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Before I get started, just think of your favourite violent game. Got it? Right, now imagine the game with all the violence taken out of it. Would it be as enjoyable? It’s pretty safe to say that the answer would be no. Does this mean (let’s just say you’re agreeing with me for now) that the game in question relies on the violence for it to be entertaining and not through the actual mechanics of the game. I would have to say no, because most games that use gratuitous violence use it in a way to enhance the mechanics of the game. For example, in a game like Gears of War, pulling off a headshot with the sniper rifle from half the map away is satisfying because the mechanics make it a challenging task. The skull explosion and spurt of blood just enhance the feeling you get for pulling it off, just like the ragdoll physics in an action game.
Violence has always been present in games in one way or another. It’s just that with the recent enhancement in graphics technology it has become possible to make it more realistic. Now realistic is certainly not the word I would chose to describe most of the violence in modern games. The reason I’m using it, is because I think people too often confuse the word realistic with exaggerated. For example, calling the violence in Gears of War or Ninja Gaiden 2 realistic is just plain ridiculous.
Simply put, violence in video games is just another way in which the gameplay experience is enhanced. Just as the means in which developers produce audio for an action game has improved since the days of Atomic Runner or Mercs. As video game technology advanced, so did the opportunity to make this aspect more entertaining, it doesn’t make a game any better or worse than it would be without the violence. X-Men Origins Wolverine is brimming with violence, but as far as action games go, it’s pretty standard. But thanks to some hilariously used violence, it’s a fun game while it lasts. Violence doesn’t make a bad game good; it merely serves as a way to make the game more fun to play, just like the jaw dropping visuals in a game like Uncharted 2.
Violence in video games is certainly not the hot topic it used to be; mainly due to the industry becoming too powerful to care as much as they once had to. However, it is interesting to look at it in a different light, there aren’t that many games with immense levels of gore and blood on display on every level. The ones that do have it are in a minority, and surely that is the way it should stay. If every game ends up having extreme levels of gore, it’s going to take away from the core experience and more importantly, the reason it’s there in the first place.
There are a number of ways in which a game will use any one aspect to enhance the gameplay. Violence is simply one of these things. It’s something that makes certain games unique, something that you’ll play a game for because you enjoy that particular aspect. Just like someone who loves a good story or graphics will play an appropriate game for them. Most games these days have some form of gore or violence in them, but exaggerated violence is not something that we need to see in every single game we put into our consoles. Otherwise, like most things that are done too often and without necessity, the novelty will soon wear off.