Please don’t “Finish Him”!

In days gone by I loved violent videogames. I remember being a teenager and thinking that Mortal Kombat’s “fatalities” were the most awesome thing ever. But nowdays I just can’t muster the same enthusiasm for gore.


After watching these videos for the upcoming games Space Marine and Dead Island I thought “these games look awesome and I want to play them, but I wish there wasn’t so much blood”. So what happened to get from the 15 year old arcade dwelling me to the 30 year old, tea drinking me? Is it just age and maturity? Has better graphics made things too realistic? Has being in a relationship calmed my alpha male thirst for power? Am I just too ethical-lefty-smelly-hippie-vegetarian now?

I’m not sure. But I no longer want to be the person in videogames who rips someone’s head off. I’d rather play portal or interactive fiction or peggle. And even in games which feature violence like Just Cause 2, I have more fun flying planes under bridges, basejumping, and generally mucking around with the mechanics of the game rather than shooting people.

It’s not that I think violence shouldn’t be part of games. Left 4 Dead is a very gory game but it fits, because you are fighting for your life against the hordes of zombies who are trying to eat you. It’s a horror game where violence isn’t the goal, survival is. But in Dead Island, Space Marine and the new Mortal Kombat the horror doesn’t stem from your enemies, it comes from you. It’s “fun” to rip your enemies into shreds with a chainsaw. The player is like the villian in a slasher movie, but without any cleverness or self awareness of the genre (note to self, make a game where you actually are the villian in a slasher movie, but make it thoughtful).

I will probably end up giving Dead Island a go; a 4 player co-op zombie first person RPG is too good to pass up. But I wish they would make violence a natural consequence of the game mechanics, rather than “violence is fun” being the game mechanic. That’s what makes violent games like Counter-Strike or Left 4 Dead fun to play – they’re not about the violence, they’re about the conflict.

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4 thoughts on “Please don’t “Finish Him”!

  1. Hey – that guy’s thinking!
    GET HIM!

    Ha.

    But seriously … I think it’s not the violence per se so much as the novelty of experience which computer games provide. In your teenage era, you had never felt what it was like to tear someone’s head off. Now you have, your neurons crave novetly once more. That novelty is provided by the more creative experiences in experimenting with story, plot, mechanics, etc to be discovered in more ‘intelligent’ games. I would posit that this creativity might also wear off in the future (‘might’ – creativity is, by definition, novel and its stimulating effects would take longer to wear off as the attractive feature of a computer game).
    I might hazard a guess that the creative, almost-boundless environments of video games like Just Cause 2 and Minecraft, will also start to wear thin as they reach the point where they are no longer providing the diversion or novel experience for which computer games are largely designed. They will actually begin to require the kind of concentration and consideration needed for your every day life, and who would really want that? (Shut up, everyone who plays Second Life)
    Maybe the next generation of games will provide an experience of emotional diversion, so instead of ripping someone’s head off, you rip their hearts out (figuratively). They could provide the narrative framework which could help you experience emotions and situations which you’ve never experienced like justified treason, schadenfreude or, like you say, the internal reasoning behind the villian. Even the evil villian or psycho. Games could actually guide you the journey of emotional or mental breakdown, sort of like the latest Batman does (awesome present btw – thanks).

    Get writing. I’ll help.

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