Should Video games have to abide by a moral and ethical code for the content displayed in games? Are there boundaries that games should never be allowed to cross? In short, no I think that games should be allowed to have any type of content because there is an audience for everything. By trying to limit what games are allowed to show, we censor ourselves and we keep our culture from expanding. Just like with other media like books or music, if we bar certain content then we are limiting free speech. Some would argue that movies are the same way and certain movies won’t be played in theaters which is a good thing and games are closer to movies than other media and so they should follow the same rules. There is a difference though and that is there is no movie theater equivalent for gaming and there are a lot of movies out there that could never be shown in theaters due to the restrictions but they still exist and so why shouldn’t games do the same? There is an outlet for it and games are never going to be something that can be completely restricted as long as the internet exists. Some would argue that that means kids could get exposed to this stuff and they get influenced by it so we should censor games to keep them safe. I would argue that it isn’t a governing boards job to raise kids. If there are games that a parent does not know is okay for their kids it should be up to them to put in the time to research the title to decide whether or not the kid is allowed to play it. Most games are reviewed and rated so that there is complete transparency as to what is in the game you play. The system might be flawed but there are still plenty of online sources to learn about the game. I think if we say it’s okay to censor gaming we should make it universal in all media. That would mean getting rid of things like porn, snuff films, Music with graphic descriptions which is a decent portion of basically every genre of music with lyrics, and even books with controversial meaning which would include things like the bible. While things on the list I just gave can be seen as bad by some there are plenty of people who enjoy them and it is their right to that enjoyment. I feel like the novel Fahrenheit 451 is a great example of why censorship is wrong and a lot of the negatives that come from it. If you haven’t read it yet I would recommend it because despite its age it is a very relevant book especially as the moral lines in media become increasingly blurry. So in the end I don’t see any real good from censoring the media and the responsibility should be up to individuals to decide what is right in their own homes.
To be honest I do not know if there should be any subject that is strictly unacceptable for games to talk about. as a media and an art form, gaming has a responsibility to tackle tough issues just like literature and film have. That being said we live in a time that anything can be offensive and that means that companies are likely to be afraid to tackle games that involve difficult subject matter. I honestly do think that there is a way for games to find a way to release very thought provoking content that could be considered offensive but it would certainly be tough. It would be up to the marketing team to make sure that people understand what they are getting from these games. A smart idea might be to have the writing team work with people who have experienced these types of things that the game is showing and get their take on it to make it accurate while not being to extreme. This tactic is obviously a slippery slope but if the developers are careful and do a bunch of research then it should make the reception better. The devs also have to understand that they will offend some people and be prepared for it. A great example of that is Rockstar. They have made a name by offending people and making social commentary that most teams would be afraid to try with the Grand Theft Auto franchise. They always anger a vocal minority but they are always fine because they have people that understand their messages and love their games because of it. While they may not tackle the darkest of issues the same formula could apply to most major issues a developer has. The key really is transparency. With a game like GTA you know exactly what you are gonna get when you turn it on. Other developers simply have to do that and tell the audience what they were getting before the game is in their hands. Another Game that handles touchy situations well is The last of us by Naughty Dog. They handle issues like gender roles and the effects of killing and sexual assault all extremely well. The player watches as the protagonists grow as people and become more well rounded characters throughout the story. That being said there are games that do a absolutely terrible job in trying to deal with heavy subject matter. A prefect example of this is Ride to Hell: Retribution. The game tries to tackle several issues and fails on every one of them. They try to tackle issues of gang warfare, abuse, murdering, and ptsd. The game does not succeed in displaying any of these messages by blundering it’s story and design on insane levels. The main protagonist is returning to war and has ptsd from the experience but handles it by getting angry and killing people. His brother is killed in gang warfare and Jake retaliates by more murders. He encounters women who are being abused so he beats the abusers then has sex with the women and the game gives you a counter to save them all. Remember be like Rockstar or Last of us but don’t try to tackle issues without proper planning like Ride to Hell.
Telltale is known for revitalizing the adventure game by mixing the traditional formula with some elements of a choose your own adventure book. For this reason fans of both the company and the Walking Dead were excited when they announced they would be making a game inspired by the popular comic and tv series. The game released to critical success and it made the majority of fans happy. The game was known for it’s strong moral conflicts and tough choices that the player had to make. An example of this is the choice on whether or not to steal from a car to feed your group and whether or not to kill a girl in the street who is being eaten alive. In the first scenario I mentioned the group has narrowly escaped a farm and they are out of food and supplies but one member of the party spots a seemingly abandoned car. Upon investigation the car seems like it has not been there very long but there is a bunch of useful stuff in it. The player is given a choice, do they take the supplies away from whoever owns the car or do they leave them just in case whoever owns them is still alive. If the player chooses to take from the car the child in your care questions whether or not you are doing the right thing and does not want to take part in the theft. If you refuse however the other members of your group sack the car while you and the child hold hands and watch, not knowing how to feel about what everyone else is doing. While the end result is pretty similar the ultimate question about what is important to the player is answered. Did the player compromise their morals for survival? Another excellent example of this is the choice to shoot the dying girl. The player and one member of the group, Kenny, are venturing out into the zombie infested city in search of medical supplies. While they are sneaking past a horde of the undead they hear a girl scream out in pain. She is running across the street yelling because she has been bitten, she cries for mercy and screams as the zombies bite into her and her screams attract more of them around her. The player is given a choice, They can either end her suffering or save the bullet and search for supplies. Kenny advises the player to leave the girl since she is attracting attention away from them and it will help them have more time to gather supplies. If the player listens to Kenny they have a few extra minutes to explore the clinic and gather supplies, while shooting the girl gains the player nothing. Ending the girls suffering might be considered merciful but it goes against any sort of practical thinking. These are two of the hardest decisions in the game because the players morality and practicality clash and the player has to make a decisions as to what is ultimately more important.
Limbo is a game by a developer called Playdead and the developers show a mastery at using very little and making it go a long way. The game is a 2d platforming puzzle game that is entirely black and white. There is next to no detail on any character models and almost everything is faded out. In any other game these choices may seem lackluster but Playdead uses there very basic art design to create an extremely tense atmosphere to a fairly simple game. The only goal the player has is to go to the right and not die, which may not seem like much but it becomes an increasingly difficult task due to the worlds seeming lust for the players blood. This basic premise is made special by the amazing sound design and simplistic visual styles. For the most part the game is extremely quiet making the player feel almost lost in the world they are in. It manages to make the player feel uncomfortable by making them feel alone and helpless. The player is far from helpless however, and the art direction also makes that pretty clear. The child that the player controls is never phased by the world he is in. The boy understands the danger and the child’s eyes never change. This very small detail makes all the difference in the world because it means that the player is more afraid for the child then the child is, which gives them a reason to keep the child alive. It could make the kid seem naïve since the crazy and cruel world is after him and he isn’t understanding it but as the child’s guardian the player sees the world in black and white. In a way it makes the entire dynamic of the game different from that perspective and raises a lot of questions. Is the player a guardian of this child who is afraid that the child will come to harm and the child’s deaths are just the players imagining the worst possible scenario and that is why the game re loads after each mistake the guardian makes? Or is the player the child? Is the player what the child is really feeling but never shows? Maybe the player and the child are not meant to be connected at all. These are all questions that were raised without a word at all through the art style and the gameplay. This is what makes Limbo so amazing to me is the fact that there are so many possibilities in a very simplistic game like limbo. The art and sound design alone raise so many questions as to who the child is supposed to be to the player and why the child should be protected and it is all very open for the player to make the connections themselves. Limbo is a shining example of how less is more and bigger is not always better when it comes to a deep and rewarding experience, especially in games.
Visual effects are extremely important for setting a tone in games. One of the masters of setting up a scene using cinematics is Bioware. The example I’ll be using to demonstrate this is Dragon Age: Origins. The scene that comes to mind is the battle of Helgan. Both of the cut scenes for this section of the game makes the player realize just how big of a threat the main enemies of the game are. The first scene happens when the player is tasked with crossing a bridge to get to a watchtower to light the beacon for the flanking armies assault. In the scene The player sees the armies preparing for battle. on one side there are the dark spawn who are fearless savages who lust for battle and blood, while on the other side there is the army of men. The men react how most men would, they are afraid but they stand their ground because they have to. Some of the men start to back away but the others in the army push them forward to fight. The people from the church are praying over the army and their king is in their ranks and rallies them. then they charge into battle and the scene ends allowing the player to resume control and complete their mission. This scene grants players a sense of fear and urgency because unless they get to the beacon quickly the second force will not know when to charge. The look of fear on the men’s faces and the way the scene plays out makes the player want to save as many of them as they can. The second scene happens right after the player lights the signal for the second army to attack. The scene starts by showing the commander of the second army sounding a retreat and having his men abandon the battle field. The rest of the scene is the player seeing the results of the commanders betrayal, starting with the death of the king. The king is killed by an ogre and then the scene focuses on Duncan, who has been the player character’s mentor up to this point in the game. Duncan sees the king die and kills the ogre that slayed him, but due to injuries suffered throughout the battle Duncan drops to his knees and is helpless as the dark spawn surround him. The player sees through Duncan’s eyes in his last moments and the screen gets fuzzy as the Dark spawn swings his axe at Duncan. The scene continues as the player is brought back to the top of the tower as their character is watching this all unfold then suddenly the door behind them is kicked down and the party is shot by archers and then the scene ends fading to black. This scene crushes any advantage the player might have thought they had over the dark spawn. The player sees a new enemy in the commander Logan and they see the death of Duncan who is supposed to be the best warrior in the realm. This section of the game drives the player to finish what Duncan started and try to find a way to defeat the dark spawn, and without these scenes there would not have been nearly the same emotional connection to the people who lost their lives in the battle.
In any story the underdog stereotype can be used to make a character more relatable and sympathetic. This is an archetype that is commonly known as the underdog protagonist and gaming is full of them. A recent example has been the remake of Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot. Lara has had two games since her rebirth and she is made out to be the underdog in both games. She is put up against odds that are to be blunt, absurd and it is clear that she has little to no chance of success. However the underdog protagonist is known for never giving up despite ridiculous odds and Lara is no different. She takes a crazy amount of beatings and is constantly dealing with things that would break most normal people. We as players are meant to sympathies with her struggles and root for her success as we guide her through the world that is seemingly out to get her. In the first game she is the most literal definition of an underdog. She is thrown into a crazy situation that is completely out of her element and she is forced to kill her way through an insane group of people who want nothing but her head. The player goes with Lara on a journey to save your small team before the inhabitants of the island you are trapped on kill them or worse. If that isn’t bad enough she later encounters a supernatural element on the island that is also against her so she has to fight something that is more than human. Despite her struggles she succeeds which is the final major underdog trope. If this wasn’t enough it could be argued she is even more an underdog in the second game. She is not only once again fighting crazed killers and the supernatural but she is also fighting society. In nearly every underdog story there is a point where the hero doubts they have the power to succeed but chooses to keep fighting and that could describe Lara’s entire domineer in the Rise of the Tomb Raider. She gets back home after struggling to survive just to have the world discount her and her efforts. She has a moment of self doubt and begins to wonder if she is just insane and non of her struggles were real. She sets off to prove to herself and the world that what she went through was not only real, but that it was important. There are several more characters that could be considered underdogs in games but I feel like Lara’s struggles are a very good example of a character who fits that archetype very well. Players can sympathize with her from the very beginning of her game and they keep by her side as she goes through an insane amount of crazy things that she has to deal with without any way of knowing whether or not she can succeed. It makes her seem very human, which is the best aspect of any underdog hero. I’m excited to she just how much she grows throughout this new series of adventures.
Dark Souls Is an excellent example of player vs world in a video game. The world of the Souls games has a dark atmosphere and a brutal world that forces the player to question everything they see. Dark Souls is a game that makes it so the player learns to trust nothing and to be cautious as the player explores a world that doesn’t welcome outsiders. The story of Dark Souls in particular is one where the world is ending and the player is desperately trying to prevent the world from crashing down around them and ultimately it’s unclear if their efforts are really worth anything at all. The player is just supposed to try, and there is something to be said for a game that makes the player feel like they have to figure out how to survive in the messed up world that From Software has created. The player simply moves forward and meets monsters and creatures in the world that will try and sometimes succeed in killing them. The player can’t die permanently however, which provides an interesting perspective for the player character to face. They are literally the only person in the world of Dark Souls that can save it, because they can’t rest until the world is safe. No matter how many times they fail the world picks them out of the grave and forces them to confront their challenges over and over until they succeed, which gives the player a strange kind of power. Most games try to make the player feel important but in Dark Souls the player is truly important because they are the only person in the world who hasn’t accepted their fate. The player is the only person trying to prevent the world from dying and they are the only one that seems to care about living. It is a very interesting relationship between the player and the developer because Dark Souls is an experience more than a story. From Software watches over the player and challenges them to stop the world around them from destroying them and the player has to step up and meet the challenge or simply give up. Trying to identify the main conflict in Dark Souls is interesting because in the game there is almost nothing but constant conflict. The game wants the player to die and the developers want the players to fight and get better so they can conquer the world that has been laid before them. Whether the player is fighting the enemies in the game or trying to decide whether to spend the souls they need to level on an item that might help them, the amount of different types of conflict in a game like dark souls is simply intimidating. In the Souls games you will die but will you let that stop you from trying to defeat the world that has damned you? In the end it is up to the player to decide whether they are up to the games notorious challenge that has been laid at their feet.
Final Fantasy Seven is a very polarizing game in the video game community. It seems like nearly everyone has an opinion on it, it’s widely considered to be one of if not the greatest game of all time. I have avoided the game like the plague because I am simply not a fan of the series as a whole. I have never seen the point of trying a game that is apart of a series of games I simply have never gotten into. I respect what the game did for it’s time from a tech standpoint but I have never been a big fan of Final Fantasy’s characters. I love the world but the majority of the characters simply don’t resonate with me the exception was Cecil Harvey from Final Fantasy four. Looking at reviews of the game it seems to go one of two ways. Either they rave over the game as a masterpiece or they say it’s nothing special but isn’t a terrible game. It seems to either make it the best of all time or most overrated of all time lists depending on who you talk to. As for me I have a hard time taking the game seriously maybe because I have never been a huge fan of Jrpgs because I tend to get bored with their combat system fairly quickly. The promotional material for the game is okay for it’s time but the game has aged very poorly. I’m tempted to look into the remaster of the game and see what the endless hype is about. I imagine if I was old enough to have been hyped for the games original release I might view things differently but just looking at the game now I honestly don’t think it looks very interesting. The reviews say the games strong points are it’s story and the familiar combat system that makes the Final Fantasy series so popular. When watching the promotional material for both the original and the remake makes me kinda curious about the games overall appeal. The reveal trailer for the remaster is simply fan service and doesn’t seem to offer much for those who haven’t played the original game other than a new coat of paint. Though the question remains what does the remaster offer that the original doesn’t other than a new coat of paint. Honestly if that’s the only substantial difference then the remake simply isn’t worth it in my opinion. There is already a pc update to Final Fantasy VII that may not be as critically acclaimed as the original but it is still basically the same game for much cheaper than the remaster is likely to be. If the remaster is released at full price which is highly likely then it doesn’t have any appeal to me since the series as a whole just doesn’t hold my interest for more than the occasional glance. In the end despite looking at the promotional materials for both the original and the remaster, as well as reading reviews the game just doesn’t hold my attention, I don’t thing Final Fantasy VII will change my overall opinion on the series if I played it.