There’s been a lot of discussion about the amount of violence on display at E3 this year. From God of War: Ascension to Call of Duty: Black Ops II, to Tomb Raider, and Assassin’s Creed III, violence seems to be one of the most pervasive themes at E3 this year. Even the usually-tame Nintendo jumped in on the gore-fest with the trailer for their zombie shooter ZombiU (yes, that’s an awful name). In fact, Nintendo’s trailer was so graphically violent that I couldn’t even find a single screenshot suitable for including here illustrate my point . If you’ve ever watched AMC’s zombie-drama The Walking Dead you won’t really mind the ZombiU trailer, but most people will probably find it quite disturbing. And this is Nintendo. They made Mario, people. Mario.
Everyone has said it. I’ll say it, too. There sure was a lot of violence at E3 this year. But why are people shocked? Is this new? No, it isn’t. Violence has been used as entertainment for centuries. The Romans had the Colosseum. We have Call of Duty.
I think a lot of the reason people are starting to notice the violence at E3 is because so many of the genres are starting to look alike. Tomb Railer has suddenly adopted Splinter Cell game mechanics. Splinter Cell hasn’t changed game mechanics. The excellent-looking Watch Dogs is also using a very similar combat mechanic. Lines are being blurred. Suddenly, a lot of popular and (formerly-)unique franchises and many more new and (seemingly-)unique games are all becoming unoriginal. Games like Gears of War, Dead Space 3, and Dead Island, are designed to be graphic, gory, and violent. That’s really their only selling point for many people. The problem is that they all function basically the same. Now, I realize they’re first-person shooters, and there’s not a lot you can do to set apart a game in that genre, but that’s kind of my point.
We’ve achieved gaming singularity. Everything is the same. Everything is a first-person or third-person action/shooter that’s rated M for violence, blood and gore, and strong language. Listen to me: if even Nintendo is finally jumping on this bandwagon, you know it’s completely saturated the market. Ninety percent of what was revealed over the past three days fits the above description. Games that don’t fit that stereotype are not featured in keynote presentations. They are instead relegated to press releases and in-booth demos. They’re completely discounted even by the studios who make them, deemed unworthy of showing off at a major event.
Don’t get me wrong. I love games like Watch Dogs and The Last of Us. I fully intend to get Call of Duty: Black Ops II when it comes out, and probably Watch Dogs, too. (Unfortunately, I don’t have a PS3, so I won’t get to play The Last of Us, which looks amazing.) I like shooting stuff in games just as much as the next person. But can we please stop acting like it was some sort of shocking revelation that the vast majority of the games unveiled this week are violent shoot-’em-ups (or slash-’em-up in the case of God of War)? It’s not new. This is what we’ve been doing since the dawn of man. Violence has always been turned into entertainment. Just be glad that in 2012 we’re sophisticated enough to do it in a video game rather than real life.