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A look at taking the personalities and content of violent games.

Eric Blomquist, Blogger

March 5, 2013

5 Min Read

In an industry over-saturated with hyper-realistic violence, games have been the scapegoat of gun shootings for many years.  Personally, I passionately love interactive entertainment and have dedicated my life to being a part of it. So, when the media or society attacks and brings it down, I cannot help but feel like I am personally being attacked. At the same time, when I take a step back and look around at the culture of AAA video game titles, I honestly do not blame them for feeling this way anymore. For me or as many gamers like myself,  I play all types of games so I see them from a broader spectrum. I don't just think of the military first person shooters, or action games,  I also think of published titles like Journey or Braid.

Before I continue I want to be crystal clear that I believe in the freedom to create. If a developer wants their product to have a certain style or content, that is their choice. That being said, I also believe these titles which will be discussed should take responsibility for their content. Not only for the youth of the world, but to gain more respect for the art form. I'm also not here to discuss the impact on these games on society as a whole, just my personal view of the current state of the industry.

For me, the tip of the iceberg was the recent release of the rebooted "Tomb Raider" series. Historically the main character, Lara, had never been the perfect representation for women due to her unrealistic porn-like features; But in an industry full of men, she had her place as a tough female adventurer.  I had been following this new title for quite a while because it looked like they were attempting to create a game of survival and emotional fortitude, until I had the opportunity to play it.

The player is rewarded more experience and upgrade perks from performing gratuitous murders on animals and humans alike. In a very short amount of time, Lara goes from being a frightened victim to a killing machine. Not that I was surprised by this video game cliche choice, but this time I was angry. Angry that another developer had the opportunity to make something real, something that could have an emotional and social impact. This game had hundreds of highly intelligent men and women who's opinions and hard work were poured into the project. Why does this keep happening? Lara ironically reflects her captors by viciously killing them in return?  Why wouldn't they have tomb raiding be the main focus, in a game called "Tomb Raider." Someone must have noticed this. 

In real life there are moral, social, physical, and mental consequences to using an AK-47 at point blank range to slice another human being in half or watching her use what looked like a sickle to slash and pull her victims to the ground from behind. These decisions made me sick. Not because I cannot handle violence, but because of the bonus experience multiplier that is displayed on the screen. "Great job player! You have brutally killed another human and being and will be rewarded for it! Hurrah!" I have friends that were in the front lines of war - and are now in serious therapy for the rest of their lives because of the violence and murder they had to commit or see in front of their eyes on a daily basis. 

Unfortunately, this is a common trend for a game character to embark on the mass murderer scale with an unscathed persona. Nathan Drake from the popular series "Uncharted" might be the worst of them all - not only does he instigate the scenarios but he acts like none of this behavior had any sort of weight on his life. Ever seen someone get shot? I fortunately have not, but I guarantee you I would be scarred for life. I feel like I'm taking crazy pills when I see the way these games are designed and no one seems to care or notice!

I mean REALLY think about this. How can we relate to or celebrate these characters behaviors? Or how will this industry ever be taken seriously if we keep supporting this sort of childlike behavior? Admittedly, I was completely blind to this for a very long time, and it was not until the graphics started to really become realistic that I took notice. Violence in games back in the 90's felt disconnected because they had that arcade gamey feel, with cartoon blood and design. In today's games - the realistic splatter of blood and limp corpses fill our screens on a consistent basis. 

At 29, I just have no interest in these games anymore, I have no motivation in unnecessary repetitive violence to pad the game timer. And I've stayed away from this topic because I truly believed it was the sum total of me getting older and growing up. Except aren't these games technically made for adults? I want to play games for the rest of my life because I love them. I will continue to dedicate my life to learn to how design and craft experiences as a result. Hopefully, one day I will have the opportunity to have my projects funded - and when that day comes,  I will do everything I can make a tiny mark on the future of the games industry.

Overall, I see improvement, but its taking too long. And most gamers have no idea about great non-violent, thought provoking titles.  To all the future Jonathan Blow's, Jenova Chen's ,Kellee Santiago's, and Tim Schafer's out there - whether you're an established game designer or aspiring independent studio - I challenge everyone to start making games that matter. Video games that stimulate the mind, body, and soul of the player. Enriching experiences that can positively effect our lives. That's my mantra - and I hope that I can inspire more through the games I design.

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