If gaming isn’t rough, it isn’t’ fun. And yes, I just paraphrased Lady Gaga. After a Lady Gaga quote, it can only go uphill from here.
With the continual onslaught of media bias when it comes to the reporting on video game violence, games such as Grand Theft Auto V are always going to be dragged into the spotlight and held up as an example. This is an attempt to support the same old tired argument that violent gaming makes violent people…blah, blah, blah.
I’m not going to wade into those waters yet again, as I've already touched on that in the past. At the moment, I’m more interested in exploring why we as gamers enjoy the rough and tumble of gaming more than anything else. Let’s face it; if you look at what sells in the world of gaming, it almost always boils down to one element at its core. That element is competitiveness. Now, that might sound like a no brainer. As humans, we are typically very territorial by nature. In many instances, the drive to succeed and be better than your rival has led to the rise and fall of entire civilizations throughout the centuries. Most would consider the drive to compete a necessity in the real world.
So why is it that in the world of gaming (where virtually anything is possible), our competitive nature translates to our entertainment medium and seems to manifest itself aggressively rather than passively?
Well, I think the answer lies in a recent example. One of the biggest indie hits to sweep the game industry recently is Minecraft. With its overly simplistic yet innovative approach, it draws gamers into its sandbox with the promise that they can lose themselves in a world where simply mining and crafting are their biggest concerns (not getting sniped from across the map if they duck out from behind their hiding spot). It’s certainly a game that allows players a more mellow approach to their gaming activities, almost like one of those Zen sand-gardens you’re supposed to rake with that little stick. Another strangely hypnotizing game from years past is the off-the-wall (and somewhat surprising) hit Katamari Damacy.
Back in the days of PS2, it’s not as if there were any shortages of competitive or violent games. Gamers were still free, just as much as they are now, to play titles that pushed the envelope: games such as God of War, and many other fun (albeit mature) titles. Somehow, though, a game like Katamari Damacy found a niche and was able to enjoy huge success. If you’ve never played it, imagine the giant, aluminum-foil ball from Pee-wee’s Playhouse. Now, roll that around the world until it gobbles up everything, and you have Katamari Damacy. It sounds crazy, I know, but it is a fun, non-aggressive title that people love so much it has spawned several sequels.
So, you see? That must prove that these types of non-combative, “passive experience” titles share an equal place in today’s marketplace, right?
Sorry to say, I really don’t think it does.
The reason I say this is because these titles simply don’t last. Katamari is no more than a simple mobile title now, and as much as people love Minecraft, it has a shelf life. I doubt you’ll be seeing Minecraft 4 on the Xbox Two console in the year 2021. You probably will see some form of FPS Call of Duty, however. The reason is, it simply comes back to our nature. We love pitting two sides against each other in the world of gaming. We WANT competition, and sometimes, competition translates to violence. Whether it is at the starting line in a racing game or a 32-on-32 multiplayers FPS map, it’s what we find entertaining. There’s a reason why GTA V has broken so many records in the last few weeks. There’s a reason that the Call of Duty franchise features some of the highest-selling games in history (even beating out huge sports titles such as Madden, which is also a competitive game). Sure, there are those exceptions who just want to play Candy Crush or Angry Birds without wanting a bit more, but they’re the exception…not the rule.
If you need any further proof, just look at the virtual worlds we create in the land of MMO. With technology today, we have the capability to create any virtual world we want and then live inside them. So, what has come of these technological innovations in the gaming industry? Did the gaming community demand serene landscapes that finally allow us to escape the violence of the real world and live in tranquility?
Nope, we made games such as World of Warcraft and EverQuest. These are two of the most popular online games ever. What do you find as their core mechanic? Combat. And plenty of it. It’s a key to progressing in the game and enhancing your experience. Even recently, BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic announced an expansion pack. The add-on brings to fans new PVP (Player vs. Player) content in the way of space battles. Now ask yourself, would anyone really be excited about this expansion if the space portion was for travel and leisure purposes only? I seriously doubt scenic tours of Tatooine are what gamers are looking for in DLC.
The moral of the story is this: gaming isn’t creating violent people from the inside out. In many ways, it’s the exact opposite; we demand violent content. Our nature as people (the competitive drive to always be pitted against someone or something) informs what we want. It’s simple supply and demand. You don’t see those types of passive titles as much because we as humans are not usually driven to be passive.
So next time someone tells you how much they don’t like a violent video game, simply remind them that ”Hey, we asked for it.”