Violent videogames? Just gimme my Clockwork Orange!
As I said I’d be writing two posts this weekend. This second post is about violence in videogames, inspired in some way by the recent talk about the subject, but I’m not actually going to talk about violence under that light.
Maybe before I continue, I should mention what this post is, and what this post isn’t. This post isn’t about real life events and how violent videogames are the ones to blame. This post isn’t about politics, ideologies and similar.
This post is, however, about videogames, videogame themes and (I can’t believe I’m going to say this) videogames as art (there, I said it).
Note: As always, you are free to disagree with everything I say.
I believe that you can make a videogame about any subject you want (even if I wouldn’t be able to make such games myself). However, I’ve seen that a big number of games have some things in common: weapons, shooting, killing.
Now, I am not going to say that’s a bad thing, because I also believe anyone is entitled to make the kind of games they want to make (even if it’s for something as simple as making lots of money… I’m looking at you COD). Having said this, I am not going to hold up the “make something original and artsy!” flag.
To tell the truth I’m still fairly new to the videogames industry. I’ve been making games for only 2 years, and so far I have only one released game, and one game still in development. This makes it obvious that I can’t discuss certain topics with people who surely have more knowledge about them than I do, and that’s why I wanted to make it clear what kind of post this is not. However, I am completely capable of talking about the things I’ve seen these past 2 years.
During these past 2 years I’ve seen all this talk about sexism in videogames (not in the industry, but in the games, like you know, sexualized female characters and all that?), videogames as art (a subject I’ve never actually liked) and violence in videogames, including how technology has allowed to portray death in very realistic ways (not that I have a problem with that other than sometimes asking “what’s the point of all this blood and gore if this game ain’t Mortal Kombat?”)
Note: Sexism in games is something I’m leaving out, because that’s not what I want to talk about this time.
About these subjects, I’ve seen how lately many games have surfaced with the words “non-violent” or “non-combat” in their descriptions. I’ll assume it’s a way to overstate how these games are different to the rest (don’t ask me if I’m cool with that, BTW). The thing is that we’ve had “combat-less non-violent videogames” for quite some time (Myst comes to my mind). If Myst was to be released today (not a sequel, but released for the first time) I wonder if they would use “alone on a mysterious island, you set to explore its grandeur and mystery on this non-combat videogame” or something like that.
Still related to what I just wrote, I’ve also seen how many videogames trigger the discussion about videogames being art. The problem, at least to me, is that the majority of “videogames as art” discussions I’ve seen (and I haven’t seen all of them) are “non-violent” or “non-combat” games (Journey comes to my mind). It makes me wonder if only non-violent games would qualify as art, or if games that are more similar to Doom or DOA.
But since I don’t really care about games being art, I have to make a better question:
”can only non-violent videogames be considered meaningful in one way or another?”
And, considering that up there I stated that “you can make a videogame about any subject” I could ask an even better question: “can you make a videogame about ANY subject you want, and make it meaningful in one way or another?”
Taking that answer and the violent videogames, I could answer “yes, just gimme me my Clockwork Orange.”
The Clockwork Orange an example of a movie about violence but it’s done in a way that it doesn’t turn into a stupid bloodbath like many movies pretending to be smart (I’m looking at you, “I spit on your grave”). The Clockwork Orange uses violence to deliver a message… that I’m not going to discuss here (so if you haven’t watched the movie, you should).
Hotline Miami is one of the games that (I think) uses violence to deliver a message. I say that “I think” it does because I haven’t played it, mostly due to lack of time. Same with The Walking Dead.
But that’s the only game I can think of (if you have more examples, do share). The majority of videogames that feature guns are simply “shoot everything that moves because that’s all you need to know.”
So when I say “gimme my Clockwork Orange” what I’m saying is, feel free to make violent games, but do it in a way that actually matters and not the same “kill everything that moves” kind of game (so maybe a lot of people want the “Texas Chainsaw bloodbath spectacles” but some others want something less superficial). However my idea doesn’t stop here, because when I say “gimme my Clockwork Orange” I’m also saying give me games that touch other subjects in a mature way, so (I can’t believe I’m going to say this…) I agree with David Cage when he says the industry needs to grow up.
So, why not make games about more “serious” subjects but make them interesting? How about videogames about drug addictions, kids with daddy issues, homeless girls, and so on? You can even make a war game but make it actually interesting.
Talking is easy, right? Just say what you think and let someone else take on that task. Well, to tell the truth I’ve been working on a game based on that idea for nearly a year.
Those who know me (at least virtually), know I live in one of the most violent countries in the world. This country was torn apart by a war, and now it’s being torn apart by delinquency and gangs. The country has been a violent place way before they even invented Pong (and I’m damn sure gangs in this country are not avid Sleeping Dogs players…) so why someone would say violent videogames are the ones to blame when something bad happens is beyond me.
On the other hand, living in a violent country makes me see violence with different eyes. Right now I am making a horror videogame titled “Enola,” and someone asked once why, living in a violent country, I had decided to make a violent game instead of a “non-violent” “non-combat” game. I just said the answer: I see violence with different eyes.
Enola is a game that touches on many subjects like love and rejection, but it’s also a horror game, and can be very violent from time to time. What I’m trying to do is to make a game that’s violent because “violence is fun.” Violence is part of Enola for a reason.
In the end, when I say “gimme my Clockwork Orange” is that game makers should not shy away from certain subjects. For some reason it’s ok to make a game about “gibbing” everyone, but a game about, say, sexuality is a “big no-no” (I said “sexuality” not “sex.” There’s a subtle difference). After all, The Clockwork Orange shows us many different kinds of violence, not just killing people.
I don’t want outsiders to think that videogames are maturing because they see “what else a videogame can be” and then get a game about walking or a “non-combat-non-violent-touchy-feely-whatever.” I want outsiders to think that videogames are maturing because (among other things) they see this ultra-violent game about a homeless drug addict or this kid who joined the gangs to escape his abusive parents.
And when they actually finish such game, they sit back and actually think about what they just played…
…while drinking milk.
Note: Since I was talking about violence in videogames, that was the focus on this blog. However, I actually mean we can make games about any subject. If it needs to be violent, good, and If it doesn’t, good (the game about a homeless drug addict could very well be an adventure game where violence is not even required, while the game about the kid and the gangs could use violence because, well, gangs are violent).