Having recently seen the new gameplay trailer for Techland’s Dying Light, I find myself wondering, “When does a game become so disturbing that you cringe at the thought of it being your head that’s a mushy mess?” Years ago, games were so graphically underdeveloped that they just could not appear scary or violent. There is no way a game in 16 bit graphics could disturb you, no matter how violent! Right?!
Hotline Miami is the first game I have come across that fights against this suggestion. The game borders on psychotic and it begs the question, what were the developers (Dennaton Games) on? This to me was proof it could be done, and that you can most certainly get sucked into such a simple looking title. I found the game an incredible feat, and I have no doubt others did also. It messes with ones state of sanity and for me that becomes a real important piece of the violence in games puzzle. Should you consider that poor 16 bit gangsters’ health and family issues? Or just go bash his head in and forget it? Now obviously, you just do not think that way when you are being relentlessly hunted down, but the mystery surrounding the games plot has you really wanting to find out why exactly you are a psychopathic murderer wearing a Horse mask and that is what keeps you going.
Hotline Miami is just one game of thousands that appeals to the mentally unstable (myself included) and it works a charm. But what of the games purely focused on graphical prowess? I found myself unable to complete certain titles when I was younger due to an incredibly low attention span. Horror games however, were the largest culprit for me, and the main genre halting completion. Going back to the days of the original PlayStation, I always found myself pulled in by horror titles. They had a certain charm about them that I could not resist despite my inability to see through them. The first title I remember playing was Silent Hill. I got my mom to write a note saying I could have the 18+ title and I ran to the second hand shop all by myself, handed over the cash and was on my way. I got home, turned it all on and then played. As soon as I got to the fence section of the game I took the game back. I should definitely have took the rating into account! For some reason, it really creeped me out… Seeing that body, all strung up… It was simply nasty! Looking back, it would appear I’m a complete wuss and definitely should have seen it through considering the popularity of the franchise. That was my first foray into the world of horror games, and not much has changed.
Lately, I have found myself trying out more and more supposedly violent titles and each seems to have a different effect on me. One of the more recent titles I found somewhat violent was Bioshock Infinite. I absolutely loved it, having skipping the first 2 purely out of fear, I was surprised I enjoyed it so much! But my God was it violent… Within minutes I found myself breaking skulls (literally) and so much more. Then later you get all these fancy Vigors granting you abilities like (SPOILERS) being able to set folk on fire and watch them horrifically burn to death or summoning a storm of crows to eat your victim alive. For what it’s worth however, Bioshock is known for its horror elements. If Infinite chose to opt out of the violence department, it may have struggled to get across the message it so clearly succeeded in getting out.
The latest game experience I have found myself on that really made me question video game violence is not one game, but rather a triple whammy. Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, Loadout and Red Orchestra 2 all offer up varying types of violence. Here is why I think these games know they are over the line, and why they don’t give a damn what you think.
Chivalry is a class based multiplayer game, which as the name suggests, is set in the Medieval era where Knights hate each other. In short, it’s horrifically savage. Knights will use Swords, Maces, Axes and more to dismember one another limb from limb, its brilliant! You really find yourself feeling every slice, and for that I take my hat off to the team over at Torn Banner Studios. The sounds, the looks and the feels come across as clear as day, and it’s absolutely vile. With complete control of where players will hit the enemy, you can choose how you want to rip your opponent apart. Even when they are dead on the floor, the option is still there to turn them into a fleshy raisin. It’s this kind of sadistic detail that makes me think… Is this really what people want? Judging by the success of the game, it apparently is.
Loadout is the second game I have been hooked on. It’s a free to play shooting fest which, were it not for the cartoony aesthetic, it would easily top the violence shown in Chivalry. In the game it’s not rare to see players running about with no skull or completely burnt to a crisp whilst they continuously look for some health. Much like Chivalry, it becomes a lot of fun to torment your enemies by removing their barely attached limbs. The charm of Loadout lies within its violence, without it, it just would not be as fun.
The final game I come to is Red Orchestra 2. I have left it till last because I believe it to be the worst of the bunch in terms of how violent it is, and the way it comes across. The game made me feel uneasy because of how real it all feels. It’s not just the fact that body parts fly off all across the battlefield; it’s the fact that the game so vividly replicates what my vision of war would be. It has my adrenaline seriously pumping while playing. To me it’s not the kind of game you play to ‘have a laugh with friends’. It’s a fantastical experience don’t get me wrong, but it’s a stomach churning one too. The games above have mostly fantasy roots, barring Chivalry, but Red Orchestra 2 digs so deep into your mind it goes beyond what a game should achieve, and blurs the rules of video game violence. Getting a head-shot is great and all, but the buzz you get from that, and the buzz you get in Battlefield 4 differ exponentially.
Violent games will be staying for as long as games are made, which as it happens, is likely to be quite a while. As long as games have a meaning for the violence they will always be welcome in my eyes, we just need to decide whether that reason is valid.
As a final thought, I would like to include that I have not gone mental and killed, maimed or harmed anyone in anyway despite the various gore filled games I have played. And with that, I wholeheartedly agree that games do not change a person’s view on life or indeed their mental state of mind. They may however make a person slightly angry when they are asked to pause in the middle of a boss fight. What do you think to video game violence? Is it pushed too hard? Or just the right amount? Let us know in the comments.