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    • Imagine caring about the people you kill in a video game.

      I think I lost interest in playing videogames a few years before Doom became a hit in the 1990s. If you don’t remember, it was a first person perspective of a giant gun firing at everyone it sees as it goes around corners. There may have been more to it than that, but that’s pretty much all I remember from the news reports on what was then considered an extremely violent video game.

      Flash forward to 2020 and I find myself reading about a new release that attempts to humanize every kill:

      “I’m not saying killing in this game isn’t part of it. But each death takes an emotional toll on the character and, I would argue, on the player. They do this thing where when you kill a random enemy, one of their allies might cry out ‘Steve!’ or ‘Jill!’ or whatever. It’s subtle, but gives an entire back story to someone that in other games might just be any old NPC (non-player character). And all it took was a name.”

      If traditional shooter video games desensitize players to violence (a hotly debated argument), do games like The Last of Us Part II resensitize them?

      Further Reading




    • Story-based games like The Last of Us rely heavily on the narrative and the emotional connection players feel when playing it, which is why humanising every character in the game is done. On the flip side, games like Fortnite actually celebrate the killing of other players. Players even do taunts after killing each other. So different games have different approaches to sensitising and desensitising.

      I think this is somewhat related to my other post about compartmentalisation. I've been playing video games since I was a kid. Still do today. I've killed countless people, monsters, aliens, whatever the game throws at me, but I don't feel desensitised at all. I still feel sad when I read about people dying, I feel mad when people are senselessly killed, I can't even watch dashcam footage of traffic accidents because it just makes me uncomfortable. If people can compartmentalise well and differentiate real life from fiction, then I think (in my non-expert opinion) most people should be fine.

    • I'd give this a watch about violence in games:

      It gives a decent overview of the violence in games going back millennia and how even though it is increasing our actual violent crime rate has been going down.

      Today in video games violence is a very broad topic. Space War was the first one and it's been part of most major genres going on from there. Even simple platformers like Super Mario Bros have killing enemies as a main mechanic. Disney characters were doing it in Ducktales and Mickey Mouse's Castle of Illusion as well.

      It's gone in all sorts of directions today, Mortal Kombat which is one of the original series to bring about the government's scrutiny on this has gone way, way, way over the top to not even being close to realistic anymore.

      EA/DICE's Battlefield 1 brought a lot more weight to deaths especially the players with their opening chapter where instead of respawning as yourself you become a new person in the battle each time. And with every death their name and DOB-date they were killed in WWI are displayed.

      Then there are the more cartoon like series which take away the violent imagery. In Splatoon you "splat" other players and their inkling goes back to the spawn point. Though in Salmon run/the single player you're still killing enemies I think.

      Some games completely subvert modern violence in games like Undertale where you could simply talk to every enemy and get them to stop fighting if you could figure out what to say. While you could still fight and kill them if you wanted it would have consequences as to how the game would play out.

      Then there's the growing field of games without any violence. Beyond the classic genres (puzzle games, some sports titles) you have dating simulators which are a growing genre, or visual novels like the one I just played "Coffee Talk" (free on XBox right now). The only mechanic is occasionally making the right drink for customers. But the story is relatable and definitely has a lot of notes that hit home as someone through his 20's and 30's so far spent a lot of time in similar places. And the really chill soundtrack doesn't hurt either: