Deus Ex Designer: "The Ultra-Violence Has To Stop"

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Deus Ex Designer: "The Ultra-Violence Has To Stop"

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Veteran developer, Warren Spector, isn't a fan of the old Ultra-violence.

The ultra-violence has to stop," he told GameIndustryBiz. "We have to stop loving it. 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. I just think it's in bad taste. Ultimately I think it will cause us trouble."

The industry's fondness for increasingly realistic depictions of violence is a hot topic at the moment. Both Crystal Dynamics and Spector's former employer, Eidos, have been heavily criticized for mixing sex and violence in their trailers for Tomb Raider and Hitman: Absolution. Neither trailers have been well received, and the latter doesn't seem to have impressed Spector in the slightest.

"I left Eidos in 2004 because I looked around at E3 and saw the new Hitman game where you get to kill with a meat hook, and 25 to Life, the game about kids killing cops, and Crash & Burn the racing game where the idea is to create the fieriest, most amazing explosions, not to win the race... I looked around my own booth and realized I just had one of those 'which thing is not like the other' moments," he said. "I thought it was bad then, and now I think it's just beyond bad."

Violence has always been gaming's go-to mechanic, and Spector is certainly no stranger to it, having included it in most of his games to date. While Epic Mickey was light on the decapitations on account of it being a Disney game, System Shock 2 and Deus Ex didn't skimp on the claret (though it's worth noting that Deus Ex was one of the first games to give players a choice between lethal and non-lethal weapons). Spector argues that the violence in his games was meant to make players uncomfortable, while modern games present even more gruesome content without any context or consequence.

"We've gone too far," he said. "The slow-motion blood spurts, the impalement by deadly assassins, the knives, shoulders, elbows to the throat. You know, 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, and I don't see that happening now. I think we're just appealing to an adolescent mindset and calling it mature. It's time to stop. I'm just glad I work for a company like Disney, where not only is that not something that's encouraged, you can't even do it, and I'm fine with it."

While I like severed limbs and exploding heads as much as the next mildly desensitized sociopath, it's hard to deny that Spector has a point. Videogames and violence have always been intertwined - its the simplest form of conflict to portray, after all. But while the technology behind gaming has matured, the portrayal of violent conflict most definitely hasn't, it's only grown less abstract.

Source: GameIndustryBiz

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As long as violence is given context I do not mind it. When it is simply added for the sake of being there or even for the purpose of glorification, then that is where I simply turn my back to it and do not give it the time of day.

I find it odd that we're one of the few industries where the blockbuster titles are supposedly too mature for the teenage audience. The AAA industry essentially is M rated games, while Hollywood blockbusters usually lie in the pg-13 range. I don't know whether this is a bad or a good thing, and the issue is far more complicated than the way I just presented it, I'm just saying that this is a bit odd and I find myself feeling uncomfortable about it. I don't like that the industry is so adult oriented as it is quite clear that trying to appear as a more adult oriented medium has never led to good results for any medium.

Yep disney has nothin to do with violence. nope.

oh wait.

And he failed horribly in making me uncomfortable with the violence in deus ex.

Revnak:
I find it odd that we're one of the few industries where the blockbuster titles are supposedly too mature for the teenage audience. The AAA industry essentially is M rated games, while Hollywood blockbusters usually lie in the pg-13 range. I don't know whether this is a bad or a good thing, and the issue is far more complicated than the way I just presented it, I'm just saying that this is a bit odd and I find myself feeling uncomfortable about it. I don't like that the industry is so adult oriented as it is quite clear that trying to appear as a more adult oriented medium has never led to good results for any medium.

Honestly, looking back at Absolution's trailer, and your comment, I'm reminded of the comment I came across somewhere years ago, about how "Mature Content" had become a code phrase for "immature behavior".

I forget who it was, I think Jim Sterling, that was commenting on "how 'saying the thing wrong with Duke Nukem Forever was that it was that it had shit gameplay' was ignoring how abhorrent it was at every conceivable level as a human being."

I'm also remembering the line from the original Deus Ex, when you get to the end of the first actual level, you're presented with a terrorist leader, who calls you out as a brainwashed psychopath who looks at killing people as a game.

I don't mind when there's a point to the violence, but even I'm having a hard time finding a point to most of the violence in the industry these days.

In one final disjointed note, I was playing, I think FEAR3 the other day, and it reminded me of the whole "bread and circuses" thing from Rome. I know we usually hold that up and say, "look how our society is falling apart and/or doomed", but honestly, I think it says more about how vapid the industry is as a whole. The only thing they have to present as a sensation is more violence...

Anyway, my two cents. Sorry if I hijacked your comment unfairly Revnak.

Grey Carter:

The ultra-violence has to stop," he told GameIndustryBiz. "We have to stop loving it. 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. I just think it's in bad taste. Ultimately I think it will cause us trouble."

Well, DUH!

But then, this isn't just a gaming issue. And as long as game publishers are on this " Hollywood" kick, we're going to see torture porn.

I KIND OF get it, but it's not like other industries are any better.

Music has it's 'cop killer' or 'in the name of the king'
Movies have its 'saw' and 'the expendables'
Books have its 'american psycho' and 'twilight'
Comics has its 'punisher' and 'the walking dead'
Tv has its...

The list goes on and on and on.
We're predators, we LIKE violence, it's part of our dna.

Tanis:
I KIND OF get it, but it's not like other industries are any better.

Music has it's 'cop killer' or 'in the name of the king'
Movies have its 'saw' and 'the expendables'
Books have its 'american psycho' and 'twilight'
Comics has its 'punisher' and 'the walking dead'
Tv has its...

The list goes on and on and on.
We're predators, we LIKE violence, it's part of our dna.

the difference is that with games those niche violent genres make up the majority

Zachary Amaranth:
But then, this isn't just a gaming issue. And as long as game publishers are on this " Hollywood" kick, we're going to see torture porn.

That comment would be a whole lot more legitimate if the majority of Hollywood blockbusters were rater R, except they aren't, so it isn't. It's more that gaming as an industry is insecure and thinks that more guns and violence will make it seem more grown up.

Tanis:
I KIND OF get it, but it's not like other industries are any better.

Music has it's 'cop killer' or 'in the name of the king'
Movies have its 'saw' and 'the expendables'
Books have its 'american psycho' and 'twilight'
Comics has its 'punisher' and 'the walking dead'
Tv has its...

The list goes on and on and on.
We're predators, we LIKE violence, it's part of our dna.

Which is a tiny fraction of the top 100
Which make significantly less than a superhero movie
Which are significantly less famous than Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, though books work a bit differently here. Also, why Twilight? Pretty certain that's not very violent.
Comics died as an industry when they decided kids weren't worth catering to. Not a happy comparison at all.

And your pseudo-science does not amuse me. And why does it being something we like justify its domination of the industry above all other things we like? I'm pretty certain I like jokes and beautiful women more than I like harming things, but games are comparatively lacking in such features. There are all kinds of likes that games and entertainment in general could appeal to, and violence is quite obviously towards the bottom.

Starke:
I'm also remembering the line from the original Deus Ex, when you get to the end of the first actual level, you're presented with a terrorist leader, who calls you out as a brainwashed psychopath who looks at killing people as a game.

When you get back to base the grunts treat you like a hero, and the grizzled veteran quartermaster tells you you're a horrible person and refuses to give you stuff.

Revnak:

Zachary Amaranth:
But then, this isn't just a gaming issue. And as long as game publishers are on this " Hollywood" kick, we're going to see torture porn.

That comment would be a whole lot more legitimate if the majority of Hollywood blockbusters were rater R, except they aren't, so it isn't. It's more that gaming as an industry is insecure and thinks that more guns and violence will make it seem more grown up.

Tanis:
I KIND OF get it, but it's not like other industries are any better.

Music has it's 'cop killer' or 'in the name of the king'
Movies have its 'saw' and 'the expendables'
Books have its 'american psycho' and 'twilight'
Comics has its 'punisher' and 'the walking dead'
Tv has its...

The list goes on and on and on.
We're predators, we LIKE violence, it's part of our dna.

Which is a tiny fraction of the top 100
Which make significantly less than a superhero movie
Which are significantly less famous than Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, though books work a bit differently here. Also, why Twilight? Pretty certain that's not very violent.
Comics died as an industry when they decided kids weren't worth catering to. Not a happy comparison at all.

And your pseudo-science does not amuse me. And why does it being something we like justify its domination of the industry above all other things we like? I'm pretty certain I like jokes and beautiful women more than I like harming things, but games are comparatively lacking in such features. There are all kinds of likes that games and entertainment in general could appeal to, and violence is quite obviously towards the bottom.

I don't think you quite understood Twilight if you don't think of it as violent. I might be wrong, since I have never seen the movies, but all the guys I have talked to who have been forced to see it by their girlfriends feels an incredible need to do something violent when they come out of there. So it's not very violent, but it causes violence.

OT: I think he's got a point. Although I don't have this whole need for violent games although I love playing Saints Row or GTA from time to time. When I play any Deus Ex game (sadly there's only two Deus Ex games) I always enjoy the stealth and non lethal paths to win the game. I kill as little as possible and every time I kill someone I can't get past it's just a quick shot in the head before I hide the body somewhere no-one will stumble over it. Now I like Deus Ex more than most other games because of the way violence is treated. Make it a small part of the game that you might not even need. Still the occasional violent game is fun, but that shouldn't make up the entire industry.

Okay, I'll have to agree with the whole ultra-violence thing in the sense that games ARE glorifying violence as of lately. Of all M rated games, 90% of them get that rating because of Blood, Gore and Violence. Like someone said, I don't mind when games use violence in a way that makes sense. For example, that guy is shooting at you. You got a gun too. So you gotta shoot back, preferably aiming at his head so he dies and stops being a threat. But when they games goes much further by giving you the choice to shoot the guy in the head, then running towards him, pull out your pocket knife and a gummy bear, decapitate him with those items, take a dump on his mouth and then set it on fire while playing soccer with it, then yeah. The violence needs to be toned down. See also: Mortal Kombat.

Is it just me or are more kids nowadays more into violent games? I remember when I was still 12 and eager to play Jak and Daxter. I'd cringe at the thought of playing a gory game and games like Devil May Cry would make me run to my room because it was rated M. Now kids are always playing M rated games, what with their lame taunts and pretending to be all badass and going after gory games with naked scenes and stuff. Yeah, violence is all around us and we cannot hide from it. but does that mean its fine to let it take over our lives? Our videogames? I mean, there's crap all around us, right? So does that mean we just gotta sit back, shrug and embrace the crappiness? No, of course not.

Also, every time I hear the name Warren Spector, I think of Mega 64. I know who he is because of them. I don't know what to make of that discovery. :l

Dryk:

Starke:
I'm also remembering the line from the original Deus Ex, when you get to the end of the first actual level, you're presented with a terrorist leader, who calls you out as a brainwashed psychopath who looks at killing people as a game.

When you get back to base the grunts treat you like a hero, and the grizzled veteran quartermaster tells you you're a horrible person and refuses to give you stuff.

It also causes Gunther and Anna to respect you, even if you didn't free Gunther, and causes Paul to be concerned about you (though you can start that route much earlier by asking for the sniper rifle). Finally it makes Manderly more uneasy about putting you in the field, IIRC.

Human Revolution had something like that early on, in the Milwaukee Junction sequence. But, in retrospect, I'm reminded of how, in Invisible War, no one really cared if you used lethal force or not.

I agree. I don't have a problem with violence in games in general, even extreme violence like Mortal Kombat, but the direction games are going in right now with violence is getting disturbing. Like the guy says, it's become very gruesome and being fetishised. It's no longer about theatre or even just getting past an obstacle, now it's about revelling in the suffering of enemies.

Games like MK or Assassin's Creed I don't mind because they make killing in to a spectacle, which is obviously supposed to be fantasy and not taken seriously. You're not supposed to be impressed by the fact you have killed someone, but how you've done it. Like in MK when you rip out someone's spine, or in AC when you expertly drop down off a roof on to your unaware target and sink a knife in to their neck. Those things aren't real, but they're fun to watch. But when you look at a game like Tomb Raider the death isn't like that at all. It's not impressive to watch. It's just focusing on screaming and pain. If that's what gamers really want then we have a big problem.

I'm reminded of a certain Penny Arcade video I watched today.

It's totally fine for one thing to exist that is bad, and other things to exist that you think are good. They don't have to be connected. You don't like absurd, immature violence, just stay away from it. No-one's making you buy that stuff.

But...but...but slitting my enemies' throats with their chipped teeth, and bathing in their blood while i rape their wives is fuuuuuuuuunnnn. Aw hamburgers...

Also, [insert Disney hates Jews joke here].

weirdguy:
interesting idea, mr spector

unfortunately I think we missed the point of his game

It amuses me to no end, that this was your 666th post.

given that you can easily break into the quartermaster's stash during the mission, it's not as if offending him makes it any harder on you anyway

I do love me some comic violence. Saints Row 3 or God Hand type where it's just so ludicrous that it's a macabre joke. The Witch Doctor's spray of FLAMING BATS that sets enemies on fire in Diablo III is awesome and completely morally neutral for me.

On the other hand, games like Call of Duty or the recent Splinter Cell or Tomb Raider than actually glamorize torture of people *that the game makes every effort to render as realistically as possible* (I think that's the key) is fairly repellent to me, and I think this is where he's coming from.

But as long as your audience is mostly emotionally stunted mouthbreathers it's still quite profitable, so I'm not really seeing an end to it, or that it 'has' to stop as far as profitability is concerned. And for a company like EA or Activision, profitability is the only concern.

"What a shame." oh! oh! better yet! "He never asked for this..."

As a mass murderer I am disappointed

I can see his point, but rather than feel disgust toward a game with ultra-violence and head explosions I just find them uninteresting and dull.
Usually a game with such mechanics is all about the spectable and they've sunk all of their budget into it so the other parts of the game are just boring and uninspired.

Granted there may be exceptions to the rule, though.

no ultra - violence in deus ex whatsoever...

due "popular demand":

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/7.378751-Deus-Ex-Designer-The-Ultra-Violence-Has-To-Stop#14820586

or just scroll down 4 posts.

Murder is the name of the game for Hitman; I hope he's just downplaying those who are just following the gore trend instead of those who either make a living off of it or has done exceptionally well at it.

rhizhim:

no violence in deus ex whatsoever...

To be fair, he didn't say there wasn't violence in Deus Ex. It was just meant to feel uncomfortable. Which is bull.
What part of a guy with blades in his arms pulling fancy moves is uncomfortable???

Everyone who talks about violence in videogames seems to forget that videogames are a medium (sort of what Tanis was saying). If violence can be made, it will be made into exploitative ultra violence. Videogames are a medium just like movies, books, etc, violence is going to happen in them as such. There is "tasteful" violence but of course that will depend on the person.

rhizhim:

no ultra - violence in deus ex whatsoever...

Caffeine_Bombed:

To be fair, he didn't say there wasn't violence in Deus Ex. It was just meant to feel uncomfortable. Which is bull.
What part of a guy with blades in his arms pulling fancy moves is uncomfortable???

But guys he's not part of the Human Revolution dev team, or at least the article doesn't say so. He says he left Eidos in 2004.

FelixG:
Yep disney has nothin to do with violence. nope.

oh wait.

And he failed horribly in making me uncomfortable with the violence in deus ex.

Come on that's merely by association, Disney didn't make make Marvel Zombies. But I agree that his comments on Disney lacks merit considering how much they've had to censor original works of literature (Sleeping Beauty, Hunchback of Notre Dame) in order to make them kid friendly and how often they've killed off children's mothers in their work.

Lovely Mixture:
Everyone who talks about violence in videogames seems to forget that videogames are a medium (sort of what Tanis was saying). If violence can be made, it will be made into exploitative ultra violence. Videogames are a medium just like movies, books, etc, violence is going to happen in them as such. There is "tasteful" violence but of course that will depend on the person.

rhizhim:

no ultra - violence in deus ex whatsoever...

Caffeine_Bombed:

To be fair, he didn't say there wasn't violence in Deus Ex. It was just meant to feel uncomfortable. Which is bull.
What part of a guy with blades in his arms pulling fancy moves is uncomfortable???

But guys he's not part of the Human Revolution dev team, or at least the article doesn't say so. He says he left Eidos in 2004.

okay let me revisit this:


better? no? how about this then.

Lovely Mixture:

FelixG:
Yep disney has nothin to do with violence. nope.

oh wait.

And he failed horribly in making me uncomfortable with the violence in deus ex.

Come on that's merely by association, Disney didn't make make Marvel Zombies. But I agree that his comments on Disney lacks merit considering how much they've had to censor original works of literature (Sleeping Beauty, Hunchback of Notre Dame) in order to make them kid friendly and how often they've killed off children's mothers in their work.

Actually if I recall correctly (And there is a fair chance I am mistaken) that scene is from the more recent Deadpool Corps which was created nearly a year after Disney bought Marvel. So if my memory is serving me well that scene was created under the disney flag.

I can't think of a single game I own that has any acts of violence which aren't within the context of the experience. It wouldn't be much of a video game if violence was there just for the sake of violence.

I think this guy's over-reacting.

I don't mind violence (after all, reality is so much bleaker where I work), but I love non violent games like Journey, Braid, Machinarium, Portal, Chime and Audiosurf...

Saulkar:
As long as violence is given context I do not mind it. When it is simply added for the sake of being there or even for the purpose of glorification, then that is where I simply turn my back to it and do not give it the time of day.

You, my friend have hit the point perfectly I couldn't agree more.

It's interesting that the violence in Deus Ex was meant to feel uncomfortable, because I definitely tried to avoid killing enemies in that game more than I usually do. It's a combination of humanization and alternate options, I think.

FelixG:

Actually if I recall correctly (And there is a fair chance I am mistaken) that scene is from the more recent Deadpool Corps which was created nearly a year after Disney bought Marvel. So if my memory is serving me well that scene was created under the disney flag.

Yeah it's from Marvel Zombies 4 (which finished 3 months before the Disney acquisition according to wikipedia). But your point on Deadpool Corps and other recent comics still stands.

Warren says: "I'm just glad I work for a company like Disney, where not only is that not something that's encouraged, you can't even do it, and I'm fine with it." If Disney censored Marvel (which they explicitly said they would not do), you can imagine the outcry. So they definitely CAN do it as long as your work isn't already kid friendly I presume.

rhizhim:

okay let me revisit this:


better? no? how about this then.

Yeah, I can get behind this.

I'd say it's all about balance really, I'm no fan of the hordes of "Modern warfare" shooters, or Postal-esque shooters or Manhunt or whathaveyou. But at the same time I enjoy Assassin's Creed which has some positively cringe inducing counters and fatalities, but offers you a wide variety of things to do besides it (like the exploration aspect).

And then there's games where the violence is so over the top that you can't even take it seriously, like Mortal Kombat or Space Marine (where the ultraviolence isn't even directed at humans).

And while I fully agree we need more amazing games like Portal where violence is a minimal to non-existent factor of the game, I wouldn't want to take away the choice for people that do enjoy extreme visceral violence in their games as long as it doesn't push the games that I enjoy out of the way.

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