In Part 1, I discussed the cultural and messaging problems involved with portraying the glorification of violence. In this part, I’ll be discussing the mechanical ruleset issues that tend to arise as a result of working with violent themes and settings.
I do not advocate “starting with theme” – you should certainly not start a game design out by saying something like “Three heroic warriors travel into the Grundendo Forest to find the Enchanted Obelisk and destroy the evil villain Sorcerer Johns.” This is not a game design concept, and I think most designers understand that. You’re not only failing to communicate any mechanical, rule-based idea, but you’re also restricting your ability to develop rules by the metaphor. Essentially, it’s working backwards: theme is the metaphor we apply to our rules to help communicate them. Starting a game design with a theme is like starting a novel with painting the cover artwork.
With that said, it’s useful to at least use small, loose bits of theme, especially during a game’s earliest design phases. If you’re like most designers, you probably start with a “genre” of some kind or a specific game – perhaps something like, “it’s like Advance Wars, but _____”, or it’s a “Rogue-like, but _____”. With that as your “base”, you work out from there. If you’re a good designer, you probably do a lot of problem solving, which involves a lot of dramatic changes to those systems, but you still have that original genre or game as a base. Continue reading →
I am very happy that we seem to be having a bit of a cultural awakening when it comes to the portrayal of women in video games. In general, the degree to which the “Bikini Warrior” character design is met with disgust is rising, and it will continue to rise in the coming years.
I think while we continue to work on that, another frontier is the problem of violence glorification, something which plagues all of our media, but perhaps video games and movies worst of all.
This article is not about game design, and in fact, I will be using several examples from outside of games because I think these examples highlight the issue best, and the problem is culture-wide and not specific to interactive entertainment. This article does, however, address a common problem in the themes and settings of games and other media and how it affects the wider culture. In Part 2, I will address a separate problem with violence in games and how it negatively impacts game design. Continue reading →