For and Against: Violence in video games • Page 2

Keza vs. Kristan.

Mortal Kombat and Doom were two of the first games to push the controversy into the mainstream. The likes of Duke Nukem 3D, Quake and utterly ridiculous gib fest Soldier Of Fortune went even further, allowing you to shoot off individual limbs and watch your victims run away screaming.

Of course no one really needs to see blood gouting from open wounds, but there's a blackly comic undertone to be enjoyed when watching such things play out in the most absurd and grotesque way possible. Peter Jackson knows where I'm coming from. If movies can get away with it, so can video games.

Then again, my penchant for gritty game violence isn't about seeing character models ripped limb from limb and smashed into meaty chunks or beating people up for the sake of it. In fact it is, and always will be, about context, just as it is with any other medium.

Where violence works is when the situation demands it - when the odds are stacked against you and you're forced to fight for your life in a way that gets the blood pumping.

Games like The Rats, Dracula and Frankenstein opened the door for that style of tension-wracked experience. They were followed by Interplay's wonderful Fallout-precursor Wasteland, where you spent most of your time defending yourself from rabid mutants.

Then the genre progressed and what we now regard as survival horror emerged in the shape of games like Alone In The Dark and, of course, Resident Evil. But the games which truly showed how effective the sparing use of violence can be were the early Silent Hill titles.

The beauty of those masterful games lay in the way they created a cloying, oppressive atmosphere by making you continually fear for your existence. Even simple exploration was overshadowed by the knowledge that at any moment you'd be set upon by twisted, nightmarish apparitions.

silenthill

Silent Hill 2: There will be blood.

Most of the time you were pathetically badly armed. You either had to run the hell away or improvise, perhaps trying to batter them to death with a plank of wood. On the rare occasions you actually had a gun, you were so terrified of missing you spiralled into a hapless panic.

Then the genius offering that is Demon's Souls took the menacing survival horror template and expanded it into a vast RPG. In this game, the only solution to anything is pure physical violence. Nothing stands up as better evidence for the argument that violence in videogames is not only justifiable, but necessary.

As Keza herself expressed so succinctly in her review of From Software's opus: "Precisely because the odds are so stacked against you, precisely because the game sometimes seems to hate you with every fibre of its being, when you do finally kill the bastard f***-off enormous boss monster that ended you within half a minute the first time you approached it, the resulting heart-in-mouth euphoria is the purest kind of gaming thrill. Demon's Souls is about facing up to the impossible, and winning."

That Demon's Souls creates this thrill with such a relentless onslaught of physical violence says a lot. Would it have been possible to create such a rush without the endless stabbing and maiming?

I'm not sure it would. That's why, for me, in the right context, we shouldn't be afraid to use violence in video games, in the exact same way it has been used in every other medium.

The Case Against... By Keza MacDonald

I am a pacifistic gamer. The kind of gamer who follows the traffic signals in Grand Theft Auto and feels the urge to apologise when I shoot someone in an online FPS (this comic ably illustrates my internal monologue). I had to turn off the death scenes in Limbo because the sight of the small boy meeting a grisly demise over and over again was starting to upset me.

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Aw... Aw, jeez... Is that really necessary? Man.

This doesn't extend to everything - give me a gunlance and put me in front of a dragon and I'll happily stab it through the throat and then harvest its corpse for trinkets, any time. However, when it comes to human-on-human violence, it's safe to say I am a massive wuss.

That's not to say that I don't respect the right of other gamers to shoot the individual limbs off Nazis or splash around in great pools of gore or shoot up a hospital in GTA IV just for giggles. But truthfully, I've never really understood their desire to.

I'm not stupid enough to think video games with violent content turn children into murderers. I don't think violent games should be censored, banned or burned in a big pile outside the Daily Mail offices as a sacrificial offering. I do think we should be mindful of what we expose kids to. That seems obvious.

And I do think games resort to violence too readily and often unnecessarily. They don't so much offer the opportunity for us to commit heinous acts of despicable violence as forcibly impose them on us.

But we'll get to that in a minute. The main issue that I have with violence in video games is that it makes us look like utter psychopaths to anyone outside our inner circle.

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