There’s been a lot of talk recently about the possible link between video games and violence, thanks mostly due to the tragic events that occurred recently in the US. Whether you’re a believer or a defender though, there’s no doubt that gaming has become a tad super-violent, and the reactions towards such content has been apathetic at times. And that’s a reaction that one ex-Dishonored developer believes needs to change.
In an editorial on RPS, former Arkane Studios employee Joe Houston believes that gamers need to stop being afraid of the idea of censorship, resulting in a lack of communication which could be used to address and solve problems in the game industry today.
“In light of the recent gun violence in the U.S. and the resultant anti-game talk that has stemmed from it, it’s important as gamers not to simply retreat to the easy reaction, that games aren’t a part of the problem,” Houston said.
While I think that might be true…I think it’s a pity to stop there.
Too often we think about what we might lose as players and developers if forced to engage in that conversation, becoming blinded by the fear of censorship. As a result we miss out on more creative and effective ways to be a part of the solution. Linear games that have a lack of personal ownership in game violence actually do so at the disadvantage of society.”
I don’t believe that game violence causes real world violence, but I do believe that it does little to prevent it. And games with meaningful – and potentially distasteful – choice just might do better because they stand a chance of making the player think about what they’re doing on screen.
Houston the used the German release of Dishonored as an example, as the nation is notoriously sticky when it comes to allowing such things as violent games and scientology on their doorstop. However, Dishonored saw an uncut release in Deutschland, something that was thanks to the fact that all players in the game could choose to be as violent as they wanted.
“One could argue this is largely because the game can be played without killing anyone,” Houston said. “This doesn’t change all the things you might do in the game, but simply by knowing that it allows non-violence you find that every violent act you choose in cast in a sobering light.”
And that’s something that I believe in. I’m not against violent video games, but using evisceration and fountains of blood to sell a game is a recipe that is going to get stale quickly, as well as ask for the wrong kind of attention.
Just look at games such as The Unfinished Swan, Bastion and Journey. They’re fun, gorgeous and a treat to play without having to contain enough body parts to make a black market organ-smuggling operation jealous.
And if you have the time, please do read the entire editorial, as it makes some rational and valid points overall.