Video games are an immensely popular form of entertainment, with millions of loyal players worldwide in varying degrees of participation. If a cultural phenomenon, such as Hannah Montana or a summer blockbuster, proves to be a formidable force in the marketing world, then it must spawn a video game tie-in release. Conversely, developers recognize that these titles are a force unto their selves, with highly visible games such as the Halo or Resident Evil series creating entirely separate populist followings.
This, by no accident in a parallel to similar vehicles such as the internet, causes the controversial potential for a viewpoint or action to be broadcast to many, many people. When the subject of a game is violence, then, considering its resulting audience, it raises many intriguing ethical and social questions.
While the merits and effect of violence in video gaming can be endlessly debated, what absolutely cannot be denied is the presence of violent selections on the market. The following is a minimal list, just to represent a sampling; each from a different console, and each displaying a slightly differing avenue of violence.
Double Dragon series (Nintendo Entertainment System)
With its second installation arguably being the superior version, the Double Dragon storyline centers around the Lee brothers: Too hard-as-nails guys stuck in problems usually relating to the kidnapping of a girl, to which the solution is to simply beat up everyone in their way.
Everyone is not an exaggeration here as one of the Lee brothers, the player must beat every single encountered character to a pulp. Lady wandering the street? Go ahead and punch her in the gut before kneeing her to death, then throw her to the curb. The brutally rough treatment of all enemies you encounter, and this singular, mindless method of completing the journey earns a spot on this list, proving to be an early example of how a game based on hardly anything but violence alone could be successful.
Mortal Kombat (Sega Genesis)
Although the Super Nintendo version initially did away with much of the blood and gore, this is the one title that can be remembered for raising video game violence to the headlines and national conversations, ultimately resulting in a rating system for cartridges. In the fighting tournament of Mortal Kombat, the most lurid showing is how each character possesses a different Fatality move to finish the bout. These Fatalities including tearing the opposing character’s
head off, ripping their heart out of their chest, etc., complete with buckets of blood strewn across the arena.
Doom (Super Nintendo)
The home computer version took the world by storm, but once its carnage was released on popular consoles, its legacy was truly solidified. Playing as a well-armed Marine dispensed to a Hellish world of demons and monster, your explosive weaponry was capable of blowing enemies to pieces, spreading guts and body fluids around the area. But, since it was not exactly humans you were shooting constantly, this was deemed slightly more acceptable. This idea would soon take hold in other venues, including the next on the list.
Resident Evil series (Sony Playstation)
There certainly exists a cult-like following for any zombie-related product that comes to full fruition. The Resident Evil series was, and still is, no exception. Playing as different characters, the first game in the popular franchise focused on the undead minions loitering in an expansive mansion, requiring the player to utilize both gun-wielding and puzzle-solving skills. The dark, brooding atmosphere only served to accompany the rampant violence all the more effectively.
Grand Theft Auto (XBox)
Not since the advent of Mortal Kombat had a game so spectacularly captured our collective conscience and renewed the discourse on video game violence! We may never see again such a hallmark hot-button-issue release. With a seedy storyline that seemingly advocates a horrifically criminal lifestyle, the availability of both vehicular and firearm weaponry, and the freedom to accost perfectly innocent bystanders in merciless fashion, GTA has firm stakes in any video-violence discussion.
With each year, more and more violent games are released, and more and more fans get to satiate their bloodlust. Honorable mentions would include the plethora of war titles available, the presence of bloody professional wrestling simulations, the continued glut of the beat-em-up genre, and others. The existence of violent video games can no longer be in contention; unlike their effects, which is an issue still brewing. Whatever the case may be, if sex sells in advertising, then violence sells in gaming.