Jan 142013

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.

 Posted by at 10:46 am

  9 Responses to “Why I Won’t Be Playing Many of the Biggest Games of 2013”

  1. Thank you for expression your opinion, but I disagree with almost everything you wrote about violence. I think normal grown up men should understand and distinguish between virtual world and real world.

    I didn’t like Bulletstorm not because it has a lot of violence, but because it has no gameplay, it has meaningless killing and dismemberment on-rails. And I while I don’t mind foul language in modest dozes, I think all I can hear is swearing in this game.

    Sexual content in games is a good thing as long it’s not a porn or some deviate stuff.

    What does “more violent” mean to you? Are Doom , Rage, Darksiders, Crysis, Blade of Darkness, Diablo over the top violent?

  2. I see this topic caused folks to think.

    My view on it, I don’t like extremely violent games. I don’t like games that swear for swearings sake. I don’t tend to mind nudity much because I like that games are trying to figure out what to do with that subject so it can become more mainstream and less shock value.

    Violent games are a bane on video games at this point in time. There are just way too many of them. I will probably ignore all AAA released games this year because pretty much all of them are based around hard violence. I do believe seeing all the violence I have seen from games over the years has desensitized me somewhat. I feel sorry, a little bit, for the loved ones of murder victims or relatives to pass on naturally, but I feel virtually nothing for the one who passed away, be it through murder or normal. I am finding I am getting back a good bit of my empathy as I get older though. Without even knowing why, I will suddenly grin when something fun happens, smile when something sweet happens, and even let loose a few unwanted tears when something sad happens.

    Swearing just isn’t a big deal to me. They are just words, and they only mean something if you want them too. I grew up with a Navy dad, and him and his buddies were as bad as most video games on the market nowadays. The games that take it a bit too far, of which there are more than a few, need to have their sophomoric writers smacked upside the back of their heads and told to grow up.

    Nudity, isn’t a big deal to me. Its digital skin. Course, I am the kind of fella who doesn’t really understand the point in even being clothed at home, since all of us have bodies, and it is us. No reason to hide our bodies, so my view on that extends to games too. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am a nudist, or have nudist tendencies, but I feel a man in his castle shouldn’t feel the need to be restricted by stupid choices human kind has made over the last few thousand years. Clothing to protect from the elements, understood, clothing to hide yourself from other people who are no different than you other than by proportion…..well, thats where I will end this paragraph.

    My over all view on gaming today. It is way too sensationalistic. They want extreme violence, nudity, and swearing. The problem is, big boys want their Call of Duty, little boys want their Call of Duty, and I have no clue where the female populace sits in wants. Since everybody wants to get in on that Call of Duty cash, they flood the market with ultra violence, shocking nudity, and swearing to make the kids, the ones the publishers know and count on to buy their games, giggle and broaden their vocabulary in a negative manner. The companies who make appropriate content nowadays are those companies who don’t look for record high numbers, meaning those who aren’t AAA quality. This is a shame.

  3. As much as you protest, and I do see a valid protest here, you won’t change a thing. And I doubt that playing those games would have any impact on you.

    I have a lot of contact with young adults and the websites they visit offer stuff that is beyond anything you could show in a videogame. From videos of mass executions to people cut in half still living by accidents … anything you can imagine is available on the internet these days and the youngsters grow up watching it.

    In consequence every media is changing – if you want to shock at least a bit you need to deliver more gore than the average last year. Very few game designers/script writers are able to get the result without it.

    Todays tv series offer much more blood and gore than an oldschool movie like Running Man that was at the time a rather brutal movie.

    I get your point. I understand your point. I would never skip any GTA game in the fight for your point. 😉

  4. Violence in games these days is, like many things, a contentious issue, but much like violence in other media (movies come to mind) it’s something that still has a place. There is, of course, such a thing as “tasteless violence”, but by the same token there’s also such a thing as “meaningful violence”. I feel like Walking Dead makes, perhaps, the best case for that. Yes, there’s some pretty horrific, bloody, gory acts of violence in that game, and they serve a purpose. If you came away from that thinking “ugh, why did they have to do that, that was horrible!”, then the game succeeded; it was horrible, and you were supposed to be horrified.

    The entire premise of Walking Dead is a game of true moral consequence. Unlike other games that force hackneyed “moral systems” into the framework (see: Mass Effect), Walking Dead doesn’t give you a choice between “SAVE THE BURNING ORPHANAGE” and “USE BURNING ORPHANS TO CLUB THE NUNS TO DEATH”; it gives you two equally-valid choices and asks you to make the tough call, and then deal with the consequences. The fact that you’re essentially playing a normal guy caught up in the middle of all this craziness only adds to the emotional impact. Lord knows Walking Dead was the first game I’ve ever played (and I’ve been playing games since Xmas of 1986) that actually brought out an emotional reaction in me, personally. While I love playing games for the story (from the early text adventures of the 80s to the console RPG boom of the 90s and beyond), I never felt such a connection to the character as I did in Walking Dead, and I’m not ashamed to admit that the ending of the series had me tearing up.

    That’s probably getting off-point, so to bring back on-topic, the most violent scenes in Walking Dead all center around some of the most difficult choices you, as the player, are forced to make. Being forced to see people die as direct result of your actions is part of what gives the horror of a brutal death that much more impact, and it’s made all the worse by the emotional attachments you have (and this counts even if you hate the particular person — that makes the choices all the more meaningful!). By the same comparison, I can feel absolutely nothing (except maybe comical and/or detached amusement) at blowing a person limb-from-limb in a game like Fallout because there’s no absolutely emotional attachment at play.

    Now, to be fair, emotional attachments, and by extension things like character development, are more a result of quality writing than the presence of violence (there’s a reason why I would’ve done anything to protect Clem in Walking Dead, and yet was more than happy to sever Sentinel Lyons’ head with a laser gatling when given a chance: the former was someone I’d grown to care deeply about, while the latter only existed to chastise me constantly and berate me to follow her instructions regardless of my feelings). However, again, violence serves to accent the horrific finality of your choices. If you weren’t forced to see the consequences of your actions, how could you be expected to have any sort of emotional reaction to them?

    It’s also important to recognize the varying degrees of violence. It was touched on in the article that games like DMC3 (and I would say others, like Bulletstorm or MadWorld) take an intentional over-the-top approach, where much like a Tarantino film, the violence becomes so excessive it reaches a point of absurdity. This natural compares to the brutality of games like Walking Dead, where the violence is intended to be shocking and disturbing by comparison. This only further proves how violence has an artistic usage in games, the same as it does in cinema or any other artistic medium.

    I perfectly understand that some people simply can’t or won’t tolerate the presence of such things. It’s a valid choice to make, and while I feel that choice might mean you’ll miss out on some of the most meaningful artistic works ever made — from films like Léon: The Professional to games like Walking Dead — there’s nothing wrong with making that choice. However, I take issue with the point that the inclusion of violence, no matter how slight or excessive, is somehow detrimental to the ability of games to “uplift and inspire”. There is absolutely nothing preventing a game from being uplifting and inspiring while containing extreme amounts of violence, except for the skill and ability of the writing staff to make it such. Walking Dead is the most incontrovertible proof of this, and if anyone would seriously say otherwise, I would personally question their ability to criticize or analyze any level of writing beyond the most elementary. Spec Ops: The Line, is another brilliant example of writing elevating gameplay, and using violence as a means to intensify the morality of the choices the player makes. Spec Ops is a game that forces you, the player, to do very bad things, and when the adrenaline rush of mowing down bad guys fades and you’re left to walk through the aftermath of what you’ve done, needless to said, the impact is profound (though perhaps I’ll admit, it’s not particularly uplifting; still, it’s bloody brilliant). Personally speaking, I’d probably put Hotline Miami in that same category, but I admit that might be a stretch since I read a great deal into how the narrative and gameplay entwine in that game, and the scope of that discussion is well beyond this topic.

    This is getting ridiculously lengthy, so I’ll cut things off here with: You can say that you didn’t finish Walking Dead because it didn’t sit well with you. That’s just fine and acceptable. But you cannot fairly say the same is not uplifting or inspiring without experiencing the entirety of its story to completion. Likewise, you can say that violent games aren’t for you, but you cannot fairly say that just because a game’s developers choose to include violence that it precludes the game from having any meaningful impact emotionally. That’s judging the book after only reading the cover blurb.

    Last note: Ironically, the latest installment of Tomb Raider is the first game of the entire series that I’ve actually wanted to play, only because they finally seem to have given Lara Croft an actual character beyond “has guns and is female”. I’m likewise interested in The Last of Us (the gameplay trailer was compelling), but won’t be playing it as I don’t currently own a PS3.


  5. I don’t think anyone can honestly say a lifetime of violent videogames hasn’t effected them. It’s sheer ignorance to pretend a form of media you’ve spent a significant portion of your life won’t change you in some way. I know myself I’ve been desensitized to some form to the effects of violence in media. Things don’t phase me like I feel they should.

    I’m not too concerned about this change, I don’t mind the violence but it very rarely adds anything for me. For example, Uncharted 2 is a game that I couldn’t play because, spoilers of chapter one to follow, when Nathan Drake snapped a security guards neck so he could properly steal some precious artifact I couldn’t mesh with the hero’s action. He’s an unrepetant murderer, how can I enjoy the pithy dialogue after that? Yaddayadda just a game arguments aside it’s also a story and I hold that gameplay is not divorced from the story. The Walking Dead showed us how effective gameplay in storytelling, and how video games are a unique method of telling a narrative in general.

    The Last of Us seems to be about the same. I just don’t like murdering people in games. I did enjoy Resident Evil 6 for the same reasons though, the story really clinched it, so over the top and rediculous it was exactly what I hope for from a Resident Evil game.

    Tomb Raider will be skipped for many many reasons violence on the low end of it.

    DMC I’m not sure, I wouldn’t judge it based on the ESRB but totally recommend you look at some gameplay footage and cutscenes. There’s so many oppertunities now for people to get the feel for a game before they try it. I’ve never played the new DMC so I have no opinion myself, but I encourage anyone on the fence or worried about the violence or content of a game to look into for themselves. Youtube has been my main resource for this.

    I have a bit of issue with your last statement. Videogames should exist, full stop. I don’t think they need to uplift or encourage anymore than books or movies should. Videogames should not just chronicle the good, they should chronicle the bad and the ugly and the great and the terrible. The problem we face with videogames as an artform, as opposed to say books, is that it is a creation (generally) of a company to make money, so when we chronicle the bad there’s usually an angle, something to appease. No major company is going to devote a ton of resources (Triple A) to create a title to explore something the single effort of a writer or artist could do the same.

    But that shouldn’t really stop people from trying. That said I’d like to see a step back from super violence and murder, but that’s personal taste. The way we exercise our distaste is as you have, simply don’t bother with them.

    And maybe play Journey :3

  6. Maybe my attitudes will change when I have children, but generally I don’t have a problem with violence and swearing, or most other “adult content”. On the other hand, I almost never play FPS or other games with über-violence, I tend to lean toward games with “fantasy” violence- Dark Souls, Elder Scrolls, etc. For me, it really makes a difference if the violence is directed toward a human-like character, or some sort of mythical beast, and how the violence happens. I tend to dislike anything that takes place in “the real world”, not just with violence, but other things like “magic” (which is why I like pure fantasy like Dragonlance and Lord of the Rings, but dislike things like Harry Potter).

    Swearing is a bit different. I don’t generally mind it if it is done in context, which I feel that the Walking Dead gets a pass on. I’d probably cuss like a sailor in their situation too. Honestly though, I think that what I do hear when I am in any M rated game on XBL from all the 10 year old boys squealing into their mics is far worse than anything I’ve ever heard in a game. (This is also why I’d prefer that the ratings actually mattered. people under 17 shouldn’t even be allowed to play online in M rated games.)

    As far as sex and nudity in games, I find most of it distasteful. If they had it in there for a good reason, and took it seriously, that would be fine. But when it is gratuitous and added in for 12 year old boys to giggle about, I’d rather not have it in there. I found Fable 2 and pretty much everything Bioware does to be among the worst of the modern console games that I play. Of course GTA and other games I’m sure do it worse, but I just don’t play that type of game.

    Summary- as long as its done in context and tastefully, I have no problem with adult content. I’m not a fan of over-done and gratuitous adult content just for the sake of titillation though.

  7. I tend to agree with many of the point you’ve put across. The game Marketing is changing and either a game has to be a fun loving children game or a over the top realist violent game. Another thing I have noticed is the HUGE market for FPS games: obviously due to the huge sales Call of Duty and Battlefeild get every year, the market for these games has been pushed far forward. “Why teach the player a new scheme when he knows how to play a FPS?” Has become a recurring developmental thought to people. The last release I thoroughly enjoyed was XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and the main reason I think that was the case is that is was different from the onslaught of these mindlessly violent and first person games. Before that I don’t remember anything I really enjoyed until I go back to games like Eternal Sonata or Lost Odyssey. Don’t get me wrong I’ve played many games between there, on Steam alone in the past year I’ve bought about 30-40 games and played/beaten pretty much all of them and every now and then one comes along that changes my view, but then there’s all the ones that confirm it too. A good example (A little old but with Infinite coming out) Bioshock that was a FPS game changer, absolute love for that game, then the seconds release worried me. Single player games cursed when they add in multiplayer.. All in all the story wasn’t bad but it didn’t feel the same. It didn’t have the same feel because it was the same game basically. A few new guns and plasmids but you played exactly the same. That hinders the market for games as well, once you’ve made this “Big Game Changer” how do you continue unless you can change it again you have pretty much tapped out that resource. Although I know shouldn’t say this here, that seems to be happening with Zeboyd games as well. However The story in Zeboyd games is what your games are based around, adding in new mechanics in your programming here and there makes its a little newer and provides new features to the player. I love Zeboyd games I own all of them thus far and have enjoyed them to the point of playing through them multiply times. So the “Game Changers” can fall out to simple humorous and or fun story; who would know what will work and what won’t in this market. I’ve grown a love for Indie games as of late because they offer me what the big companies can’t anymore. Something that makes me want to keep playing, whether its a new play style or a different game play concept, their developers do it with out the huge budgets, flashy effects and over the top [insert tag line here].

    That is my $1.50 for this evening.
    Thanks for listening,

  8. For me, violent games do not seem to drop any influence, because logically for me they’re games. Things would be different if they would be actually realistic in way physics behave, and injuries happen. Real stuff is something I really don’t want to see.

    Though, I tend to get bored with games with massive bits of violence, I always feel that there should be more than just violence. But then, I do understand and have seen violence in games (and movies) influence people bit more than subly, but then there was the issue of mental illness behind.

    Major problem I have especially with sandboxy type games like GTA IV is that violence is always the only answer on mission, and outside of them, there isn’t any penalty to anything. Would be actually be interesting to see the main char have PTSD from violence, or grown into a psychopath (though, MC’s in GTA series probably already are those after few missions), or something which would make you think about your actions, more than just seeing a police coming after and losing them and driving into nearest paint shop.

    And to be honest, I’d rather see more adult themes (not just nudity/sex) be on games than uberviolence. Perhaps then games even could be promoted to the status where they could be in really rare cases called art.

    Anyways, good article. Probably will post more if I my subconcious decides to think about more of this when it’s resting. 😛

  9. I respect your choice to not play violent games, and I respect their right to continue making them.

    I just don’t understand WHY they are making them more violent. Does it really sell more copies? Do people consider Tomb Raider as a franchise and then think “well, I’ll pass on this one because there isn’t enough violence in it.”

    I will personally continue to play games that are good regardless of their violence level, and continue to avoid ones that are bad regardless of it, but if all other things were equal I wish that violence only existed in games where it actually serves a meaningful purpose in the game.

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