We’ve discussed the matter of violence in games, or “violent games”, several times before. And we know about the many political movements to restrict such games in various ways. But I think the problem is not violence per se.

We have, by now, waded in the blood of uncounted thousands of enemies. RPGs and FPS, after all, are based around combat. From the days of Wizardry and Doom to the present, we have hacked, slashed, blasted, and fried our way to victory, leaving innumerable corpses in our wakes. Until recently, however, no one much cared about it.

For the most part, the fighting, or rather, the results of fighting, could be called “clean” violence, or maybe “Buck Rogers violence”. The enemies might drop to the ground, or “pop” out of existence, but that was it. There was little or no mess.

As graphics have improved, as we approach not merely realism, but “photo-realism”, things have changed. We are presented more and more with all the gruesome, real-world details of death: blood splattering, maimed bodies, limbs and heads flying everywhere.

This is the core of the problem: the depiction of the results of violence in games. We may know it’s “only a game”, that “no one was really hurt”, but it is unpleasantly close to reality nonetheless.

I can understand that parents would worry about such games getting into the hands of their children, although they are meant for “teen”, “mature”, or “adults only” audiences.

What disturbs me is that it is those audiences (or markets) that seem to be demanding this level of “realism” in their games. What pleasure is derived from seeing enemies killed in revolting detail? Why do so many seem to enjoy the mess?

Or does it not matter? Is it just a phase that “young adults” pass through, to be left behind as they mature? Or does it “aid” in becoming more desensitized to the results of real-world violence?