Sunday, 13 December 2015

Games need more violence - notes from Videobrains

  • Non-violent and insouciant games emerge as a counterpoint to common conceptions about videogames and as a challenge to the accepted standards of what a “videogame” is. Walking simulators, puzzle platformers, games focusing largely on child protagonists, etc rebut the idea that games are about male distraction
  • It's true that videogames have treated violence idiotically and clumsily. What should be one of the most charged, horrifying, emotional, dramatic acts in fiction has been reduced to mere input, whereby players eliminate X amount of enemies in order to advance to the game's next stage. The primitive standards of killing equalling winning exist still today. The fact games have generic “enemies” as opposed to named or identifiable victims is indicative of the problem
  • But through ignoring violence entirely, or treating it with a dismissive, aloof attitude, games risk sliding into irrelevance. Already games are too in love with science-fiction, fantasy and action, disconnected from the real world genres that do nothing to challenge the accepted notion that games are distractions and toys for children and adolescents. The wilful lack of involvement in violent and adult subject matter, though it is prettified and often made to resemble poetry, art or some loose discussion of an “issue” is only helping games along to their position outside of cultural history
  • Violence is a valid dramatic and emotional expression. Games are boastful of their ability to represent “issues” and do characters, and express emotion, so why should violence and the emotions that go with it be excluded? Games are reticent to do human characters – we have robots, creatures, ethereal manifestations, archetypes and superheroes. Violence – true violence, represented intelligently, gracefully and meaningfully – is an access to a variety of human emotions and experiences: hate, greed, jealousy, viciousness, oppression, suffering, anger, alienation. It is not something to be afraid of
  • Consider the impact of violent scenes in other artwork. Oedipus killing his father, Laius. Macbeth murdering Banquo. Picasso's Guernica. Dali's The Crucifixion. Sonny being murdered in The Godfather. Violence resonates with and is a part of human experience. Where games falter is in appropriating violence as something insignificant and negligible, an act that is performed unthinkingly and for no result other than ludic progression or empty spectacle
  • Violence in games is legitimate only if it has an effect on plot or other characters, and is committed against an identifiable or significant character. I'd argue that the violence which exists in games currently is not violence, since it conjurs no revulsion, no emotion, no feeling. The violence in games is far too blithe. It's perhaps less a case of games needing more violence, and simply them needing any violence to begin with. The reduction of violence into spectacle dilutes the word “violence” - what we think of as violent is in fact incredibly tame, since, as gory as it may be, it does nothing to make us reviled, empathetic, saddened, moved or challenged. This isn't to say that violence in reality is somehow positive, since it is able to make us feel or learn or change. But violence in fiction ought to do those things. There need to be more acts of violence in games that make one feel unhappy, or uncomfortable, or as if something has been lost. We need to accept that when it comes to dramatic writing, negative and appalling experiences – truly negative and appalling experiences, not highly euphemised, timid appropriations – are as valid and enlightening as positive experiences