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Old 2019-11-08, 04:24
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CS2x CS2x is offline
master of electronica
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: London
Posts: 1,985
Violence in videogames

Hello MBN! It's been a while...

I wanted to ask the forum about a strange change in feelings which only really affects playing games (though I admit to feeling slightly more sensitive to violence or portrayals of brutality in all media in general.) Has anyone noticed a similar about-face towards virtual bloodshed as they've grown older? I noticed it most clearly during Rise of the Tomb Raider, which I had to stop playing because I couldn't stomach killing people any more. That game does render your murders in particular flamboyance and realism, and the option not to kill people that are a potential threat seemed fairly rare. Returning to another playthrough of MGSV was a relief after that, because at least in that game one is usually given a choice and stealth and non-lethal takedowns are rewarded.

This is a new reflex that can’t be helped rather than a conscious moral decision. Is it just me changing, or are more games dealing with violence in a different way, beyond improvements in graphical realism and physics engines? Ironically (given how Laura is portrayed) the Tomb Raider reboots and a number of other mainstream games seem...‘indulgent’ in a way I'm not sure I've seen before (games where ridiculous amounts of gore being the point of it all excepted here.) The ethical dimension in all of this and dragging up that old topic of how virtual violence affects violent behaviour is very far from my mind in asking, not least of all because we know the newest studies find no correlation between the two whatsoever.

But, while I used to gleefully mow down a continent’s worth of citizens across multiple GTAs, now I feel happiest with Nintendo violence - or knowing there's the option to not kill in stuff on the R-rated end of the gaming spectrum. I'd never want to anything imposed in this area ever, but probably would personally welcome games giving a bit more thought to how players execute ‘obstacles’ and the choices available in navigating enemies. It's one reason I was happy to find out Death Stranding doesn't have eliminating human opposition as a main focus. Kill Bill was great fun to watch and I get the visceral thrill of adding to the body count where games have brilliantly crafted opportunities for rampage and remorseless destruction. I just wonder if anyone else has got weirder/less comfortable about being at the helm of doing this stuff as the events of life roll on?

It seems like tone, set up, and context are key. Games that are about carnage in a certain bombastic way won't necessarily produce a gag reflex - but others will. The issue of ludonarrative dissonance is particularly relevant here, particularly in relation to another mainstream game - Uncharted.

I sometimes think the way violence and killing is such a given in gaming is a bit of a shame. For the longest time I didn't notice or question it, as it so naturally appeals. I don't know if anyone else was the same, but as a young child I loved drawing and all or most of the drawings were violent - sometimes animals fighting/killing animals, and more often battle scenes with people having sword fights or shooting each other (often with dismembered limbs and heads squirting blood flying all over the page.) I remember my gran asking "do you HAVE to draw pictures of people killing each other all the time?" The thing is, I loved animals (would cry if another pupil so much as stepped on a bee!) and never got in any fights; I could have done with being a bit more aggressive and assertive. All the most gentle people I know now seem make the most brutal and dark virtual/creative stuff. But as much as I can totally recognise that disconnect, as I've seen more of the stuff @MattyP described as bad news I realise I'd be interested in more AAA story-led games doing a 're-boot' on how they think about this cornerstone of gaming.

Still, we're in a better place than we have been, right? Was recently reading in that book Replay: The History of Video Games about the "rape simulators" that were popular in Japan in the 80s - until they were eventually banned.
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