Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reasons behind violence.

I was inspired by this IGN editorial yesterday:Editorial: Shock Without The Awe and it got me thinking about violence in video games. (note: I have not played Modern Warfare 3, so I am taking my information from the editorial)

I'm not going to argue "all violence desensitizes us to real violence" or "It's all fake so it doesn't matter" That is a VERY thorny matter, and one I've bumped heads with alot. I'm going to be looking at something else.

Justified violence.

When do we see violence in games and how does everyone react to it?  Is it just there to drum up controversy or does it mean something more.

First: I'm going to look at one of the most famous scenes in video games.  (Final Fantasy 7 spoilers)

Yep, Aerith's death.  Something that traumatized more then one generation of gamers.  You may ask: Why was it put in there?  She didn't sacrifice herself heroically to do something, in fact, she may not even had needed to die at all!

That was the point.

Yoshinori Kitase was the director and co writer of Final Fantasy VII.  During his work on the story, his mother died.  While they had known they were going to kill off one of the characters for a while (It boiled down to either Aerith or Barrett as they were the only other characters besides Cloud created at that time)  the circumstances around the death dramatically changed.  


 They were annoyed with the Hollywood cliche of "sacrifice to save others" and when Yoshinori Kitase's mother died, he realized his own way of coming to grips with his mother's death and how to make the death meaningful in the story. 

"In the real world things are very different. You just need to look around you. Nobody wants to die that way. People die of disease and accident. Death comes suddenly and there is no notion of good or bad. It leaves, not a dramatic feeling but great emptiness. When you lose someone you loved very much you feel this big empty space and think, 'If I had known this was coming I would have done things differently. These are the feelings I wanted to arouse in the players with Aerith's death relatively early in the game. Feelings of reality and not Hollywood.


 Tetsuya Nomura also stated: 


"Death should be something sudden and unexpected, and Aerith's death seemed more natural and realistic." "When I reflect on Final Fantasy VII, the fact that fans were so offended by her sudden death probably means that we were successful with her character. If fans had simply accepted her death, that would have meant she wasn't an effective character.


(Quotes taken from the Final Fantasy wiki page on Aerith's death)


 This death meant something to the player because it was so random, so unexpected, and so violent.  (I do not like Aerith that much(and I knew about her death), but even I was shaken up  by her death and I had to take a break when playing it.  I'm still very glad that it hasn't yet been made into a HD scene for Advent Children or a PS3 FF7.  The closest we've gotten was the seconds before in Advent Children during a brief glance into Cloud's thoughts)  and it spurred the characters on.  They fought to avenge Aerith and save the world.

Now, bizarre as that may seem, that is a positive portrayal. How about a negative one? (Bioshock 2 spoilers)

Bioshock 1 had set up the expectations of morality but they weren't really fleshed out.  (Even the developers admit it)  This was fixed for Bioshock 2.  This ending is a punch in the gut.


During the game, you see the line "Lamb is watching" all over Rapture.  Eventually it is revealed to refer to two characters, the antagonist "Sofia Lamb" and her daughter and your Little Sister, Eleanor.


Eleanor spends the game watching what her "Father" does.  But you don't truly grasp that until the end of the game.  Your ending is decided upon two factors. How you treated the various non threatening bosses (such as Grace Halloway, Alexander the Great, etc)  and how you treated the little sisters.  If you had a tendency to forgive and allow the bosses to live, Eleanor saves Sofia.  If you both killed or saved, Eleanor lets Sofia drown.  If you kill the bosses, she kills her mother.  For the little sisters, how you interacted with them deals with if/how Eleanor takes your ADAM.  Saving them has Eleanor take your ADAM as her conscious, mixed saving/killing leaves Eleanor confused and waits to see if you will let her take your ADAM.  Killing the little sisters has her take your ADAM by force. 


Bioshock 2, like Modern Warfare 3, does not dwell on the analysis of these actions.  It literally does not have the time.  Subject Delta is dying and how his life ends is how it ends.  He can not change what Eleanor has become.  As a result, some players may not realize what they have done to Eleanor until it is too late.  It is very effective because there is little post action analysis.  This is different from the Modern Warfare 3 example All the analysis is before.  The entire game is about free will.  In playing for themselves, players may not realize the little girl they have corrupted.  

I'm with the article.  More analysis like this can help show what games can actually do for the sake of art. There will be crap, not all art or literature is classic, but if enough gems shine through, our hobby can actually get respect. 

1 comment:

  1. Ya know. I think I'm gonna think twice before I try and beat a boss. If they make a way I can let it live then I will.