“Surely it couldn’t hurt to offer non-violent forms of player expression?”
Alan Wen thinks more games could do with offering harmless fun instead of violence
How many of our favourite games aren’t violent, in some form or another? The shoot-’em-up remains one of the most dominant genres, with PUBG currently riding the top of Steam’s chart (and with more than double the players of the game in second place). Even gentler fare like Stardew Valley or Minecraft can’t overcome our nature to kill something every once in a while.
I’m not just talking about the gory stuff, because family-friendly Nintendo’s hardly immune, whether you’re stomping on goombas as Mario or smacking people around in Arms. I’m also not saying violence isn’t fun – it is, otherwise devs wouldn’t keep using it in their games. For one thing, it makes for great instant feedback. I personally find the pop of a headshot or watching a tough-as-nails boss exploding into a shower of pixels bloody satisfying.
You could try to be like the YouTuber Goldvision, who attempted a pacifist playthrough of GTA Online. While it’s a noble concept (even if he was mostly doing it for laughs) it also feels like undermining the chaotic destructive nature at the game’s very core. Why remove violence if it’s only going to leave a fun vacuum?
A better way might be to simply re-contextualise those familiar mechanics into something more innocent. I’m reminded of that time in Uncharted 2 when Nate wakes up in a Nepalese village and those buttons you’ve been pressing for the past few hours to kill people are suddenly used to greet the locals, or how one scene in the DLC of The Last Of Us turns its gunplay into a super soaker battle. Obviously, these are isolated examples, and act more like counterpoints to the rest of those games’ violence.
This is why I’m particularly tickled by Aussie devs House House’s upcoming game where you play as a goose set on being as much of a nuisance as possible. It’s wonderful how it basically takes its gameplay cues from Metal Gear Solid, but instead of breaking into a military base, knocking out guards, and trying to prevent nuclear armageddon, you’re an oversized bird sneaking into a village garden and playing a lot of pranks on a poor groundskeeper.
Relax, I’m not about to advocate a boycott while flying a peace banner – I’ll still be blasting aliens in Destiny 2 and having a whale of a time. But when so many games give us death and destruction as default, it’d just be a nice break if more developers could create fun gameplay that offers non-violent forms of player expression. Surely it couldn’t hurt.
“House house’s goose game basically takes its gameplay cues from metal gear solid”