News

Dishonored dev fears lack of choice in violence in games harmful
Posted: 15.01.2013 01:43 by Comments: 22
Former Dishonored developer Joe Houston has weighed in on the entire conversation regarding real world violence and videogame violence. While he believes videogames don't cause actual violence, he feels that not giving players a moral choice doesn't stem it, either.

According to Houston, "In light of the recent gun violence in the U.S. and the resultant anti-game talk that has stemmed from it, it's important as gamers not to simply retreat to the easy reaction, that games aren't a part of the problem. While I think that might be true...I think it's a pity to stop there.

"I don't believe that game violence causes real world violence, but I do believe that it does little to prevent it."


For example, linear shooters like Call of Duty force the player into a violent situation, requiring the player to kill the enemy. An open game like Dishonored has even more graphic violence, but allows the player to choose a peaceful solution.

"Too often we think about what we might lose as players and developers if forced to engage in that conversation, becoming blinded by the fear of censorship. As a result we miss out on more creative and effective ways to be a part of the solution," he proposes, adding that "games with meaningful - and potentially distasteful - choice just might do better because they stand a chance of making the player think about what they're doing on screen."

Dishonored, despite its extreme visceral violence, was passed by the usually strict German ratings board USK because the game offered a choice.

Houston now has founded his own studio, Roxlou Games. Its first title is a turn-based PC strategy game called Unwritten, which is currently on Kickstarter.
Source: RPS

Comments

By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jan 15, 2013
herodotus
Interestingly enough, if you followed more than a few of the discussions of the "SW:TOR" Forums, those who played Sith found it very hard to go all Dark and many, upon many opted for "Grey" (including me....couldn't do it).
Why is this important? Because it backs what Houston is stating here, in that given the chance any but the most ardent sociopath chooses morally every time. It might be a giggle to be the psycho playing Co-op or online, but privately it doesn't sit well with most gamers.
By JonahFalcon (SI Elite) on Jan 15, 2013
JonahFalcon
Oh, I played a murderous psycho in Dishonored, which is odd because I'm always the Non-Lethal Good Guy in Deus Ex.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jan 15, 2013
herodotus
Hmmm, Dissociative Identity Disorder sounds like. Don't worry, there's freely available treatment at Castle Wofenstein.
By JonahFalcon (SI Elite) on Jan 15, 2013
JonahFalcon
LOL I just got frustrated because when I "saved" someone, the game claimed I killed him. So I said, "Screw it. Everyone dies. Even innocents."
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jan 15, 2013
SirRoderick
Hmmm, I always got annoyed in SWTOR when I did something that wasn't FULL ON PSHYCHO WHAAAAA! But actually made MORE sense from both the Empire's point of view and my character's view and the game still gave me light side point!

Going all out dark side is just silly :P
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Jan 15, 2013
nocutius
Same here, I usually play these kind of games as the good guy first and then replay them one more time as the bad guy and I always find it too difficult to go 100% bad.
By danfreeman (SI Elite) on Jan 15, 2013
danfreeman
Boy have i had this issue of going all evil in all games that allow me to do that,sometimes doing the evil thing is just... stupid,not to mention i will still feel bad doing something completely evil even if it makes sense to do so.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jan 15, 2013
herodotus
Just on what SirRoderick mentioned about "SW:TOR". It is frustrating to find, as a Sit, that the more correct (read Imperial/Sith) choice gave Light points and the Dark points were awarded to choices that really were quite damaging to the character and/or story arc.
We are inherently good (Jonah aside:p), so being pure evil even in a game is just too difficult.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jan 15, 2013
SirRoderick
See usually I go "Lawful Evil" as in restrained self-interest style evil. I don't go around shooting everything and anyone that looks at me weird.

Much more interesting, besides just more sensible :)
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jan 15, 2013
herodotus
As in "Syndicate" (the original, not the woeful FPS remake), even though you could. Starting traffic accidents then attacking first responders...I doubt that game would make it past the censors now.
By JonahFalcon (SI Elite) on Jan 15, 2013
JonahFalcon
I'm a Light Side Imperial Agent in SWTOR, thank you very much. At least when the Imp Agent goes dark side, it isn't "killing kittens" type of villainy. Just pragmatic.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jan 15, 2013
SirRoderick
Not really, it's often in his own personal interest BUT harmful to the Empire itself. Not evil per se, but corrupt as hell.

Although certainly an improvement over the Force users!
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Jan 15, 2013
FoolWolf
I have to say that I tend to be pragmatical grey in my options and actions. The game mechanics are usually so limited that given the time and rewards/offering of creative playstyles - you are awarded more by simply exterminate problems rather then solve or fix them. Also, in games you are given a place in game terms and story-wise that sometimes is laughingly distant from the actual power base you are.

I never forget the time I felt offended when I asked for help in the plot line in Baldurs Gate 2 and they threatened me not to go after the grey wizards and that they would put me in shackles...
At that time I was the Bhaal incorporated, level 38 fighter with mage-killer specialisation. A renowned dragon slayer and vanquisher of at least three source book worth of monsters ;)
My party of six equally powerful allies could have easily leveld the entire city at that point...

So - for games to actually offer some more solutions, you either have to write in some shit that mean something and like a book rewards you for turning a page that is worth more than digital cold or XP - but game mechanics have gone stale and there are few games that venture into new areas of rewarding gameplay. And with achievements popping up as soon as you start unzipping your pants to take a leak - gameplay have a distance to travel to make up for all the easy out of the box solutions we have come to expect.
If you are not rewarded, as Jonah had as example above - you can just as well go all in and because you feel slighted and the game becomes a game in making stylish play and utilizing a certain set of game-play mechanics that are in a gaming sense fun to use.

Take Dragon Age 2 - a game that IMHO has a really rotten romantic mechanic where more or less a 1,2,3 solution yields only 3 options, hateful enemy, distant companion or lover - you have to slight people to stop them from being annoying...

Complexity comes not from rewarding points of goodness or badness - it comes from realizing what you are doing is either right or wrong. In Dishonored I tended to take a bit heavy handed approach to my enemies, feeling the role of a slighted avenger single minded on a goal to put the princess back on the throne (and kill the obvious backstabbers ;) ) but in the end - when I received the tales end, I actually felt a bit - not ashamed, but motre like. Dang, I should have handled that better...

And that is a story, that is a feeling that you have to be able to send to the player. If not - don't fret, it is a no-brain no emotional thing going on. To shoot a person in CoD isn't a parallel to shoot real people - it is a competitive thing being better than others and unfortunately in too few cases help your team win by cooperation and playing for the teams best interest...

Hopefully this will lead not only to less brutal games but away from the "mindless violence" - let the violence mean something because then it means that the game means something - but then again - some days you just want to kick back 30 minutes of online fun with absolutely a minimum of your brain active...
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jan 15, 2013
herodotus
I hope you keep a copy of what you've written Wolfy. When the new design is completed and we have instituted....(shhh, can't say just yet), this would make a great discussion piece.
What I found frustrating in the "Mass Effect" games is the dialogue structure (which continued into "SW:TOR"). In the dialogue 'wheel' you saw what you as the player thought to be the appropriate response, but when the line was delivered in-game it was not at all what you meant, and the result was often not at all what was wanted or intended. At least that's what I found. In "SW:TOR" you could rapidly escape out and start the conversation over, but the frustration with BioWare's conversation wheel still remain for me.
It made playing a Sith Warrior quite difficult as I wanted to further the Empire's gains, but to do so meant turning on the Sith. Not a lot of sense there.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jan 15, 2013
SirRoderick
Hero, why do you tease me so?!
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Jan 15, 2013
nocutius
Don't tease me, Bro!
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jan 15, 2013
herodotus
It'll be worth the wait, guys:)
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jan 15, 2013
SirRoderick
Is it your long-awaited rise to the dictatorial throne, supported by the bones of trolls and spammers?

Cause I would be totally up for that...where do I file my candidacy for the chancellor position?
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jan 15, 2013
herodotus
There will be room in the Cabinet, off to the side of the Scotch and Port bottles.
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Jan 16, 2013
FoolWolf
Never fear - just mention DA2 and options and romance and I will be foaming at the mouth ;)

Story games and the people crying about their precious little stories being so all important should try to read a book once in awhile and discover what a real story is. Games is gaming for a reason and the story and immersion is in the action, rewards, sounds, graphics and composition. The story is in most games something they need to cook up to have some slogans to write back of the disc or on the homepage.

Just look at how much background you get in a manual now a days and tell me that the setting and story is important...

Port bottles - I thought we would have musketeer-swinging chandeliers and the rum barrels...
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jan 16, 2013
herodotus
That'll be on the Quarterdeck.
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Jan 24, 2013
FoolWolf
Ah, all well and safe then!
Where will the Ninja/Pyjamas cuddle party be held?