The videogame violence debate is old but not over, because it’s not just worried parents and politicians anymore. Recently, Warren Spector–revered designer of System Shock, Deus Ex, Epic Mickey, among others—told G.I.biz:
We have to stop loving it. I just don’t believe in the effects argument at all, but I do believe that we are fetishizing violence, and now in some cases actually combining it with an adolescent approach to sexuality. I just think it’s in bad taste. Ultimately I think it will cause us trouble.
You know, Deus Ex had its moments of violence, but they were designed – whether they succeeded or not I can’t say – but they were designed to make you uncomfortable, and I don’t see that happening now.
So the difference now is that the polemics are coming from a renowned designer in the industry, and it sounds like what Austrian autuer Michael Haneke has been telling the film industry since the 80s, like here in this 2003 interview with Kinoeye:
I think that any contemporary art practice is pornographic if it attempts to bandage the wound, so to speak, which is to say our social and psychological wound. Pornography, it seems to me, is no different from war films or propaganda films in that it tries to make the visceral, horrific, or transgressive elements of life consumable. Propaganda is far more pornographic than a home video of two people fucking.
The violence in Haneke’s Funny Games—both the European release and its 2008, shot-for-shot U.S. remake–is more agonizing than uncomfortable, but no more than a few drops of blood appear ever on the screen at one time. Deus Ex may not be as professorial, but given videogames’ bigger, hungrier audiences, the time might be right for game designers like Spector to take violence on with a game as didactic and disturbing as Funny Games. Indeed, it’s no accident that the film’s total emotion and pychological impact is earned through the character’s playing games.