''It Has to Stop'': Warren Spector on ''Ultraviolence'' in Games

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''It Has to Stop'': Warren Spector on ''Ultraviolence'' in Games

Unread postby News Portal » 15 Jun 12, 4:11 pm

"This is the year where there were two things that stood out for me,” said Warren Spector of this year's E3 conference. "One was: The ultraviolence has to stop. We have to stop loving it." Spector is the acclaimed designer of what, for many people, is the Best Game Ever Made, the original Deus Ex, as well as titles like Epic Mickey. "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," said Warren.

"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 (...) I mean, there are spreading blood pools under innocent dogs when you kill them in Deus Ex, and I wanted you to feel disturbed if you actually pulled the trigger."

Source: Games Industry International

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Re: ''It Has to Stop'': Warren Spector on ''Ultraviolence''

Unread postby Bek » 15 Jun 12, 4:37 pm



Seriously though, while I think having consequences for player actions is AMAZING and we should definitely have more of it, does this mean "ultraviolence" needs to go? Is it wrong to have games such as Quake and Unreal Tournament that have unrealistic levels of violence? I don't think so, that's for the market to decide.. What about killing kids? Fallout 3 didn't let you do that, is that a good or a bad thing? I'd argue from a game design perspective that it's silly. It's reminding you this is a game, and there are silly limitations in place. They're as bad as invisible walls.
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Re: ''It Has to Stop'': Warren Spector on ''Ultraviolence''

Unread postby Mooncabbage » 15 Jun 12, 5:00 pm

Bek wrote:

Seriously though, while I think having consequences for player actions is AMAZING and we should definitely have more of it, does this mean "ultraviolence" needs to go? Is it wrong to have games such as Quake and Unreal Tournament that have unrealistic levels of violence? I don't think so, that's for the market to decide.. What about killing kids? Fallout 3 didn't let you do that, is that a good or a bad thing? I'd argue from a game design perspective that it's silly. It's reminding you this is a game, and there are silly limitations in place. They're as bad as invisible walls.


Good post. I agree, the instant some artificial limitation is placed on what you can do you just go "Oh, that's right, it's just a game, nothing I do really matters" and any sense of impact is gone.

My personal opinion is that games provide a safe place for people to experiment with morality. It doesn't do to just say NO YOU CAN'T DO THAT IT'S NAUGHTY. It's an adolescent approach to it. Afterall, without the capacity for evil, "good" is a meaningless concept. If I'm not capable of blowing kids heads off, what value is my decision NOT to do it?

Also where are all the mature, moral dilemmas? What about the murder of an innocent that saves a busload of people? What about having to choose between the life of a friend, and the destruction of a city? Or when a friend turns "evil", like Alec Trevelyan in the bond movie. Usually when this happens it's a foregone conclusion that you'll fight the good fight and stop your traitorous friend.

As to the state of the industry, I think what we have now (using TV as a metaphor), is a whole lot of NBC/FOX, and not a lot of HBO/Showtime. Maybe the indies in gaming can have an impact, but I'd like to see someone with a budget do something really impressive.

European companies outside the normal western influence seem to be taking a step in the right direction with The Witcher and the Stalker series, but it's a shame someone has to freeze their balls off in Siberia to get a serious adult game made.
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Re: ''It Has to Stop'': Warren Spector on ''Ultraviolence''

Unread postby meji » 15 Jun 12, 5:25 pm

I agree with Warren it's a somewhat disturbing trend and when it permeates games that otherwise don't 'need' ultra-violence, it is a blatantly disturbing thing. A few games come to mind that had violence that went far beyond what it needed to be: any Soldier of Fortune game for example.

Sure a shooting game is designed for that, if you buy a shooter and scream OH HELP! THERE IS TOO MUCH VIOLENCE! then you chose poorly.

Imo it's more problematic when the violence is depicted as a norm, something that is a good solution to a problem. Now in an alien invasion scenario - yeah ok, it's definitely not real. A military style game? Yeah people die, often horribly and violently, the life of a soldier engaged in constant conflict, sometimes the choice is to fight as a soldier all other avenues may be exhausted. A game where you hang out with your mates and shoot strangers outside of your 'hood? There is less of a justification for that sort of depiction.

It's about the context of it's depiction.

I think he draws an interesting point where he talks about the fetish like 'allure' that is increasingly attached to it, especially when it is targeted at the immature market (immature in emotional skills, not particularly age because there are plenty of emotionally immature mid 20's men out there).

Of course you can argue the usual "well there is a difference between reality and fantasy" and for most of us there is. We can put down a game of dragon slaying and not feel the need for violence elsewhere, some can't. But again it's not particularly about those with a mental illness who will take it to the nth degree and shoot up a local school. It's about creating and condoning particular environments and it's simply not a good thing to do, especially to the emotionally immature crowd out there.

Warren goes on to talk about how he felt the violence in Deus Ex had more an emotional effect, and in fact what he is talking about is a degree of empathy. You shoot the dog, the dog dies and it bleeds - it brings up a range of emotions for the player and in the context of the game you will see that killing an innocent dog is a rather pointless and meaningless thing - an act of violence for the sake of violence is something to be ashamed of.

Of course one could ask Warren, "Does having violence in a game to simply evoke empathy, just an excuse to have realistic violence in a game and slip it past classification?" (Yes, Deus Ex would suck without it).

In terms of being a wall that simply inhibits gameplay - well at it's base level it does. I would argue though that you can have mature themes and concepts without ultraviolence, gratuitous sex, excessive profanity etc. There is far, far more to being an adult and making adult decisions then those very narrow areas that are considered "adult only".

What bothers me about the new classification system is that many gamers will want it simply so some digital sex or violence isn't cut out of their "adult" games. OH MAN I CAN'T SEE GERALT FONDLE UP TRISS FOR 35 MINUTES, WHAT A RIPOFF!! MY RIGHTS AS A GAMER ARE IMPEDED!!
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Re: ''It Has to Stop'': Warren Spector on ''Ultraviolence''

Unread postby DeathMist » 15 Jun 12, 5:48 pm

O noes, people are experimenting with morality in video games!11!!!

I agree with Bek.
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Re: ''It Has to Stop'': Warren Spector on ''Ultraviolence''

Unread postby PinothyJ » 15 Jun 12, 7:14 pm

Bek wrote:Seriously though, while I think having consequences for player actions is AMAZING and we should definitely have more of it, does this mean "ultraviolence" needs to go? Is it wrong to have games such as Quake and Unreal Tournament that have unrealistic levels of violence? I don't think so, that's for the market to decide.. What about killing kids? Fallout 3 didn't let you do that, is that a good or a bad thing? I'd argue from a game design perspective that it's silly. It's reminding you this is a game, and there are silly limitations in place. They're as bad as invisible walls.
I was under the impression that games will not receive classification in Europe if you can harm children in video games.


Correct me if I am wrong…
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Re: ''It Has to Stop'': Warren Spector on ''Ultraviolence''

Unread postby korbain » 15 Jun 12, 8:44 pm

i swear after he did the first dues ex, this guy just lose his marbles lol
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Re: ''It Has to Stop'': Warren Spector on ''Ultraviolence''

Unread postby psychofruiterer » 15 Jun 12, 9:31 pm

Movies are worse imo.
I have yet to play a game where i think "whoah, bit too much there" as far as violence goes.
Though there are plenty of movies i have switched off at the point where they just turn into torture porn.
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Re: ''It Has to Stop'': Warren Spector on ''Ultraviolence''

Unread postby c0mc0 » 15 Jun 12, 9:45 pm

Bek wrote:...What about killing kids? Fallout 3 didn't let you do that...It's reminding you this is a game, and there are silly limitations in place...


and..


Mooncabbage wrote:Good post. I agree, the instant some artificial limitation is placed on what you can do you just go "Oh, that's right, it's just a game, nothing I do really matters" and any sense of impact is gone...


While I get where you're both coming from, I'm not sure I'm comfortable supporting your aguements. If you flip around what you're saying, you're effectively suggesting that being able to kill kids makes you more able to loose yourself in the game. We gamers like to talk about the fact that we're all adults and that it's obvious that we're just playing a game and that our in-game violence would never affect our interactions in the real world, and then turn around and say that not being able to kill kids takes you out of the game world. I can see how the "won't somebody think of the children" camp would find that...Disturbing... ;)

But you're right in that silly limitations can break the immersion of a game - the question is, when have you gone further than you need to? There's plenty of things you can't do in Fallout 3...You can't throw petrol on someone and light them on fire, you can't proposition an NPC (unless it's scripted), you can't eat human corpses...(oh wait - you can!) ;) ..."Because I want the option to choose not to" is not really the most effective argument for something being allowed or disallowed in a game.

Totally in agreement with the comment about Soldier of Fortune being in there as games in the "ultraviolence" category. I remember playing multiplayer on the first game many years ago. I was at a LAN and it was my first time playing the game. I was enjoying running around blasting my mates and at one point I decided to be stupid and go slashy with the knife on a friend's body. When I actually hacked his head and limbs off, I was left feeling pretty turned off the game. I'm no priss, but what the hell is the point of allowing the player to dismember a dead body? It just took things a little too far - which I appreciate is a little ironic when talking about a "murder simulator" - but I think most of you understand what I mean. I felt like I had stumbled on something that someone got off on creating, or hoped that someone would get off playing...It's just a little sick...Of course, today some would say "you're being ridiculos, it didn't look real anyway" but that's almost beyond the point. The devs made it look as real as they could, with the day's technical limitations.

It begs the question - just because we can realistically simulate things such as the contents of someone's skull being splatter on the wall, or a graphic rape scene or any number of other controversial events, does it mean we need them for the same of "completeness"? Everyone will come up with their own answer to that - for me, if there is a point to it, in context of the story for example...if the rape scene is part of a critical plot device or the brain being splattered is there to enhance the emotional impact of loosing your partner etc, then I'll accept it. But I personally don't see the point in allowing gratuitous, realistic, needlessly graphic violence just for the sake of completeness.
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Re: ''It Has to Stop'': Warren Spector on ''Ultraviolence''

Unread postby DeathMist » 15 Jun 12, 10:04 pm

Games can't represent life on a 1:1 scale (Real vs non-real) thus shouldn't be treated as such.

I don't see how much further it goes then that. People are allowed to do whatever they like. I don't see the issue of ultra-violence since it isn't affecting anything or anyone, and if it is affecting someone then they shouldn't be allowed to play games.
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Re: ''It Has to Stop'': Warren Spector on ''Ultraviolence''

Unread postby Ooshp » 15 Jun 12, 11:04 pm

meji wrote:What bothers me about the new classification system is that many gamers will want it simply so some digital sex or violence isn't cut out of their "adult" games. OH MAN I CAN'T SEE GERALT FONDLE UP TRISS FOR 35 MINUTES, WHAT A RIPOFF!! MY RIGHTS AS A GAMER ARE IMPEDED!!


The compulsion to lump sex and violence together really is nonsense. I understand where this stance on censorship comes from (damn you again, religion) but it makes no sense. Although I have a poor memory at times, I can say with absolute confidence that sex has been a MUCH bigger part of my life than shooting or hacking people to death. The taboo of graphic sex scenes in film and video games is absolutely ridiculous - sex is a part of most peoples' lives on a regular basis, extreme violence is not.

Yet I have seen 1000x more dead or mutilated bodies on my screen than I have explicit sex scenes. But... everyone is ok with this?

Bioware's apparent "forcing gay sex down peoples' throats" seems to have kicked up more of a stink in the US than any violent game recently. I find THAT more disturbing than anything else.
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Re: ''It Has to Stop'': Warren Spector on ''Ultraviolence''

Unread postby c0mc0 » 15 Jun 12, 11:50 pm

In terms of censorship, the only types of sex that are currently banned are (to my knowledge, and feel free to correct me here...) sexual violence, beastiality etc. We don't "censor" graphic sex. We simply classify and restrict its consumption.

Personally, I'm glad my 3 year old won't be able to turn on the TV and watch free-to-air graphic pornography. You as an adult have a right to view it, but that doesn't mean it should be freely available.

If people want to play games with graphic sex scenes in them, more power to them. We just need to categorise them meaningfully and fairly - which is what the whole R18 debate has been about.
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Re: ''It Has to Stop'': Warren Spector on ''Ultraviolence''

Unread postby Bek » 16 Jun 12, 12:05 am

Ooshp wrote:Yet I have seen 1000x more dead or mutilated bodies on my screen than I have explicit sex scenes. But... everyone is ok with this?
Yeah this is quite strange, western culture has some fixing needed in that sense.
c0mc0 wrote:If you flip around what you're saying, you're effectively suggesting that being able to kill kids makes you more able to loose yourself in the game.
Not exactly. The key is if it's clearly an artificial limitation, it's going to break the immersion, like in the video I posted above.
c0mc0 wrote:But you're right in that silly limitations can break the immersion of a game - the question is, when have you gone further than you need to? There's plenty of things you can't do in Fallout 3...
True but there is a difference - I understand why I can't do limitless things in Fo3 because we don't have the technology, but a deliberate move to stop you doing something (invincible character, invisible walls etc) that you'd otherwise be able to do obviously breaks the immersion.
c0mc0 wrote:It begs the question - just because we can realistically simulate things such as the contents of someone's skull being splatter on the wall, or a graphic rape scene or any number of other controversial events, does it mean we need them for the same of "completeness"? Everyone will come up with their own answer to that - for me, if there is a point to it, in context of the story for example...if the rape scene is part of a critical plot device or the brain being splattered is there to enhance the emotional impact of loosing your partner etc, then I'll accept it. But I personally don't see the point in allowing gratuitous, realistic, needlessly graphic violence just for the sake of completeness.
Here you have an interesting point, which I believe is solved by games costing money. I don't believe we should stop people developing games they want to, even if they're disgusting to us personally. Just don't buy it, you don't have to play the game, why should your views stop others enjoying their freedom when they aren't harming anyone? If you don't want to experience graphic violence etc you don't have too. While you don't need graphic stuff to make a 'complete' experience, sometimes it is needed, but if it's overused I guess it will (has?) lost its effect.
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Re: ''It Has to Stop'': Warren Spector on ''Ultraviolence''

Unread postby GuppyShark » 16 Jun 12, 1:23 am

Dear Warren,

If you didn't want me to kill so many people in Deus Ex, maybe you shouldn't have been so stingy with the tranquiliser darts.

Sincerely,
JC Denton
Formerly Matthew Fontana, Champion of Helios, IGN NWN
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Re: ''It Has to Stop'': Warren Spector on ''Ultraviolence''

Unread postby hifi-55 » 16 Jun 12, 1:25 am

I sort of see where he is getting at, the reality is that killing-style games are almost considered height of game entertainment, and any game that doesn't involve violence or killing is almost seen as an "alternative" game. I work in an electronics store and when it comes to selling games to under 15s I always avoid the shooters, but the kids complain that non-shooting games are "no fun" or "not cool" which is a bit of a disturbing trend, especially since these kids shouldn't be playing these games - but that is a different argument altogether.

I cant really say that at any point I found killing anyone in Deus Ex "disturbing". The fact is that you don't really see the consequences of your actions in any game. Sure in games like Skyrim, you get heavily penalized for killing randoms but once you're out of jail or paid the fine there is no further repercussions. You don't see the characters widow crying over a fresh grave, or the kids on the street, growing up hating the world because someone killed their Dad.
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