Society tends to oppose violence and sex in games. So, why does violence sell so well while sex is almost absent? Anton Wegenast takes a look
With the added media attention to violence in video games, and some taking a more critical look at content, video games are under the microscope again. The hot issue right now is violence in video games. Historically though, Western culture is far more concerned and offended by sexual content than violence.
The highest selling video games of the day are also some of the most violent. The Call of Duty franchise breaks sales and media launch records almost annually. The latest game, Black Ops II, was released without any undue scrutiny.
The most popular games sales-wise are almost always FPS titles that feature nonstop gunplay and various levels of gore. Strategy games like XCOM: Enemy Unknown aren’t without their fair share of explosions and multicolored blood. The market is also very familiar with action titles such as Sleeping Dogs and the God of War series. Many anticipated releases such as The Last of Us and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance are incredibly violent.
Violence in video games is a hot button issue right now, and it’s one that tends to come and go. Experience shows us people are not surprised, or necessarily against the level of violence in games. Sexual content in video games tends to garner way more attention, making the news much more consistently.
When Crystal Dynamics unveiled gameplay footage of their upcoming Tomb Raider game, the developer stepped on some toes. The trailer featured a man making aggressive sexual advances at Lara, and triggered an uproar about rape being featured in the game. No mention was made about the graphic depiction of torture or other violence in the same trailer.
Valve pulled the controversial erotica game Seduce Me from its Greenlight service despite community voting having already begun. Officially the game was pulled for violating the Greenlight terms. The game designer felt it was Valve not wanting to engage with the sexual content issue.
Hitman: Absolution also struck some raw nerves with its Attack of the Saints trailer. The video contained copious violence, but also sexualized imagery of women in nun outfits, which were quickly shed to reveal bondage PVC clothing. Agent 47 violently dispatched his adversaries in his usual fashion, but the combination of sex and violence together offended many.
As the video game industry finds itself yet again being criticized for its levels of violence, it’s important to review what tends to raise eyebrows. As an entertainment industry, video games simply supply detected demands. If sexual content consistently brings negative attention, yet violence is viewed with ambivalence, who’s to blame? Are we not dictating the nature of video games with our buying habits, and our relative complacency with certain kinds of content? Are we as consumers not responsible for the apparent monster we’ve created?
Perhaps it is just that those who are offended are speaking, and those who are not, keep buying.