Usually, when the topic of violence in video games is brought up, it's either from a clueless "concerned parents" group or politicians looking for an easy target. Surprisingly, the latest round of discussion on the subject comes from people that gamers actually take seriously: game designers, publishers, journalists and executives. All of them had something to say about the recent E3's game coverage, and how many of the new hot games involved violence and killing. It's kind of a long list, so get ready for some reading:
GameSpot Senior Editor Brendan Sinclair: "We're winding up with an era of games that are wallowing in savagery. And that's not evil, wrong, immoral, or irreparably damaging to the children. It's just boring."
Sony Software Product Development Executive Scott Rohde: "...it's a way for people to escape. I don't think it turns people violent. But it's an interesting outlet for people to experience this, and let's face it: violent acts are what build the most tension; whether it's film or whether it's television or video games, and that was incredibly evident, specifically when we showed The Last of Us. I mean, God of War kind of gets up to this level [he raises his hand above his head] and just stays there. But with The Last Of Us, you don't know what's coming around the corner... It's an important part of building tension and creating a new style of entertainment for people. It's not violence for the sake of violence; there's a big difference. It's not Saw. Really, the violence is creatively used to tell a story and to build tension. And that's extremely important."
Gears of War designer Cliff Blezinski: "What's with the backlash over the fact that some of the games at E3 were 'ultra-violent?' There's room for all styles of games out there. Most games that rely on the violence as a selling point and nothing else tend to rightfully fail."
Curve Studios (Fluidity, Explodemon) design director Jonathan Biddle: "I keep reading that this E3 was particularly focused on violence, but it didn't seem any different than previous years to me."
Former Grasshopper Manufacture director Massimo Guarini: "#E3 2012: The problem isn't just the violence, it's the lack of everything else."
Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto: "Sometimes I get worried about the continued reliance on making games that are so centered around guns, and that there are so many of these games. I have a hard time imagining--particularly for young generations of gamers--how they sit down and play and interact with that."
Microsoft corporate vice president Phil Harrison: "I was surprised, I must admit, at some of the games. I think it's an inevitable progression of visual reality and visceral immersion that games can get quite ultra-realistic. Thankfully, everybody adheres to a very good ratings system, and makes sure that consumers are well-informed before they buy their games... So long as it's a balanced portfolio, it's okay."
Grand Theft Auto III programmer Thaddaeus Frogley: "Is it irony, the way the games press complains about violence and sexism at E3, but hardly covers any of the non-violent, non-sexist demos?"
Epic Mickey and Deus Ex designer Warren Spector: "We have to stop loving it. I just don't believe in the effects argument at all, but I do believe that we are fetishizing violence, and now in some cases actually combining it with an adolescent approach to sexuality. I just think it's in bad taste. Ultimately, I think it will cause us trouble. We've gone too far. The slow-motion blood spurts, the impalement by deadly assassins, the knives, shoulders, elbows to the throat. You know, Deus Ex had its moments of violence, but they were designed--whether they succeeded or not I can't say --but they were designed to make you uncomfortable, and I don't see that happening now. I think we're just appealing to an adolescent mindset and calling it mature. It's time to stop. I'm just glad I work for a company like Disney, where not only is that not something that's encouraged, you can't even do it, and I'm fine with it."
I'm not gonna lie, I am desensitized. I love mindless, ultraviolent action movies like Commando and Hard Target, but that's not all I like. If I can take a break from violence and killing in movies and watch a solid story about family and relationships like Love Actually, why can't I do the same in video games?
What do you think? Are these designers on the right track, and we're focusing a little too much on kicking ass and empowerment fantasies in games?