gore gaming (thoughts on the genre)

it's like christmas all over me!

This post was originally ranted out at the Escapist forums, in response to Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw’s post/article about Splatterhouse and potential gore gaming mechanics:

I think what’s interesting about gore gaming is – the concept of sadism.

If video games are this magical invention that frees you to “do anything you can think of,” then why are you perpetrating all this gore?
Make the game focus on this. If you ignore this aspect of the experience (by making the game about a stylish world travelling treasure hunter, for example) then you’re robbing the gore of it’s punch. You’re making a different genre of game that happens to have some gore in it. which strikes me as lame/irresponsible.

It often seems gore in most games is hidden behind a shiny veneer of heroism and world saving. so you don’t feel bad about it.
but this’s the key to how any goregame leaves you feeling about gameplay when you finally put the controller down.
I think context must be established, so it will trickle down to affecting how you feel about each attack you perpetrate against each enemy.

1) Have the enemies (victims?) notice all the violence you’re perpetrating against them: and react somehow.

running away in fear. crying over wounds. or going nuts themselves and also killing off enemies. It weirds me out that in all these recent games where you enter an area and have to kill off x number of baddies – the baddies never seem afraid. or even remotely aware of what they’re getting into. it’s like bad guys shooting guns at Superman. don’t they fucking know they have no chance? what the hell?
even in Splatterhouse2010, this bothered me. You’re basically killing wild animals that do nothing but froth and wait in turn for their chance to slowly attack you. If one of them didn’t fight, and just crawled into a corner and started crying – I would have thought more about the violence.

2) Have things you aren’t supposed to hurt.
Innocent bystanders you’re not supposed to touch, mixed in with the baddies (as in every light gun game ever?).
Or maybe offer rewards for not breaking all the furniture.
You could still destroy these things, but if it’s clear you aren’t supposed, it’ll feel more like a dramatic moment when you just lost it and killed everything.

3) Replace dry wooden crates with something fleshy.
In the ultimate gore game, you’d probably want animals (rats?) corpses, or innocent bystanders to stand in for crates. ie. those things that draw you to explore a room and briefly attack them for small powerups.
I think there’s nothing satisfying about breaking some barrels/crates/vases in games anymore. borrrrring. Maybe the repetition is addictive? I don’t know why

4) Might be interesting to play with your “control of the character”.
ie, after you kill the 11th baddie in a row, maybe your character is no longer interested in doing what you tell him. He vomits, or screams, or cries.
Or turns to face you, and personally chews your ass about what you’re doing.
I thought this relationship between you and the character was the most interesting thing about the Manhunt games – you’re character is walking this weird line between being forced to do things he wouldn’t normally – and trying to break free of control.

I just think there’s something to this idea of control that is a worthy spin on the usual video game “power fantasy” cliche.

5) call it “The Borrer”. heh. ok, no. … Call it : “Bored With Horror”

someone then asked if i’d seen examples of these ideas. and i ranted on:

– I dimly remember some click-adventure game from the Loom era where you could click to jump off a cliff (or into fire?), and the character would refuse. i thought it was hilarious, and kept trying.

– I’ve played several games where the creatures start running away, and you find them stuck in a corner. (still running, maybe a glitch). but. still weirdly enjoyable to waste them.

– early in Manhunt 2, after your first or second kill, your character bends over and vomits. I thought this was genius. And thought it very interesting how I thought he was a wimpy victim at first, but the whole storyline of the game is revealing what a twisted psycho he is. I never finished this title, but made it pretty far. And had definitely changed how I felt about the character. he turned into something gross that I was not proud to be playing, going into weird sick places I would not have chosen to enter. which is kinda damned interesting design.

really loved the first manhunt by the way. Think it’s a wildly underrated franchise. First game was all about (Spoiler warning?) being controlled by a sick rich person, who demands you perform the goriest kills you can – so he can record them on video. You do this for quite a while. But eventually you break free and the game becomes about tracking down the rich guy. the “controlling force” that forced “you” to kill. also, very interesting when you finally discover guns in the game – because the whole game changes from frustrating stealthy mechanics to boldly running around blasting everyone to kibble. So it changes from terror to thrill. thought that was a really fascinating and rewarding twist on core gameplay/experience.

– I keep thinking I should mention “chiller”. I remember begging my mom for quarters so I could sneak off and play this in an arcade tent, while at a carnival/fair. it was a light gun game that really disturbed me as a kid. because it was basically pure sadism. I only played it that one day, then never saw it again (until I discovered THE INTERNET!). very strange/important example of gore gaming.

I’d like to know more about who was running the (design) show at Exidy. Crossbow and Cheyenne were probably my favorite video games as a kid (at the SantaCruz beach boardwalk and Felton bowling alley, respectively). Maybe because their whole genre was forgotten by history? They were all about protecting virtual people. the characters just wander around like idiots, while you struggle to protect them from the hostile environment they’re in. I find this much preferable to controlling the characters (and thus being directly responsible for a clumsy death). You also could sometimes shoot zany triggers in the environment when you had time, like any good shooting gallery. I still love the idea of protecting characters rather than trying to control them. maybe it ties into social psychology of seeking to help and nurture? maybe it’s genius?

(… seems Larry Hutcherson was the programmer responsible for all these games I love. and/or Nick Ilyin? but Larry’s info has been deleted from wikipedia? wha? why?)

anywho. blah. I could rant on and on, but not sure I’d be making an interesting point. :\

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