Yesterday Kotaku ran a graphic screenshot from the upcoming Aliens Vs. Predator game. Past the old arguments about whether gaming violence is imitated emerged a conversation about aesthetics, taste and limits. All sides made strong points. One developer e-mailed me.
This developer is not working on Aliens Vs. Predator but asked to stay anonymous as it is not part of their job description to comment to Kotaku about upcoming games. I run this comment not because I agree with some or all of it but because I hope it furthers a conversation about violence in games in terms of aesthetics, an aspect of the gaming violence topic that is almost never explored. I''ve also contacted Sega and asked if developers at AvP studio Rebellion would be interested in offering their take on the game's violence.
The following is the note the developer sent me, within a couple of hours of the post of the decapitation screenshot:
As a video game developer, I can see how this gruesome piece of animation/modeling made it into the game. What baffles me is why there is a such a lack of integrity from the people who over saw this piece. It's very easy for something to get prototyped in a video game and ultimately left hidden within the bowels of data and code that is the final product. But this was a piece of animation that clearly had multiple passes and was signed off by more than one person. How did some of the developers let a group of people's blood lust put what looked like a great product into the realm of intolerable ultra violence?
I understand how the game developers wanted to provide an authentic experience by including all iconic actions that were dictated by director and camera. But the green lighting of this given piece takes all story telling, world development, characterization and cinematography of the original source material and gives it a big middle finger. Alien was an amazing horror flick that used great atmosphere and visuals to invoke viewers own interpretation of violence. Save for a few key scenes, copious amounts of blood was not this movie's prerogative. Aliens followed suit and so did Predator. Granted this might be due to the movies rating board at the time, but the directors got their point across in more tactful ways and together they all created a great mythos.
When I look at this screen shot, all I can think about is the lack of respect for great story telling that didn't include ultra violent visuals. Stepping over that border takes away from what could be great game play mechanics and ultimately a fun game. The focus will no longer be on the game as a whole, but if the developers can justify their visuals. I guess this is just another sign that video game developers need some more time to mature if this is the type of stuff that makes it into video games these days.