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Itagaki marketing (n): a marketing practice based on theory that works on the assumption that sexual imagery is a complementary good to video games. Named after video game personality, Tomonobu Itagaki.

I was in a number of newsagencies the other day trying to track down the latest issue of Retrogamer magazine, an incredibly tasteful and well produced piece of print media, when I noticed a commonality between the placement of said video game media in each of the stores I entered.  In each store, the video games sections were all placed next to more uncouth publications.  You know, of the adult variety

This is an example of Itagaki Marketing.

Tomonobu Itagaki

Former head of Team Ninja division of Tecmo Tomonobu Itagaki-san pioneered the technique of ‘Itagaki-marketing’ with the release of the first game in the Dead or Alive videogame series in 1996 and its mixture of hardcore videogaming and sexual imagery.  But it wasn’t until the release of the spin-off, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball (DOAX) and the inclusion of the revolutionary jiggle physics that would define Team Ninja games like the Ninja Gaiden series into the future, that Itagaki-san and his team fully realised the potential of his new style of video game development and marketing.  DOAX was reported to have sold 73,000 copies in the US on the day of its release and went on to spawn two sequels.  This style of marketing is now in use by newsagents and electronic media publications globally.

What a legacy this man has.  Ultra violence mixed with blatant sexualisation of women and jiggle physics.  Only the makers of the Onechanbara series holds a candle to this man’s prowess is making assumptions about the typical male video gamer.

This is a man, who when interviewed by XBOX Nation on DOAX2 said:

“Let me tell you what entertainment is. Violence. Sex. Friendship. Death. Surprise. Betrayal. Dancing.”

  Bless you Itagaki-san. 

"The female body is built out of a very particular set of curves.” - Tomonobu Itagaki (Gamepro.com, January 23 2003)

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when I finally found myself at the end of Heavy Rain.  As the credits role, I hear a banging at the window.  Then another bang.  Then a series of bangs in a row.  Followed by the dripping of water on my head and a feeling of freezing cold water submerging my feet.  A storm, the most furious I’ve seen had found its way to Melbourne and somehow into my house right as the credits for the game rolled.

A fitting end for an amazing game.  Whoever says video games aren’t immersive are plain weird.

At least this is one storm the Origami killer won’t exploit.


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Anyone that played UFC Undisputed 2009 on the PS3 and XBOX 360 knows that, although it wasn’t perfect, it was the closest representation of MMA that any videogame has achieved thus far.  It also happened to be a damned fantastic game in its own right.  And chances are you’re still playing it .  I know I am.  Unlike Stubbsy I’m not usually one to buy into annualised sporting franchises – but UFC Undisputed will more than likely change that.  Which is why I’m so excited to see the trailer for UFC Undisputed 2010 debuting at the VGAs. To be honest it doesn’t show a whole lot – but all it really needs to do is fix some of the stilted animations and maybe some minor alterations to the Career mode to make it slightly more involved, and we have ourselves a perfect fighting simulation. Oh yeah, and as a lefty, how about showing us some southpaw lovin’ Yuke’s?

Check out the trailer for UFC Undisputed 2010 below, and tell us what you want for the next installment in what I personally hope is an evergreen, constantly evolving franchise for THQ.

UFC Undisputed 2010 reveal trailer, Yuke’s/THQ

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It’s no secret that both of us are in pure admiration of the Secret of Monkey Island.  And it seems that the remake does it justice (besides Old Gaulian’s apprehensiveness on the new art style…) 

But for all those new fans that we welcome to the fold of  Monkey Island admirers who are (in great numbers) being directed to our site searching for a way to get past the Piranha Poodles at the Governor’s mansion: this ones for you.  As almost 20 year veterans of the wonder that is the Secret of Monkey Island, we owe it to you.  So here’s the solution…

You’ll need these two items.  The piece of meat found in the kitchen of the Scumm Bar and the Yellow Flower found in the woods of Melee Island.  Combine the two items and throw them to the Piranha Poodles.  Voila!  Not Dead Just Sleeping.

Piranha Poodles: serving your Monkey Island needs since 2008.

Piranha Poodles: serving your Monkey Island needs since 2008.

So there you go folks, a community service from us here at piranhapoodles.wordpress.com.  Now for a shameless plug: visit again more more irreverant videogame banter and some of the funkdoobiest videogame discussions you’re likely to see this side of Monkey Island.

Enjoy the beginning of a 20 year legacy!

OG & ST

Got any thoughts on the special edition of the Lucasarts classic?  Want to know what the rubber chicken is for?  Have a particular dislike for Grog?  Tell us here, we’d like to hear from you on all things Monkey Island!

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Space Michael

Michael Jackson.  Yeah, I remember that guy.  But maybe not like most people remember him.  You see I remember him wearing a skin-tight silver bodysuit, I remember his memorable dancing repotoire and his fantastic singing voice.  I also remember him grabbing at his crotch and yelping in a high pitched “wooooh!” manner.  But I also remember him singing and dancing to defeat a singing cyborg in space.  Yep, he was some guy – I don’t care what the internet says. Wait, are we even talking about the SAME Michael Jackson?  Well yes in fact, we are.

 

Now this is a site about video games, so I’m not here to debate whether he was black or white, whether he did unsavoury things to his guests, whether he was asexual, whether he could or couldn’t sing anymore, even what percentage of his body was synthetic.  In the grand scheme of things none of that matters.  Michael Jackson has a legacy – and certainly one worth celebrating.  So while the world paints a sad picture of the “King of Pop” – a picture that indicates he had been circling the drain for some time, I’m here to remember part of that legacy, gamer to gamer. And what a damned good legacy it is….

 

Just before the turn of the millenium, while the world was following his every move, eager to get in an insult or cruel word in wherever possible – Michael Jackson cemented himself in the memory of gamers everywhere in his appearance in the cult Dreamcast-gone-PS2 classic, Space Channel 5.  And yes it was the real Michael Jackson.  And his performance was brilliant.  His voice, his dance moves, even that carefree attitude, they’re all classic MJ.  But if you thought he was good in the first game, he’s even better in its sequel, aptly named Space Channel 5 Part II, in which he reprises his role as Space Michael and features as a more central character. In a way, Space Channel 5 is the way we should all remember Jackson; someone whose life was consumed and shaped by music.  And I’m sure just the mere fact that he asked SEGA to appear in a videogame won him legions of geeky fans the world over.  I know it won me.

 

So Michael Jackson’s legacy will undoubtedly live on.  So lets not get dragged down by tabloid style crap or the semantics of the media, hell lets just celebrate the man’s life – as tumultuous as it was. Buy and listen to Thriller, and by all means do listen to the Jackson 5 .  But please, do yourself a favour and track down a copy of Tetsuya Mizuguchi-san’s musical masterpiece Space Channel 5 and its sequel and watch MJ’s digital character “Space Michael” work his magic on the screen in what is and always will be, his greatest performance of all time.  You can’t call yourself a MJ fan if you don’t.

 

Michael Jackson playing "Space Michael" in Space Channel 5

Michael Jackson entertains the UNIVERSE in Space Channel 5

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Only three years ago the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) was the centre of the known universe as far as games were concerned. Developers, publishers, media and fans flocked to the event where the next year of gaming would be served up on a platter adorned with beautiful women and an endless supply of caffeinated beverages. Then things changed, publishers and developers claimed that what was meant to be an industry show had grown too large and crowded to conduct their business, and as a result the organisers went for a more “intimate” show in 2007 and 2008. The result was frankly awful, with the crowds and the energy gone, publishers began moving away from the event, either holding their own conventions (such as Blizzard with their Blizzcon) or spreading the news out among the various other annual games conventions and conferences.

This year the organisers are claiming that E3 will be back to its glory days, albeit without some of the “wastage” of the past. And although admission will be strictly limited to industry professionals and media, there are great hopes and expectations that E3 may return to its rightful place as the “Paris Air Show” of the games industry.

Despite almost complete silence from all the three hardware giants, there is once again excitement about what might be announced. Big rumours surround Sony perhaps unveiling a new UMD-less iteration of its Playstation Portable platform and new motion controllers for both the 360 and PS3 in an effort to jump on the ‘waggle’ bandwagon. With the effects of the global financial crisis on the games industry still very much open for debate Sony need to bring it, Nintendo need to keep bringing it, and Microsoft, well mainly they need to bring it more to the east. And for this very reason, the Piranha Poodles are hoping it’s going to be a big one!

So, with this year’s E3 set to define where the industry is heading we vent our spleens about what we’d like to hear out of E3, and what our hopes are for the event into the future (and you’ll be surprised as to which of us wants Cosplay to form a part of it…)

What do we hope the future holds for E3?

Senortubbs

To me the whole “E3 Clean-up” has been a tragedy. I can see where they were going with it, perhaps it wasn’t the best environment for developers to make deals with publishers, and I am sure those booths were becoming expensive (although I can’t imagine there’s a labour shortage for booth babes in LA). But the smaller version left the fans behind. The fans seem to want a comicon type event where they can all go out, cosplay, and get their hands on some spanking new playable demos while hearing speeches from industry luminaries. That’s the void that the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) and Blizzcon have been able to exploit since E3 went all sensible.

Personally, I’d like to see E3 evolve into a spectacular week long festival of gaming. Hold it around about July through September so you can get all the announcements for the Christmas rush titles along with an exhibition show, a pro gaming comp and a serious awards ceremony all in one place. Kind of like how the film industry has its awards season to ensure that it puts a glamorous foot forward every year, the games industry should do something big for the culture and community that has built up around them. Something for the media to pick up and go, “this is where gaming is at this year”.

Perhaps most importantly I feel gaming needs a focus, something that gamers can put in their diaries and know that one day they’d one day love to buy their ticket and go get themselves a cold hard dose of awesome. And you just know that if the Entertainment Software Association doesn’t manage to achieve it with E3 that the Korean Government Agency devoted specifically to the games industry and gaming culture will beat them to it.

The E3 clean-up was as harsh as it was undiscriminating, this woman wasn't even being paid to dress like that.

The E3 clean-up was as harsh as it was undiscriminating, this woman wasn't even being paid to dress like that.

Old Gaulian

E3 has had a rough road – but at the end of the day I think it was its temporary 12 month hiatus that cemented its place on the gaming calender. And E3 2008 was a lesson to those of us watching as to why the old format was better.

At the end of the day, E3 should be the Oscars, while GDC should be the Tony awards. What I hope E3 continues to do is provide a spectacle. Three or Four days of keynote speeches, game reveals, hardware reveals – all that stuff that we keep our eyes out for all year around. At the moment, the Tokyo Game Show does all that, but its more a niche event for those of us living outside of Japan (although I do personally love that Japanese style – I’m not sure it does much for Stubbsy).

In the grand scheme of things, I think the industry needs that outlet, get critical reaction to things, reveal flashy trailers, and god forbid, make gaming COOL.

What are we hoping comes out from E3 2009?

ST

From Nintendo, the Wii Motion Plus device which enables the Wiimote to more accurately measure movement is already well known, along with some of the games that will take advantage of it. What I’d love to see is them solidify all that at E3 and hopefully expand on it a bit. We don’t know all the games in Wii Sports Resort yet, and perhaps now that swordfighting can be properly modelled this might be the time for a new Zelda. Other than that I strangely don’t care much, it’s been a while since anything from Nintendo has really blown me away.

Sony could be a very interesting one, Gran Turismo and God of War 3 are very much waiting for a major announcement, although the problem with Sony is that they are just as likely to hold announcements like that to the Tokyo Game Show even if they are coming out this year. Unfortunately I can’t really see them launching any new original games coming out from them. Although I do consider it quite possible that we might see some sort of a new service, either a big addition to Home as it matures into an actual product, or a solid digital distribution platform for music, movies and tv content on the platform.

Beyond that I’d be looking to the studio announcements (since I’ve basically given up on Microsoft throwing the PC anything useful). I’d love to see some sort of announcement around LA Noire or Alan Wake, and any further Rockband news, particularly the Beatles edition would be very welcome. Ubisoft Montreal with Thief 4 and Deus Ex 3 are also a group I’d want to hear a lot from. Not to mention 2K and their Bioshock prequel.

And that’s without really mentioning the big two, Activision and EA as the cashed up giants of the industry should be interesting to watch, although I can’t think of anything particularly interesting that has been floating around from them.

Insert joke about nerds and portals here... The cake is a lie!
Insert joke about nerds and portals here… The cake is a lie!


OG

I think given recent ‘teasers’ and rumours doing the internet rounds, I’m most anticipating some Kojima Productions news following the initial announcement on Monday 18 May. I don’t want to see the announcement of a entry in the Metal Gear series. I think it’s time for it to rest for a while, so we can all recover from the brilliance, and moreover, reflect on Metal Gear Solid 4. And I think we want Kojima-san to bring something new to the table. That being said, I certainly wouldn’t mind if it were an enhanced version of the game, as were released in the form of Substance and Subsistence for Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 respecively. I would love to see Policenauts, maybe for the DS or PSP, but I think I’m dreaming on that one.

From Nintendo, I want alot of things. but I have even more “I don’t wants” (no more Wii Fit, Wii Music, Wii Play, Motion Plus announcements please Nintendo). I want a new 2D sidescrolling Mario on the DS. Doesn’t even have to be playable, an overworld map would do, just something that indicates that something like Super Mario World is coming to the DS. I want Pikmin, a new Pikmin. In Pikmin 3, I want online co-op if its on the Wii, and a DS version (I think that the Pikmin franchise would be perfect for it) that plays something like Monster Hunter Freedom with the player lobby. Obviously from here it follows that a new Pikmin would have to be more ‘open’ than the previous two games. I am keeping my hopes up for a Wii Zelda (face it twilight princess was a gamecube game dressed up to fit the Wii), although I think it’s unlikely with Spirit Tracks for the DS already being announced. I think we’ll see Treasure’s Sin and Punishment 2 in playable form, but I’m hoping that a DS port of the first one is announced (its unlikely seeing as its available on Virtual Console, but one can dream right?) And here’s my really out there, on the top of my list want. An announcement that Earthbound/Mother is coming to the DS. A collection of previous games, a new one, whatever. I just want to play this series.

Microsoft have been eerily quiet so far leading up to E3. Which is either a great thing, because they’re going to blow us away, or not so good, because, well, they’ve had two years of blockbusters and they are losing steam. I think its the former. I hope we see some new IP from Rare, even just a gameplay trailer would be good. Second best there would be a new entry into the Conker series – but I’m not holding my breath there. I think there’ll be noise made, and a features list of Forza 3, how many cars, how many tracks, realistic physics improvements and all that. Won’t be playable, not even a trailer, but certainly some information will be revealed. And Alan Wake and Beyond Good and Evil being playable would be nice…

Sony, now here’s the company I think will deliver this E3. I think they have to. As has already been preempted, the PSP will have a big showing. I think they’ll unveil a new design for the PSP. However I think they’ll also make very clear their support for UMD and the legacy models. I hope one of the big announcements coming from the Sony side of things this year will be a portable version of Street Fighter IV. It’s a big call. Of course it would be a scaled back version…. I also hope we have a playable build of Gran Turismo Portable with a list of cars and tracks announced. Which brings me to the biggest announcement I think Sony will bring. They will announce a release date for Gran Turismo 5, and a list of tracks and cars. I hope they will have a playable build, albeit in its early post prologue stage. I am also hoping with my fingers, toes, ears and n!pples crossed that they announce some sort of connectivity between the PS3 and PSP version of Gran Turismo. In terms of other announcements, I hope they bring some more Sly Cooper to the table, preferably a PS3 entry; a new Twisted Metal for the PS3 and a playable build of God of War 3.

So there you go, Senor Tubbs wants to get dressed up, and Old Gaulian is sick of his Snake…..But what do you desperately want from E3 this year, or into the future? Mario and Duke Nukem: Commonwealth games? Booth babe tycoon? Tell us in our comments section.

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F.E.A.R. is one of those very rare games that not only have we both played, we both agree that it is nothing short of awesome.  F.E.A.R pops up hundreds of times in everyday conversation between us. It always seems to find its way in, whether we are talking about scariest moments, best AI, most memorable levels, most visceral, most engaging story, and downright most fun. There is nothing but love here for Monolith’s masterpiece. To be fair, we both love j-horror tropes and the mix of a heavy atmosphere and strong enemy AI is enough to keep us both completely oblivious to any flaws it may have. But this is not a review of F.E.A.R. as enjoyable that would be to write.

In late November 2008 the news came through that F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin had been refused classification here in Australia. We’ve watched it through it’s struggles so far, the loss of naming rights, the competition to give it a new name, the humour of calling it Second Encounter Assault Recon (S.E.A.R) and then it’s final repatriation with the original title. As you can see, pretty much the full gamut of emotions there, and now just to finish it off the sheer bloody disappointment of seeing it get banned (edit: we should note that the publisher successfully overturned this decision on appeal).

The inevitable question, as always in these situations is why? What is it about Project Origin that made it that much worse than the original, or other rather hardcore games that have come out in only the last few months, such as Gears of War 2 or Dead Space. The main thought we have is that it must be related to the new blood and gibs system that they have put in place must have pushed it beyond the MA15+ ratings threshold of “strong impact violence”. But where is that line drawn? – and what factor pushed is over the threshold from Gears 2 territory, which was gratuitous (but admittedly stylised), to the type of violence that would corrupt our minds and turn us all into postal maniacs?

For those not familiar with the Australian ratings system, under the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 we have 4 ratings for games, G, PG, M and MA15+. Each are allowed to have violence (OG: every game post OLD Nintendo, S: <cough> Popcap <cough>), sex (OG: see Farenheit/Indigo Prophecy), language, themes, nudity and/or drug use up to a certain level. In the case of MA15+ they are all allowed to be “strong” in impact and must generally be justified by context. Without trying to get too technical, or critical, the way that impact is determined is by using the following rules:

“Assessing the impact of material requires considering not only the treatment of individual classifiable elements but also their cumulative effect. It also requires considering the purpose and tone of a sequence.

Impact may be higher where a scene:

  • contains greater detail, including the use of close-ups and slow motion

  • uses accentuation techniques, such as lighting, perspective and resolution

  • uses special effects, such as lighting and sound, resolution, colour, size of image, characterisation and tone

  • is prolonged

  • is repeated frequently

  • is realistic, rather than stylised

  • encourages interactivity.

Interactivity includes the use of incentives and rewards, technical features and competitive intensity. As a general rule:

  • except in material restricted to adults, nudity and sexual activity must not be related to incentives or rewards

  • material that contains drug use and sexual violence related to incentives or rewards is Refused Classification.

Impact may be lessened where reference to a classifiable element is verbal rather than visual. For example, a verbal reference to sexual violence is generally of less impact than a visual depiction. Also, some visual impacts have less impact than others: for example, an incidental depiction may have less impact than a direct one.

The classification takes account of the context and impact of each of these elements, including their frequency and intensity, and their cumulative effect. It also takes account of the purpose and tone of a sequence, and how material is treated.”

This got us thinking, of the games that we had played, if we were using these rules, which would we say had the highest impact violence? The rules were 1, that we had to have played it hands on and 2, impact was going to be tested on today’s standards rather than taking into account what it was compared to other games in its year or era. Our logic for that was that the classification rules apply to films of which a number of 70’s and 80’s examples are still pretty high impact today. It seems only fair that games should be compared to that fairly consistent standard, that does mean of course that most of the games on our list would be fairly recent.

Stubbsy came through first with his usual PC heavy list of:

1.         Manhunt

2.         Phantasmagoria

3.         Condemned

4.         F.E.A.R.

5.         Gears of War

6.         Fallout 3

7.         Blitz II

8.         God of War

9.         Bioshock

10.       Undying

With an honourable mention of the original Jordan Mechner Prince of Persia series which spooked him as a child with the wet and meaty sounds of the slicer traps.

After a little more deliberation the console-oriented OldG settled on:

1.         Manhunt

2.         Condemned

3.         Condemned II

4.         Resident Evil 4

5.         Fallout 3

6.         Gears of War 2

7.         Silent Hill 2

8.         Dead Rising

9.         F.E.A.R.

10.       State of Emergency

With Killer 7 NARROWLY missing out.

And after a little more deliberation we settled on this (with relatively little disagreement), our top ten high impact violence games.

Number 1: Manhunt

S: This can’t be anything short of number one, and I am pretty much certain that if we’d played Manhunt 2 it would be right here too. Looking at the rules it is fairly clear why this one had a lot of troubles with the Classification Board, it ticks basically every box for raising impact, high frequency, relatively realistic, close-ups, the works. Strangely though I felt more comfortable playing this one than a number of others on this list, perhaps it is because it is only the violence really that is at such a high impact.

OG: I will admit straight out and say I loved this game. I accepted its flaws and saw it for what it was, an average stealth game with an interesting premise set in a gritty and violent world. The game certainly in its entirety was nothing short of an ‘adult’ videogame. But there were certainly times where I felt uneasy with the gratuity of the violence (I’m a little more human than Stubbsy) and felt that maybe it had gone a little too far. It certainly does have marks next to it to raise alarm bells in censors’ minds; and the negative publicity leading up to its release probably didn’t help. But a well deserved top spot for probably the most gratuitously violent homicidal video game ever to make it to Australian shores (albeit for a shot time).

Number 2: Condemned 1 and 2

S: I haven’t really played this much, but you only need to see a bit of it, or even some of the ads for it for that matter to see that it belongs quite high up.

OG: For me the impact of the Condemned series is the constant state of fear in which the game forces onto you. The gritty realism of the game also puts it high on the list – combined with violence on enemies that are human, and at the very least, human like. The moments where you are forced to pick up a blade from a paper guillotine to defend yourself against the ‘on speed’ homeless are amongst some of the most brutal I have ever experience. And like all of Monolith’s creations, when you do damage, you feel it.

Number 3: Gears of War 1 and 2

S: Once again, one with which I have only limited experience, this is a game about violence though, pure and simple.

OG: If violence could be beautiful, it would be these games. From its first announcement back before the XBOX360’s launch in 2006, its violence was touted. With each successive public demonstration, it intensified, until at E3 2006 we saw in game footage of the beauty that is the chainsaw. Behind the scenes and making of features on a DVD included in the collectors edition of the game showed Epic Games’ focus on violence as an integral part of the game experience – but also showed some of the hesitance of the games’ publisher, Microsoft Game Studios, toward the violence. But while the violence is indeed “intense” – it isn’t meant to be taken seriously. The thick necked artistic direction almost immediately lessons the impact. And while the violence is frequent and intense, and the first time you take to an enemy with the chainsaw is undeniably ‘cool’, watching the blood cover the screen – at no point is it gratuitous or feels out of place.

Number 4: Resident Evil 4

OG: The Resident Evil series’ proverbial gun has always been set to stun. But it is a series that has never really registered on the classification board’s radar. And while Resident Evil 4 upped the ante in many ways, the story remained the same. The interesting thing about this case is that the violence depicted is almost exclusively inflicted on humans – cultists, but humans nonetheless. And decapitation by chainsaw…ouch…

Number 5: Blitz 2: The League

S: This one is for the injury system. After making a tackle in certain situations you get a quick time event where you hammer a button to inflict on your opponent. That interactive element isn’t so bad, the high impact comes in how the game displays the injury using a C.S.I. style (or Three Kings style if you’d prefer) interior shot of the body to display the bruising or a breaking bone. Within the first five minutes of my first game I saw a sickening vertebrae shatter which put my hapless player out for the rest of the season, but even that failed to prepare me for the first time I saw the “ruptured scrotum” injury.

OG: I haven’t played this one – but ruptured scrotum says it all….in fact that should put it at the top of the list.

Number 6: Fallout 3

S: VATS, pure and simple. The very first time I opened it up and tried it out I managed to accidentally decapitate the Overseer, the sheer shock of that moment is still affecting the way I play the game.

OG: I agree with Stubbsy here. Without the VATS system, the violence really would be minimal – or at least low impact. But the VATs system, although highly violent, helps the game keep the bleak, dark humour side of the series that was prominent before Bethesda grabbed the wheel.

Number 7: F.E.A.R.

S: This is a very high impact game generally and the violence plays a small but important role in that. To me the highest violence moment is actually playing multiplayer and pinning your opponents against the wall with that nail gun thingy.

OG: I think this game gets it for its ragdoll physics more than anything. The violence isn’t really any worse than any other First Person Shooter, but its impact is where it scores extra marks. Not only is there a feeling that you’re up against people with intelligence to match your own, but the way in which the impact of the weapons effects your enemy really hits it home. Seeing a clone soldier slumped in a pool of his own blood is a visceral yet necessary part of the gaming experience.

Number 8: Phantasmagoria

S: This is an old one, but one that really pushed games as a medium into darker and more mature material. Made by Roberta Williams of Kings Quest fame it is one of the best examples of the “interactive movie” and “full motion video” crazes of the mid 90’s. This game crossed a number of pretty significant lines with grotesque death scenes, an evil contraption involving a chair and an axe, and even a rape scene. The fact that this was all done with filmed actors rather than animation increases the impact in many ways, although it is reduced by a general lack of interactivity and frequency.

Number 9: Silent Hill 2

OG: Pyramid Head still stands out as one of the most feared characters ever to drag its blade through a videogame. But it wasn’t the volume violence per se in this one that puts it over the edge – it was way in which that violence was used to convince the player that they were not safe. Hanging dismembered bodies aren’t used sparingly in the backdrop to the game, and the explicitly sexualised violence in the game are what stands in my mind as making this entry to the series stand out from not only its survival horror peers, but games of all persuasions.

Number 10: God of War 1 and 2

S: If you are looking for high-frequency ultra-violence then this is it. What seals it for me is the developers comment in the special features of GoW1 where he talks about how they went through a lot of asian martial arts films looking for ideas for the fighting style but found that they couldn’t really find many that were violent enough.

OG: This is the only one I’m not really sure about. Sure, it was high-frequency violence, but something about it makes me barely remember the violent content. There is scores of blood, there is decapitation, there is dismemberment, but knowledge of the setting almost numbs the violence to a point where you expect it of a game set in ancient and mythological Greece. Still, Kratos could almost be considered the undeniable king of videogame brutality.

Conclusion:

OG: I think that as the capabilities of modern day processors and those programming for them improve, we will see the use of violence in videogames not only become more frequent, but higher in impact. We have seen the impact of violence on a gamer increase ten fold with the improvement of physics engines and the inception of ragdoll physics back in the late 90’s. What we haven’t seen is the ability for the Classification Board to keep up with these advances. Instead of adopting a universal stance on the issue of videogame violence, it has adopted a ‘witch hunt’ mentality, taking out those that it deems worthy of making an example of. In my mind, I cannot see the value in refusing classification on a game set in a fictional universe for little more than heightened visualisation of dismemberment. In cases such as these, the Classification Board should play the role of little more than an advisor on content, not a censor.

S: Don’t know if I quite agree on all of that. Fundamentally I think what is happening here is that games are, through both style and technology, beginning to tick more of those “impact raising” boxes. All the Classification Board does is apply the rules after all, that’s all they can do. Just look at the rules again,

Impact may be higher where a scene:

  1. contains greater detail, including the use of close-ups and slow motion

  2. uses accentuation techniques, such as lighting, perspective and resolution

  3. uses special effects, such as lighting and sound, resolution, colour, size of image, characterisation and tone

  4. is prolonged

  5. is repeated frequently

  6. is realistic, rather than stylised

  7. encourages interactivity.

Numbers 4, 5 and 7 on that list have pretty much always been there in games. Six is becoming “possible” again after a brief flirt in the FMV era, but will always be here and there as designers can chose to be realistic or stylised. The big differences though are 1, 2 and 3 which are essentially cinematic effects that are becoming increasingly common in games. This year in particular we have seen a number of high profile, big budget games fall on the wrong side of the Refused Classification line, and to be honest I think that may only increase while the rules specifically punish games that are trying to be more cinematic in their presentation. I also note that there is nothing in these rules specifically about the violence being gratuitous, excessively gory or otherwise abhorrent (committed against innocents, children etc…). While these are covered in the added contemplation of tone and treatment, I think the average person on the street would want the difference between taking down heavily armed intergalactic warriors as opposed to the inhabitants of the local pre-school to be an explicitly mentioned factor in the decision rather than an implied consideration.


 

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