On The Other Side of Videogame History

Dennis Scimeca

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On The Other Side of Videogame History

The complaints about E3 are kind of a good thing.

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Evil Smurf

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the lack of anything that is not a brown and grey shooter was the issue
 

BrotherRool

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I have to admit, I actually took The Last of Us as a sign of growing maturity. Can't people see that it's been designed to show the violence as not fun? It wasn't a stylish 'heck yeah' sort of thing, but a messy, awkward, painful long sequence. The core of the post-apocalyptic genre was always about society degrading to a level where life is so bad people's humanities get erased and that seemed to be exactly what it was conveying (admittedly with too many enemies). There were quiet spaces, it's one of the first video game stories ever that doesn't appear to be a power fantasy.

The only thing that was wrong, was how the audience interacted with it. And to be fair they were at a press conference where they were all supposed to be having a fun time so I guess it might be hard to convey the mood change.

The Escapist coverage at least made The Last of Us seem special, and a break in trend from the shooters of recent times

Evil Smurf said:
the lack of anything that is not a brown and grey shooter was the issue
I think if that was the particular issue this year, that would have been what people were talking about. I mean as a community we talk about that all the time as it is. In fact Uncharted 1, released half a decade ago had a cheat that specifically made fun of that trend :D. I just don't think it's something we suddenly discovered this year
 

Dennis Scimeca

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BrotherRool said:
The Escapist coverage at least made The Last of Us seem special, and a break in trend from the shooters of recent times
It very well may be. I admit to wincing when I saw that shotgun blast. It felt very intimate to me, more like a murder than a killing, but then I spoke to a colleague on the way out of the Sony press conference. He knew more about the game than I did, and said that the survivors Joel was fighting were apparently really, really bad guys, and that Joel used to be one of them. Put in that context, the violence didn't seem quite as disturbing.

In any case, that's also irrelevant to the point I'm making this week. Whether or not the violence at E3 even warranted the anti-violence rhetoric may also be irrelevant. The point is that seeing such a rush of that rhetoric says something. It says something about how the way we're communally looking at videogames has matured and changed.

It matters that this commentary was launched en masse in the direction of E3 specifically. It's symbolic of where we are in our understanding of videogames, because E3 is symbolic of the old guard and the old way of looking at videogames.

That's the point I'm trying to make. Rather than everyone only getting up in arms about the violence at E3 - and if you're not reading a wide cross-section of the commentary, please don't take my word for how widespread this reaction has been, please do take a look yourself! - let's take a moment and realize what it means that we had this reaction. There's a positive way to look at all of this. :)
 

oldtaku

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I thought it was more of a balance reaction. Since most the A teams were off working on Next Gen, and violence is easy, we got more violence, ultraviolence, more violence, and oh, attempted rape. If there had been more Viva Pinata (never mind how disturbing that game is if you think about it), and Animal Crossing, and just anything new that looked awesome and wasn't violent the impression might not have been so strong. Even Watch Dogs, which everyone agreed was the star of the show, is going to be a violent game, though not God of War level.

Or in your context, if a lot more Indie games had been present.

But I'm glad it was so obvious. It's time for some industry self examination. Besides throwing up the barrier to entry, too much violence kills the impact and is cheap and boring. If every game is Mad World, then that's just the boring baseline.
 

KrabbiPatty

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I'm sick to death of this argument about games "growing up" and becoming "better", which in this guy and Bob Chipman and all the others' mind means shedding every shred of what makes games fun so we can all enjoy the utterly joyless navel gazing of Dear Esther, the video gaming equivalent of those horrible indie movie vanity projects that try and hilariously fail to "mean" something. Yay.

My question is what happens to people who LIKE these games in your utopia? Do we simply stop existing? Do we get driven out of gaming? If so, by you and...what army did you say?

If there are people honestly so childish they blush at the idea of DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball, or turn their noses up at God of War, or look down at me because I like Gears of War, then I'm truly sorry for you but if you'll excuse me I'd rather have fun.
 

Jarlaxl

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You're not going to ever eliminate violence from video games because video games are an expressive human medium, and every expressive human medium has violence in it. Violence has been with people for the longest time, and insofar as storytelling is primarily based around conflict (which is a fantastic bedmate with violence), it will be there.

Now, in the realm of video gaming, there are two things that can (and should) be done if violence is to stop being front and center:

1. We need more games where violence isn't the core of the game. We need more games where you have options to solve a problem that aren't "murder all the things" - or, where violence is an option, it needs a creative execution that accomplishes some goal beyond violence for its own sake (think Pokemon, or Magicka), OR the violence must be subservient to some other objective of the game.

2. Speaking of objectives, games need to set, as their objective, the creation of experience. The Last of Us is a good example; the trailer made it look like the game wanted you to feel or experience something (peril, the imperative of protecting others, scarce resources, etc.). Limbo does a great job of this as well, but through tone instead of action. Even League of Legends, the much-maligned FPSes, or competitive fighting games create an experience - competition under set rules, victory and defeat, time invested leading to rewards, etc.

Basically, a game should pass a litmus test: if we took the core gameplay mechanics and put them in a world with no violence (for instance, let's take God of War and turn it into a fast-paced cheerleading game where you knock points out of the sky and execute quicktime events to perform complex routines), would it be as good? If no, then violence for violence's sake is too prevalent in the game.
 

WaysideMaze

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KrabbiPatty said:
No where does he outright decry violence in video games, nor does he claim that he wants every game made to be artsy shit like Dear Esther. You're just using strawman arguments.

O/T If you've not seen it, this videos worth a watch
Discusses why violence is so common in video games.

Also, I really like the word kinesthetics.
 

KrabbiPatty

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WaysideMaze said:
KrabbiPatty said:
No where does he outright decry violence in video games, nor does he claim that he wants every game made to be artsy shit like Dear Esther. You're just using strawman arguments.

O/T If you've not seen it, this videos worth a watch
Discusses why violence is so common in video games.

Also, I really like the word kinesthetics.
I really like the kinesthetics too.

No of course he doesn't OUTRIGHT say it, for the same reason Bob Chipman wrings his hands over bullshit like color and if a game has mascots or not instead of saying OUTRIGHT that he just thinks Mario should be the ONLY game ever made EVER...but that doesn't mean that the tacit meaning isn't...well, tacit!

What else does it mean? If I say we need to tone down the violence in gaming, and yet we all know that many types of games depend on at least some level of realistic violence because otherwise they couldn't POSSIBLY depict their source (i.e., a war for example would be stupid if you removed the violence because it's a war) then the only LOGICAL interpretation is that they want those things to disappear.

And like I said there is nothing "immature" about looking at beautiful women, playing a shooter, or indulging in some fun romps through Greek myth, and if someone DOES have a problem with that then that is their problem and not one that gaming should cater to or have to struggle with.

You're partly right though in that I shouldn't conflate this guy and his (slightly more logical) arguments, however silly I may find them, with people like Chipman who have a whole 'nother kind of much stupider argument. That's not fair to people like this dude.

The world's supply of Bob Chipman just want games to be cartoony, childlike, colorful blobs of meaningless cottoncandy fluff like Mario and NOTHING ELSE. They're Nintendo fanboy/fetishists who can't deal with the changing times. THIS guy is just one of the many, many people (see Extra Credits for MOAR) who get flushed in the face when a bare breast is flashed or swoon and faint when a spot of blood appears on screen, because all they want is pseudointellectual cottoncandy fluff to stroke their Daria-engorged egos with. Dear Esther is just the tip of the ice burg I could have thrown out The Path or Braid if I felt like it. That being said this guy does have at least a sliver more self-restraint in his contempt for people like me, compared to the improbably low bar set by the Nintendo crowd, though I'm sure if he or any of them had their way me and everyone who ever bought Gears of War would be driven from the medium in some pogrom.

Because Christ forbid games just be FUN!
 

PortalThinker113

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KrabbiPatty said:
WaysideMaze said:
KrabbiPatty said:
No where does he outright decry violence in video games, nor does he claim that he wants every game made to be artsy shit like Dear Esther. You're just using strawman arguments.

O/T If you've not seen it, this videos worth a watch
Discusses why violence is so common in video games.

Also, I really like the word kinesthetics.
I really like the kinesthetics too.

No of course he doesn't OUTRIGHT say it, for the same reason Bob Chipman wrings his hands over bullshit like color and if a game has mascots or not instead of saying OUTRIGHT that he just thinks Mario should be the ONLY game ever made EVER...but that doesn't mean that the tacit meaning isn't...well, tacit!

What else does it mean? If I say we need to tone down the violence in gaming, and yet we all know that many types of games depend on at least some level of realistic violence because otherwise they couldn't POSSIBLY depict their source (i.e., a war for example would be stupid if you removed the violence because it's a war) then the only LOGICAL interpretation is that they want those things to disappear.

And like I said there is nothing "immature" about looking at beautiful women, playing a shooter, or indulging in some fun romps through Greek myth, and if someone DOES have a problem with that then that is their problem and not one that gaming should cater to or have to struggle with.

You're partly right though in that I shouldn't conflate this guy and his (slightly more logical) arguments, however silly I may find them, with people like Chipman who have a whole 'nother kind of much stupider argument. That's not fair to people like this dude.

The world's supply of Bob Chipman just want games to be cartoony, childlike, colorful blobs of meaningless cottoncandy fluff like Mario and NOTHING ELSE. They're Nintendo fanboy/fetishists who can't deal with the changing times. THIS guy is just one of the many, many people (see Extra Credits for MOAR) who get flushed in the face when a bare breast is flashed or swoon and faint when a spot of blood appears on screen, because all they want is pseudointellectual cottoncandy fluff to stroke their Daria-engorged egos with. Dear Esther is just the tip of the ice burg I could have thrown out The Path or Braid if I felt like it. That being said this guy does have at least a sliver more self-restraint in his contempt for people like me, compared to the improbably low bar set by the Nintendo crowd, though I'm sure if he or any of them had their way me and everyone who ever bought Gears of War would be driven from the medium in some pogrom.

Because Christ forbid games just be FUN!
No one is saying that violence should be removed from games. I love a good romp through God of War or something like it as much as the next person. It's not the existence of violence that people (including me) are a bit tired of, it's the quantity. Basically, the sheer fact that in today's world of AAA gaming, violence is all there ever seems to be.

My mom has hated video games for most of her life and is baffled by the fact that I care about them so much. I have wanted to show her the reasons why games strike such a powerful chord with me and mean so much to me, but it's nearly impossible because there is just so much constant, bloody violence in so many of the games that she is aware of and that I can properly bring her attention to, and violence of almost any kind turns her off these kinds of things. It's a barrier to entry that I'd love to bring down, but it's really damn hard with the utter fixation that the AAA gaming industry has on producing nothing but shooters and stabby stabby fun times.

I have absolutely no problem with violence in games. I have no problem with sexual themes or any of the things that help to stick that M rating on the box. Violence and other such themes are and will always be a key part of what video games are, and they can often be used to enhance the storytelling powers of the product at hand (like, in your example, a war game can potentially use violence to tell a powerful, gripping story AND be a blast to play if done correctly). What I do have a problem with, however, is the lack of diversity and the lack of, well, any other alternatives. I know you can come back and say "Well, there's Mario" and other such things, and yes, I'm aware of that. I love Mario, a lot. But I'm thinking more along the lines of something like Journey. Journey was a completely nonviolent game that struck me with its quiet beauty and made me feel some of the strongest emotions I've ever had in a game. Not once did I ever kill someone, but I had an incredible, unforgettable 2 hours regardless.

I am certainly not trying to talk down to you or say that you are a bad person for enjoying what you enjoy. Peering down through one's monocle off of a high horse doesn't help this situation either. In no way do I want every game to be Journey- that would get boring as all hell after a while, and I'm certainly ready for a spot of ultra-violence from time to time. But the point that I see is trying to be made is that most of the gaming industry seems devoted to making more ways to stab people in the neck, and it would be nice to see a wee bit more diversity and choice once in a while. We already have thousands of games filled with violence, but only a handful of non-combat based games. I'm sure you wouldn't mind seeing new concepts and choices becoming available, no?
 

Dennis Scimeca

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KrabbiPatty said:
I'm sick to death of this argument about games "growing up" and becoming "better" yadda yadda
I love violent video games. If I have a single area of critical expertise, it's first person shooters. But I also realize that triple-A blockbuster shooters or action games are not the end-all, be-all of videogame design and there are other, more profound experiences to be had.

When I went to film school, I thought that Aliens and Terminator and Robocop and Predator were some of the best movies ever made. Then I spent three years learning about movies in the larger sense, the history of the form and all the different kinds of movies and genres and I realized by the end of my film degree that Aliens and Terminator and Robocop and Predator were all kind of bad movies compared to some of the films I'd seen with brilliant writing, and brilliant acting, and brilliant cinematography, and brilliant editing.

I still love action movies, though. Red Dawn will probably remain one of my all-time favorite films no matter how old I get, and for a while Red Dawn was in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most violent movie in history in terms of acts of violence per minute. But I understand the place that stupid action movies hold in the larger scheme of film.

There are many different kinds of fun. Holding on to the notion that only core games are fun is outdated. It's old. It's the past. That is precisely the kind of out-of-touch notion that is being left behind. We're on the *other side* of that notion. Anyone who fights expanding their horizons is just missing out on a ton of great content.
 

Dastardly

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Dennis Scimeca said:
On The Other Side of Videogame History

The complaints about E3 are kind of a good thing.

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Eh, it's the same kind of person that'll wonder when humanity will "grow up," failing to realize that there are new, tiny people popping up all the time. Videogames will always have their "kids' table," and the "tweens' table," and the every-other-table. Just because I got old enough to eat steak didn't mean I only ever ate steak.

The question behind us was simply, "When will this medium be able to produce mature, thoughtful work of merit that is still an exemplar of the medium?" The question was never, "When will every game be a serious work of art?" At least it shouldn't have been. Nor should it be now.
 

Mr Thin

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Evil Smurf said:
the lack of anything that is not a brown and grey shooter was the issue
...I was thinking this the whole way through.

I mean, I don't read everything on the internet, so it's possible that this big 'awakening' you refer to has completely passed me by; but by and large the main complaint I've been hearing about E3 had nothing to do with violence. We love it, we always have. It's simply the lack of variety that has us all pissed off.

It was an interesting article, I just think that maybe you saw what you wanted to see in the public reaction to E3, rather than what was actually there.
 

Paradoxrifts

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The only reaction to E3 that really caught my attention was Yahtzee's lamentation that the Dead Space franchise had transformed from a survival-horror shooter into a straight action-shooter with horror elements. Was that really a surprise to any person who has seen a series of horror genre films go from horrifying to just plain horrible?

Horror titles and sequels go together like tooth paste and orange juice, in that they leave a bad taste in your mouth.
 

BrotherRool

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Dennis Scimeca said:
BrotherRool said:
The Escapist coverage at least made The Last of Us seem special, and a break in trend from the shooters of recent times
It very well may be. I admit to wincing when I saw that shotgun blast. It felt very intimate to me, more like a murder than a killing, but then I spoke to a colleague on the way out of the Sony press conference. He knew more about the game than I did, and said that the survivors Joel was fighting were apparently really, really bad guys, and that Joel used to be one of them. Put in that context, the violence didn't seem quite as disturbing.
No that's the opposite of what I mean :D In fact I much more worried that they will take the game in your direction.

In games we've always justified killing, whereas in apocalypse literature the idea has always been that it is murder and it's terrible you've been driven to it. Think about how it would feel to be in situation where for your family to survive you have to kill someone over water? In games we've always had this 'yeah it's fine, he'll just get over it' which is fine for power fantasies but it's not a particularly mature type of story and can't be because it has to ignore so many consequences of the protagonists actions.

Whereas Tomb Raider and The Last of Us seemed to be saying, look this is traumatic, horrible, ethically uncertain. This is murder not fighting (Tomb Raider didn't do that so much, but it had the panic of being forced to do these things).

It's very similar to The Hunger Games actually, the Hunger Games is probably one of the teen action films to every suggest that maybe these situations would be brutal and scarring to go through.

Contrast with Assassins Creed 3, where it's taken as unquestionable that killing people is justified and the deaths are portrayed as artistic stylistic merited actions. They make sure that you don't feel that another person has died, whereas in The Last of Us (hopefully) they want to start talking about that.

Although I am worried that they might go down your route. There was a lampshade hanging on the deaths by the Ellen Page person, which might mean they're just going to say 'yeah, these were bad people, it's okay that they died'

EDIT: Sorry I realised there's more consequence to what I'm saying. If I'm right in that The Last of Us and Tomb Raider belong to the same type of literature as things like The Road and the Hunger Games. Literature that explores and disapproves of violence, then it would weaken your point entirely, because it means that this is the first time ever, never mind in E3, that we've seen a game that points out that the central conceit of most games is shallow and wrong, so it wouldn't be a sign of the maturity of the industry, but just everyone misinterpreting the message. We're complaining because the games themselves told us violence was wrong, we're complaining at the wrong things, because we've missed the deeper message

To be fair, that wouldn't be a point of blame on gaming journalism. It happened this very year to the film journalists too. There was exactly the same scandal as that surrounding the Hunger Games, because of the same misinterpretation. The Hunger Games is the most anti-violent piece of fiction around in cinema, it has a more mature view on violence than almost every action film that will be released this year for people of all ages and the problem is, we're so used to dopey action films and dopey games, that when you see a clip of horrible violence happening and children dying, it's natural to assume that the game/film is approving that action, because heck, all the rest of the stuff we consume does that right? And miss the point that in The Hunger Games, children dying isn't cool but an exploration of the awfulness of death and being in that situation.
 

MichaelPalin

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The problem is the graphicality in the violence, not the amount of it. My opinion is that after the Supreme Court said video games could not be censored, marketing guys have just gone wild.
 

MichaelPalin

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BrotherRool said:
There were quiet spaces, it's one of the first video game stories ever that doesn't appear to be a power fantasy.
You have not played many games, have you? I'll give you a big hint: horror games.
 

BrotherRool

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MichaelPalin said:
BrotherRool said:
There were quiet spaces, it's one of the first video game stories ever that doesn't appear to be a power fantasy.
You have not played many games, have you? I'll give you a big hint: horror games.
I completely forgot about horror games :D And it's not surprising then that some of the games with best story and gameplay/story interaction were horror games. Even still, modern trend of 'horror' is the complete reverse and there are a lot of horror games that still end up with 'you are the chosen one' or that sort of thing. I mean the current run is Dead Space, Resident Evil, Alan Wake, Silent Hill: Homecoming, the latest FEAR. Even a lot of the older ones (Clock Tower I think?) had power fantasy roots or trappings

But yeah as a genre it's meant to be the reverse of that :D
 

Zhukov

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KrabbiPatty said:
Because Christ forbid games just be FUN!
Because Christ forbid games try to be fun in ways that don't involve headshots.

Because Christ forbid any of them try to be something more than that.

Because Christ forbid any of them try to be fun and something more.

The violent stuff you love isn't going to disappear, if only because it's profitable. Nobody is saying it should disappear entirely. Are you saying every game should base its appeal entirely on violent power fantasies?

Why is somebody who enjoys "colorful blobs of meaningless cottoncandy fluff" or "pseudointellectual cottoncandy fluff" any worse than yourself, who seemingly "just wants to shoot bad guys in the dick while looking at some boobs"?