• Xiangyu (Shawn) Sun

Video Game Violence: Good or Bad?

Updated: Apr 29, 2019

Last time I used to playtest the "Game for Change" project. During the playtest, my group was asked to answer a question: "What do you think there is too much of current game?" Then our answer is: "Violence."

After a few days, I start to think about the question again: Is violence in the game a good thing or not?

Designers: Why we need violence in video game?

Theoretically, the violence elements are designed to provide players a more engaging experience. I'd like to categorize them into two types: necessary violence and unnecessary violence.

Necessary Violence

There are games designed to fulfill some players' desire for the aestheticization of violence, such as Mortal Kombat, DOOM, and Prototype. People buy these game just because they want to beat their enemies (or opponent) hard. What if we delete all of the violent content of these titles? I believe they will no longer exist since violence is the fundamental fantasy of them. That's the necessary violence in games.

Unecessary Violence

So what is unnecessary violence? The unnecessary violence serves for a game only to enhance the hit feedback of increase the engagement for players. Usually, these games will have a "blood effect toggle" to turn on/off these bloody effects. They won't affect either gameplay or game's fantasy. Some players (mostly male players) love it because they enjoy the feeling of being strong and firm while some players feel uncomfortable when they see these and they prefer to enjoy the game itself without blood spray and gores.

Society: Why we hate video game violence?

"Because people who play violent video games will act violently."

Here is one sentence from president Donald Trump during a White House meeting on school safety: "I'm hearing more and more people saying the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts,"

But, is it true?

Well, it's hard to come to this conclusion so quickly because there are too many factors that will influence a person's behavior. What if they already have a violent tendency before they start playing violent games? Moreover, there is another interesting fact from an economic study published in February 2016, which looked at violent criminal offenses in the weeks after the release of popular video games.

After tracking both game sales and crime rates, the authors discovered that general social violence decreased in the weeks after the appearance of a new edition of a popular title. Though it doesn't rule out longer-term effects, it still shows a piece of evidence for the games allowing players to release their aggression safely.

What I get from video game violence?

As a player, I enjoy slashing fierce devils into pieces and deep into the euphoria of victory in some ARPGs. Also, sometimes I feel uncomfortable or even disgusting when I saw some brutal scenes. However, I understand that they all serve for players' experience. Sometimes they want you to be scared, uncomfortable, or full of anger. Even though I know, they are all virtual things happened in a virtual world, but I cannot help to feel the strong emotion when I was in that condition.

For example, I still remember the nuke scene in COD 4. That's the most powerful moment I had in that game. Also, that's one of my top 10 most impressive violent scenes. After a bloody and terrifying battle, I played as a soldier in a squad back to the helicopter, and the nuclear bomb in this city was triggered at that moment.

Things happened so fast, and I was even not prepared for this. The first time I played this scene, I was terribly shocked, holding my controller, not knowing what to do next. My mind went blank; just watch this happened while I cannot do anything to save. There was nothing left to save.

At the ending of the post, I still hesitate to say whether video game violence is absolutely good or bad. However, after this research, one thing I'm sure about video game violence is, these violent elements helped to build players' experience in their way. As game developers, I think, what we need to do might be showing the right things to the right people, at the right time.

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