Before 2012, I pretty much played whatever I felt like. Sure, I’d try to stay clear from the really bad stuff like GTA & God of War but that’s about it. That changed in 2012 with two particular games.
One of those games was The Walking Dead adventure game series by Telltale. I had heard so much about it being this amazing story experience so when the first two episodes were offered for free to PS+ members, I thought I’d give it a try even though I didn’t watch the TV series. After about 30 minutes of intermittent bouts of heavy swearing, I deleted the game from the hard drive.
The other game was Resident Evil 6. Unlike the vast majority of the Internet, I actually liked what I played of the game. Yeah, it was rough around the corners but there were some awesome moments and the actual gunplay was quite fun once you settled into its peculiar rhythm. However, then there was the violence (and nudity and language but mostly the violence). And what bothered me most wasn’t that the violence bothered me but was on how little the violence bothered me. When Resident Evil 4 came out, it was a lot more violent than previous games in the series and it bothered me but I ignored those feelings because the game was so well done otherwise. Had I become so desensitized that Resident Evil 6 wasn’t bothering me even though the content was much more objectionable than the stuff that was in RE4? This worried me and so I made a vow to more closely monitor what I play in 2013.
I greatly enjoyed Devil May Cry 3 when it came out way back when but I won’t be trying out the new DMC game. A quick comparison of the ESRB descriptors is instructive – DMC3 lists “Blood, Suggestive Themes, Violence” whereas the new DMC list “Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language.” DMC3 was so over-the-top that it verged on a cartoonish parody. The new DMC appears to be playing everything straight but with much more violence, swearing, and sexual content. I’ve heard the game itself is well designed but I’ll be skipping it.
The Last of Us & Tomb Raider are two other big examples of games I’ll probably be skipping in 2013. I’ve enjoyed the various installments of Uncharted (The Last of Us’s spiritual predecessor) & Tomb Raider to various degrees but from the sound of things, The Last of Us and the new Tomb Raider game are going to be drastically more violent than previous games. Shame since other than the violence, Tomb Raider in particular sounds fantastic.
I don’t think that violent video games transform people into homicidal maniacs or anything like that. However, I do think what we play has an influence on us, however subtle. Playing an extremely violent game may not turn us into killers but it might make us a little less likely to be empathetic or a little more likely to be testy or pessimistic. And when multiplied by dozens of games over thousands of hours, even a subtle effect can turn into a major consequence. Games should uplift and inspire. At the very least, they should do no harm. I’m afraid that extremely violent games or games filled with other questionable material may not be “doing no harm” even in those cases where the violence or objectionable content is used to denounce the same.