Let’s face it. We as gamers have all seen our fair share of violence. Thanks to the abundance of shooters and brawlers on the store shelves these days there’s plenty of titles to choose from if you’re an adult. But it can get pretty difficult for parents to find a game appropriate for their younger, more impressionable kids. And as the capabilities of our PC’s and consoles grow year after year, the violence is bound to become more realistic and have a greater visual and emotional impact on gamers.
Originally this piece was meant to be just a simple summary of the three most violent video games I could find. But as I scoured through my memory of the violent games I’ve played over the years, and then ventured onto the internet I discovered something. Yes we all know that most of the world has an internet connection, and there are some messed up people in the world who are also on the internet. But what I didn’t consider is that some of these messed up individuals, make messed up games. But more on that later. First up, below are the three most violent mainstream games I could muster.
Some of you may not know but Rockstar don’t only make Grand Theft Auto games. They also made a Table Tennis Game for the Wii (WTF?) and the Manhunt series.
In Australia Manhunt was originally released in 2002 for the Original Xbox. You play as James Earl Cash, a death row inmate who instead of being executed, is sedated and wakes up in a scummy motel room; on his bedside table is an earpiece which he promptly puts in. From there a voice tells him that he can win his freedom by taking out a series of gangs that are taking over the city.
Using basic stealth mechanics and some of the most savage “weapons” you could think of to dispatch all those in your way. Crowbars, piano wire, glass bottles and even plastic bags are just a few of the tools of your trade. Each weapon features three different levels of QuickTime executions ranging from super violent to completely disgusting. The more violent the kill, the more noise is made and the loud snapping of bones or the gurgling noises made by an enemy as he bleeds out is sure to draw the attention of nearby baddies.
And while the visual impact of these murders that you commit are extreme, the most messed up part about Manhunt is the story itself! The “voice” that instructs you is actually directing you! You’re the unwilling star of a snuff film and the director often refers to your audience and encourages you to make each kill as gory as possible. Adding to that, if you play Manhunt using a headset the voice comes through your earpiece and any noises picked up by the microphone are sent out into the game world which significantly adds to the immersion and tension experienced whilst sneaking round.
While Manhunt is a pretty old title with average visuals, the context of the game is thoroughly disturbing. As you might expect it was banned in Australia almost a year after release but copies are still available on eBay if you look hard enough.
The sequel, aptly entitled Manhunt 2 was equally as violent but instead of playing the victim of a snuff film director you take on the role of an escaped mental patient with voices in his head. This was released on PSP and Nintendo Wii, with the Wii version having the player using the Wiimote and Nunchuk to mimic the motions required to complete the kills. Very messed up stuff.
Surprisingly there is more than one ultra violent game available for Nintendo’s family friendly Wii console. In the first game release by Platinum Games, you play as Jack, a competitor in a vicious spectator sport called Death Watch. Set in an overly stylized world where everything is black and white, except blood of course, the Death Watch champions are fighting for massive cash prizes but Jack has a few other ulterior motives which, to be perfectly honest aren’t important. Nobody is playing MadWorld because of the engaging story.
Jack uses the retractable chainsaw blade built into his arm and anything else in the environment to make his way through a series of levels leaving a bright red trail behind him. Levels are completed by earning a predetermined number of points which are calculated on the amount of gore and the creativity used for each kill. EG picking an enemy up and throwing him on a butcher hook will earn more points if you’ve thrown a tyre over the top of them first.
And what would a spectator sport be if it didn’t have commentary? Greg Proops (The glasses guy from Who’s Line is it Anyway?) and John DiMaggio (Futurama- Bender & Adventure Time- Jake the Dog) lend their voices so provide a literal blow by blow call of the goings on in Jacks brutal escapades. At first they’re hilarious but quickly become annoying and repetitive.
While the violence in MadWorld is very stylised and almost slapstick in nature… it’s still pretty confronting.
Postal 2 is a 1st Person shooter that put you in the life of the ingeniously named “Postal Dude”. You spend 7 days living as Postal Dude with each day representing a level in the game. As you go about your day completing completely mundane tasks such as confessing your sins or buying milk from the local store you’re encouraged (but not required) to unleash hell upon your town. With a standard line up of weapons you walk the streets and killg everything that moves.
The game was banned in several countries, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Sweden just to name a few due to its portrayal of unnecessary violence, animal cruelty and urination on corpses. The animal cruelty depictions alone are just depraved and unnecessary. Picking up a neighbourhood cat you can jam the barrel of certain weapons in the animal’s rear end and use it for a silencer for 9 rounds. Once those rounds are fired the cat has died and is thrown off the end of the weapon.
The game can be played from start to finish without engaging in any violent activity whatsoever but this makes for an experience that’s intentionally boring. EG, one of the objectives put before you is to obtain an autograph from Gary Coleman (Different Strokes). You can either wait in line for your turn, or kill everyone ahead of you in said line. When Postal 2 was being marketed the games tagline was “It’s only as violent as you are”. The developer, Running With Scissors were clearly just trying to make the most controversial and offensive game they could and rather than accept responsibility for the game they created they would prefer to just blame the players for what they do in the game.
Postal 2 is also full of homophobia and racism which helps secure this games position on the very bottom of the barrel.
Do not buy it. Its mere existence solidifies the ridiculous notion that all video games are bad for the body and mind.
Time to Mop Up
These are some of the more mainstream slaughter fests one might buy off a store shelf or out of a bargain bin. But when researching for this article I also came across several indie titles which were simply too disgusting to mention due to being seriously over the top in the violence department or beyond inappropriate as a concept overall. Some were essentially torture simulators, some were based on, and glorified real life school shootings, and some even tried to mask blatant racism with patriotism!
The age old argument regarding video games being art comes in to play here. I for one believe that all games contain art to some degree and we all know that art is one of the oldest forms of expression. With expression comes everyone’s entitlement to free speech. And yes as much as we might hate to admit it, even racists, homophobes, and other sick people are entitled to express their opinions no matter how wrong they may be. But as hypocritical as this may sound I honestly believe that there are some games out there that do not deserve a place in this industry that I care so much about and it’s embarrassing that games like Postal 2 exist. Some may say the same about MadWorld and Manhunt. Two games which I really enjoyed playing. The violence was extreme in both titles but within context, they didn’t seem so offensive to me. Postal 2 on the other hand just made me feel uncomfortable. Is it because in Postal you’re encouraged to kill innocent bystanders whereas the other two you’re killing bad guys? Maybe, but what about games like GTA? It may not specifically encourage you to plough through large groups of CGI pedestrians on the sidewalk, but you bet your arse I’ve done it more than once while cruising Los Santos and chances are you have too. Maybe it’s just that titles like Postal seem to thrive on hate and anger where the GTA games are all parody.
I don’t know and to be honest this is just confusing me even further so I’ll wrap this up with a question for you to sound off in the comments below. When it comes to violence in video games; at what point does a violent game cross the line from entertainment to downright sick? Where should the line be drawn? Is it based on the amount of blood spilled? The manner in which an enemy is dispatched? Or perhaps it’s the context of the overall experience?