Have Video Games Gotten More Violent?

This article on GamesRadar has me wondering if violence in video games has gotten more intense – or is it just more vivid as a result of technology making blood brighter and guts more realistic.

The question matters to me because I just got done playing Fallout 3, a particularly gore-splattered entry in 2008’s blood-saturated lineup of blockbusters. I found the violence upsetting and at times gratuitous (the gore bags the super mutants keep? *puke*), but the game was one my picks for Kotaku’s Game of the Year award.


Along with Gears of War 2 and Grand Theft Auto IV, Fallout 3 was a finalist for the 2008 GOTY. Compare these nominations to the titles on major consoles last year and a disturbing trend seems to be forming: the games we highlight are getting more violent.

Ultimately, this year's GOTY went to Grand Theft Auto IV – a game I didn’t nominate because I didn’t like the violence (among other things).


The GR article asserts that games have always been violent and that it's a natural byproduct of the medium, so maybe there's nothing wrong with me for not batting an eyelash when a torso goes flying off in one direction while the head and legs fly off in another in Fallout 3. But what does my reaction to violence in video games say about me as a gamer? Am I a hypocrite because I'm cool with dismemberment in Fallout 3, but not violence against women in GTA IV? Has violence become an integral component to video games that I weigh the same as graphics, art and sound when decided what makes a game good?


More importantly, what does our GOTY lineup say about us as gamers? Have we come to expect games to have bucketfuls of blood and at least three detachable body parts per enemy? Or are we just reacting to our changing cultural environment the way the GR article asserts?

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