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Views On Increasingly Convincing Violence In Games?
Inspired by Bambuz who has interesting views on the subject, I think this deserves it's own thread. I'll start off with a big rambley one and see what you lot think.

Basically the issue is that as graphics and physics etc improve, developers will be able to display all parts of a game with more conviction and immersion - including violence, bloodshed, horror and trauma (note that I sometimes use the word "horror" to refer to all of the above). What will happen with this, is it a good thing, a bad thing, or neutral? Is it an issue at all? Bambuz certainly thinks so, this is his recent GA post:

>So the only thing stopping you from acting out what you're consuming is the quality? Good lord, don't ever turn on your television.

No, it just doesn't interest me and doesn't make me feel anything I'd like to from a game or movie or documentary or anything... Feelings like excitement, sense of wonder, thrill, etc. - it does not produce that. Just sadness and disgust.

Sure, maybe some people like it as an "experience", like to be hit with a baseball bat to their nuts (jackasses). Maybe I'm just a wuss but I just don't feel that way. There's nothing "awesome" in it per se.

There has to be something else beside violence to make it worth inclusion. It's a special thing that has to be used with much thought and care. Much more thought, when it becomes more powerful with technology. There are pretty brutal things in quake 1, but the graphics are so bad you don't really notice or think of the torn-off faces etc.
Most healthy people have these things called mirror cells in their brain that make them feel empathy. They feel a bit what other people they see are feeling. If the technology becomes better, and the humans being mutilated look more and more human, people start to feel more and more empathy and thus eventually disgust and uninterest.

This is not a one-way process though. People like violence too, ice hockey and gladiators and whatnot. It's been a dilemma for thinkers for hundreds of years.

And my reply:

If the technology becomes better, and the humans being mutilated look more and more human, people start to feel more and more empathy

So far, so good. That is hopefully the point of at least SOME of the horror, to provoke an emotional response.


and thus eventually disgust and uninterest.

That doesn't follow. Okay, the disgust might follow, in some instances - but one can feel empathic with someone's trauma without feeling disgusted by it. At any rate, it certainly does not necessarily lead to disinterest. People find horror interesting - that is why horror and violent films are popular, why people rubberneck and are drawn to freakshows, why shock/gore sites flourish. People are interested in that stuff.

Personally I am very squeamish about real life horror, but I find fictional horror to have a valuable role in both entertainment and exposing you to the traumas of the world in a more digestible dose (of course, there is a large difference between fictional horror and real horror, but not as much as between no horror and real horror). It also adds to the immersion of the experience, where appropriate.

So when it comes to games, you cannot say that horror within them will lead to a certain response. Some people will be repulsed and lose interest. Some people will have more interest if they have ghoulish personalities. Some people (if the game is immersive enough) will feel empathy and wish to enact virtual revenge for what they see. Some people will be terrified but get a thrill out of it (some of D3 did this for me).

I do agree with one thing though:

As games become more realistic, and it is possible to portray human trauma with more conviction, it is increasingly important that developers use violence and horror appropriately in games - it needs to be justifiable, appropriate, and approached with consideration of the effects. Casual and crass horror will seem far worse when it is portrayed with modern technology - and something like SOF2, Carmaggeddon or Postal, will be much less appropriate than, say, Doom3. This wouldn't be an increase in self-censorship, as the overall level of horror portrayal could actually increase with less horrific situations portrayed more realistically, compared to the older way of very horrific situations portrayed with crude pixellation. But it would be an increase in responsibility.
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It'll Atl Work Out In The End. 
In the next few years as technology reaches the point of photorealistic game graphics we will see some incredibly realistic and gory games come out, surrounded by much controversy no doubt.

However the increasing complexity and realism of some games will actually tone down their violence.

Take the GTA series for example, you can see in it how as the series has grown more complex the random violence is becoming less and less the focus of the game. Sure it is still a massive part, but other parts of the gameplay are being expanded upon and taking its place.

As things become more realistic you don't need the same level of gore to induce fear in the viewer (or in this case player).

I look at it like the movie industry. There will always be a place for bloody slash'em'up gore flicks, but the better produced and more engrossing atmospheric ones will also be available. 
It's A Non-Issue 
If you don't know that you're playing a game, and you're just role playing, then games aren't for you period.

If I read a book that's written in first person, and the author recounts a scene where he brutally murders someone, I am aware that it's not an actual person, nor an actual event, and I can separate reality from fantasy. Even if the author writes it in such a way that I am sympathetic to the murderer for the time being, that doesn't mean that I am sympathetic to all murderers in real life -- the same way that I can understand that if I kill a realistic looking person in a game, it doesn't mean I want to kill them in real life.

As for the empathy factor, if you're sitting inside all day, playing computer games, reading books, and watching TV, it's likely that your lack of empathy for the suffering of your fellow man is the direct result of watching him being slaughtered in pixel form. 
it's likely that your lack of empathy for the suffering of your fellow man is the direct result

*Isn't the direct result 
I agree with Shambler on most points - very much shortening: that the violence can have many kinds of responses. Virtual revenge, thrill, disgust etc.. sometimes even "nice effects".

To Tron: well, if the game developers are themselves not conscious about things, they will overshoot (or even if they are, they have to because of shock value) when they get more power. This seems to be the case now.

To Blitz: it is a very gross oversimplification to say what you say. Hey, I play chess, yet I don't eat soldiers in the street. ;)
Let me take this in another way. Experiences have effects on people. Some people who watch horror movies are afraid to be alone in the dark after that, although they very perfectly know that the movie was pure fiction and there is no such monster coming crawling out of their tv set in the night... People are just not 100% rational. After all, why would they then experience anything from fiction? Maybe Spock is not watching movies: "This is only fiction".

My point is _not_ the same thing as saying that if you watch a murderer in tv you become a murderer yourself. That is a strawman made only so that the argument could be easily knocked over. Knocking that strawman doesn't lead to the conclusion "fictional experiences don't have any effect on your xxxx".

I personally think fictional experiences have some effect on your xxxx.

Now, xxxx is very hard to define. Brain? Personality? Behaviour? Values? Habits? We move on a dangerous territory here, and it's easy to just generate flames. I see that I can't find the right word. I could say it like this: all the literary works that I have read have shaped my personality somewhat. Fill your thoughts on this. :) Note the post logo. 
Flying gibs in Q1 and Q2 adds to the fun; the exploding bodies and flying chunkage is slapstick in an otherwise sombre setting. It's a fun intense outlet and a benign environment to contain the bloodshed. While Q1 and Q2 are graphically crude by today's standards, Painkiller isn't but the enemies in PK are so monstrous and fantasy themed that the gore factor makes the battles satisfying in a gratuitous way.

However, I saw Soldier of Fortune 2 on a friend's computer and didn't like how you could destroy a corpse in a very graphic and non-gameplay relevant manner. That seemed disturbing. Also, I played through Blood 2 and generally did what I could to avoid slicing innocents for the heart-health boost.

I don't wish to see over regulation in games but for me, gore is fine for certain games with certain types of monstrous enemies but when it comes to more human-like enemies, I try and spare them if the game offers the chance to do so (Deus-Ex 1 and 2, Thief series). For me Half-Life 2 was the first game where you were killing normal people which was a significant change over zombied marines in DooM.

I guess for me, it's not a question of graphics, it's the nature of your enemy and the closer it is to a normal person, the less I wish to mix it up. However, I mow down hundreds of demons with a grin...

I'm playing Deus-Ex for the second time and am playing to avoid killing any humans (although I have had to take out a few). For me, playing this way is quite fun because it makes for a greater challenge but with no less action and excitement. In DX, the characters are a lot more human then the Half-Life marines because they have a broader vocabulary and may not always be your enemy. 
You are a gentle man. Rare these days. 
Like Anything Else 
it's fine if used and done properly, inappropriate if done for sheer gratitutous reasons. 
Maybe I'm Lost 
I agree with some stuff someone said - violence/gore/horror has its place. If used appropriately - then good. If it's the whole theme of the game - then not good. There are other ways to invoke empathy in people besides violence. 
"violence/gore/horror has its place. If used appropriately - then good. If it's the whole theme of the game then not good"
Id say that in a game that is purely geared on that track, eg a game inspired by Brain Dead or so, its fucking fine.
This is all a load of bollocks, for me the more realistic graphics dont change anything to the violence in videogames debate, its still on a screen (we'll see about VR when that becomes an issue, that might be different) and the fact the graphics are more realistic wont change anything to the number of people hwo cant differenciate reality and fantasy, theyr still psychologically imbalanced due to real life causes and not entertainment. 
The Issue 
that is being indirectly addressed, but not explcitly, by bambuz, is that the subconcsious mind absorbs these graphics. It isn't our choice; that's how we're "wired." To all the people who say that it doesnt matter because "They can differentiate fiction from reality," I wish to point out that a few centuries ago, we didn't have graphical versions of fiction: no movies, no tv, no video games... just writing. Our brains aren't necessarily able to understand the difference between games and reality... thats why people get out their anger by playing violent video games -- it serves as an equivalent to the "real" action of beating someone up. Sure, we logically say that "oh, this looks like a poor rendition of reality" so we can differentiate it... but when you play a game that looks literally "life like," then how will you really be able to tell the difference, in that more primal part of your brain? 
yeah, I wont let my kidren play manhunt or even gta, but slaying monsters in doom3-like is fine 
There are so many avenues this topic can go but it ends up being the same rehashed opinions, really. But here's my thoughts.

Evolving Realism
Obviously at some point it won't be an issue "hey is the violence getting too real?" - it'll be too late. Think back to Doom, Quake, Soldier of Fortune - looking back graphically they're nowhere near movie like and can be laughed off as cartoonish, but nevertheless violent, gorey or sick. Violence stems from conflict, and conflict creates tense, suspenseful or horrific experiences, and obviously makes for entertainment. Understanding that, it will be a bit easier to understand, not necessarily accept, the growing believability of violence. Firing a bullet into one's stomach, and seeing them crouch or fall over, still alive and screaming, while blood blossoms from the wound over their fingers and onto the ground, still witnessing the character's panic... it will be riveting, moving and sick at the same time.

Is it necessary from a gameplay standpoint to succumb to a psychological effect because of what you are witnessing? Not necessarily, but perhaps the increased realism will be more than the player was bargaining for. Perhaps they might grasp an understanding of what it is really like to inflict lethal pain and anguish, and perhaps instead of becoming more desensitized, they will become more empathatic. Or it could be the complete opposite. I am kind of running off here but my point is the realism will have an effect that largely depends on the player and how they react to such scenes. Depending upon that, is when one should question the severity and necessity of such realism. Is the player gratified or mortified? If they are either of these things, then has the portrayal gone too far in believability, or is it merely a moral or primal reaction, not necessarily stimulated from the "oh my god" factor?

I personally would not let any kid under 13, 14 to play something along the lines of Doom 3. It's still violent, really young kids don't need to see it to that extent, but they should have an understanding of right and wrong, that anyone is capable of inflicting bodily harm whether temporary or lethal. The mere understanding of this, I don't feel this quailfies a kid to play a violent video game. When you're a kid most everything has a cool factor, especially when their parents don't want their kids to have anything to do with it. Why let them develop with such notions? 
This topic makes me think I should post the research paper I did for an English class. 
Do it! It can't be much longer than Spambler's posts :P 
I personally would not let any kid under 13, 14 to play something along the lines of Doom 3.

While I agree with this, as I mentioned in #tf a moment ago, I started watching my dad play Wolf3D when I was 8 and had the balls to start playing that and Doom myself at 9 or 10. While I wasn't the most well adjusted person on the block, I still turned out fine (I think ...). I can't claim one person proves a rule, however - I might even more likely be the exception. 
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