It’s an argument that has plagued gaming since the first time a player was able to pull out a weapon and attack someone else. No one ever worried about Mario jumping on the heads of turtles or Donkey Kong kidnapping a woman and defending himself with barrels. But by the time characters began looking like real people and players had the ability to whip out a gun and shoot Nazis in Wolfenstein or possessed marines in Doom, violence in video games has be criticized by those outside the industry. Now, the argument against it comes from within by an incredibly respected member of the community.
Warren Spector was recently quoted saying, “The ultraviolence has to stop.” This doesn’t come as a huge surprise that he would be an opponent of violence in gaming as Spector left Eidos in the mid-2000’s because of the level of violence he saw in certain games being created by his studio.
Spector continued, “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.”
It is interesting to note that Spector’s argument against violence in game comes from his perspective on storytelling as opposed to the normal “violent games cause violent gamers” argument that most opponents of violent gaming will use. As a storyteller, Spector is taking on a similar perspective in gaming that many movie critics would use against horror or summer blockbuster action movies.
Spector goes against the visual fluff that appeals to many gamers and is worried about the impact that it will have on the industry in the long run. While many gamers would be quick to argue against Spector, one needs to think about this from his perspective as someone who has worked in the gaming industry for twenty years, a large portion of the gaming industry’s life. Spector has heard all of the arguments against games whether its violence, just being for kids, something that could never be considered art and many others that I am sure I am missing. In his perspective, it sounds like Spector sees that the only way for gaming as an industry to grow and mature is by removing the ultraviolent aspects that are holding it back.
To play devil’s advocate though, the problem with taking away ultraviolent video games is that these ultraviolent games sell. This doesn’t mean that all games should be made ultraviolent and that every game that is ultraviolent will sell well. But just like the movie industry, gaming needs income.
If there weren’t summer blockbuster Michael Bay films, where would people go to watch the films that often are considered artistic achievements? Movie theaters wouldn’t be able to support themselves if these huge ultraviolent, overly sexualized and often dumbed down films didn’t exist. The same goes for games. If no one buys systems so they can play Call of Duty on it, what are the chances they’d purchase a PlayStation 3 to play Heavy Rain or an XBox just so they can download Braid or Limbo. As great as those titles are, they aren’t normally what people would consider system sellers. The most successful ultraviolent games often are. Without midnight launches for games like Call of Duty, gaming stores like EBGames or Gamestop couldn’t exist. If everything revolved around solely Mickey and Mario, gaming wouldn’t exist as the multibillion dollar industry it is today.
Like the movie industry, gaming needs variety and it isn’t a completely terrible thing like Warren Spector perceives it that ultraviolence exists. Violence is part of today’s culture, like it or not, and for the industry to continue to exist, then violent games will be a part of it. If gaming wants to continue to evolve and grow away from violent games, then people need to continue to produce and properly market high quality non-violent games. Unfortunately, very few people aside from Spector are attempting this in the proper manner. Many of the non-violent games that flood the market are quick cash-in titles like minigame collections. But for every 10 non-violent titles that are published, there will be one of those gems that set a new bar like Fez or Minecraft. Gamers just need to find them, play them and most importantly support them. As amazing an experience as Fez is, it’ll never receive a sequel if people don’t buy it.
Spector looks to continue his non-violent trend with Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two which is expanding to the XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 in addition to the Wii. Take a look below at the game’s most recent trailer while your at it. Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two will be out in November of this year. We wish Spector and his team at Junction Point the best of luck in expanding the portfolio of non-violent games which help the industry mature, but at the same time there is something fulfilling about that well placed sniper bullet in CoD (Sorry Warren).