Video Game Violence - Why Do We Indulge It?
Is video game violence a byproduct of the socio-economic landscape we live in (within developed parameters at least) allowing it to stem from a preternatural lust for antagonists, blood, gore, combat, competitiveness and violence? Furthermore, does it behoove game players to facilitate, gorge and appreciate this video game violence or is it beneficial to ween the majority off this so called carnage. These aren’t easy questions to answer but there are clear arguments both for and against the proposals put forth. This article takes a closer look at the impact and usage of video game violence, dissecting why it may be best to either move away from it or use it in a finer contextual setting.
Video games and violence are often synonymous with each other. Big budget game developers seemingly churn out a steady stream of shooters, sword swipers or other games focused on the use of weapons (magic, knives, lasers et al). Not to decry the games outright, but a look at critically acclaimed and popularist games can inform us of consumers & players interests, with a trend leaning towards a high amount of video game violence. Games like Dead Space, Left 4 Dead, Gears of War, Bulletstorm or Mortal Kombat are held in high regard by the majority.
The Trend of Sanitised Video Game Violence
Although most are contextually viable – in a broader genre sense – many sprees of video game violence lack a definitive context other than comedy or for bombastic effect. While this deliberate satirical use of violence in video games is at least self-aware of its intention, the trend of distilled and sanitized violence is perhaps a more pertinent issue. Call of Duty, with its austere saturation and mindless sprint/knife combinations, can damage the credibility or at least mature potential of this medium. This sanitized and caustic quality is seen in titles like Halo, Final Fantasy or even something like Street Fighter.
With this said, is the onus of blame on developers – their lack of ingenuity in design leading to different ways to play games as opposed to bludgeoning someone –, the players who crave an escapist bout of carnage after work/study/school etcetera, or the society we live and breathe in? Can players be held accountable for wanting to slice a zombies head off with an axe when it feels so gratifying? Not to mention films, books, music or any other media format preclude this very important interactive element, forgoing the gratuitous tumult of giddy excitement that comes from surviving a horde in Left 4 Dead or making a cross-map headshot in Modern Warfare.
The Implications of Video Game Violence
Video game violence is a necessity borne from three things. Firstly, the socio-economic situation places violence, war and terrorism at the forefront of media broadcasting and world events. Secondly, the players errant need for escapism and a quick fix of gratifying slaughter (although it is contentious whether this has to amount to violence and whether this should be predicate to a fun or engaging experience). Thirdly, the developers requirement to appease both of the aforementioned things as well as themselves as game players.
The trope of violence in video games is a well oiled mechanic for developers used in many popular and well-respected games. It may come off as puerile in some cases but in others, its contextual usage and the inherent interactive element make it hard to do without. Unfortunately many developers (this can extend to films et al) misdirect their thirst for violence into crass or poorly implemented avenues. Anyways, if violence isn’t your thing, there are always alternatives (racing games, sports games, The UnderGarden, Light’s End, Sleep Is Death and many many more as a jumping off point).