Gamers a re a weird lot. I don’t mean that in a negative way, but it is tricky to gauge what is and what is not acceptable in the industry these days. While sitting down for a session of flavour of the month FPS, you’re going to see the usual amount of popping heads and blood sprayed everywhere. But torture? Hoo boy, that is something that gamers do not dig, one bit whatsoever. At least, that’s what Ubisoft is saying, as they’ve taken out that segment from the upcoming Splinter Cell” Blacklist, with extreme prejudice.
Originally seen at E3 2012, the scene where Sam Fisher extracts information with his knife-twisting skills hasn’t been a warmly received addition to the franchise. “We’ve arrived in a strange emotional clime when our popular entertainment frequently depicts torture as briskly effective rather than literally the worst thing one human being can do to another – yea verily, worse even than killing,” said writer Tom Bissell to Eurogamer after the outrage hit the fan.
I spent a couple days feeling ashamed of being a gamer, of playing or liking military games, of being interested in any of this disgusting bulls*** at all.
“It wasn’t nice to see any negative reaction to something you’ve thrown your life into,” added Splinter Cell Blacklist producer Andrew Wilson at a press event in Paris last week. “But at the same time you have to have the confidence that as long as you’ve got that stuff in there, eventually people will see it.”
Is it an unnecessary part of the game then, to have torture scenes? Perhaps, but it isn’t something that defines the stealth action title. And in a way, it helps to sell the realism that Blacklist is aiming for, as Fisher breaks various laws with his Fifth Freedom rights to protect his nation. It was a gameplay mechanic that was actually pulled off well in Splinter Cell Conviction, albeit in a manner that wasn’t over the top or over-used. But beyond all that, the whole reason why that scene was included in the first place, was so that Ubisoft could have something more dynamic to present at E3 last year. “Because the nature of E3, there are certain things that are easier to demonstrate,” Wilson said.
Obviously we were up on stage at the beginning, and it’s quite hard to get the value of a stealth playthrough in that environment. We would have got a negative reaction if we showed that kind of stuff.
Ubisoft Toronto has taken the defensive so far, saying that the final game will be about more than just fist-based information retrieval. “The first thing I’d say about that is that possibly there was missing context – and in an unabridged snapshot, it seemed like pretty tough material,”Wilson said. “We’ve scaled a lot of that back, and as we’ve gone through the process of development there are always things that you feel are not working as well.
Every game does this, and cuts certain things.
I’m not saying that torture is right, but in an industry where exploding bodies and rivers of blood happen to be more common than power-ups, it feels like a hypocritical stance on what is and what is not considered to be acceptable content.
Especially after Ubisoft has just released a game where you had to lay down a beating on your own Bro(die).