Video games tend to be violent (we do put chainsaws on our guns after all), but this year's E3 showed off even more graphic violence than before. Some have expressed discomfort with ramped up violence, not to mention the raucous reaction to some of it. Some game industry professionals have spoken up about the issue, taking some radically different stances.
Warren Spector, currently at work on the family-friendly game Epic Mickey 2, said that we are idolizing violence in games. "The ultraviolence has to stop," he warned.
"We have to stop loving it. I just don't believe in the effects argument at all, but I do believe that we are fetishizing violence, and now in some cases actually combining it with an adolescent approach to sexuality. I just think it's in bad taste," he told GamesIndustry.biz.
Spector went on to say that when he's put violence in his games, he tried to contextualize it to impact the player. "You know, Deus Ex had its moments of violence, but they were designed - whether they succeeded or not I can't say - but they were designed to make you uncomfortable, and I don't see that happening now. I think we're just appealing to an adolescent mindset and calling it mature. It's time to stop."
On the other side of the issue is PlayStation software product development head Scott Rohde. "You just see that as technology continues to grow, not just in our industry, but in the film industry as well, or even on television, I think you're gonna see a more realistic depiction of what's going on," Rohde told GameSpot. "And it's a way for people to escape. I don't think it turns people violent." He says the violence is being used to "tell a story and to build tension," and calls that "extremely important."
The audience cheered at the end of a particularly gory segment in The Last of Us.
Phil Harrison, formerly of Sony Computer Entertainment but now Microsoft's IEB corporate vice-president, took a measured opinion between the two. "I was surprised, I must admit, at some of the games," Harrison told Edge. "I think it's an inevitable progression of visual reality and visceral immersion that games can get quite ultra-realistic."
At the same time, Harrison feels the number of violent games this year is "coincidental," and credits the ratings system for protecting consumers. He also noted that "so long as it's part of a balanced portfolio, it's okay." Microsoft's holiday lineup includes Gears of War: Judgment and Dance Central 3.