Video games aren't violent enough

Video games aren't violent enough. I want intestines spewing all over the place, legs ripped off, eyes popped out, and people torn limb from limb. That's right, more violence.

There's acceptable violence, and non-acceptable. You take school children into a museum to view paintings of brutal wars, and no one says a thing. Let them play a video game with the same basic gore levels, and it's the end of modern civilization.

Therefore, video games need to mature enough to become accepted. That's a given, and certainly anyone who plays them will tell you that. It's the violence (and the sex, but that's another issue entirely) that's the barrier. Everyone focuses on it because that's what makes the news.

What do they need to do then, to break this frustrating barrier? The answer is simple:

Make it brutal. Make it real. Use it properly.

It seems many of the problems with the violence in games is the cartoonish nature. While this current generation does produce some fantastic visuals, something like Grand Theft Auto is still cartoonish. The level of violence is, honestly, just a little worse than the Looney Tunes blowing each other up. GTA just does it with gore, hookers, and cops. This is why people find it so ridiculous, it's entertaining.

That's what we need to move away from. It needs to make that next step. Saving Private Ryan managed to make it uncut onto network television. There were of course ridiculous protests and letter writing campaigns, but I'm sure anyone who has seen it will tell you the violence made an impact. It sold the movie.

Now we have video games like Men of Valor and Medal of Honor. Valor is incredible in the way it depicts the Vietnam War, both in intensity and the way it recreates battles. Honor and its various sequels take the safe approach, inserting no gore, and earning a meager T rating for a WWII experience. Both were created by the same development team (the group worked on MOH: Allied Assault while the rest of the series has been pawned off elsewhere).

Valor would be a much stronger title if the gore was kicked up. When shot, the Vietcong drop in a spattering of blood. That's it, and the infantry around you does the same thing when hit. There's barely a blip on the emotional radar, but there is something there thanks to the close camaraderie of the team.

Medal of Honor doesn't even come close. You shoot someone and they go through a generic death animation. There's nothing there to hammer home the point that you, the player, just killed someone. It's all Hollywood glitz outside this too, making this seem more like a promotional video to join a certain segment of this country.

It has nothing to do with being sadistic or wanting games to show off some twisted fantasy. It's the point that Private Ryan achieved something, and it made something real. Men of Valor came close. Now it needs to go a step further and show the true horrors of war. It's about making an impression, and if it needs to be brutal, so be it. Medal of Honor completely defeats the purpose.

Yes, there is a right place for this and a wrong one. The simple matter is a kid shouldn't have a game like this to begin with, and it's doubtful we'll ever see a Grand Theft Auto do this. However, it's going to take one game to break that barrier. Video games, regardless of what those who are critical about the industry say, can elicit an emotional response when done right. What they want, whether or not they realize it, is more brutality in the right places.

Comments (2)

Good article.

I think the famous example from my genre of choice comes from FF VII - the death of a major character. We spend huge amounts of time whacking away at bad guys in normal gameplay (very cartoonish), but when the big bad kills a major character outside the normal gameplay routine it was an emotional impact. We sit staring at the screen, appalled at the violence just witnessed - despite the fact that we had been dishing it out for hours upon hours earlier.

Emotional impact is a key part of making violence real, as you point out. I don't think that the cartoony level of violence in gaming will ever be phased out, but a measure of reality in some games might garner some respect.

I just got this e-mail from a reader. Nice thoughts so I figured I'd throw it in the comments:

First off, great article. You make a hell of a point: without the violence factor, Saving Private Ryan would've been another John Wayne movie. I remember seeing it in the theater, and having to walk out of the room during the first scene to keep the contents of my stomach. Seeing a man searching for his own arm does have an effect on you, and yes, playing a game like Medal of Honor in any of its incarnations doesn't do much to emphasize that. (Although the first time I played Frontline, I put it on hard difficulty and died 15 times before managing to get out of the water on the first level... that was harrowing.)

Surprisingly, there was a game that managed to break that line, in my opinion (at least, when I played it).

Manhunt.

Yeah, it was a bit cartoony. But there's really no holds barred in that one. The grainy 8mm film shots, and right from the beginning stabbing a guy in the face repeatedly with a shard of glass... damn.

I didn't get very far in that game, because I had to turn it off. I was enjoying it too much. The moment I found myself saying, "Oh man, his brain just totally splattered all over the camera, that was awesome," I came to the conclusion that this really shouldn't be something I get a kick out of.

It's not quite the same impact that a game like MoH could have if done right, but it's definitely an impact.

There's my two cents. Once again, great work, keep it up.

Sean Boden

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