On Murderous Video Games – The Narrative Design Exploratorium™

On Murderous Video Games

There was a interesting discussion on the the IGDA‘s Game Design Special Interest Group
about the necessity of gore in games. In any other genres but action,
horror and war, I would say no, gore is not needed. That said, I do not
believe in the “gore-wars” to one-up the “real” nature of violence in
games. To me this is a childish enterprise for a grail which is never
realized. Do you remember when the Mortal Kombat arcade game
series seemed truly violent? Watching it now reveals it’s almost comic
interpretation of gore.

The
pleasure
of horror
is to become, for a while, wired to your
subconscious mind. I’m subscribed to the “life is scary enough without
horror” group, but for the player whom is engaged in a violent game, he
is experiencing in himself as a human being,
what is often buried in the subconscious, now in the conscious. It’s a
rush of identification with
great power, with the life-force. We live in a society which chooses to
ignore the “elimnation of life” our tax dollars pay for in the day, and glamorize
brutality in the night, amongst the shadows of the 10 o’clock news. We bring real horror to the door
steps of our unwilling global neighbors, but we seek to regulate the
fantasies of adults though censorship of the arts. I ask why? We cleary have bigger issues.

There is a reason most horror and war games are rated M, or 18+, they are not for children. I watched Friday the 13th
when I was way too young, and I wish I hadn’t, it scared the living
crap out of me. Parents need to do their best to regulate the content
their kid ingest, and I realize this is no small task. With that in
mind, gore in the arts, and the desire to inflict harm in human beings,
are two natural phenomena. It’s when overt suppression of these desires leads
to a breakdown in social order that problems arise.

The life-force which is buried with your mind is a force
of great power, it is ruthless, and only seeks to survive. The
conscious mind put a lid on that and allows us to live in the “real
world”. The desire to harm, the action to harm, and
the pleasure in the suffering of other, these are the three steps of
evil. Studying the Horror genre in one of Robert Mckee’s seminars
recently, I adapated his philosophy to video games and am presenting it
here.

Sadism is rooted in dread, the fear of death, a sadist with a sadistic
impulse, feels powerless and that dread builds, to cope with that fear
they cause death in another living thing. The power of taking life
allows the killer to feel the power of life and death, this sadist
tendencies are in all human beings. That moment of suffering empowers
us, it makes us feel good. The desire to harm, the action to harm, and
the pleasure in the suffering of other, these are the three steps of
evil. From cutting off heads, to fragging strangers in Halo 3, to cutting of cars in traffic, it’s a
matter of degrees. The masochist is someone whom acutely feels dread. They seek out
powerful people to live in their shadow, and through them they feel
safe. Naturally the person in power demonstrates their power over the
masochistic individual, and so beings the cycle of safety and power of
the sadomasochistic.
 
The player firstly seeks to identify with the victim, and puts us in a
masochistic point of view. Secondly we then seek for the player to
identify with the predator in a sadistic fashion, and it is through
this contrast of masochism and sadism that we bring our audience
to horror. I would agree that children should not engage in such play, or that
gore belongs in certain genres. But Horror, and in so gore, is mentally healthy.

Horror games here becomes an emotional therapy whereby players
excersice thier own unspoken sadomasochistic desires. The catharsis of
feeling these desires makes us feel
alive, and hopefully prevents someone from doing evil acts in real
life. It’s dark, sort of Fruedian, but I think this relativley cold and
clinical perspective holds a lot of
truth.

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About this NDE Article

This page contains a single article by Stephen E. Dinehart published on April 18, 2009 12:49 PM.

2 Reminders to the Metaself was the previous entry in this blog.

The Inherent Drama of Game Play is the next entry in this blog.

Welcome to The Narrative Design Exploratorium.

The NDE’s author Stephen E. Dinehart is a transmedia designer, writer, artist, and Creative Director at NarrWare LLC. He is currently working on unannounced projects. Read more @ stephendinehart.com.

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