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Why So Serious? Violence in Video Games

Why So Serious? Violence in Video Games

Sep 16, 2013

The game market is now saturated with violence. This begs the question whether it is really the way forward, and what happened to simplistic, great level design with an entertaining character. Nintendo have recently lost share of their market, partly because their family friendly games have less of an appeal in today’s society, as children are also drawn in my the latest action-based blockbuster.

Consoles used to have a colourful mascot, whether Sonic, Mario or Spyro. But now, mascots are from more violent franchises, such as Nathan Drake from Uncharted, Master Chief, or characters from Gears of War. The poor sales for the Wii U show that the public are not as enamoured by their colourful, fun characters anymore; choosing dark, gritty shooting games on rival consoles.

Indie titles show that there are alternatives to violence, such as Journey creating a beautiful experience, yet this does not meet the success of other FPS titles. Fez is another indie title that was greeted with acclaim, and proves that people are willing to try new things. If this could be expanded to the AAA market, then perhaps we would see less violence within the industry. Despite this, the recent success of titles such as Saints Row IV show that people love over the top violence, as the crazy action-packed title cashes in on the old deranged GTA spirit. It shows nothing innovative, literally mimicking GTA, but the public enjoy it. Even racing games these days have adopted death and destruction as part of the concept, such as Burnout or Motorstorm, being able to shunt other racers off of the road. I mean, it is really fun, but the fact that racing has gone down this road seems to suggest a homicidal side to the gaming public.

Indie game Fez shows violence isn’t needed to have fun

Nostaligia seems to be the only thing that keeps people returning to old games, such as the Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD proving to be a popular announcement, alongside platforming classics like Ratchet and Clank and Jak and Daxter gaining their own HD trilogy bundles. The place for brand new, colourful titles however, is diminishing. LEGO titles still hold some level of popularity, yet this could be tied to the popularity of LEGO as a brand and physical product, alongside being involved with other franchises such as Indiana Jones. Of the next-gen launch titles, LEGO Marvel Superheroes is one of the few that isn’t a shooter.

Are games about fun, or a cinematic, emotional, movie-like experience? I think this differs, and is entirely up to personal opinion, yet I would argue there is room for both. I am a huge fan of story-driven titles such as The Last of Us or Bioshock Infinite, both including decapitation and other violent traits. Yet there is also a special place in my heart for the fun, light hearted experience, such as LittleBigPlanet, which stripped games back to the basics in side-scrolling fun for all. And the online community was unprecedented.

Who can resist Sackboy?

Gun violence is always a hot topic in gaming news, especially with releases such as Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. Otherwise, the crude nature of such games, such as GTA’s “Hot Coffee” scandal, often reduce the artistry that such developers can have, with Rockstar pushing the game industry forwards, with revolutionary games; one of the only developers to truly make the leap from 2D to 3D.

The critical acclaim of Rayman Origins and the more recent Legends shows that such titles have a place in today’s market, and that many people do appreciate a well-done platforming experience in this modern age of huge, online games. It seems the charm is not wasted even on todays crowd, but the problem is public consumption is just not even as close. What needs to happen is to change the public’s view on similar video games. We need a new less violent hero, like Link from The Legend of Zelda used to provide, next to Crash Bandicoot or Sly Cooper. Recently, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time launched to good reviews, yet didn’t seem to revolutionize the concept of the character and stealth elements that the original trilogy pioneered, as Sucker Punch moved on to develop Infamous. It merely continued the PS2 game with better graphics, and improved very little. More is needed to rival the popularity of the FPS and beat ‘em up. I’m hoping for a Crash Bandicoot reboot, but my expectations are low, and have already suffered a barrage of below-average games tarnishing his reputation.

What have they done to him?!

Perhaps non-violent or colourful games will remain dedicated to mobile devices, and perhaps microconsoles. The trouble is, people are willing to pay 79p for such a game, but are they prepared to pay for full retail for a next-gen title? Possibly not. Game developers need to give non-violence a chance and take a risk, and perhaps the industry attitude will change, away from guns and blood. When creating a high-end title, creative risks are big. And so it makes sense to match the trends, ensuring a hit. But apps over the past few years have shown the colourful, casual games popularity, such as Angry Birds or Plants vs Zombies, with the latter making it’s console debut soon. I’m thinking something rather more innovative and exciting though.

Rayman is paving the way, showing that you can make a fantastic game, without succumbing to trends, and being truly original in the process, even in it’s own sequel. This still banks on the success of Rayman as a character in general, yet this rejuvenation is something of a transformation, after a long stint of being overtaken by his infamous ‘Rabbids’. Apps allow a broader appeal, and if it is there, then why can’t such a concept come to consoles? Knack looks promising for the Playstation 4, and if successful, perhaps it will encourage more developers to create something truly unique, and most importantly, fun.


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  • geraldclarke

    The industry’s ‘guns, lots of guns’ approach to games reminds me of the quote from Michael Scott in the Office “What is the most exciting thing that can happen in TV or in movies or in real life? Somebody has a gun. That’s why I always start with a gun, because you can’t top it.”

  • Sumit Dutta

    I do feel the rampant violence in AAA games is holding back the industry somewhat. The current generation has seen gaming grow in popularity among the mainstream, dramatically. I hope next gen platforms can offer quality experinces at the level of a GTA, Last Of Us, COD etc across all age groups and audineces.

    IMO Its the only way gaming will eventually break free of its ghetto and put a stop to nonsense like this: