In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy we've seen numerous people jumping to blame video games as contributing to violent behavior. People familiar with gaming know the criticisms are unfair and unfounded, so why do they continue to be leveled against our hobby? The answer is the video game industry has an image problem and so far it seems to be almost completely unmotivated to work on changing it. A big part of the problem is misinformation and myth propagation on the part of people who are either uninformed or using the image to promote their own agenda. The latter group includes politicians and the NRA, the former includes almost anyone who doesn't play "core" video games.
However, the other large part of the problem is the immature and counterproductive attitudes that go into making and promoting violent games. It seems like a large contingent of decision makers are motivated to up the ante on over the top violence because they think it's cool and a good number of their customers think so as well. You end up with marketing like the "your mom hates Dead Space 2" where the key point is if the violence repulses someone, it must be cool.
Then there's the bloody limbless torso promoting Dead Island 2 that was apologized for within a day of it's announcement. You have Mortal Kombat devs focusing on how extreme their fatalities are in previews. And of course we have countless games touting how cool it is to kill enemies because you get a slow motion close-up, blood sprays everywhere, limbs and heads come off and rag doll physics send corpses and parts splaying all over. We've all read and seen previews thay play up these things and I'm guessing I'm not the only one who thinks 'Seriuosly? Are you deliberately TRYING to make games look worse than they do and invite backlash?'
"As it turns out the brothel is a fine playground to show off Manhunt 2's new environmental executions, which as the name suggests has you using the environment to send badguys towards a very bloody end.
Not wasting any time the death toll begins with the receptionist, who is easy work thanks to a carefully placed telephone, now smashed through his face with scattered pieces of flesh littered on the floor."
Manhunt 2 Preview,
I'm not saying violence is evil nor that it should be eliminated from gaming, but gaming industry leaders need to stop pushing it as if it were the best part of their games. I honestly think there is a strong element of man-boy immaturity motivating too many people in their design and marketing decisions. I'm surprised no one has yet done a research piece for some news outlet pulling the worst of these marketing attempts to show the public how warped game developers are.
On the positive side, the games industry needs to actively promote what's good about games. They teach all sorts of things to players other then death and destruction. Action games develop hand-eye coordination, strategy games develop logic and planning, RPG's and The Sims teach a bit about social interactions and multiplayer games feature actual social interaction. Most games feature some kind of problem solving, the basics of which can translate and aid in real world situations. Most importantly the deep stories that are integral to gaming now that can reach people with all kinds of ideas on a level that simply watching or reading a story cannot - there are still too many people who dismiss gaming as mindless button mashing. Almost everyone alive has played some sort of video game, and before anyone shouts that mobile games aren't real games, I would say that if Pong, Mainframe Star Trek, Pac Man and Space Invaders are games, then mobile games that are far more complicated qualify as well. The industry can point to the fact that the vast majority of people enjoy video games and somehow resist the urge to do violence.
It should also stress the fact that the games rating system was set up by the industry itself, it fairly and accurately indicates what sort of content a game has. It allows consumers to make educated decisions on what kind of games they're buying, especially when buying them for children.
If the industry continues to ignore it's image things will only get worse from here. There is no sense feeding the bad publicity and making gaming an easy target for people who want to deflect blame like the NRA or promote themselves as crusaders against violence "for the kids." Gamers have a role to play as well. Too many people have a knee jerk reaction to criticisms against violent content where they will simply vilify the complainer as an ignorant fool. Much as it may be justified, we should consider the message glorifying over the top violence sends about our hobby. We can't ignore the damage that is done by promoting graphic violence as the main appeal of gaming.