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Dishonored dev says games can help curb violence

Violent games have reclaimed their status as a global scapegoat for societal ills, and gamers and game makers are nigh-unilaterally trying to shut down the conversation. Dishonored developer Joe Houston thinks games are probably not part of the problem, but he wrote in a Rock, Paper, Shotgun guest editorial that they can and should be a bigger part of the solution.

"I argue that linear games that have a lack of personal ownership in game violence actually do so at the disadvantage of society," Houston wrote. "I don’t believe that game violence causes real world violence, but I do believe that it does little to prevent it. And games with meaningful (and potentially distasteful) choice just might do better because they stand a chance of making the player think about what they’re doing on screen."

Houston (who has since left Arkane and founded his own studio) noted that Dishonored was one of few games to depict graphic violence which was not censored in Germany. While German Team Fortress 2 players explode into gears and springs instead of gibs, they can slash the throats of Dunwall's nobility just like anybody else.

"One could argue this is largely because the game can be played without killing anyone. This doesn’t change all the things you might do in the game, but simply by knowing that it allows non-violence you find that every violent act you choose is cast in a sobering light."

"In light of the recent gun violence in the U.S. and the resultant anti-game talk that has stemmed from it, it’s important as gamers not to simply retreat to the easy reaction, that games aren’t a part of the problem. While I think that might be true (after personal examination), I think it’s a pity to stop there. Too often we think about what we might lose as players and developers if forced to engage in that conversation, becoming blinded by the fear of censorship. As a result we miss out on more creative and effective ways to be a part of the solution."

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7 comments

  • alex-roy-bristol - January 16, 2013 8:59 a.m.

    Nice, I love these guys even more now! :D
  • jackthemenace - January 16, 2013 7:54 a.m.

    While I agree that there's an aspect of 'stress relief' in the escapism of video games, I don't know how much I'd agree with his statement. The kind-of people that are moral enough to stop- in game- and think "Hmm, is what [character]'s doing really right?" are the kind of people that are moral enough not to do that in real life; and the kind of people who ARE immoral enough to do stuff like that in real life are usually the kind of people who play CoD and kill their team-mates.
  • Manguy17 - January 17, 2013 9:36 a.m.

    but...I teamkill, am i going to become a phycho killer? I can see the headlines now "Crazed man uses stun grenades to immobilize a group of 7 before firing an rpg at the floor"
  • CaptainMorgan - January 16, 2013 1:26 a.m.

    A cleverly written and well thought out response to an irrational claim laid at the feet of gaming.
  • sandplasma - January 15, 2013 10:22 p.m.

    Millions of people play games and 1 or 2 go crazy. Don't do anything, continue as you were. F the NRA.
  • CUFCfan616 - January 16, 2013 4:52 a.m.

    It's that sort of thinking amongst gamers that has allowed games to be continued to be singled out as a scapegoat for violence in society. What has come forward over the past few days and weeks, and about damned time, is that the gaming industry needs to be more active in these issues beyond simply saying 'it's not our fault, it's the NRA', and thankfully it seems that the gaming industry is going to step forward and play its part. Will it stop people shooting up schools in the future? Most likely not, but Biden was right when he said that the public image of the industry from non-gamers is not very healthy. The snarky comments that most gamers hide behind (and let's face it, the majority of gamers are sarcastic people) do not help in any argument and just make it easier for gaming to be held as a scapegoat in the eyes of others

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