Saturday, April 23, 2011

Nonviolent Games for Hardcore Gamers

Of the top-ten best selling PC games of all time, 5 are expressly non-violent. This includes The Sims, The Sims 2, Myst, RollerCoaster Tycoon, and SimCity 3000. However, of IGN's list of the best PC games of all time, only one of the top ten is non-violent, SimCity 2000. Clearly, there is a divide between the expectations of hardcore gamers, the main demographic of people who would care to read IGN's list, and the more mainstream demographics that supply the massive sales numbers needed to become a best-seller. However, in recent times there are a few exception to this divide. Occasionally, a relatively non-violent game will break through and become a major hit among hardcore gamers. In celebration of the most recently released example, here's a post on the beloved Portal, and its hit sequel Portal 2.
Here's some footage of Portal's gameplay for anyone who hasn't heard of it:

In the Portal series, the player controls an anonymous female protagonist armed with the Portal gun. Although it sounds, and looks, like a first-person shooter game, the portal gun is a unique item. It allows you to shoot beams of light that create portals connecting one spot to another via teleportation. This simple premise is masterfully played with, as in order to progress through the levels you must use the portals creatively to manipulate gravity and physics to allow your character to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. Although you must contend with various dangers such as sentry guns or high energy beams, there is never an emphasis on fighting, instead on outsmarting the various traps. It was highly celebrated by the gaming community for both its innovative gameplay and its compelling storyline.

A game like Portal, and its new sequel which has been called "one of the greatest games of recent years" by the Guardian, shows that hardcore gamers do not always demand intense violence. With clever enough gameplay, game designers can appeal not just to mainstream gamers like the Sim games do, but instead to hardcore demographics and become a beloved touchstone of the community.


  1. I agree that while the latest and newest FPS games are simply new variations on a very old, tried and true theme. That said, many of the games on your list represented watershed moments, where there is a revolutionary and massive jump in the creativity of game design. I find that there is an appeal in something so fresh and new, and this was reflected by the adventure aspects of Myst, the voyueristic elements of the Sims series and the sandbox play of Simcity and Roller Tycoon.

  2. Definitely, I think violence is sometimes too overdone in many games, therefore creating this indulgence of boring and trite bloodbath of the same games done over and over. Like Hee-Lien said, I really enjoyed playing Myst myself and now am definitely interested in playing Portal and Portal 2. However, at the same time, I think most of the more successful violent video games are able to combine a lot of other things other than just violence such as puzzles and intriguing narratives. Look at games like Legend of Zelda or more recently like Bioshock. You need a combination of a lot of things for a successful game.


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