Video Games, Stop Using Violence as a Creative Crutch
You might remember back in June of last year when E3 2012 elicited a wave of backlash against the gaming expo’s emphasis on virtual violence. But video games once again came under fire following gun massacres in the summer and late autumn and this sentiment appeared to have quickly dissipated. Under siege from without, the gaming community for the most part banded together to denounce unfair characterizations by parents’ groups and the NRA.
So I thought I would be a lone voice in calling out critics and consumers for turning a blind eye to the parts of the industry that continue to be dominated by digital carnage and adolescent power fantasies. Over at GamesBeat I wrote,
“The fact remains that video games have a rep for being adolescent bastions of digital sadism because many of them still are. Maybe that doesn’t have the negative effect of inspiring troubled youth to be violent in real life—and all the best preliminary data says it doesn’t. It does, however, mean that most of the time and money invested in video games revolves around uninspired yet addictive feedback loops predicated on repetitive digital slaughter. Which is to say a waste of time, and an especially brutal one at that.”
Harsh words, I know.
But I was encouraged to see that many others are voicing similar concerns about the degree to which gaming companies have made a cottage industry out of in-game murder.
Another community writer at GamesBeat wrote about his experience as a developer trying to create a new survival horror game in light of all of the real violence he’s seen in his lifetime. Dene Waring argues,
“If we ‘push the same buttons’ by manipulating the boundless and uniquely human resource of imagination, we can allow our players to scare themselves to whatever level they wish to attain. As soon as we replace the literal and graphic representation of violent conflict with nervously anticipated unknowable threats, we discover that what we imagine and anticipate on a personal level when confronted with these suggested threats can be as strong as or stronger than the fear of the known.”
His game, Huntsman: The Orphanage “relies upon simple, basic human psychology in order to create the tingles of fear and excitement we all enjoy.” It’s currently in Steam’s Greenlight top ten despite his desire to eschew cheap thrills and easy violence.
In addition, Dean Takahashi brought up the same subject today in his GamesBeat column. He holds up Journey as an alternative to Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and proposes that we try to re-focus attention away from the latter and toward the former,
“[W]e as critics could do more to inspire game artists to do the best possible work they can. We don’t have to draw attention to experiences that appeal to the lowest common denominator when it comes to sex or violence. Those games will do well on their own. But we can do a lot more to encourage developers to create the most consequential works of art — games that inspire us with great stories, animations, gameplay, and simple fun. If the administration wants to get involved in that, I would welcome it. President Barack Obama could host the creators of the most imaginative games at the White House.”
I couldn’t agree more.