Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
21 September 2007
Distinction without difference
Kris Graft has a Tokyo Game Show impressions/interview piece up at about Ninja Gaiden 2. You might want to check an earlier post about NG2. Anyway, here's the quote I wanted to highlight:
"[Violence is] one method that you can use to really bring a player into a game and make it more satisfying... It's one portion of making this game the best action game on the market, but it's not like we have a specific goal to [make this the most violent game ever]."
I don't buy it. If you're making a game and you're thinking "in this game, we want the player to behead and dismember his enemies limb by limb" then it is technically true that you may not want to make the most violent game ever. But the effect will be the same.

It sounds like they're saying that their intention to make a game that extends the Extreme Combat genre is a defense, while the effect will be to make a game that has horrific imagery. Imagery like this description Graft relates:
Chopping off an enemy's arms won't necessarily kill him, for example, but will leave him with no way to wield a weapon. Chopping off an enemy's legs will drop the torso to the ground, immobilizing him, but he'll pull out a grenade and try to blow himself up along with you from his stationary position.

What's the difference between a game that sets out specifically to let you brutally dismember a person and a game that claims it's about making fun combat and along the way rewards brutal dismemberment?

For the record, I have experimented with sadistic acts in games which allowed me to do it. There is a parking garage on the second island in GTA3 which is near your second hideout, and I recall spending time with Bob experimenting with the NPC crowds and explosives. For example, you could kill a bystander, watch the NPCs run up to help him/her, and then toss a molotov cocktail in amongst them, and more people would come over to help those victims, and so forth. Eventually, the game would punish you if you let your wanted rating get too high. Even then you could try to extract rewards, though. If you waited until the FBI cars showed up, you could escape in one of them, and keep it in your garage as a prize, provided you were skillful and lucky.

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--Matt Matthews at 12:01
Comment [ 5 ]

Comments on this post:

"Chopping off an enemy's arms won't necessarily kill him, for example, but will leave him with no way to wield a weapon. Chopping off an enemy's legs will drop the torso to the ground, immobilizing him, but he'll pull out a grenade and try to blow himself up along with you from his stationary position."

This will only be elevated to art if, after having his arms or legs cut off, the enemy says "Tis but a scratch." A savvy sub reference would be the only thing to save this incredibly stupid idea. The sad thing is, most of the dudes who buy this game won't get it. *sigh* I doubt the game's designers would either.

By Blogger LisaB, at 21 September, 2007 13:02  

In that case, it better be the Holy Handgrenade of Antioch.

By Blogger jvm, at 21 September, 2007 13:04  

I think what is missing from the more graphic depiction of violence is the consequence of the act or the meaning of the act.

And how do you do that in a game where the idea is unrealistic like fighting thousands of thugs. Even the greatest ninja would take on only a few dozen enemies in a give day of battle. So how do you make that scale with any sort of logic to a game where in any give hour of play you would kill hundreds of people?

If you have to "game" the violence then you have to "game" the outcome. The problem is how do you do that? How do you keep some sort of meaning to death or consequcne for its while still making something playable?

The simple answer is “yes”, but nobody has made a good system as far as I know. On the other side I think people will become bored with the ultra violence and developesr will scale back what they show. This will not come out of a concept of censorship, but just because there is no need/desire to see that by most people.

By Blogger MonkeyKing1969, at 22 September, 2007 10:43  

This is interesting, partially because of an interview awhile back with one of the people behind the Ninja Gaiden series.

He was talking about the violence in Gears of War and while impressed with it, he said he could never represent violence like that (implying the gore). He called it americanized violence and that if you look at the previous Ninja Gaidens, the violence there is about quickly and efficiently dispatching your enemy, not sitting there splattering blood as you chainsaw someone.

I have to wonder if this is their attempt at Gears of War meets Ninja Gaiden. Maybe they are doing it because they think this is what the western market wants?

However, the grenade bit is really cool. It adds a gameplay dynamic, where you don't necessarily want to cut someones leg off, especially accidentally. You might end up fragged without knowing it.

The most sadistic I got in a video game (baring manhunt) was in MGS for the PS1. I'd wait for guys to use the restroom and blow them up while in the next stall. My favorite was trying to get the guided missile from my stall into the next one.

By Blogger Mordrak, at 25 September, 2007 02:14  

I can't help looking at this and thinking about the anime Ninja Scroll (if you're familiar with it). Maybe that's the sort of thing they were going for?

I'm with you on bloodlust being overdone in certain games, but I can't help feeling hypocritical when I say that and then look back at things I've enjoyed like like Doom and, as I mentioned, Ninja Scroll.

Ninja Scroll was every bit as "bloody flying limbs" as Ninja Gaiden 2 is looking to be, but in the context of the former I liked it. And Doom certainly had some rather gory images as well.

But then there's Kill Bill and, no offense to those who liked it, I personally found it to be evidence that certain things just work better in animated form that in live action.

Pardon me for straying a tad off of games and Ninja Gaiden, but my point is that, at least for me, I've found that in the general case, the key to whether certain content (gore, warfare, sexism (think Duke Nukem or Archie Bunker), etc.) is acceptable or goes too far has a lot to do with the seriousness vs. campiness of the whole production. And graphical realism tends to lean things closer to the "seriousnes" end of that scale.

To bring it back to the examples, Ninja Scroll and Doom were able to get away with ultra-gore without putting me off because the overall production was so stylized. Ninja Gaiden 2 and Kill Bill don't do it for me for being the opposite (ie, graphical realism). The bigoted attitudes of Archie Bunker and Duke Nukem were permissible because they were so campy (particularly in Nukem's case) that they couldn't be taken too seriously in the first place. Etc.

Anyway, just some thoughts.

By Blogger Abscissa, at 30 September, 2007 22:40  

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