A Video Game About The Anger We Can't Express

The creators of the video game Asura's Wrath think you might be holding back. They think that, if you're an adult, you might be bottling your rage.

They're making a violent video game to help you express your anger within, because they believe that's how violent video games can help us.

Their game, Asura's Wrath, will let the player control angry six-armed Asura, a man who fights mountain-sized demigods, a man who punches his enemies with all six arms until five become brittle and just one is left to smash his foe.

"We wanted to make a game based around the theme of anger," Hiroshi Matsuyama, one of the lead creators of the game, recently told me after a showcase for Asura's Wrath and other Capcom games in Miami. "It was a no-brainer to make it an action game."

I was puzzled. The makers of violent video games seldom state that the seed of their game is the emotion that often breeds violence. They usually cite their enthusiasm for science fiction worlds or military movies. They relish in the "cool"-ness of violent video game scenes. They anticipate gamer applause from how their shotguns shoot and limbs are lopped off.

Asura's Wrath certainly looks cool and fantastic and over-the-top, and if the makers said their origin point was playing God of War or wanting to make an action game based on Hindu mythology, I would have believed them.

"We wanted to make a game where players could take out their stress. Asura is the avatar of the player's anger."

Its creators seem, well, as sedate as most game developers. Hiroshi Matsuyama, for example, is slender Japanese man with a close-cropped haircut. Neither he nor the game's director nor the Capcom producer flanking him during our interview in Miami looked any more likely to seethe with fury than he did.

They didn't look like angry people who had anger that needed to be expressed, I told them.

"You can't judge us," Matsuyama cackled, wagging a finger at me.

And then he was serious, casting his game, most unusually, as catharsis. "I think what happens is that when you're a child you don't really have control of your emotions and you just let all the emotions out as you encounter them," he said. "But as you become an adult, you make a concerted effort to rein yourself in and control yourself, so you're not always getting angry. Some people do, but for the most part you don't get pissed off at people. The plan with Asura's wrath was that we wanted to make a game where players could take out their stress. Asura is the avatar of the player's anger."

It's so simple and so obvious: The lead character of a violent video game is the vessel through which the player expresses his anger. That conforms to many theories about why people play video games, both pro and con. It conforms to the fears of those who revile violent games, of those who believe damaged people are further damaged by cultivating their inner violence with the virtual violence games allow them to express.

Do we really lose our ability to express our pain and anger once we leave our youth? When I play Asura's Wrath, which is set for release on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 next year, I'll laugh at it, I may enjoy it, I may rejoice in how absurd it is, but I'll also wonder if it's helping me get something out that I didn't realize I was keeping inside.