And when we humans feel sophisticated enough to rise above these primal activities, we find other ways to depict our carnal, violent desires, as such in poems, paintings, books, cartoons, songs, films or, more "recently" in games. And most violent entertainment is often a sort of game, or at least "a competition" to the death, or to the first blood. But on the other hand the most peaceful, unifying activities are also games (though I would argue not all people take peacefully to losing a round of Yatzi). And that is what I am trying to bring across here, in my own, digressing ways.
Though we have a long tradition of worshipping heinous acts as entertainment this is not at all synonymous with saying that all games have to be this way. Though I am personally still surprised to this day on creativity brought into "action"-games (that usually means you are meant to kill things in it) - like a complex and well composed story (Like in the first-person shooter Max Payne!)
|From Postal 2|
And I am not saying it necessarily is a bad thing with violence in games. It can be a very powerful tool for creating an immersion for your audience. But I am definitely not saying it is a good thing either. I know 14 and 11 year old kids that play Modern Warfare 2, and more surprisingly - with their parents blessing. "Because it is less violent than a lot of other games". And I partly agree to this of course, MW2 happens to be a very well-composed game, I admit. And though it really is a lot less violent than a lot of other games... It is still a lot more violent than say - at least a quarter of all the other games on the market.
So what we need to recognise is the essence and the message of what we are trying to convey with our game. I really do hate when people try to give meaning to things that are not meant to have a meaning. Like paintings. It really gets to me sometimes. But if your game is meant to be "a mindless shooter" then I will have respect for that, it is all the mind that is being put into it eventually that scares me. You can't deny that any game will contain some kind of message, whether intended to or not. Tetris, Bejeweled and Pacman not included. So when creating a simple-minded game it is important to remember the complexity it eventually will hold when it is being played by your audience.
You have to weigh every battle and every drop of blood on your conscience and think just how mindless this will appear to the 11 year old child of some "open-minded" parents* and just how much meaning it is going to give to the seasoned 33 year old gamer. Your message is going to be given out to all of those who are up to the challenge, and it can be ever as subtly glorifying violent behaviour or condone acts that in society are unforgivable. The shock-value of extreme, gory violence is down to a nil. Throwing intestines, brains, unborn children and still-beating hearts above your head by a chainsaw will give about as strong a reaction from today's audience as a crab taking a shit on another crab, on a beach. It is worth absolutely nothing. So we got to ask ourselves, when violence only work as some sort of "filler", is it really necessary?
|From Postal 2|
* I will clarify here that developers can't be responsible for their content when it's not viewed by the appropriate audience as stated by age-limits and approvals. What a child brings into a household is completely the parent's responsibility.