Mommy's Best Games, Inc. is an independent game developer founded in 2007. Our seventh game, currently in development, is Pig Eat Ball on which we started working in 2013. This is behind the scenes thoughts about game development and marketing.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fox News Articulation

I was quoted in not just one, but two articles today on Take cover!

Quotes from me were taken from a phone call with a journalist from their site, asking me about my thoughts on video games and violence. He was curious to talk after he read my post here about the idea of the entire industry taking a break from making violent video games for a few years. (I know I would have a tough time abstaining from making violent games, but creatively I think we'd all make some amazing stuff.)
Ahh.. a simpler time when violence was viewed sideways. (Source: Midway Games)

Obviously my phone call with him was much longer than just those few quotes in the articles. I figured I'd expand a bit on those thoughts.


Breadth of Possibilities in Games

The first article is about a new study from Ohio State University which says that if you play violent video games for 3 days, you show more aggressive tendencies afterwards. It sounds like there's plenty of questions remaining, such as 'how long do these tendencies last' and 'does the aggression level flatline'. Also note how the 'aggression' was measured in the study.

The Fox News article basically says that violent video games are top sellers, and this new study says they can make you more aggressive. I said:

“When you think about the whole spectrum of human emotion*, violence is just one little sliver on there. You can think of so many other things that we could explore in video games,” he told
“Video games can do all those things. It’s such a young art form.”
(*'Emotion', I meant to say 'expression')

I'd like to add that I think violent games are fine. But I also would like as many non-violent ones as well. Basically as much high-quality variety as we as a creative industry can muster is the goal. Violence in games can be a very satisfying stress relief. I feel like they can actually relieve aggression rather than encourage (but obviously that could just be me). Regardless, with so many creative people involved, I think video games can contribute positively overall to culture, and we as developers should strive to help enrich people's lives.

Violent Games, Sales, and Audience

The second article explores if video games are getting increasingly more violent. I think generally envelope-pushing will continue. The article doesn't present any in-depth analysis such as the number of shooting games as a percentage of all games released over the years (which would be a pretty big undertaking since it should probably measure all games on the web as well). It does bring up Bulletstorm which incorporated specific, original violence as part of it's gameplay.
ESRB ratings are very successful at keeping the most violent games out of children’s hands. But as in-game violence spreads, it becomes increasingly hard to separate the Sim Cities form the shooters.
Even the humorous PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, a fun fighter aimed squarely at younger kids, includes “crude humor” and “violence,” according to the ESRB. That’s because of the community itself, explained Nathan Fouts, founder of video game maker Mommy’s Best Games.
“I think that has to do with the number of people and the people that are playing video games,” he told “We’ve got a catch-22 right now: younger kids are playing.” And therefore, developers are writing games for those kids.
“That’s the kind of thing that’s fun and exciting when you’re a teenager,” Fouts said. He believes games like Portal 2, Flower and Journey signal a shift towards less violent games.
I don't think I explained my point very well, so I'll try again.
Violent video games sell well. If you look at the portion of all games sales, compared to violent game sales, then compare that to a similar fraction for books or movies, does violence sell proportionately better for video games than other mediums? I'd expect it does. And my suggestion is, violent video games sales are proportionately higher than other entertainment because the number game players are younger and more interested in exploring digital violence.
When you're younger, it's very interesting to think about violence. Growing up, I used to play 'war' all the time with my siblings with plastic guns, running around outside. I also loved to play video games of all kinds including Super Mario Bros 3, but also Mortal Kombat. I still play a variety of games (enjoying El Shaddai, City Tuesday, Black Knight Sword, and Qrth-Phyl right now).

I'm guessing people over 50 contribute proportionately to more book, music, and movie sales than they do video games sales. As the variety of games commercially available on a large public scale broadens, and games are played among more diverse ages of people, I think the number of violent games that dominate sales charts will continue towards violent/non-violent distributions similar to books and movies.

Games and Children

Scene from POSTAL 2  (source Running With Scissors). It's true, I worked on this game!
And lastly, some full disclosure: I worked on the notorious POSTAL 2. I still like the game a lot and am proud of it, mainly because the player has free choice. The player can progress in the game even if you don't kill people, as opposed to most FPS. Unprovoked player violence has strong repercussions. If you start acting violent in the game, the innocent NPCs react (as do the police) and cause the game to get harder for you. There are no points scored as you kill things, no direct rewards. I'm hope it goes without saying, but I don't think children should play this or anything like it!

From what I can see the ESRB ratings board is very useful for parents to understand what is in the game. As a parent, you need a baseline as to what the game could contain so as to help gauge whether or not kids should be playing it. But nothing beats sitting with your kids for a few minutes to watch them play the game itself. Parents--ask them about the game too, ask them what they did in it, what they liked, and why. Do it on a regular basis too, keeping up with these things will help you understand what they're experiencing.

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