or a screen. It wasn’t rehearsed or pre-planned, and it most certainly wasn’t expected. I sat in a jam-packed arena-sized auditorium and watched a game demo unfold on a screen bigger than my hometown. OK, that wasn’t the surprising part. I’d been doing that all day. This one, though, came to a rather abrupt halt when – mere inches away from the camera – a man’s head erupted into a volcano of hyper-detailed gore after a point-blank shotgun blast. And then: deafening applause from hundreds of people.

This was the blaring exclamation point on the end of a day of gleefully grotesque neck-shanking, leg-severing, and – of course – man-shooting. I can honestly think of maybe five games – in four multiple-hour press conferences – that didn’t feature some sort of lovingly rendered death-dealing mechanic. And oh how show-goers cheered. So then, have we all become brainless barbarians with a lust for blood bordering on fetishistic? Hardly. That’d be a simple black-or-white (or, I suppose, red) answer, and this issue’s a whole lot messier than that.

Obviously, over-the-top killing in games isn’t new. Violence, as it turns out, is the answer when the question is “What’s the most immediately engaging, compulsively satisfying way to interact with a game world?” The problem with yesterday’s showcase, then, is manifold, but its frail, probably soon-to-be-skewered heart lies in presentation.

It’s amazing what a few dabs of makeup, some ill-advised comments from a clueless presenter, and a trailer cut to draw an incredibly specific target demographic from its collective Man Cave can do. See, during all of yesterday’s Internet furor, many (very intelligent) people failed to notice something: a few of these games – blood-spewing kneecapitations and all – are trying their damndest to push games forward into interesting new territory.

Seriously! Far Cry 3 – to hear its creators tell it – is a purposefully over-the-top examination of how first-person shooters and the surrounding culture affect both players and developers as human beings. Tomb Raider, meanwhile, is playing up character vulnerability to a point of cringe-inducing discomfort, and Last of Us – the (sadly) PS3-exclusive apocalypse survivor with the aforementioned shotgun blast heard ’round the Internet – did an excellent job of making violence look and sound terrifying, like a last resort of desperate, miserable people fighting to protect the few remaining things they love.

Admittedly, an alarmingly high number of other games – for instance, Assassin’s Creed, Dead Space, Medal of Honor, Black Ops, Splinter Cell, and (so far, at least) even Watch Dogs – stuck to the ol’ slow-mo shooty shooty bang bang for its own sake, and that’s definitely part of the problem. I do not, however, believe there’s necessarily a moral quandary in having fun with ultraviolence. These things are fictional. We’re all (read: mostly, I hope) responsible adults here, and we know where to draw the line. I mean, goodness, the entire “Games don’t cause violence, so calm down everyone jeez” line of thought is almost entirely predicated on that assumption.  That, however, is precisely the problem: yesterday’s press conferences suggested anything but.

Responsibility is the key, and there’s been a tremendous lapse in that on all sides of this issue. In the press conferences themselves, shocking acts of rapid-fire violence became the central message – not simply part of a larger experience – and showcases were structured to facilitate that. Far Cry 3, especially, was flat-out misrepresented as a result. To those who hadn’t seen it behind closed doors (read: plenty of press, everyone tuning in for the livestream), it just looked like a mess of blood, bare breasts, and ruthlessly slaughtered wildlife. And then, to make matters worse, conference host Aisha Tyler enthusiastically announced that she, too, wanted to “use a tiger as a tool and then kill it.” Disgusting, right?

That’s what Ubisoft’s writers and presenters chose to emphasize and even glorify. But honestly, flinging quick, sloppy spectacle onto our plates is much easier (and more instantly gratifying) than slowly ladling out context, so it’s really not much of a surprise that Ubisoft took that route. Similar mentalities showed through in the rest of the day’s presentations – including, even, Tomb Raider and Last of Us. And, of course, this comes in the wake of the nigh-indefensible Hitman trailer from last week. Is it irresponsible on the part of publishers? Absolutely. But they were trying to sell products, and that tactic – at least, on paper – has “proven,” “effective,” and “fool-proof” written all over it.

It would be a colossal mistake, however, to pin this thing entirely on publishers. Once again, as Responsible Adults Who Know Where To Draw The Line, it’s our job to, you know, draw the line. But, quite evidently, we’re not doing that very well. So either we don’t actually know where to draw the line, and there’s a serious problem with, well, humanity here, or – more likely – we’re also being irresponsible. We’re clapping – basically sending the universal human signal for “Yes! Amazing! Keep doing that until one of us dies!” to publishers – without thinking. We’re endorsing the way these games are presented in all sorts of public channels and forums without considering the consequences.

Yesterday, I saw games that treated violence as the raddest, most Mountain-Dew-can-crushed-against-your-forehead thing in the world, an utterly bone-chilling, blood-curdling last resort, and quite a few things in between. But wow, it sure didn’t look that way. And, if we don’t stay mindful of what game-makers are doing and how we’re acting in response, it won’t be that way for too much longer. So pay attention and speak up. Sure, a thousand hands clapping paints a pretty damning picture, but you know what’s a thousand times worse? Silence.

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269 Comments »

  1. hbarsquared says:

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve felt this way for a long time (since about 2 hours into the original God of War, in fact), and there have been many games I simply haven’t bought because of how they glorify violence. I’m not saying (nor do I think you’re saying) that these games shouldn’t be made – there will always be a market for hyperviolence, and that’s okay. But I love gaming, and I hate what the public face of gaming has become.

    Games can be art, but art needs a market. We need to demand the bar be set higher.

    • Archonsod says:

      Funnily enough I find the violence off-putting not because it’s violence, but because you can usually guarantee the game hasn’t got much else going for it.

    • Hallgrim says:

      Soldier of Fortune (1) did this same thing for me. It was the first time I can remember dismembering people with a pistol, and there was something really unfun about it. IIRC, this was the game that had arabs saying stuff like “Please, I have a family!” before you blew them away (pre-9/11, if you can believe it).

      Games are art, but it is a strange art. Imagine if hollywood blockbusters were all slasher pics and revenge porn… oh wait.

      • CitizenDickbag says:

        No one ever begged “please I have a family” in soldier of fortune.

        These things are fictional. We’re all (read: mostly, I hope) responsible adults here, and we know where to draw the line. I mean, goodness, the entire “Games don’t cause violence, so calm down everyone jeez” line of thought is almost entirely predicated on that assumption. That, however, is precisely the problem: yesterday’s press conferences suggested anything but.

        In general this is a really really tired line of discussion, and people cheering at gore in exploity entertainment has been happening in big audiences since the 60s and 70s when film decided they wanted to push the limits and found people to be receptive. To claim that the cheers indicate that MAYBE VIDEOGAMES ~DOES~ CAUSE VIOLENCE is as stupid and baseless as anything out-of-touch legislators on both sides of the pond have claimed when advocating censorship and RPS has rightly torn them down for.

        Don’t try to disguise your personal reaction of disgust as indicative that there is a greater social decay going on. People have been doing that for generations, with music, film, print, and more recently games. There is nothing you have put forth here that differentiates what you’re saying from that history of folly. We are all entitled to draw that line wherever we personally choose, and those of us that draw it farther than you have are not irresponsible psychopaths for it.

        • Jay says:

          “To claim that the cheers indicate that MAYBE VIDEOGAMES ~DOES~ CAUSE VIOLENCE is as stupid and baseless as anything out-of-touch legislators on both sides of the pond have claimed when advocating censorship and RPS has rightly torn them down for.”

          To repeat what I said lower down, I don’t see anyone claiming that. The wording in that section is a little clunky, but surely it’s more a protest at the glorification of virtual violence, and not suggesting that it’s inciting violent behaviour in any real sense. There’s nothing else in the article to support that assumption you’re railing against.

          • CitizenDickbag says:

            The wording is clunky as hell, yeah. Another reasonable interpretation is that what it indicated was that we are not reasonable adults who know where to draw the line, which is a less egregious but still pretty judgmental and stupid assertion.

          • Jay says:

            That’s a fair enough reading of it I think. I’m not sure I’d entirely agree with him there either.

            It’s just one of those issues that’s so hard to debate rationally, even on places like here where we’re essentially ‘among friends’ and not trying to prove our point against some media watchdog. Violence in games is such a hot-button topic, and we’re all so conditioned to get defensive against such attacks, that it’s hard to just have a straight debate without strong reactions.

            Videogaiden had a great piece on this that I was going to link, but it seems to be one of the few bits of theirs that isn’t on YouTube. Curses, etc…

          • Mr. Mister says:

            Doesn’t Alpha Protocol have an “Orphans created” counter?

        • battles_atlas says:

          @citizendickbag
          Has it been authoritatively established that it is folly to talk of a greater social decay going on? I take your point that there is a long history of moral panics, but that doesnt mean that they’ve never had a point. Leaving aside the issue of gore, which is perfectly valid given suitable context, I certainly find something troubling about a cultural industry showcase that is so resolutely focused on decontextualised violence.

          I think there is a greater social decay going on, and its called neoliberalism. Its the worship of the bottom line; everything else besides the base desires of the consumer rendered irrelevant. Violence sells in games, and it requires no narrative to have impact, making it perfect for promotion. I don’t subscribe to this anything-goes notion though. Violence is abhorent. Its also potentially thrilling, but I need a context to justify it. Only a sociopath wouldn’t.

          I dont think you have to believe that depictions of violence cause actual violence to find the glorification of it undesirable. Morality though is an irrelevance when its the bottom line that counts. Its the same decay that leaves many of us living in societies with rampant obesity. Cos if it sells its ok.

          • gwathdring says:

            Well done, sir.

          • InternetBatman says:

            Neoliberalism is the worship of the bottom line? Is this extremely fine sarcasm that I’m totally missing?

          • Ancient Algae says:

            Hey, InternetBatman! What are you doing out of InternetGotham?

          • CitizenDickbag says:

            Traditionally the one making the assertion has to provide evidence to back it up, it is not everyone else’s responsibility to prove it wrong or else the assertion is accepted by default. The question is, is there any authoritative proof that we’re experiencing an actual moral decay?

            Film and american comics have already gone through embarrassing phases like this and for games too it will pass.

      • zagor says:

        Not another purist

    • skalpadda says:

      Games most certainly can be art, but I think when developers devolve their creations into titillation (whether it’s actual tits, violence or shiny shaders) without substance they ought to realise they give up the right to claim artistic merit. If the ‘AAA’ games industry wants to be taken seriously as a creative industry it should grow the fuck up and start creating things we can take seriously.

      On violence more generally, even disturbing violence, I think it’s an important tool both for narrative and as an available mechanic (though there is a point where I’ll be just plain grossed out and walk away). I do start to wonder though, when I find something absolutely vile and disgusting and there’s seemingly an army of others who will applaud it as totally sweet, what on earth is wrong with humans?

      • BAshment says:

        But they are art already gratuitous violence or not.

        • skalpadda says:

          They can be art, gratuitous violence or not. For something to be art there at least needs to be some artistic intent and purpose and I don’t think making gorier head explosions with the sole purpose of selling more copies to the intellectually/emotionally challenged crowd counts.

          • BAshment says:

            so its not art if there is commercial interests involved?

          • skalpadda says:

            It’s not art if there are only commercial interests involved.

          • BAshment says:

            I don’t really see any difference from painters being paid to paint a lord or royalty. In-fact i would probably say its more legitimate and there is more room for individual artist to express themselves.

          • Tatourmi says:

            I think we really should stop putting any value judgement on the term “art”. If you want to know whether something is art or is not then you first have to define art. And I don’t see a definition based on a supposed intent on the part of the creator as something solid.

          • skalpadda says:

            @BAshment:
            I’m not sure what you’re trying to argue. I haven’t said anything about what there’s room for or what’s legitimate. It’s perfectly legitimate to make something for commercial reasons and it’s perfectly possible to be truly creative while you do so.

            What I’m saying is that if you go down that route and what you end up making is devoid of creativity you don’t get to turn around and pat yourself on the shoulder for being so gosh darned awesomely creative.

            @Tatourmi: I’m not defining art, I’m setting a minimum standard. If there’s not even an intent to create art then you’re not creating art and you don’t get to be taken seriously when you proclaim yourself to be an artist. The same goes if you want to call yourself creative or be a representative of a creative industry.

          • BAshment says:

            @skalpadda you used the word art as a form of elitism to lower a form of (in my opinion) Art because it used violence that you personally found distasteful when in reality it has just the same amount of merit as more “Artistic” games. Just because you find a piece distasteful I don’t think it invalidates it as art it still involves creative expression.

          • skalpadda says:

            @BAshment:
            You’re making things up and muddling two separate statements.

            1. I haven’t attached any value judgements to art or said that violence in some way precludes artistic merit. What I’m saying is that a lot of developers don’t even have the intention of being creative and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to get away with calling themselves creative or calling their games works of art. I’m saying that they are wrong to make those value claims – I’m not making them myself.

            2. I said that violence is an important tool, even if it’s disturbing or unpleasant. I also said that something seems wrong to me when others can interpret something I consider to be vile and distasteful (and again, that my emotional reaction is negative does not automatically mean I think it is a bad use of violence) as awesome and worthy of celebration.

          • BAshment says:

            “Games most certainly can be art, but I think when developers devolve their creations into titillation (whether it’s actual tits, violence or shiny shaders) without substance”

            This is quite a big value statement if you ask me you treat art as higher then just “standard” video games because of a lack of substance. Yet if I look at a game like the last of us for example I see many levels of art before storyline and intent even becomes an issue. for instance the various models and animation the sound design all various art bound together in a collaborative process to create a game.

          • skalpadda says:

            Read the last two words of the bit you quoted again, they’re quite important.

            I haven’t said that violence in any way precludes creativity. I haven’t said you can’t make a good game without being creative. I haven’t made any claims about specific games so dragging up examples of things that don’t fit what I’m talking about has no relevance.

            I was talking about the wholesale copying/imitating and “paint-by-numbers” approach to games development and I said you shouldn’t expect to be taken seriously calling yourself creative if you’re not actually being creative. You seem to be arguing against statements I haven’t made.

          • BAshment says:

            So would an original idea that titillated it’s audience be ok to be defined as art?
            What kind of substance are you looking for exactly?

    • Renfield says:

      “Games can be art, but art needs a market. We need to demand the bar be set higher.”

      I do take both your and Nathan Grayson’s general point, above, about the glorification of violence, but the particular example from The Last of Us reflects precisely the opposite trend, in my view. I was watching the Sony presentation live, and was entirely taken aback by just *how* vile, *how* brutal, *how* grim that last shot was. (Pun unintended.)

      Enough that, were I there, I certainly would have applauded. But not because it was *fun*.

      That is to say, here we’ve been watching a man and his daughter going through disturbingly escalating scenes of carnage just to *not die there* (remember, they’re trapped in there), and every time, the man tries to avoid cold-blooded murder. Note that bit where he takes one of them hostage, but doesn’t shoot them in the head afterwards. And yet at the climax of the shotgun-guy’s sequence, there is less and less rational thinking involved, and more instinct – he’s almost dead, it’s survival now. And so when the shotgun is in the protagonist’s hands, and the enemy is finally weakened, he *just shoots*. I felt that this shows both what they’re going for with The Last of Us, and how well they do it.

      So tl;dr sometimes art at its best takes us to a very dark place. And that is nothing I would protest against, if mainstream gaming did more of it. Quite the contrary.

      Done right, it also ’causes’ as much violence as, say, Crime and Punishment, or Othello.

      • PopeJamal says:

        That’s funny because I totally didn’t see that. I mentioned it in another thread, but my wife was sitting next to me when that demo was playing and she specifically asked me: “Why is he killing all these people?”

        What we saw was a man and a girl sneaking through a building. Then they discovered that they weren’t alone in the building. So instead of trying to sneak past the guys, he decides it’s “Clobbering time!” and commences his best Bourne Identity impersonation. Keep in mind that:
        -My wife had just commented on how beautiful the environment looked when they were entering the building.
        -The fact that the main character was clearly the aggressor in this (out of context?) situation
        -We were treated to a solid minute to a minute and a half of brutal violence.

        That was a pretty jarring transition. Plus, the bad guys didn’t seem to be looking for the guy and the girl. They just seemed to be scavenging for supplies or whatever.

        If that doesn’t give the impression of “glorifying violence” or at the very least making violence a priority when given a choice, then I don’t know what it would look like. Coupled with the fact that this is E3, they KNEW it was E3, and they knew that this was their best opportunity to get non-gamer eyes on their product, I’d say they knew very well what they were trying to sell: Violence.

        Unfortunately, in this case, until I see evidence otherwise, I will place Naughty Dog in the shame boat right between the COD and Gears of War folks.

        To put it in internet parlance: I am disappoint in Naughty Dog. And it sucks for Sony because this was the title that would have put me over the edge into finally getting a PS3. Now I’m not so sure.

        • Renfield says:

          It’s obviously quite impossible to entirely extract one’s biases from any interpretation of a series of moving images! So I’ll grant that the whole sequence could be seen as more cavalier, and less survivalist, than I took it to be. Still, I’m inclined to think that the shotgun scene had an element of breathlessness that justifies its presence in the footage, and its violent ending.

          Or: if violence were to be used as a tool to shock, this might be a case of how to do it. Perhaps not the most sensitive or nuanced display, but it still doesn’t quite strike me as *glorification*.

    • Leosaurus says:

      Yeah, and people like you are going to drive people like me out of gaming. Is it really fair to me, someone who likes shooty-shooty bang bang, to have my games censored because it doesn’t agree with your viewpoint on games as art or because it makes you uneasy? I don’t want art. If I wanted art, I’d go to the museum down the street which is currently having a showing of expressionism. I don’t want art. I want action, I want excitement, I want my heart to race and my blood to pump. I am a military veteran, and video games are about as much excitement as I get nowadays. Not everyone wants games to be different and artsy like Fez, Bastion, Braid, etc. While great games, I like them ALONGSIDE my mindless, graphic violence the same way I like fodder books like the Warhammer 40K Black Library books alongside my Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, etc. Game publishers make games that sell…and apparently, there are a lot more people like me out there than you. It might suck for you, but it’s not like you’re NOT getting great games that are what you want. The past 12 months alone have seen some FANTASTIC games developed that are “art”. Leave my gorefests alone, please.

      • YourMessageHere says:

        Agreed. It’s like that senseless ‘high noon for shooters’ thing linked to on the Sunday Papers; the author is jaded and sick of shooters, but makes the mistake of universalising his dissatisfaction. I still want primarily manshooting from games. Sorry, that’s me; enjoy your indie stuff, I have no problem with it, I’ll be over there, with the shotgun. Certainly I’ll lay it aside from time to time and play something else, but the promise of unreal violence is a major reason I got into games in the first place, and I see no prospect of my tiring of it just yet. Personally I have no direct interest in Bastion or Braid or that sort of thing, but I’m really glad they exist as they propel games in general in a better direction; I’m still in love with the first person perspective, and I await the day I have a full-sized, fully commercial First Person Non-Shooter.

        I have no problem with art games, either, as long as the industry doesn’t 100% go in that direction. Every other art form has commercially driven aspects, pure art aspects and huge spectra inbetween, and every other art form has pretty much the whole gamut of attractions, themes, styles and levels of sophistication. Shooters and violent games can co-exist alongside very different game experiences.

      • PopeJamal says:

        Nobody (in the article at least) is talking about censoring your precious manshooters. The argument is being made that despite all the discussion there still seems to still be a focus on using escalating levels of violence as the primary path to “innovation”.

        Here’s a nice litmus test: Next time you are standing around talking about videogames with someone, see how long you can go defending gaming as a reasonable and/or awesome passtime/artform WITHOUT mentioning games that require you to shoot people in the face. I’d argue that it’s not nearly as easy to do as it should be. I can stand around, literally all day and talk about books and movies without one person getting shot in the face or dismembered. I know books and movies are an older medium, but I think the point remains.

        If you don’t think there’s anything wrong with the current state of affairs, then that’s fine, but some us DO think it’s time to draw a line and we want more choice. That has nothing to do with censorship.

      • mixvio says:

        What I’ve taken away from these articles is not “boo I hate violence,” but that the games themselves actually have things going for them but the publishers have decided to push the hyperviolence aspects to the front in order to sell more games.

        The actual meat of the games (story, gameplay, moral choices, whatever) are being downplayed in promotional material in order to position everything else as shooter-porn.

        Rather than griping explicitly about hyperviolence, the writers are complaining that the publishers don’t believe their audiences will buy games if they focus on anything but the many ways you can beat someone to death with a crowbar — now with 110% more gore!

      • noom says:

        Just to quote the chap you’re replying to here Leosaurus…

        “I’m not saying… that these games shouldn’t be made – there will always be a market for hyperviolence, and that’s okay.”

        Doesn’t seem like any attempt to drive you out of gaming, right?

    • Lemming says:

      I get what your saying, and I applaud your principles but I don’t agree on God of War. Greek Mythology is all eye-gouging and liver throwing. The violence is over the top, yes, but it’s a little more than that. Almost every violent sequence is dripping in irony: cyclops’ having their eyes pulled out, Hermes having his legs sliced off, Hades having his soul ripped out etc. It’s ludicrous, and that’s why it’s fun. Kratos is angrier than any human being is probably capable of!

    • Apolloin says:

      AAA gaming is setting out to create art in much the same way that mainstream Hollywood Blockbusters are setting out to create art, in much the same way that Justin Beiber is setting out to create art.

      The only time I’ve seen a Dev studio SERIOUSLY make the artistic creativity demand was Bioware after the Mass Effect 3 disaster, and like most times it is referenced, it was because they had just artistically shat the bed.

      AAA gaming doesn’t want to create art, it wants to create exploitable intellectual properties. It wants to create Market share. It wants to create huge sacks of cash.

  2. Jorum says:

    I been watching some of the vids and I thought – what must this look like to someone outside?
    The shotgun blast from Last of Us seemed bit of a shock to me, and I’ve been playing games for 25 years.

    And most noticable thing i took from Watch Dogs vid (other than graphics) was – shit he just caused a violent pileup and started a shoot out that killed (at least) one random stranger. With the option to “rescue” her grieving husband as some kind of weak moral cover.

    • Jay says:

      Regarding your first point, I had the same feeling playing Dead Island recently. Honestly, I’d be less embarassed if someone walked in on me watching pornography. I enjoyed the game, but to an outsider it must’ve looked like playtime for sociopaths.

      I’m in no way claiming ‘ban this sick filth’ or anything. As I mentioned earlier, I had fun with the game, the horrific nature of it really complemented the theme. But you do have to wonder if so much gaming needs to be quite so horrific. Yeah there are some exceptions, but still, compared to just about any other medium the level of violence seems wildly disproportionate.

    • Jorum says:

      I know speaking personally part of it is being older and having kids – I can’t feel as detached and blasé about violence anymore.

      Actually I’ll qualify that and say not when violence is kinda pointless or inappropriate.

      For example Saints Row seems OK as the whole thing is absurd and not to be taken as any kind of reality. It’s easy to dissociate the people in it as representing actual people (if you see what I mean), possibly helped by the slightly cartoonish style.
      It doesn’t expect or ask player to take anything as serious or have any verisimilitude.

      Watch Dog and Last of Us – in contrast – are asking to be treated as real and serious and to have verismilitude, and so it is only fair that the player evaluates on those terms.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        I’m actually the opposite. To me cartoon violence helps to glorify it and make it seem fun, where the ultra realistic saving-private-ryan type of violence makes it seem awful and not fun.

      • Valvarexart says:

        I think cartoon violence is worse. The less realistic it is, the les you understand the consequences of your virtual actions. I’m not relating to this out of any type of concern for real life consequences, but I just find unrealistic and/or glorified violence to be distateful.

        • Lemming says:

          But that consequence is down to whether that’s part of the game or not. You’re projecting artist ideas onto games that aren’t trying to cover that. Maybe the game wants you to be thinking about something else?

        • Ragnar says:

          It’s certainly a matter of taste, as I find over-the-top un-realistic violence appealing from a visual, artistic perspective. For example, take the animated intro in the middle of Kill Bill compared to the rest of the movie. The whole movie is over-the-top and violent, but the animated sequence is bloody to the point where it is completely unrealistic. It’s a clear design choice trying to achieve that style (similar to the classic Ninja Scroll), and I think it works very well.

          In games, you see that in Dragon Age: Origins (even their marketing uses showers of blood) and in God of War (though the subsequent games tried to make the over-the-top violence feel more realistic and thus icky).

          Some games try to push the envelope, to make the player feel uneasy just like some movies do (Taxi Driver, Reservoir Dogs, The Bank Job, etc). GTA 3 made me feel dirty and ashamed. I haven’t seen this shotgun blast, but it sounds like it hit the mark, as suddenly all these people who have shot countless numbers of virtual men and creatures are feeling uneasy and disturbed by what they saw.

    • byteCrunch says:

      That car accident sequence, I felt was really out of place, up until that point the character had resorted to violence once, and even then only to incapacitate, and then he casually causes car accident, killing atleast a couple of people, it just didn’t fit with everything leading up til then.

      • Kenseu says:

        Yeah, I’m really hoping that was just one of many routes to solve the problem, with some way to scale the violence (I assume that it was chosen to demonstrate the gunplay of the game).

        If it’s not left up the the player to make a judgement call about the moral consequences of the player character’s actions, I hope at least they throw in some emotionally-conflicted writing.

        • LeiterJakab says:

          I actually liked the way the crossroads scene was delivered. It really felt horrible when the woman was shot and made me think about how anyone could justify sacrificing those innocent people even if they are fighting against some evil conspiracy. Rescuing the guy was a nice touch too, because it leaves you wondering what that person is supposed to do now that his loved one was killed under such terrible circumstances, is he supposed to get over it and live his life?

          The whole thing kind of makes me think about the arbitrary nature of morals and how we often find reasons to make exceptions for things that “need to be done”, but otherwise are in contradiction with our idea of “the right thing to do”. Killing innocent people to get to the target (probably a really bad guy), rescuing one of them if there is a chance.

          • byteCrunch says:

            But that is the thing though, despite the horrible outcome, the character just performs it casually, even if it was a tough decision, the character doesn’t show any reaction or internal conflict. I am not saying their should be some melodramtic sequence of the character realising the outcome, but at least some semblence of a reaction to his decision.

          • LeiterJakab says:

            I see your point, but to me the protagonist does not have to redeem himself in any way. I’m okay playing a lunatic doing things that I consider wrong, as long as it is in the context of a story that shows a detailed picture of his madness.

            Show me through the game what he does, and why he does it, and let me think about it and make my own conclusions. You don’t have to tell me he is wrong. I think what he does is wrong because he drags people into his war who aren’t allowed to decide wether the cause he is fighting for is worth dying for. I think this scene does this well.

    • arccos says:

      It is interesting that developers are increasing the fidelity of violence as it becomes possible. Is that really a bad thing? If you really want to teach someone about the consequences of violence, I would think that showing a gruesome death is more affecting than showing a guy just fall down and disappear 5 seconds later like in previous generations. At least in terms of the physical consequences.

      As far as people cheering the violence, even then they aren’t cheering an actual snuff film, they’re cheering hero wins against bad guy in fiction.It is not a given that celebrating a fictional violent victory is somehow inhumane or tells of someone’s predisposition to violence.

      • Jorum says:

        “”they’re cheering hero wins against bad guy in fiction.It is not a given that celebrating a fictional violent victory is somehow inhumane or tells of someone’s predisposition to violence.”

        In this case I don’t think it’s the same thing.
        Many (most?) stories throughout history involve violent victory but often is celebrating a victory (that was violent).
        But now what is being celebrated is the act of violence in itself, and the lastest novel or hi-fidelity execution of it.
        The victory is almost tangential

    • PopeBob says:

      The shotgun blast being a focal point of ire confuses the absolute living shit out of me. It was graphic, sure, but the preceding few minutes were a man sneaking into a room and murdering a group of survivors just because they happened to be there. They may have been looting, evil bandits- but we get no sense of that being the case. He sneaks up behind a man and snaps his neck before quickly getting to shooting the remainder. Men he’s, as far as we know, never met or even attempted to talk to.

      That’s more the issue than a gory headshot. Not a minute before, he set a man on fire with a molotov cocktail in a dilapidated building, which is not only cruel but incredibly dangerous for himself. Good job bringing the whole building down around your ears before you get any supplies, numbnuts.

  3. Ginga121 says:

    Good to know that most of E3 is all about blowing peoples faces off.

    I think the only shooter I am looking forward to is Arma 3… and that is probably the least bloody of them all which is odd, considering it’s a simulator with .50 cal rounds in it. I think some of these devs need to spend a few months in Afghanistan and see what bullets actually do to people.

    • Shuck says:

      I’d love to see a game that deals with violence realistically. Players would expend all their efforts through the entire game desperately trying to avoid conflict. It could be really great.

      • mjrmua says:

        Yes! This is exactly the reason I have been enjoying Day Z

        • Sassenach says:

          Incidentally, people putting all their energy into not avoiding conflict in DayZ has been putting me off it of late.

          • ttcfcl says:

            Exactly. DayZ is still a *game*. You just respawn when you die, so you can just go around blowing away other players without consequence, just to respawn yourself when one survivor (or walker) finally gets you. What I’d love to see is a “hardcore” server where you get banned from after you die. That would make people want to survive.

          • gwathdring says:

            I’m not sure about banning … it would have to be temporary at the very least. But I’m still not a fan. You’re then punishing people for DYING not for KILLING. It’s a very different thing. Another way to go about it would be to make bullets even more precious. Make it more serious to FIRE. Like … I don’t know, increasing the emphasis on hunting for food.

            Another way to do it would be to leave new players more helpless, with nothing on them worth stealing. Of course … that might not work given that a lot of players I’ve encountered seem to shoot me just for the heck of it. I’ve encountered one player who didn’t kill me on sight, and only one player who came after me so far spent a reasonable amount of ammo doing so. Most recently I counted a painfully inaccurate 23 shots while running away from an unseen attacker and making it very clear I was not fighting back.

            It’s just not fun,

    • rockman29 says:

      I thought the violence in The Last of Us was appropriate. It was the game they were trying to make in my opinion. I do not defend most games, but I feel like The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls are only taking it to a point where it fits their narrative.

      As far as calling in high art in Far Cry 3, that might be going a little far. Sure, it’s a violent thriller type game, but certainly not high art. Why don’t people complain when Left 4 Dead of Half-Life 2 is violent? You can crater people’s faces pretty badly in those games with shotguns and machine guns of all sorts.

      I’m afraid we are being too critical of the games for being violent. I agree with the criticisms, but I’m worried a wide brush stroke is being painted here. I feel very positive about Sony’s entries with Beyond: Two Souls and The Last of Us. I agree they are violent, but I feel like the violence in those games is a result of the drama and environment they wish to show.

      However, I also want to say I feel we are missing a lot of the light charm in videogames from virtually all companies aside from Nintendo or Double Fine, and very few others, and that is disappointing to me. I don’t feel like there is a trend towards gratuitous violence, but I do feel there is a trend towards more games which are violent, and I hope we return to some light charm in games as soon as possible.

      I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m just coming to the defense of The Last of Us or Beyond: Two Souls. I am excited for that game and I can understand why someone might think I am biased in this case. I just didn’t feel they were gratuitously violent though. I trust Naughty Dog to be responsible with their game, personally.

      As far as the violence goes in Splinter Cell or Far Cry 3, I can’t explain those as well. We have had such broad base of action movies and action games with extremely varying degrees of violence, that I find it difficult to say when the violence is too much, for better or worse. I personally don’t know when we should say it’s too much. I personally don’t find the violence in these games convincing enough yet as in movies I have seen where I felt felt I couldn’t watch them.

      PS3 and 360 games still look very unrealistic and cartoon-ey to me, and maybe this is why I think drawing the line today is even harder. Blowing someone’s head off Resident Evil 5 doesn’t look very real, in my opinion. Neither did it in Resident Evil 4 or Grand Theft Auto III or Vice City. I think in the next generation with the added fidelity we will definitely have to explore this issue further.

      If there was one game however I would like to criticize that would be Tomb Raider. I felt like the entire demo was gratuitous with the violence. The constant moaning and crying from the main character, who simply got up to experience more pain and further moaning and crying, simply did not make sense to me in the slightest. In this case, I would say the game was unnecessarily and gratuitously violent. It took the violence and even the amount of pain a person could possibly take to a different level, all the while exaggerating it visually with blood spilling everywhere and it just went on and on like that… I didn’t understand why that was exciting. It felt like sadism for me in this case, even if it looked unrealistic, it just on the whole seemed unnecessary and I couldn’t see the point of what they were trying to convey other than the violence.

      P.S. I did feel a few times in God of War 3 that the violence was unnecessary. However, I don’t feel that applies to the whole series. I thought the violence was appropriate. Maybe I’m too desensitized, but God of War is a great series in my opinion, and I thought the E3 gameplay demonstration was some of the best action gaming we have seen in a while.

      • Brun says:

        Agree about God of War. Its level of violence is appropriate because the world of Greek Mythology – which serves as the game’s framework, if not its basis – is incredibly violent.

      • Hoaxfish says:

        I’m probably missing the big picture in terms of plot, but the Last of Us’ violence seemed somewhat at odds with the “survive” idea.

        Basically “on the way to the bridge” they discover some guys rooting through desks in an abandoned building (talking about making sure they’d checked for bug people I think), the next move is to attack one guy from behind and choke him, then take his gun and immediately start shooting… eventually cumulating in setting someone on fire, etc. Wasting a whole bunch of ammo, where it seems stealth or talking might have been more effective, or simply going a different way in a giant city.

        • rockman29 says:

          Actually I do agree with that. I am hoping it was just for the E3 presentation that we had so much violence. It didn’t seem like the characters were expecting to meet these enemies soon, and I hope fighting enemies is not so regular in the game. I also hope that the main character only having about 6 bullets is an indication we won’t be fighting very often. I definitely think you are right that stealth should be a viable option in at least the game they claim to be making, or are advertising. I agree we should be skeptical about The Last of Us based on the presentation, good point.

          Aside: What got me most excited about the game to be honest was the non-regenerating healthbar, and the inventory system they teased.

        • rockman29 says:

          I just heard a bit more of The Last of Us from Sony’s own interviews on their official site. They said for their E3 presentation that conflict was only one option and the player can choose to just move past all the enemies. They described the game as ‘wide’ and ‘linear’ in that players can choose where to go within a broad, but still limited, environment, but everyone will ultimately meet the same sequences to advance the levels or whatever.

          • davidek says:

            I think it’s great if developers can make games where violence is scary and disturbing. The problem is that the mechanics of this game don’t support that. The player should be punished through gameplay mechanics for choosing the most dangerous route and out-of-character behavior – meaning completing the objectives through unnecessary violence. The player should not be able to take several shots during this shootout and easily dispose of his enemies. It should feel like a dangerous confrontation and it doesn’t. The player should go into battles with the mindset of a scared father figure concerned about protecting the female character, not an action hero Schwarzenegger.

      • Valvarexart says:

        While I agree with you on the point that the execution was kinda bad (all that moaning etc was not very well done), I do fully understand what they are trying to do and I approve of it. They are trying to shape what was previously only a pair of massive boobs into a human character instead of a superhero bimbo. They are trying to make a game where you feel emotions, where you really want to protect the hero. I think this is violence done right; you really want to avoid it, and when it happens it makes you feel bad about it. I think it’s way worse (maybe not even comparable) when you decimate a few thousand unnamed soldiers with turbans and then have a laugh about it.

  4. coffeetable says:

    Just to head something off:

    THE PLURAL OF ANECDOTE IS NOT DATA

    If you and your friends play violent games and have not yet murdered a hooker, this is not in any way evidence that violent games don’t have an impact on your behaviour.

    If you have heard that some serial killer played GTA4, that is similarly not an indicator that violent games have an impact on your behaviour.

    I’ll gather some sources and post my own opinions about the video game journalism-violent game industrial complex in a bit, but I just wanted to get the bold bit in here early. Thanks :j

    • Kenseu says:

      Are you sure? I just asked a large group of people and they all disagree.

    • MistyMike says:

      You are correct, the plural of ‘anecdote’ is ‘anecdotae’.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      God this sort of thing pisses me off. Very witty, totally unhelpful and misleading, well done you.

      So, what’s the magic figure you have to pass before anecdotes become data? 100 people? 500? 10,000? 50,000? Each anecdote is still an anecdote. This is some form of strict scientific method fetishism, and it serves no purpose. There is no point whatsoever trying to shoehorn social and behavioural research into rigid empirical methodology. This is all at heart a matter of attempting to find similarity and in people’s experiences and thus trends in behaviour, which means listening to anecdotes, and at some point you have to acknowledge their value.

      More specifically, the fact that I and my friends enjoy violent games and haven’t murdered anyone isn’t and couldn’t be evidence of anything other than the basic facts. It’s an indication of a probable lack of connection between violent games and OUR behaviour, and given that most gamers who comment on this sort of thing are doing so partly as an act of self-identification with gamers as a whole, you can take it that I/whoever says this believes they are like others in their behaviour. No it’s not proof and it’s not a solid fact. That’s not, and has never been, what this sort of research is about. What it is is support for a theory.

      • InternetBatman says:

        That’s not true. It is very possible to measure a large group’s consumption of violent video games and then record signs of violent behavior as compared to control groups without ever listening to an anecdote. I’m not sure if it’s been done before, but it’s very possible.

        If it is scientific fetishism to get results that are dependent on data rather than common wisdom, a collection of anecdotes that may or may not be true, then I fail to see the problem with it.

  5. Gap Gen says:

    I thought the Splinter Cell violence and the Tomb Raider Homer-Simpson-falling-down-a-mountain-esque injuries were pretty horrific, too. Maybe my tolerance for violence has plateaued through age, or maybe we have reached the realism where this kind of violence becomes unpalatable.

  6. frenz0rz says:

    “Pay attention” is all well and good, but “speak up”?

    What can we – the PC gamers who are already mostly ignored by most popular shooter developers/publishers in comparison with our console cousins – what can we do to speak up, except blather between each other on forums they’ll never read? The only people who can truly speak up are the journalists and developers. Those whose voices will be heard, and whose opinions actually carry weight.

    I’ll pay attention, absolutely, and I’ll comment when appropriate, but ultimately as long as millions of Xbox and PS3 owners continue to “draw the line” with their wallets, nothing will change.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      Support the good stuff, make sure it keeps getting made, and that talented indie and niche devs can work full time making amazing games. I think that’s the best anyone can do.

      When people you know inevitably react with shock and disgust at the ludicrous levels of grimdark violence in mainstream games, educate them and make sure they understand the aforementioned good stuff exists, and that these AAA titles are the gaming equivalent of Justin Bieber, or whatever shitty rock music is popular with angry 13 year old boys these days.

    • PopeJamal says:

      I don’t know what we can ultimately do about it, but the very first part of it is civil discussion and awareness.
      I’d say that they next step is speaking with your wallet.

      That’s hard enough for most people as it is, so with those two, you’d be way ahead of the curve for sure.

    • El_Emmental says:

      We, gamers, on PC or consoles (it doesn’t matter), have to discuss with each others, analyze and debate about each games and controversies, to determine what, in violence and in its depiction, is becoming a problem or a challenge.

      We need to find out methods, principles, allowing us to determine what kind of violence (and how it’s represented) is necessary to achieve a wanted effect/atmosphere. Basically, we need to find a way to get rid of unnecessary and unwanted violences (! no censorship !), a way to get appropriate violence for each games.

      Example: A zombie shooter will need dismemberment, but it might not need people actually being eaten alive, screaming in pain for a good 30 minutes until they finally die (unless the developers want to make this very specific kind of zombie shooter).
      Left 4 Dead has dismemberment, but it’s rather clean regarding pain/suffering – does it really need its characters actually panicking and being eaten alive right before our eyes, to be entertaining, to be the L4D game experience ? I don’t think so.

      Developers who want to provide an appealing and entertainment action game for young male players (12-17 years old, hormones !) are often too afraid to not have enough violence (or not enough gory depiction of violence) and blindly go for the “most borderline” choice.
      If they could know what is necessary and what is not necessary, we wouldn’t have to sigh at these over-gory/over-violent scenes who don’t add anything to the experience.

      If we can decipher what these customers really “need” in terms of violence, we can avoid errors and leave the incompatible-with-mainstream-violence for specific games.

  7. Hug_dealer says:

    violence is nothing new, and people love violence.

    Boxing, MMA, Gladiators, Jousting. It’s human nature to love violence. Whether its video game, movies,or real life. We love it. I would totally go to a to the death Gladiator combat thing in real life, as long as all those involved agree and are happy to be participating. While i refuse to go to anything involving the mistreatment and abuse of animals, Circus, Bull fighting, Rodeos, etc etc. Everyone draws a line on what they approve of. The people clapping approved of the violence shown on screen. Everyone has their own opinion on “to far”. Which is exactly an opinion, and those people have the option to not experience that content by not purchasing it.

    Do not for a second think that these types of games should not exist. They have every right to. Next thing up is all games will need a christian message built into it. No.

    • Okami says:

      I wish people would stop blathering on about what is and isn’t “human nature” without actually having any clue about human nature. Most people find violence pretty horrible and not entertaining at all, most people find violent video games pretty disgusting and do not care at all for violent movies

      . It’s not human nature to cheer at close up, slow motion shots of exploding brain tissue. We as gamers like it, or at least tolerate it, because we’ve grown up on it, because we’ve been told from our earliest childhood on, via tv shows, comic books, cartoons, movies and games, that physical violence is fun and that solving conflicts through violence is a good thing.

      • HisMastersVoice says:

        And your qualification for making definite statements about human nature is? Note that this isn’t an attack on you, I’m simply curious.

        • Myros says:

          Conflict avoidance is the norm not the exception. Soldiers are deliberatly trained to supress human nature (ie most humans don’t want to kill, and will avoid violence if at all possible).

          Human nature is by design selfish but that does not equate to homicidal ;p

          As far as ‘proof’ goes – Im basing that on a load of college psychology courses, 10 years in the army and the studies I have read. Im sure you can dig some up on google if you try :)

          • Hug_dealer says:

            a very nice article about violence

            http://www.sirc.org/publik/foxviolence.html

          • HisMastersVoice says:

            I wasn’t asking for proof, only qualification, which doesn’t seem all that convincing to me. I mean, I went to a bunch of psychology collage courses and served in the army too (albeit only for a year), that doesn’t really entitle me to making definitive statements on the matter.

            And you seem to mistake conflict avoidance with spectacle mentality. People cheering at public executions are not in the same situation as soldiers that have to suppress their natural disinclination to kill people who aren’t a direct, imminent threat.

          • Leosaurus says:

            Agreed. I’m an infantry veteran. I have been awarded my CIB, so I know a thing or two about combat. That being said, I fucking love shoot ‘em ups…in movies, on games, whatever. I have never, NEVER enjoyed the actual act of pulling the trigger in real life. It fucking sucks. You HAVE to dehumanize your enemy, to call them names, to remove their similarities to yourself from the equation, or it will eat you up. Doing so takes a lot out of you, and unless you’re one of the 2% of the human population who are unaffected by interpersonal violence, it will get to you. That’s why I don’t have a problem with “hyperviolence” in games….because, from my personal experience, video game violence is nothing like the real thing. NOTHING.

          • gwathdring says:

            @OP: You make precisely the same mistake in claiming that human nature is primarily selfish. There are plenty of circumstances in which a person will look out for themselves over others, but the fundamental sum of human experience has led to societies. Not all-powerful lone rangers that occasionally hang out with each other long enough to have kids before going back out into the wilderness–as is the case with some species.

            There is significant debate as to whether or not this sort of cooperation can be framed in a selfish mind-set and it is very interesting and incomplete as both a philosophical and scientific endeavor. But we are at least fundamentally group-oriented which at the very least speaks to a radically different human nature than the one intended in the classic “humans are selfish by nature” stereotype.

      • EPICTHEFAIL says:

        Human nature is just that-human nature. Now please get the soccer moms off the internet, i do not like the noises they make. Also, since when do you qualify as “most people”? Most of the people here like VIRTUAL violence, as it is a great way to blow off some steam. I would rather spend an hour splitting heads with an axe in Left 4 Dead 2, than do the same in real life. Gamers are human beings, too. We are not all sociopaths. Not outside of cyberspace, anyway.

      • Lemming says:

        There’s a very real argument that teenagers are the normal state of human nature, but we ‘train’ them to suppress it into adulthood to be more ‘civilised’.

        And I’d argue teenagers are more prone to violence. I don’t mean shooting each other and stuff, but no one thinks twice about teens having a scrap after school with the whole ‘boys will be boys’ schtick, but when it comes to adulthood then it’s outrage and assault.

        That would certainly fit with the studies showing a decrease in young crime since video games became the norm. It becomes an outlet for that violence in a virtual setting. It’s practically common knowledge that the Playstation with it’s more adult-themed games made gaming mainstream among teens.

    • Keirley says:

      There is a very big difference between someone saying ‘I’m uncomfortable about this, and I’m letting that be known’ and someone saying ‘I’m uncomfortable about this, and so I don’t think it should exist’. Nathan didn’t say that these games shouldn’t be made in the first place, or that they should be censored or banned.

      • Hug_dealer says:

        he is actually coming out extremely against it, and is trying to rally people to his side. In an effort to not have these types of games. He says it multiple times at the bottom of the article.

        He is welcome to his opinion, but I disagree with it entirely. I believe there is room for these types of games, and other types, and that people can pick and choose what they want endorse with a purchase.

        NO where does it say its ok for these to exist. He is pretty much feels that they have gone to far. To far for you, sure. Then dont buy it. But dont take it from those that would want it.

        • Keirley says:

          Got to disagree with you there. I don’t think he’s saying ‘these things should not be made’. He may be saying that he doesn’t like these kinds of games, or that he’d prefer it if developers focused less on making these kind of game and focused on something else, but I’d be surprised if the message of this article was intended to be ‘let’s all get together and tell developers/publishers/marketers to never make this kind of thing again’.

          Sure, there’s room for violence, even extreme violence, in any medium. I think it becomes a problem, however, when the medium starts to seem like it is filled to the brim with, or much worse characterised, by said violence.

          • Hug_dealer says:

            His statements at the end of the article seem to be pretty clear how he feels about, and how he feels about people who are ok with said games. Sure he does say there is room.

            Here

            “Admittedly, an alarmingly high number of other games – for instance, Assassin’s Creed, Dead Space, Medal of Honor, Black Ops, Splinter Cell, and (so far, at least) even Watch Dogs – stuck to the ol’ slow-mo shooty shooty bang bang for its own sake, and that’s definitely part of the problem. I do not, however, believe there’s necessarily a moral quandary in having fun with ultraviolence. These things are fictional. We’re all (read: mostly, I hope) responsible adults here, and we know where to draw the line. I mean, goodness, the entire “Games don’t cause violence, so calm down everyone jeez” line of thought is almost entirely predicated on that assumption. That, however, is precisely the problem: yesterday’s press conferences suggested anything but.”

            Then

            “It would be a colossal mistake, however, to pin this thing entirely on publishers. Once again, as Responsible Adults Who Know Where To Draw The Line, it’s our job to, you know, draw the line. But, quite evidently, we’re not doing that very well. So either we don’t actually know where to draw the line, and there’s a serious problem with, well, humanity here, or – more likely – we’re also being irresponsible. We’re clapping – basically sending the universal human signal for “Yes! Amazing! Keep doing that until one of us dies!” to publishers – without thinking. We’re endorsing the way these games are presented in all sorts of public channels and forums without considering the consequences.”

            So are we responsible adults who can tell the difference, or are we irresponsible for saying yes, i enjoy this content, and would like more of it?

          • Keirley says:

            I don’t see how that means Nathan’s arguing that the above games (or games like them) shouldn’t be made. He merely seems to be saying that he thinks many people are being irresponsible. That doesn’t necessarily lead into ‘and so there should be censorship/regulation/etc’.

          • Hug_dealer says:

            He ends the article with this.

            “So pay attention and speak up. Sure, a thousand hands clapping paints a pretty damning picture, but you know what’s a thousand times worse? Silence.”

            He is calling people into action with his final words. Which is pretty evident that he is pushing an agenda.

            There are plenty of games out there that arent like what he is describing. Those games are for him. He does not need to try to rally people against these types of games. If he isnt alone, then other people will continue to make games for people like him, and they do.

          • Keirley says:

            I genuinely don’t see your point. He’s saying ‘let’s show developers/marketers/publishers’ that we’re uncomfortable with this in the hope that they listen.’

            Are you afraid they’ll listen and just stop making violent videogames? I don’t think that would ever happen. Maybe they’ll listen we’ll see less of this crass, dumb marketing of (often intelligent) games. Maybe developers will start putting more thought into violence and stop using it as a central feature, or amusing window-dressing. I think this is the kind of thing Nathan’s calling for (though of course I may be mistaken), not the outright cessation of the use of violence in mainstream videogames.

          • Hug_dealer says:

            I’m not afraid of anything.

            he is simply pushing his agenda on things that are not developed with his interests in mind.

            What he should have been doing instead of watching things he has no interest in, but many people do, Is go find the games he is interested in, and give them coverage.

            http://www.mapyourshow.com/shows/index.cfm?Show_ID=E312

            Sorry for him that the most popular things seem to be very violent, but thats how it goes. No doubt that if my little pony was the biggest money maker, it would have been up there also. But its not, so its over in the family section where he should be.

          • x1501 says:

            Hug_dealer, “pushing an agenda”? The article is obviously written as an opinion piece, which why—surprise, surprise—it happens to read like one. Unless you’re a mindless drone unable of evaluating or forming personal opinions, it is entirely up to you to agree or to disagree with the author’s view on the subject. Where’s the problem?

          • Keirley says:

            The response to being uncomfortable about something should not always be to choose to ignore that thing. If you have a problem with the way videogames are made and marketed you’re perfectly entitled to say so, and to articulate why you have a problem. Maybe people will listen and something will change, maybe they won’t and nothing will change.

            Nathan has an opinion (what you call an agenda, I think somewhat hyperbolically), and he’s articulating it here. It’s not a good enough response to just say ‘it’ not aimed at you so ignore it’.

          • Hug_dealer says:

            I never said i wasnt uncomfortable with the tons of violence, but just because i am uncomfortable with it, doesnt mean that i’m going to attempt to get them to tone it down. I’ll find something that suits what i am looking for.

            You dont go around saying hey ubisoft, i want this. Ubisoft will say. Well we are making this, you can go somewhere else to find what you are looking for. Then decide to rally your friends and say its not ok for you to make that, when we wan this. Yes it is ok for them to make that, the game is obviously not targetted at you, it is targetted at the people who want that.

            Thats all i am saying. They make the exact kind of games Nathan wants, but he would rather complain about games he doesnt want.

          • x1501 says:

            Yes, god forbid somebody would stand up and speak out against actions and policies they find tasteless and irresponsible. You don’t seem to be grasping the concept of criticism. At least one made by someone else but you…

          • Brun says:

            I think his concern (or fear) is that if nothing happens to stop these sorts of games, there won’t be any more games that are to his liking.

          • Hug_dealer says:

            As long as people out there think like him. There will be games for him. They still make turn based game, they still make puzzle games, they make family friendy games, they make adult games. Boohoo that what is wants isnt what is popular, and therefore gets less press and marketing than the more popular ones. Just like movies big and small cover all genres, so do games.

            At the same time. There need to be games for people not like him, and he is criticizing those games. His opinion is as important as someone stating a game isnt violent enough. Neither are correct. Each is what it is. You the consumer make the choice whether it is something you want or dont want. What you dont have the right to do is to ask it to change.

          • Keirley says:

            Your stance seems to be: ‘if you have a problem with some piece of media then ignore it rather than complain’, but that’s an untenable position. I know this isn’t the issue at hand, but what if Ubisoft made a game that not only glorified violence, but glorified sexual violence? Should we just say ‘well, it has its audience, and I’m obviously not part of that audience so I just won’t play it’?

            Sure, you can argue that violence in games is less worrying than sexual violence in games, and I’d agree with you there, but that’s a separate issue. The point is that the proper response to finding something distasteful in a game/game marketing campaign is not to ignore it. Nor, do I think, is the answer to call for censorship or the like. I think the proper response is to criticise the hell out of it, and that’s just what Nathan did.

          • Brun says:

            As long as ENOUGH people think like him. With “enough” defined as the minimum number required to appear on the radar of AAA Studios’ Marketing VPs.

            And don’t hold up indie games as the replacement. I’m all for indie development, but there’s only so many platforming Super Mario clones with programmer graphics that I can handle.

          • Hug_dealer says:

            No, he is not to Ignore it. He is to accept it. There is a place for it.

            If enough people dont think like him. Then obviously there isnt a market for it.

            I can think of dozens of games i would want made specifically for me. But i dont criticize every other game out there that arent exactly what i want.

            He makes the comment that everyone else is quite possibly wrong for enjoying what they saw. Perhaps he needs to look a little deeper at himself. Rather than telling everyone else they should be ashamed, maybe he should say well I hope you enjoy it but its not for me. I’ll find my own game, and support it.

            I personally loathe pop rap and pop music in general. I don’t think it has no right to exist, i choose to accept it for what it is, and find my own music that i enjoy. Most of all, i dont go to a Rihanna concert and complain about it.

          • x1501 says:

            Yes, you just seem to criticize every other person out there who doesn’t say exactly what you want to hear. The irony of your position seems to be lost on you.

            EDIT: You’re still not getting it. You just read a run-of-the-mill editorial on a blog known for its editorial “Wot I think”-type of format and then complained about it being editorialized. Loudly and repeatedly. Compare that to your Rihanna concert analogy.

          • Hug_dealer says:

            If you say so.

            Well considering i said i wouldnt go to a Rihanna concert and complain about it, pretty much says it all.

          • Keirley says:

            Dude, this isn’t the same as not taking a personal liking to the oeuvre of the Wu-Tang Clan or Rihanna. And you’re just ignoring my point above. You can’t just say ‘well, don’t play it’ any time someone has a problem with a game. You’re engaging in the kind of talk that actively seeks to stymie thoughtful debate about videogames.

          • jrodman says:

            Acceptance is not required. Acceptance should not be demanded. Rejection is a valid response. Talking about the details of that is a valid topic.

          • PopeJamal says:

            Hug, maybe we have a different understanding of how society works. What most of us are saying is that, for any given subject, people are to civilly argue for or against the topic. Other people can make up their minds based on these opinions or not. So using the UBIsoft example:

            UBI: Here, buy this game!
            P1: No way, that’s dumb.
            P2: Yes please, this is awesome.

            UBI: Based on my own free will, I have decided that I personally value the opinion of X group of people and will behave accordingly.

            That’s it.

          • El_Emmental says:

            tl;dr =
            - Hug_dealer: “if you’re no happy, just leave it”
            - Keirley and others: “no, we should be able to criticize it publicly”

            Personally, I’m not really fond about the “laissez-faire” philosophy – it’s often leading to a tyranny of the majority/strongest, and the inevitable regulation is hidden and not thought-out by people, it’s a hidden systemic regulation.

            Since the video game industry won’t magically self-regulate itself overnight, since it’s only obeying to the maximum amount of short-term profits (that’s how business works nowadays anyway), since customers won’t regulate themselves*, speaking up about such issue is fully legitimate in my opinion.

            * take a look at booze, drugs, speeding or consumer credits, it’s a real disaster if you don’t put any rules with a group of more than 100 people, anarchy (self-regulated society) never work with more than two hundred individuals.

            The idea is NOT censorship, it’s producing a reflection having an effect on the commercial and the PR side of these entertainment services also known as “video games”.

            Indies and publishers will still be able to do whatever they want, however they will know they’re crossing the line (so they won’t do that by accident/out of their commercial-risk aversion) and people enjoying that over-the-line violence will enjoy it knowingly, willfully, not simply because “that’s what the publisher sold me”.

            Intelligent social control is not censorship, just because using violence has a commercial/media consequence doesn’t mean it’s preventing anyone from creating, from expressing his thoughts.

            Also, if gamers don’t sigh/boo a game for pouring some extreme violence just get people’s attention (and not convey something), devs wanting to express something really special about violence won’t be able to do so, simply because the violence topic will be dominated by spectacular (and hollow) AAA products monopolizing violence.

    • Stochastic says:

      As commenters above have noted, no one is making the argument that we should begin bowdlerizing our games. Hyperviolence is okay in certain contexts, and even if it isn’t, it isn’t up to me to decide what people should and shouldn’t buy. What bothers me is that the industry has failed to move beyond the violence-infused mentality for which videogames are so derided. People can enjoy violence, yes. But they can also enjoy other elements that can be a lot more compelling. It’s a shame that we don’t see more of that in the mainstream media and glitzy conferences like E3.

    • Skabooga says:

      At least from the impression I got from the article, Nathan was not objecting to the violence of the games but rather that the promotion of these games focused on hyper violence to the exclusion of all else (such as interesting or novel game mechanics or themes). In a way, the games were being misrepresented, but no one in the audience seemed to mind.

      • Archonsod says:

        That’s how I read it too. Something akin to the fact that your game could be the most astounding work of storytelling since Shakespeare, but you can guarantee the trailers and promo material will focus purely on the five seconds of tits and gore, even if it has absolutely sod all to do with the rest of the game.

        It’s a dumbing down of the marketing essentially. As gamers, at one of the major game industry events, we should be talking about these things *as games*, not “titties and guns yay!”.

  8. BobsLawnService says:

    I mentioned it in another article today – this isn’t exclusive to gaming. Watch most crime dramas or read British crime novels. Creators of content seem to be trying to one-up each other in their depictions of sadistic, ultraviolent depictions of murder and mayhem in an attempt to capture the attention. Of an increasingly desensitized audience.

    It is an industry specific issue, it is an issue with society in general.

    • Hug_dealer says:

      It is not an “issue” It is human nature. The love of over the top violence is not something that just started.

      Gladiator combat, Jousting, Duels, Public executions, burning of witches, and tons of more things that i dont want to type out.

      Violence is nothing new. What has changed though, is people have for the most part realized that these things are negative and should not be allowed to happen in reality, and now we have it in our fictional books, games, and movies.

      • Brise Bonbons says:

        It seems you’re painting with a rather broad brush here, lumping all public violence together into a general “love of violence”, especially examples which come from such disparate times and places in history.

        Place modern games in their context, at the end of decades of increasingly stark depictions of violence in film. It seems silly to not imagine this plays a part in shaping our tastes and expectations.

        You’re also ignoring all of the nonviolent or violence-averse cultures throughout history, or those which are more interested in sex or low-violence athletics such as wrestling.

        I agree that there is certainly a climate that is very inviting to hyperviolent media right now, and there have been climates in the past which have, in their own ways, led to spectacle violence. But you have a long way to go before you can convince me to believe that there is some hard circuitry in the human brain which just fucking loves to watch heads explode.

        • Hug_dealer says:

          Every parent has had to teach their child not to hit. Yes it is hardwired. We must also be tought to share, not to use deception, and to care. These are not only human things, but animals also perform them.

          There was a time when Hitting worked out well for humans and society. Just like animals need to be biggest and the baddest to survive.

          We have certainly past that time, but our basic instincts are still there in part.

          • bhagan says:

            “Just like animals need to be biggest and the baddest to survive.”

            I love simplification!

          • Hug_dealer says:

            way to add nothing to the discussion.

          • bhagan says:

            That is certainly true, though it may be that adding nothing is better than adding misinformation

          • Hug_dealer says:

            if it is misinformation, then elaborate on it. Dont let others be misinformed. Yes i gave a simplified statement, but that doesnt mean it is entirely wrong, and is right in alot of cases, in other it happens to be deception makes another animal is bigger or badder than it, and in other cases something else.

            Atleast contribute to the discussion.

          • PopeJamal says:

            So children hitting people is now the same as making heads explode? I don’t think that’s a good example.

      • Salvian says:

        What a breathtaking bevy of logical fallacies. By your reasoning, we should all enjoy watching human sacrifice, cannibalism, and pulling thorn-lined cords through our genitals, because these things occured historically and are therefore natural and therefore good.

        There are two really, really important points you in the ‘violence is human nature’ crowd ought to take in:

        1: You are confusing fact and value. Because X occurs, does not mean that X should occur. Otherwise there’s no point in having a bloody opinion in the first place.

        2: Everything we do has a biological basis, or else we couldn’t do it. At the same time, the variety of human behaviour across time and space is such that biological determinism has no explanatory power. We need to look for other reasons to explain, e.g. why execution is illegal in one time and place and a spectator sport in another.

        This brings us neatly back the point of the article: what does it say about our culture that ever-more-extreme simulated hyperviolence elicits such a rapturous response?

        • Hug_dealer says:

          you would need to be taught human sacrifice is good or bad. The same for cannibalism, and cords through genitals, religion, etc etc.

          We are born with the knowledge of possession. We are not taught it. Babies know when they have something and when they dont. Children often resort to violence to get what they want, without it being taught to them.

          Another part of our instinct is to form communities. We are more powerful in groups, than alone. Like a wolfpack, not a panther. These communities now are based on politics, religion, sport teams, country, town, and many other things. Those that bind us to some, are what alienate us from others, and that tends to cause rivalry and even violence. Even over stupid things like which baseball team is better.

          There is so much that is merely instinct in us, but we go against our instincts because of what we wer taught. Even now we cant overcome our instincts all of the time. Granted, what we are speaking about is over simplified, but the idea does stand, and it is backed up by many facts. The fact im not at college trying to right a paper is the reason i’m not going to make a 30 page report.

          What it says about a culture is that it is accepted. But that does not mean that it is accepted by everyone, and it doesnt have to be.

          • PopeJamal says:

            Again, using an example of a frustrated child hitting someone is not a very compelling example for how we are all hardwired to enjoy curb stomping and chainsawing people.

          • El_Emmental says:

            Even if I don’t fully agree with Hug_Dealer regarding our “natural”, “hardwired” (I think the word “instinct” appeared several times) use of violence, he’s got a point here.

            Children will use violence to get what they want (even when they’re just babies*), however they also “instinctively” learn that violence often results in negative outcomes (such as pain, frustration, confrontation).

            And since humans (same with animals) are instinctively less sadistic than pragmatic (you rarely see one of them risking its life only to experience violence), and since they learn to form communities (for protection, food, social contact, reproduction), they’re also “hardwired” to suppress their desire of violence when the situation requires it.

            * “Yanking on hair, like kicking, biting, pinching, and hitting, is one of the ways toddlers express themselves and try to exert control over their immediate environment.” (babycenter.com)(see “Charlie bits my finder” for a real-life footage =] )

    • Archonsod says:

      “Of an increasingly desensitized audience.

      It is an industry specific issue, it is an issue with society in general.”

      I don’t think it’s the violence we’re desensitized to, rather it’s use as marketing spectacle. Take out the violence from a modern man shooter, or the explosions from the latest Hollywood blockbuster, and what you’re left with is usually the same crap we had last year.
      Hence it is an industry problem. It’s hard if not impossible to explain why your particular game involving clicking a crosshair over moving pixels is different from any of the thousand other games utilising exactly the same thing. It’s a lot easier to provide some form of spectacle or titillation instead. And probably a lot cheaper too (and if you’re being cynical; the marketing suits probably think you’re too dumb to understand the explanation anyway). So the developers are locked in a race to provide the most ridiculous show of violence in the hopes that it’ll convince you to buy ManShooter 23 rather than ShootyMan 12.

  9. Turin Turambar says:

    It shocked me how violent was The Last of Us. Notice how it was the player/protagonist who initiated the combat, just because, he wasn’t discovered by the other guys. And he killed in gruesome ways, choking people, turning them on fire, the shotgun blast in a guy asking for piety, etc.

    Also, in all these videos, I am seeing lots of gruesome neck stabbing. Is a new fetish in developers of what?

    • Hug_dealer says:

      game of thrones features lots of gruesomeness, and neck stabbing. Neck stabbing has been around as long as whoring.

    • Keirley says:

      I was kind of surprised by how the protagonist just snuck up on a guy and choked him to death. Sure, it’s a dangerous post-apocalyptic world and he’s trying to protect the young girl, but if you want to make me empathise with a character it’s probably not a good idea to have him kill a man in cold blood (even if the man he killed was talking to his companion about having robbed and killed someone else).

      • Brise Bonbons says:

        I think this is what they call being an edgy antihero; some sort of Walking Dead, grimdark “good man driven to do bad things to protect those who rely on him”.

        I.e. Lazy, boring writing. I don’t need a character to show me how to be a good person, nor do I need examples of how shitty people can be to each other – I’d learn more by reading a good history book when it comes to the latter. But this type of character has been fucking done to death. Come up with something new, please.

      • wicko says:

        And do you understand the situation they’re in? There’s been multiple trailers for this game, and they’d probably provide some context. If you haven’t seen them, you’d just be guessing, and even then, this is a highly scripted demo just like every other E3 demo. For all we know, you could avoid them completely if you wanted. This is just the most exciting way to get through it for an E3 demo.

        • PopeJamal says:

          “This is just the most exciting way to get through it for an E3 demo.”
          And that’s part of the point. Why is the “best” option almost always the most violent option? It doesn’t have to be that way. Violence is the easy way out and many devs don’t seem to be interested in putting forth the effort to give us anything more.

          And keep in mind, this is very much a AAA problem because many of the indie crowd seem to be doing a good job of providing interesting alternatives to violence.

    • Orija says:

      In a post-apoc environment, killing everyone you encounter may be not be justifiable but I can understandable.

      • Skabooga says:

        In DayZ , for example. Although some would also be surprised how many times I’ve run around a corner smack into somebody else and neither of us shot at each other.

      • Brise Bonbons says:

        That the narrative here appears to be another retread of “this is just how it is after society collapses” illustrates exactly how shallow and uninspired it is, though.

        It’s trying to be/appear serious in tone and concept, but in fact it’s just restating the accepted wisdom that people are inherently shitty and if society collapsed, they would be extremely shitty towards each other because there is no other way.

        There is nothing new or interesting here, just the same tired ideas, with a hint of Bastion’s running narration, and an attempt to evoke some easy emotion by giving you an assistant character (who happens to be young and vulnerable and female, what a funny coincidence).

        EDIT: I think DayZ is different because of the clear split between outlaws and survivors (as I understand it). Besides which, given that the character is wholly “written” by the player, it’s a very different beast.

        That said, wouldn’t DayZ be interesting if it had mechanics to support building towns and communities with other players?

  10. Prime-Mover says:

    I simply do not see the problem here. Apparently people seem to crave artificial violence, which may or may not impact the degree of artificial violence in society. I have still to see any studies linking “watching and/or being entertained by artificial violence” with “actually committing said violence”.

    edit: Vehicle theft seems to be on the fall in the US however since the release of the GTA series
    http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm

    • Keirley says:

      I think you can be uncomfortable with extreme violence in art without thereby committing yourself to holding that depictions of violence cause people to become violent.

      • Jay says:

        Indeed, I don’t see anyone here making the argument that these things cause violent behaviour to begin with. We’re not on the Daily Mail site here, you can stand down a little bit.

  11. wintermute says:

    Exact same feelings.

    The most chilling thing was the Last Of Us trailer, where the main character’s daughter (I assume), who cannot be older than 15, is a constant companion with lines such as:

    [Daddy brutally takes out 4 thugs, last one by jamming his face into the edge of a desk]

    Daughter: Good job with all the… killing.

    WTF. These are supposed to be believable characters?

    Why is the younger Lara Croft (isn’t she basically fresh off the boat in this prequel?) shown taking out ~20 guys in the span of a 3 minute trailer? Seriously, we are supposed to believe that a young adult stranded on an island will instantly turn into Rambo, charge head on into confrontation with armed men and take them all out?

    The thing is, once again this must have been focus grouped to death and influenced by marketing every step of the way. This is what the console crowd wants. Fast-paced action with kill cams and “free flowing parkour executions”.

    The whole stream was a victory of style over substance and 12 year olds with ADHD over sanity.

    Because $$$.

    • SirKicksalot says:

      How was the daughter’s reaction not realistic? She grew up after the world ended. Violence is the one thing she sees every day.

      As for Lara, yes, we are supposed to believe that. This is a story told and loved for thousands of years – the story of an underdog facing and besting impossible challenges.

      • wintermute says:

        Who’s the underdog in that trailer? Those goons seem like the underdogs to me, even with their AKs…

        As for Last of Us, maybe the game actually IS a journey into the mind of a psycho father who trains his daughter to be an unflinching killer, because it would be too much hassle to go around the looters. Seems legit.

        • El_Emmental says:

          That, or the game planned, right from the start, to allow complete non-violent playthrough, leaving the choice to the player.

          If all these trailers/interviews don’t end up being complete lies, the game is going to offer the choice to the player. So you’ll be able to go through it by killing no one (hardest challenge) only a few people (easy challenge) or everyone (gruesome playthrough).

          This is freaking E3, you HAVE to show some *bang-bang-boom*, otherwise people will go “zZzZzZz” and won’t remember and talk about your presentation.

    • golem09 says:

      I think she WAS actually put off by the violence. Like when Noel burn one of the men alive.
      And her reaction put ME off even MORE to try that “experience” out for myself

  12. Lagwolf says:

    I think in some cases the violence is basically used to cover up lack of plot & story-telling. When the game becomes all about the kill moves you know a lack of imagination is going on somewhere. Kill scenes drag out game-play to pad it for lack of content.

    But yes what Coffeetable says is true too. In fact there is data that shows violent video games make young men less violent not more violent as it allows them to get purge their testosterone fueled aggression.

    I may not be that young anymore but it still works for me. After I play a decent game, free of frustration (ie not Max Payne 3) I am almost zen-like calm.

  13. NathanH says:

    The level of detail we are getting in the gore departments is starting to bother me, but then I am a naturally squeamish person who tends to avoid yucky things. I don’t really like shooters though, so I find myself mostly not caring. The level of violence in strategy games and RPGs is usually no worse than Tom & Jerry. That is, it may be very violent, but it’s all obviously all in good fun.

  14. Lucretious says:

    Hm. I actually welcome how disturbing the violence in Last of Us is. Not because I *like* disturbing violence, but because we should be disturbed by it. Rather than a tongue-in-cheek satirical world of Fallout, it looks like a world that’s way harder to spend time in, and rightfully so. If they refrain from making these moments of violence meaningless for the player (although they may be casual, as can be fitting in a post-apocalyptic world) then I think they’re doing a good job.

    But I’m probably jaded because I’m from Pittsburgh and that’s where they are in the trailer. So I want it to be awesome.

    • wintermute says:

      The thing is, I cannot in any way imagine a sane person behaving like those two in the trailer under any circumstances. Post-apocalyptic disaster or not, this guy survives with his daughter and instead of running from every sign of conflict he actually takes her INTO it?

      Wasn’t there a War of the Worlds remake with Tom Cruise and girl-child-actor whatshername, where they are in basically similar circumstances? I cannot remember it very well, but I think it was depicted much better there – where they basically run to hell away from any trouble and violence is brutal, scary and painful. And this was the remake of War of the Worlds. With Tom Cruise. Directed by Michael Bay. (ok maybe not that last part :)

      • Keirley says:

        Yeah, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with extreme violence in the setting. But there was literally no reason for the protagonist to go into the building. He could have waited outside until the people left, or he could have tried to find a different route entirely. Instead he went in and strangled a guy to death from behind.

      • Brun says:

        Ah, but War of the Worlds was a Spielberg production, and he has a very distinct style of portraying violence – he almost never shows violence directly on-camera. It’s always hidden somehow (takes place in another room but you can hear the sound of it, or it’s partially hidden by the environment). Occasionally he’ll show it directly (you see some people get eaten in Jurassic Park), but it’s usually concealed well.

  15. Tom De Roeck says:

    I wish the Hitman trailer had actual assassin nuns, instead of.. whatever they were trying to be.

  16. Bluerps says:

    I’m not really a fan of extreme violence either. Most of the time I don’t really mind violence in a game, but if things get really brutal, I stop having fun. Though it depends on how it is depicted. I tend to have a higher tolerance for cartoonish ultra-violence, than for realistic brutality.

    I haven’t seen the trailers mentioned in the article, but they don’t sound like anything I would enjoy.

  17. Buttless Boy says:

    Honestly, I’m no more troubled by Naughty Dog’s game than I am by Titus Andronicus or Evil Dead 2.

    It’s unfortunate that violence in games is so prevalent among the AAA publishers, but there’s a long way to go before game violence catches up with film or literature. And when it does I’ll still have a hard time passing moral judgment on someone else’s work of fiction, no matter how much it creeps me out.

  18. EddieV says:

    Had to register just to comment this.
    Amazing piece of journalism.

    I enjoy violence in my games as much as the next guy, but I too believe that we’re reaching a very dangerous threshold, where one is starting to GLORIFY violence, whether towards humans or other animals.

    This kind of resort to violence in games seems to be a desperate attempt by the game industry in order to capture the attention of potential buyers. It’s dumb, desperate and tries very hard to blur the lines in the sand of humanity.

    Take heed and vote with your wallets.

  19. Jimbo says:

    “And then, to make matters worse, conference host Aisha Tyler enthusiastically announced that she, too, wanted to “use a tiger as a tool and then kill it.” Disgusting, right?”

    Because she was totally serious when she said that, right? Not poking fun at how ridiculously OTT that whole scene was or anything.

    • Sir-Lucius says:

      Maybe it’s just because I heard everything Aisha Tyler said as Lana from Archer, but I heard almost every comment she made in a very dry, sarcastic tone. She seemed to be taking the piss out of everything, not glorifying it. Seems like a lot of people interpreted her as being completely serious, but I just think that’s her brand of humor.

  20. Calabi says:

    I think we’ll reach a point someday when the npcs will have had enough and just wont obey us anymore. Lara after the latest throat stabbing where the enemy refuses to die(gasping and gurgling away) she throws up, says “I’ve had enough of this, and walks of the left of the screen.

  21. Johnny Lizard says:

    You make E3 basically sound like a massive get-together for psychopaths.

  22. SirKicksalot says:

    This article reminds me of 1UP’s terrible “Did I somehow get on the wrong bus and end up at a serial killer convention?” feature from the new GoW’s presentation.

    http://www.1up.com/previews/god-war-ascension-preview

    We’ve had a discussion on the forum related to this: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?3818-Should-game-content-be-restricted-by-moral-standards&highlight=violence

  23. Mabans says:

    Games with violence and no context, (sorry hbarsquared what did you expect playing Kratos in a game called God of War), is not entertaining. Imagine a comedian going up no stage and just saying “Fuck” for 20 mins with no real punch-line, nothing to connect it to.. Then you have the 7 dirty words bit from George Carlin where he says “Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker and Tits.” then goes on to explain why they are considered bad by censors but he doesn’t understand why and it’s brilliant.

    If these companies are choosing to highlight the ultra violence in the game then they are doing a game injustice if the game is MORE than blowing someone’s head off. If developers are turning up Violence scale with no seemingly contextual sense, then it’s just a bad game to appease big goofy troglodytes. I don’t mind violence, realistic violence but it has to make sense. Like in the movie “Driver” where the protagonist stomps a man’s head in to protect the woman he’s fallen for. I felt that, if I knew my wife and family were in that position, I’d do the same type of thing. Not kicking his head in but ANYTHING to protect the ones I love.

    Otherwise it’s out of place, like the sex scene in Matrix: Reloaded. WHY!? Doesn’t even make any sense..

    • Hug_dealer says:

      Its all about selling, and violence sells.

      I would like to pose this question. Has anyone ever gone to a fast food restaurant and gotten a meal that look as good and delicious as what the tv commercial or ad showed? No, Its all about selling you before you buy the product. Then hoping you like it.

      • Brun says:

        Actually the video game industry has repeatedly proved that it doesn’t give a damn if you like its product or not. By the time you know, they already have your money.

        • Hug_dealer says:

          Same goes for most other businesses. They want your money first. They dont care if you come back. I basically said the same thing you said in the post above. The key word was Hope you like it. They dont really care if you do, but if you happen to like it, they got you for another one.

  24. Torgen says:

    So, who *are* these masses of cheering shills? Employees/marketing people/gamers given tickets to “pump up” reactions? There can’t be that many minor gaming bloggers who can afford to attend these things on their own money.

    • Johnny Lizard says:

      It’s the subsection of journalists who think of themselves as “part of the industry”, probably.

      • Jorum says:

        I would say one problem is that there are probably far too many gaming “journalists” who aren’t actually journalists in any traditional sense.

        They are just people who like playing games, can write some copy, and are in position to be able to follow the industry goings on closely enough (or subscribe to enough publishing feeds).

        More like match reporters than journalists.

        Maybe being harsh, but I’m in bad mood.
        (and as the RPS people have been saying, people who whoops and cheer at a publishers sales pitch lose their journalistic credibility)

    • Sir-Lucius says:

      Press pass to E3 isn’t that hard to obtain IIRC. I’ve met plenty of people who regularly get press passes to major gaming conventions writing for small blogs and websites nobody has ever heard of. The biggest financial obstacle is just travel/hotel expenses, but depending on where you live already it’s usually not as much of a financial burden as you might think.

  25. denizsi says:

    Of all these, I’ve seen only the Watch Dogs trailer so far and something about it bothered me a lot: the player character causes a car accident at crossroad lights to interrupt and get his target and in the resulting shootout, a civilian dies in her driver’s seat, by a bullet from the NPC, I think.

    I don’t know if that car accident was scripted or if it was emergent. I’m hoping it’s emergent so that players who wish so can try to execute their plans more carefully, more attentive of bystanders. If it was scripted, then I think it’s unfortunate to portray such an apathetic disregard for life, and for what, dramatic effect? grimdarkgrittymature(TM) ? That doesn’t work when the player character himself is disregardful.

    And mind you, I love my senseless ultraviolence. When it’s put into a proper context. There is just no point to such drama in such an apathetic way if it was scripted. If it is emergent and shit happens(TM), that’s another, a more agreeable position.

    • SirKicksalot says:

      I think Watch Dogs implements some Syndicate concepts. I bet whoever is controlling the players is actually the AI mentioned in the introduction. It’s an amoral game.

    • Jorum says:

      Yeah that’s what I picked up.
      I just thought urg, that’s horrible. There’s probably kids in one of those vehicles. And oh god that guys weeping over his wifes bleeding skull. Oh but I can “rescue him” what kind of bullshit “really he’s a good-guy look” cop-out is that .

    • Tyrone Slothrop. says:

      I think it’s unfortunate to portray such an apathetic disregard for life, and for what, dramatic effect? grimdarkgrittymature(TM) ? That doesn’t work when the player character himself is disregardful.

      To illicit remorse? To depict an anti-hero? To show that causing a car crash and shooting amongst the wreckage has consequences? Would you rather a neat, clean scene where no one is hurt and only bad people(tm) who are assuredly bad get killed? How is that not the more pernicious fantasy?

      Too many games shy away from the consequences of violence, rarely are bystanders killed, even rarer are they are shown suffering due to your actions, it’s a problem that doesn’t discriminate in terms of medium. Hollywood heroes are almost never shown killing someone ‘innocent’ accidentally, they never miss the bad person and hit a pregnant mother in the lung nor have the bullet ricochet and hit a child.

      Unrelated to your comment, the author is quite off the mark in a few respects, the people were cheering because The Last of Us portrayed a superlative and complex atmosphere, the tension and realism of the violence was meant to be disturbing, to humanise people who are typically inhuman, to convey violence as being violent and disturbing not a convenient Mario-jumping-on-a-goomba analogue. Further how many people tutting away in agreement with ‘Yesterday, I saw games that treated violence as the raddest, most Mountain-Dew-can-crushed-against-your-forehead thing in the world’ go all Dudebro over Doom or Quake?

  26. sbs says:

    Anyone remember that first Fallout 3 live gameplay? Unspeakably crass.

    • Beelzebud says:

      I still remember their head writer talking about decapitating an old lady, and setting her head on a shelf so he could imagine talking to it. That was his idea of “dark humor”.

      Then the industry went on to give him an award for best writing, for a game that required an ending to be added later as DLC, because the one that shipped was nonsensical.

  27. grizzled young man says:

    I’m so glad this editorial exists. I’m an Arab-American guy (who also happens to have lost friends in the service) and I taste vomit every time devs trot out the nth installment in whatever is the lastest series of games that allows you to pretend to be a solider, acting out the lamest faintly racist paranoia of arm-chair generals in the American right wing.

  28. db1331 says:

    The Last of Us and Ni no Kuni are making me very glad to own a PS3:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEPVAeMVyBU

  29. humanchu says:

    Very interesting article.

    One question that pops up is if games media would dare to mark down a game because it is too violent?

    How mainstream media reacts is of course obvious and not worth discussing any further.

    • Jay says:

      I think that kind of mentality might be endemic to games culture and not just media, to some extent. I’d think nothing of dismissing some hyper-violent film as gratuitous trash, but I’d struggle to do that with a game. And I’m really struggling to think of examples of such online, bar sensationalist mainstream articles or soft targets like extremely niche fetish games.

  30. mpk says:

    I vividly remember the articles in PC Gamer back in the day about Soldier of Fortune 2, talking about the improved damage models and how much gorier enemy kills would be. I remember being disgusted – even back then, when it was all so much more primitive than it is now – and it was as much because the designers of the game had made a choice that increasingly realistic depiction of violent death was A Good Thing.

    I’m all for increased realism in games, but up to a point. I play and enjoy games because they’re escapism. I don’t like violence in real life, guns terrify me, but sometimes I’m willing to look part that and suspend my disbelief and play a FPS game. Increasingly, over the years, my enjoyment of this type of game has lessened, in direct proportion to how “realistic” they have become in depicting death.

    I don’t want to kill people in games, I want to click a mouse button and have a graphical representation of a monster fall over. I’m obviously no longer the demographic that modern games developers think they are pandering to.

  31. karthink says:

    In the light of this writeup, what did you folks (and Nathan) think of the gratuitous violence in BulletStorm?

  32. Eddy9000 says:

    Nice piece, thank you.

    It says something to me that the most humane portrayal of war and violence I can think of is Cannon Fodder. The mechanic where, if soldiers die they stay dead and each one is marked by a small white cross on a hill in the menu screen, in front of which a line of recruits wait and shuffle through the gate to replace the fallen is probably one of the most mature and moving commentaries on war made by a video game for me. It really makes me wonder why after 20 years of development and graphics with pixels that hit the gazillions no game (for me) has done this any better, instead portraying killing a meaningless, glorious and throwaway. It isn’t the gore or realism that makes me concerned, but the casualness of the violence.

  33. BrokenSymmetry says:

    Well said, Nathan. Watching these conferences was actually the first time I felt ashamed to be a gamer. The violence was just too much for me, and in game after game after game. Maybe the time has come to leave it all behind.

  34. Rumface says:

    The part of all these trailers that really touched me was during the Junction Shoot out in Watch Dogs where he pulls a civilian from a vehicle, away from his dead female passenger.

    Then again I’ve never liked fun very much.

  35. MFToast says:

    BWAHAHAHAHAHA! “Last Of Us: What happens when you introduce yourself in the form of choking and shooting”

    • MFToast says:

      I can’t help but laugh slightly harder every time I watch that trailer. Seriously, who are these people this man is choking and shooting? They seem rightfully upset about it. Some people have such a skewed view of humanity :P

  36. Brun says:

    One thing to consider is that the trailers and demos being shown at E3 are designed as sales pitches. They are not going to spend time building context for the violence or developing atmosphere, because the thirteen-year-old ADHD demographic will think that’s “boring.”

    It’s the same grain of salt that you have to take with all trailers and demos – sequences that aren’t action typically don’t make good trailers and demos and thus they won’t be shown.

  37. The_Great_Skratsby says:

    Have to be honest, my stomach lurched at the whooping and cheering at the end of The Last of Us demo. The audience reaction of all things made me more uncomfortable then the game content, which is jarring compared to the same people whooping as Kratos rips Cyclops’ eye out.

    Hyper violence and stylised violence, is all fine, it serves a purpose. But having it removed, re framed and all glossed and dolled up for an audience in this context, seems to undermine whatever purpose and meaning it was originally serving.

    Removed and put into the same hands of ‘violent power fantasy’ is pretty irksome.
    Saying that as someone who does enjoy their violent games, from Carmageddon to Bulletstorm.

  38. newprince says:

    I’m all for violence in video games, but I think I had a similar reaction to what this article talks about. It’s sort of… why have all these franchises turned into bullets and gore? It’s one thing when a franchise that was clearly conceived of as a horror movie type game, or a brutal hyperviolent series to begin with does it, but we have seen two titles that normally rely on stealth and quiet, ‘clean’ kills become seriously unstealthy, KILL THEM BRUTALLY AND THUS STYLISTICALLY.

    It’s not to ask why have these franchises changed into hyperviolence, but more of a question of why the developers THINK they want all these titles to be hyperviolent, and why hyperviolence is part of the video game zeitgeist right now. They aren’t easy questions, and I’m not sure myself.

    Personally, I’m loving DayZ because it shows the consequences of violence. Fetishizing ultraviolence has gotten stale for me after nearly a decade of it (someone referenced Soldier of Fortune). Sure, we can now more realistically render a sequence of blowing a man’s head off, but surely we can also simulate what happens when my character is hit with a stray bullet. My health doesn’t regenerate: I am hit and bleeding, with perhaps more severe trauma like arterial bleeding, broken bones, etc. It just seems like so much of a disconnect nowadays to see ultra-realism when it comes to my character inflicting trauma, but then I get sniped with a powerful rifle, and I merely get knocked down, brush myself off, and I’m good to go in a few seconds. Why is that enjoyable to anyone? This makes me a God, walking around punishing everyone who doesn’t have my awesome semi-bullet invulnerability powers.

    • Brun says:

      The answer you’re looking for is called escapism. A big part of why a huge number of people even play games is to be something they aren’t. They don’t want to have human limitations because they have those in their real, everyday lives.

      • PopeJamal says:

        “A big part of why a huge number of people even play games is to be something they aren’t.”

        So these people want to be cold, heartless killers? I don’t think they’d agree if you asked them that. In fact, I think very few people would say that they enjoy being able to “kill people” without consequences.

        • El_Emmental says:

          It’s not socially acceptable, but most people do enjoy letting their death drive take the wheel for a few hours.

          The majority of people’s sexual fantasies aren’t socially acceptable (that’s basically why they are fantasies and not reality in the first place) and people won’t externalized them publicly, but it won’t prevent them from having these thoughts, far from that.

          Same with violence, people are having these thoughts, it’s just we all got pretty good at suppressing and hiding them.

          • Thirith says:

            If you take that argument to its logical conclusion, though, then there’s nothing problematic about games that have you enact sexual violence or racist violence, because it’s only fiction/fantasy. I would think that the discussion requires a more nuanced approach than “It’s not real, so it’s okay, whatever it is!”

          • El_Emmental says:

            nah nah, you’re putting a different meaning on my words.

            In fact, you’re kinda off-topic there, you’re talking about the legitimacy of the violence, while the 4 previous comments are talking about the possible reasons why such violence is there (and why it is working).

            We’re not discussing moral judgment, we’re trying to determine why such violence can flourish among “normal” people.

            I was talking about that:
            “So these people want to be cold, heartless killers? I don’t think they’d agree if you asked them that. In fact, I think very few people would say that they enjoy being able to “kill people” without consequences.”

            My opinion is: Yes ! These people want to be cold, heartless killers ! But as PopeJamal said, they won’t “agree” (admit) it publicly.

            If you look at what the previous comments are talking, the question here is “Why such violence ?”, and _NOT_ “Is such violence acceptable ?”.

            See:

            Original comment: “[...] why have all these franchises turned into bullets and gore? [...] Why is that enjoyable to anyone? [...]”

            1st answer: “The answer you’re looking for is called escapism. A big part of why a huge number of people even play games is to be something they aren’t. [...]”

            2nd answer: “So these people want to be cold, heartless killers? I don’t think they’d agree if you asked them that [...]“

  39. stiffkittin says:

    Bloody hell. After watching The Last of Us gameplay trailer I found it pretty disturbing. I’ve never been on the anti-violence soapbox, believing grownups and young adults alike can find their own way. But that was gruesome. In the limited context we had I saw our protagonist savagely attack and murder numerous believable mooks, minding their own business. The remorselessness on display would have been fine in an action-porn military/sci-fi blockbuster but here it was a bit creepy.

  40. changeling101 says:

    Hmm – if the Last of Us demo really wanted to shock me, and the violence was still nasty, it should have written that girl-companion with even a little believability – I’m not sure how old she was but she had the same faux-teen-ness that Ellen Page had in Juno, an improbable sassiness for the situation and events.

  41. abandonhope says:

    I’ve recently been playing Just Cause 2 again, and while the action is over the top and violent, it’s not hyper-gory. Civilians generally exist to be collateral damage, but the protagonist occasionally expresses disappointment with himself for carelessly killing them. It also satirizes regime change exceptionally well. Of course, this type of quality is pretty rare in video games, probably because it’s over the heads of younger teens.

    As for mindless violence, I tend to think that gaming nerds generally have a decent ability to contextualize the subject matter of the games they play. It’s the mook and midriff segment of the last couple generations that increasingly seems to be helpless to resist the influences in entertainment, and these people appear to be growing more aggressive, dimwitted, and Disney-whorish with each passing year. Needlessly violent video games probably exist more as an outlet for these people than a significant contributing factor to their overall cultural retardation.

  42. Jorum says:

    I’m going to post a thought just occur to me (as I stare at my boardgame shelves) but not sure what it means if anything.

    I’ve got a big pile of popular and excellent boardgames there but probably 50% or less involve people being violent to each other. Contrast with most popular/best computer games.
    And only a few have any kind of detailed non-abstracted violence, and none with any gory detail or viscerality (yeah that’s not a word).

    Not one of them is a worse game for the lack of it.

  43. Shortwave says:

    I love me my violent games I do!

    Deal with it.

  44. Laurentius says:

    I agree with Nathan, this level of violence and number of games that make it their central part is really off-putting for me and kinda troubling.

  45. Jamesworkshop says:

    I admit i’m not the biggest pacifist but i did notice that the violence really did feel overdone not in any level of fidelity but in the raw emotion it was quite affecting, the “last of us” really took the prize.
    The uncomfortableness didn’t come to me from a place of inappropriateness, I think it shows the strength of the medium.

    The idea of something losing all human compassion is impressive from something that after-all has never full been human, video game characters really still are manikins.

  46. Grapeykins says:

    In the case of The Last of Us, I got the distinct sense that what the audience was really applauding was the expertly technical execution of a rather complex sequence of triggers, as opposed to the graphic violence.

    I’m fed up with everything I’ve seen of Far Cry 3 and Tomb Raider, however. The former seems to throw the socio-political significance and conscience(!) of Far Cry 2 completely out the window, and the latter looks like little more than victimisation porn.

    Way to go Square Enix, let’s disempower one of the few truly assertive heroines in gaming! Not that Lara was ever a profoundly substantial character, but she was at least a reliably sovereign one.

  47. ZeroStare says:

    There is one problem with this article, most games are not made for adults. Companies are making games for teens and 18-25 year olds, because these are the age ranges of most gamers. An actual adult game would be complex and not hype all things sexual. For instance, CoD is one of the most famous franchises, do you ever have to actually think much while playing CoD? And adult game would only be possible to be completely enjoyed by adults. The Witcher and more so the Witcher 2 are examples of games that are complex, do not hype sexual things, and are actually made for adults.

    The reason all of these games are so violent and why video games are blamed for causing violence is the amount of idiot teenagers who play video games, and these are who the market are catering for. Most teens like two things, grotesque violence and not having to think. I can not name any new big games that require thinking and morals. The biggest games are manshoots, and recently on the PC Diablo III, where you run around ripping things to shreds.

    • slowly_over says:

      I’m not sure its true any more that 18-25 year olds represent the core demographic for games. Also I’d disagree that games have to incorporate violence to appeal to teens.

      My teen years were the late 70s / early 80s – I was lucky enough to grow up with classic arcade games like Asteroids, Pac-man, Donkey Kong. Later Starglider II, Populous and Eye of the Beholder came along, on the Amiga. I was well into my 20s when Doom was released in 1993, its hard to believe now, but at the time Doom seemed ultra-violent and impossibly hyper-realistic compared to what had gone before.

      Since then manshooters have become ever more prominent. I don’t want to call a halt to them altogether, games like CoD have their place and I’ve played many of them, but I’d like to add my voice in support of gamers calling for a wider diversity of sophisticated and intelligent gaming experiences.

      • Jay says:

        I’m pretty sure they’re not the core demographic any more (doesn’t most recent research show the average gamer to be in their thirties?). They are however the core demographic that publishers market to. It’s lowest common denominator bullshit, but it sells, so they keep doing it.

  48. TheHungerSite.com says:

    1 Corinthians 15:33
    Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

    Are violent video games changing your child’s brain?
    http://forums.gametrailers.com/thread/do-violent-games-change-kids-b/1268773?page=1

    Psalm 11:5
    The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.

    • Toberoth says:

      What the hell?

    • Chris D says:

      I love this game. Can I play?

      Judges 19:22-29 (Not suitable for children)

      22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him. ”

      23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing.”

      25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.

      27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.

      29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel.

  49. Artiforg says:

    Makes me think of this

  50. presheaf says:

    I feel even The Last of Us did a disappointingly poor job at justifying violence as a last resort.
    What starts off as a wonderful contemplation of a desolated (yet rather luxurious) world instantly devolves into shootey shootey the very second other people are encountered; instantly a health bar and gun icon appear on screen.
    The premise is extremely promising, and it seemed that it could accurately convey the feeling of being lost in an apocalyptic world, struggling for life. I feel it was all completely undermined when, at the first ever human encounter, the game instantly lures the player into killing everyone on screen!
    I would argue that it exactly failed at making violence appear like a necessity, a struggle for life — and more like a standard gaming trope that was thrown in after 3 minutes of gameplay, by fear the player might be getting a bit bored already. In doing so, it ruins the atmosphere it had carefully crafted beforehand.

    • davidek says:

      Exactly. If the characters was caught in a corner with no way out or desperately protecting his daughter, the violence would be justified, and we could, as an audience, say, “that’s a terrible future” and we could relate to the character and we could ask ourselves how far we would be able to go in order to survive and save our loved ones. (Like we do when we watch something like “The Road”.)
      Instead the player seeks out the violence and should be punished in-game for that transgression of staying-in-character. The player should lose because the character is out of his depth, acting in a way that would get him and his daughter killed in a real world setting. Violent actions that make us wince should instead be associated with in-game failure, not in-game success.

      • presheaf says:

        Yes, I was thinking of The Road, which does a very good job at justifying the violence, as you describe.
        Here, it could be that they’re portraying a hero which decides to trust no one (you can see that in this other trailer for instance). That at least makes some amount more sense (and that other trailer does seem to give grounds to that behaviour), but ultimately I am convinced this would, as you say, just get the character killed (and should). Plus, I think there’s significantly less appeal in playing a psychopathic character here – it kind of ruins the solemnity of the setting.

        It seems to be a common problem in games that want to be realistic — they allow far too much unjustified violence, especially when such violence should just be a terrible idea. What is sometimes an amusing form of entertainment on less serious games (e.g. rampages in GTA) turns into something that cheapens the whole game in more realistic settings. Instead of an experience accurately portraying the desolation of a post-apocalyptic world, you get a (still maybe quite visceral) shooting game with a post apocalyptic background.

        As usual, I have complete faith in artists to provide sumptuous and immersive environments, but none in the actual game designers who seem to just slap on common gameplay with little thought. Maybe game developers need to realise investment in art needs to be backed up by investment in thoughtful game design?

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