Ofcourse ninazerg was being humorous but it brings up the topic which is popularly titled 'Violence in Video Games'. While this topic has been discussed a lot over the years, it is still there bubbling away. Its something that I have found quite hard to decide on but here is my view and how it applies to Star Tale. (by the way this is a bonus blog. The proper Star Tale blog promised for the 12th day of the month will come later).
Ill preface by saying I have spent a lot of time designing non 'violent' games (and other media). For example, one of the tilesets Ive made was for a non violent game, and I made sprites for it and a few levels too etc. I believe it is important to have non violent games and there are a large number of excellent games out there with no fighting in them.
So why does Star Tale have fighting in it then? Well theres a couple of arguments that I think are ok.
One is that sometimes you have to fight for something in the real world. You cant always peacefully negotiate your way out of a situation (particularly if that situation were to be a Druj invasion force barrelling down on your home planet and eating your face!). But seriously while I do think 'peaceful' dialogues are the best solution to most real world problems, I dont think that the human race has reached a point yet where we can rely on them fully. In other words, I think as it stands today, humans do sometimes have to be violent in order to achieve the best outcome. I believe we do have to stand up against oppression and sometimes that will require a fight. It doesnt necessarily have to be all out war, it could be just a fist fight, or it could be destroying a statue with symbolic importance. These are both examples of violent acts but by doing them, it could lead to the most positive result. Exhaust non violent options first, but be prepared to act more aggressively if needed.
Secondly, there is a case to be made that by fighting in an imaginary fantasy world, you maybe are allowing your competitive spirit and 'natural' aggression to exercise, leading to a more healthy real life. This could be similar to playing competitive sports. The concept being you leave the aggression on the pitch, and this allows you to be friendly with your enemy afterwards as you have battled by playing with round or egg shaped balls together and have found respect for each other. The advantage being you both get to leave this battlefield without any missing limbs. Again though, being serious we humans are intelligent enough to separate fantasy violence with real violence in my opinion. Some people even argue that the more passive our real lives become, the more violent the fantasy becomes to compensate.
Fantasy fighting in a video game can be fun. Smacking a goblin with a mace or headbutting Dr Robotnik while spinning can be fun. Video games are able to do shooting and fighting simulators very well. Does it desensitise us to violence is a hard question to answer. If you are going to play video games you should certainly include playing non violent games within that though in my opinion. Mostly because there are some really great non violent games out there so why not enjoy the variety if nothing else.
However, I do think it is very important to occasionally try and step back from your own culture and critically examine it. One of the ways is by looking at the art it produces. It is good to think about why so many games and films etc have gratuitous gore in them for example. And on perhaps the other end of the spectrum, why is it still quite taboo in certain ways to have love making scenes.
Surely a society that is really healthy would be one where after work you join in a giant feast with all your neighbours or something like that! Yeah thats a point, who is going to make me a game where I can just go and have a massive banquet in cyberspace with friends. Although surely that would devolve into a food fight eventually (oh dear it turned violent again).
This reminds me of a commenter on the website rockpapershotgun (ooh bit of a violent domain name that). He had got to the point where he was so bored of games where fighting was the only means of interaction with the world that he spawned a meme when he said "Why cant we just talk to the animals". I was so onboard with his thought process and while I may not have been at the same level of dispair that he had reached, I could relate and understood that I might eventually get to that point one day if I played a too limited range of games. The story stands out to me because unfortunately he was hounded mercilessly by other commenters, and he left. Essentially they violently attacked him verbally for his pacifist game mechanic suggestion, a very interesting set of events.
Another little argument that comes up is that conflict makes for good drama. A story is uninteresting if everything comes easily to the hero etc. So ofcourse a video game protagonist has to have a struggle, and the only way for this to manifest is by murdering hordes of mooks with a machinegun. Obviously. (dont worry Im just being silly, I do understand the argument).
The whole topic of violence in video games was particularly loud a few years ago. I think it certainly lead to more developers making non violent games and to more journalists writing about them when they got released etc. So it was a kind of like a market correction that needed to happen. Personally I dont think we need to go over this topic again really. The reason I wanted to write this is because it is something that I personally found difficult. Maybe the above reasons are just me trying to justify making some games that have fighting in them. However, like I mentioned earlier, I also participate in making non violent works too, so atleast I have some balance. The Star Tale world is meant to be a large enough space that it can accommodate many genres etc. So Star Tale isnt inherently violent, but parts of it include fighting.
But maybe Im just conditioned to like this sort of game design, and Im blindly recreating whats gone before me. Or maybe Im deliberately or subconsciously following trends in order to be somewhat familiar to the audience in an attempt to siphon interest. I like to think instead though that I am building on the past, creating something better, and being as careful, self analytical and self critical as possible without completely stopping and not getting anything done at all.
The other reason I wanted to write this is because ninazerg was the only person who replied to my last blog and while the comment was only a joke, it beautifully alluded to this (perhaps a bit boring these days for people who read video game news a lot but) still important discussion. And to be fair it is still current, I read an article just a few days ago about excessive violence in tv shows in a popular magazine.