Why are Video Games So Violent? Do They Need to Be?

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Gaming Doesn’t Have to be All About Bombs and Bullets

Violence suffuses gaming like oxygen in the air. The vast majority of major games released today are about killing other things for some arbitrary reason, whether you are playing as a government leader, fireball-slinging mage or a soldier. The fact that so many games are violent in nature has been continually vexing. There are plenty of movies and novels that contain very little violence, but only puzzle, adventure and the odd simulator like The Sims focuses on anything other than mass murder. Game plots also very rarely push the player to consider the real consequences of violence. The people and creatures in the path of the player are about as morally significant in most plots as the pellets that Pac-Man chomps.

The fact that a nonviolent game series - The Sims - is one of the most highest selling of all time makes the current state of the game industry even more perplexing. In the console and casual games arenas, we’ve seen more nonviolent games. The popular independent game Audiosurf is highly abstract, but free of anything that you could call violence. If nonviolent games have been proven to sell in the millions to a broad audience, why have designers stuck to their familiar ruts? Isn’t there a lot of room for growth and competition in that area, at least relative to the over-saturated action gaming market?

Why Games are so Violent

Most developers specialize in serving the perma-adolescent male demographic. They’ve spent years playing and making those types of games and interacting with communities dominated by “hardcore gamers.” They’re the bread and butter of the industry, and there will always be a place for those types of games.

Shouldn’t there be a happy middle ground between the hyper-cutesy non-violent games and the ultra-macho gorefests like Gears of War? Few game companies have sought ways to bring games to the fore that don’t have constant violence as the prime occupying activity. The widespread failure of adventure games that happened in the 1990s largely scared away developers from going down the path of a game that relies more on the fun of interacting with other characters and a plot than it does on action.

The larger developers have shareholders to satisfy, and as such are very conservative, even despite the proven profitability of non-violent games. Hopefully, as the years go on developers will release a more diverse lineup of games to help the industry branch out further. There are still plenty of people who are being turned off of the gaming industry because they perceive it as an immature entertainment medium that primarily caters to the tastes of young boys.