Video game violence: Developers’ standpoint.

Whenever it comes to video games being singled out as a medium as the root source of school violence, shoot-outs and what not, we as consumers have always had a hard time standing up for ourselves. Its really easy – throw in words and phrases like “moral fiber” and you’ve got a horde of angry parents leading the charge. Whom do we rally behind then?

#brosgotyoback
#brosgotyoback

Thankfully, in the light of the more recent accusations, a few big names hailing from prestigious companies such as Blizzard and Gearbox have started to voice out. It sparked a question in me; how should our developers defend their point?

:')
:’)

With all of their “scientific proofs” and claims, let us, for the sake of discussion, stipulate that these points are all valid. Effectively shifting the burden of proof, or onus to us. It is now our job to assert the falsehood of the claim that video games causes violence. But how are we going to proof that video games do not cause violence? How are we going to prove a negative? If we fail to do so, our standpoint weakens – from that of “Video games do not cause violence” to “I don’t believe video games cause violence.”.

You might be reading this and expect an answer from me.

———–

Sorry to not live up to your expectations, but I’m unable to deliver a game-breaking blow to the debate that has been around for decades. I can offer nothing new. But hear me out.

———–

Lets take a look at Tomb Raider first – a game that claims the title of the most badass game in the genre of puzzle solving.

Some time after the start of the game, you’d be forced to kill other humans that were inhabiting the island you and your crew shipwrecked on. Note that although you are usually not given any choices to not kill these people, the game refuses to lionize your killing.

"We don't have to do this."

“We don’t have to do this.”

In game, Lara’s dialogues and sometimes monologues would suggest to the player that they shouldn’t be doing what they’ve just done. And later in game, Lara confides in Roth that she has been desensitized to murder and is distressed about her mental state. But as we play along, Lara is more and more efficient in disposing of her enemies.

No problem.

No problem.

In our darkest moments, when life flashes before us, we find something.
Something that keeps us going. Something that pushes us.
When all seemed lost, I found a truth.

And I knew what I must become.

-Lara Croft, Tomb Raider 2013

We watched as Lara quickly changed; from the sweet, young and studious girl to the Lara we know of. A survivalist does whatever it takes to survive, and acting on the basis of her own survival. We watched as Lara starting to view her murders as a morally verifiable act as long as she is doing it do either save herself or save her friends.

What does this mean?
Did you think that the developers should have been more “family-friendly” with the theme? Should they have Lara herself break the fourth wall and remind the kids that they should never kill in real life after every now and then? Should we replace bullets with tranquilation darts?

Hell no.

I wouldn’t consider this subtle, actually – it’s more on the nose than you’d think. Truly subtle things tend to be completely missed because we are so used to filtering out background noise. Lara’s responses to her surroundings have taken the narrative spotlight of the game. To be fair to players, developers cannot blatantly point out that:”Hey, you’re supposed to feel that Lara shouldn’t be doing this.”, they hint so. Because otherwise, it would be betraying the player.

I think players have the right to their own opinions and interpretations of the narrative, more specifically the dialogue. Some might opine that these words are just needless background noise, others find them to signal a degradation in morality, and so on.

There is not “right” way to interpret the game. It’s a story, and whichever perspective you choose to adopt is yours and yours alone.

It’s like finding your dad’s Playboys under the bed and then blaming Playboy.”

While we’re at it, why not say that its our human attraction towards violence that makes violent video games popular?
Or even go as far as to blame the human’s inquisitive nature that prompted us to explore such grounds?

Sigh.

———–
This has been an article written by PP1MT.
I just had to get this out. Sorry for, once again, not being able to artfully articulate my point.
Feel free to share this, reblog this! Commercial use is as long as due credit is given.
Thanks for reading!
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8 thoughts on “Video game violence: Developers’ standpoint.

  1. For as ludicrous as Tomb Raider was (nobody goes from non-killer to master-assassin that quickly), I did appreciate the fact that Crystal Dynamics tried to portray her development into a killer as a struggle. The trouble with conveying such a struggle is that Tomb Raider was such an action-heavy game. It’s hard to explore the emotional impact of murder when you’re accumulating headshots left and right.

    1. It was definitely hard to find a balanced pace when they were gunning for both action and character development. Indeed it felt very out of place when she chirps about her misdeeds while gaining experience bonuses for headshots. I think Crystal Dynamics felt the need to reward the player for accurate shots (like all FPSes), and perhaps it only makes sense to do so, unfortunately.

    2. I agree 100%. I had fun playing the game but I only completed it once and now it’s collecting dust on my shelf. I personally don’t think video games cause violence. Violence has been around long before video games were even thought of. I played a lot of Mortal Kombat as a kid and I never once tried to perform a fatality on anyone.

  2. I really like your analysis of Lara’s acr in the new TR. I always thought it was kind of cool and interesting the way she would yell out at the attackers that they don’t need to fight eachother; it rang true for me, like maybe what I would do in that situation (?). Her conversation with the cult guy at the end about how they’re both murderers was a nice way to bring up the point without, as you say, hammering it home.
    I agree with the previous commenter that she certainly became an adept killer quickly – but then, this is a game, and we need some suspension of disbelief. For me, it was more problematic that you’d get bonus EX for more grisly kills. That part didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the killing-for-survival framework.

    1. Me too. I felt that I was able to identify with Lara and would definitely have said similar things in those situations. Sad to say, her mental/emotional ‘degeneration’ was a little fast paced.

      Fair point, its rather ironic that the game rewards you with extra EXP for headshots right after Lara’s outburst. It was like “So… do you want me to kill these guys, or what?”.

      That being said I still think the game was very well made. Problem is that we haven’t seen much of these before – that we want the audience to interpret in-game murder/malice whilst continuing the game. Sure we’ve all seen it being done in movies and books, but its rare to see it being applied to games. Because games are supposed to reward competence, and to dispatch an enemy in the most efficient way is a mark of competence indeed.

      Tricky.

      1. Definitely a well-made game. I wrote a review of it a few posts back and my take-home message was that it was too easy, but so much fun and so great in other areas that it was still worthwhile.

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