Saturday, February 19, 2011

Your Mom’s Gonna Hate It

“Why would they even make something like this?”

The answer to the question proposed by the last mom in the commercial appears to be simple. For any of us who have witnessed the evolution of video games from the mid-1990s to now, the increase in violence in video games appears to be linear. The breakthroughs in gaming technology seem to most often occur in the most violent of games in the market. As developers find ways to animate their most convoluted dreams and unquenchable thirst for violent scenes, it seems as though the public is in some ways becoming the victim. Violence has always been a prominent portion of civil society and American textbooks on history rarely hesitate to point out how violence has shaped the world as it stands today. As a result, it comes as no great surprise that teens and young adults are snatching up these horrifically violent games filled with gore and broadcast on televisions with increasing levels of vividness. The terms ‘revolting’ and ‘violent’ are all it takes to sell a game these days, and I think that marketing companies are beginning to realize that games crave the increasingly complex violence that appears in shooter games.

Reading the reviews for the game and viewing several demos, I have gathered that Dead Space 2 serves no other purpose than the portrayal of killing, bloodshed, and sophisticated weaponry. The short commercial above seems to highlight all the things that make this game great, which is that it draws cringes from mothers who fail to understand why a game would need this level of gore. Ultimately, the main objective is to dismember individuals who have become hosts to alien organisms. It seems the days of simply shooting aliens have receded into mere memories, and it has become essential to dismember aliens in order to stop infestations and invasions. Since imposing such a cruel death on humans seems taboo in society, it seems that aliens and other fictitious creatures with human-like characteristics have simply become ways to express our most creative means of murder.

The short answer to why developers would make games like this… ‘Because they can.’


  1. To comment on what Jordan said about how violent video games seem to be at the forefront of video game progress. For example although the Grand Theft Auto series was criticized heavily in the media because of the racial stereotypes and violence that many say it perpetuated it also pioneered and helped to expound on the concept of the "sandbox" within the video game. Sandbox refers to the ability of the gamer to wander around the game for long periods of time without encountering the "edges" of the game. Back in the days of older gaming gamers could not move freely after going a certain distance. There was no wandering because there were edges to the game that one could not pass, as if there were invisible walls around the game. The "sandbox" and "free-roam" feature of video games have now become more or less standard. The ability to just roam around committing senseless acts of violence in GTA was one of the most celebrated aspects of the game. The free-roaming capabilities of video games was pioneered in the name of violence; just like many other of the most celebrated aspects of our culture.

  2. I haven't played Dead Space 2 but I have played the original. While it's hard to tell how the game has changed, in the original, the violence had a very specific purpose, and it was fear. Dead Space is actually more survival horror and less shooter. Ammo is scarce, health is even more scarce, and the goal of any encounter is not the mutilation of the aliens, but survival. Some encounters are unwinnable and you have to run for your life. Most of the game time is spent walking through dim corridors hoping some ammo or life lies around the corridor, rather than some alien fetus thing. The player character is the ship's engineer and his weapons are primarily of the future nail-gun, chainshaw type.

    Of course EA has likely sold out on the sequel, making some type of Micheal Bay violence fest.

  3. I'd also add that just because the technology to create more vivid violence is now available, doesn't mean that interest in violent video games is increasing. Video games have been violent since the days of arcades and 16-bits. Take a look at Rampage, or Death Race (working title was Pedestrian...). Heck, even Space Invaders is about killing aliens. Sure, it's more graphic now, but that's just the effect of improving technology. If kids that played Death Race growing up in the 70's ended up okay, then I see no reason to reject a video game based on the inherent violence of its premise.

  4. I was thinking while watching the commercial that the gameplay shown did not look excessively violent. Though, I guess that from a lifetime's experience playing video games that I'm pretty desensitized to depictions of violence in them. I guess that's why moms are the perfect subjects for the commercial - most moms have little to no experience playing video games and would definitely have a stronger reaction to violent video games than someone like myself would have.

  5. I first want to say that I really hate their pitch about how your mom is gonna hate this game, which means its probably awesome. I just think its dumb. But I agree with Andrew, violence in video games has been around for a while. yes it was pretty subdued back in the day, but that was just because they did not have the technology to make it any more realistic. I remember when my dad introduced me to Doom on sega genesis or something like that and it was very violent. Little blocks of blood would fly everywhere and I think you were killing aliens. The only difference between then and now is that we can relate much more with what is going on on the screen due to upgraded graphics.


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