Do video games create violence? Wrong question

The question should be, is violence really the best thing to do with video games as a medium?

Errant Signal claimed in one of his videos that violence is the easiest thing to do within a spatial simulation (which video games are), and that’s why video games are so violent. I’m sorry, that argument just doesn’t fly. The easiest things to do with a spatial simulation are a) movement and b) exploration. None of those even require the implementation of any sort of combat system. Conversely, a combat system needs both movement (eg for dodging) and exploration (eg for acquiring ammo and health) PLUS weapon models, cover, sound effects, weapon switch, reloading, dying animations, particles, explosions, and so forth. Combat is harder to implement than the other two.

Consequently, I’m sure “Gone Home” (mainly exploration) was easier to implement than the current incarnation of “Call of Duty” (mainly combat.) It follows that Errant Signal was wrong about this.

Point-and-click

It is true, though, that after movement and exploration, point-and-click is the third easiest gameplay mechanic to implement. That’s because the computer already does it for you. If shooting is your intention, then the mouse already IS the gun. So basic combat technically isn’t far off, but neither are other point-and-click mechanics.

This alone still doesn’t explain why combat is FAR more popular than either movement or exploration, which are both easier to implement (if you have movement, you basically get exploration for free.) So it can’t have a purely technical reason – it must be a cultural one (dudebro approach, gun cult, blowing shit up, and all that.)

Both producers and “gamers” seem to have accepted violence as THE main gameplay mechanic. If you search Google or Youtube, you find a lot of people talking about how video game violence isn’t that bad. But practically no one questions the dominance of violence as the base of video games anymore. I guess if something just happens long enough, people will take it for normal.

Lack of verbs

Something that has been drowned in the noise is the fact that point-and-click doesn’t have to mean “attack.”

It can also mean: take, examine, interact. Throw, catch, place, search, collect, create, manipulate, enter, direct, build, repair, help, manage, summon, open a portal, and more.

“Left mouse button = shoot” is a rut that games are stuck in, and it’s apparently so deep that it prevents most developers from looking outside.

Lack of market penetration

There’s evidently a world of other possibilities for “spatial simulations” than just point-and-shoot. By not exploring and not demanding them, and instead perpetuating the click-to-kill thing, developers, publishers and players are providing only so much rope as to hang themselves with. Killing games will never achieve full market penetration, because older people / people with a higher education will not want to stoop so low.

But it seems that companies are content with their current slice of the pie, namely the customers who buy “Call of Duty” and things like action-RPGs or MMOs. Does it not occur to them that the pie is bigger?

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3 responses to “Do video games create violence? Wrong question

  • motorsep

    “Killing games will never achieve full market penetration, because older people / people with a higher education will not want to stoop so low.”

    I don’t know where this is coming from. I have Masters in Engineering, and I don’t want to play point-n-click pink ponies games. I actually don’t play point-n-click unless it’s Diablo or something similar (haven’t played much of Diablo clones as they just aren’t as exciting as Diablo; plus the older I get the less time I have for grinding games).

    • kneedeepinthedoomed

      Every shooter game is point-and-click, actually. Not just Diablo etc. And “pink ponies games” aren’t the only alternative to games where the core mechanic is killing people. I wasn’t talking about pink ponies games at all.

      • motorsep

        I should have put ponies into “”. I personally have no time / interest in playing games that don’t allow me to destroy something / annihilate someone. At lest to a minimum degree.

        It’s a totally natural behavior for men. I recall when I was a kind, my friend and I would make something and eventually it would come down to “will it blend?” and we’d demolish it in one way or another (unless it was made to be a gift or go on a shelf).

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