Violence in Games: Where's Your Comfort Level?

With releases this year such as Max Payne 3 and Hotline Miami, I, for the first time, felt something different about the violent aspects of the games I play and love.

As a kid, I played Grand Theft Auto, Half-Life, etc. and never really thought much about it. My parents understood that I knew fantasy from reality, and I appreciate them for recognizing that and allowing me to play more mature games. As I got older, more hyper-violent games like the Gears of War trilogy really tested the limits of gore (obviously) with crazy-ass chainsaw bayonets. I'd been anticipating Max Payne 3 for a long, long time, and poured over the reviews for it as soon as they came out. However, I started to see a trend in each review (particularly Joystiq's and Polygon's), referencing the disturbing realism of violence in the game. This obviously got my attention, as I'm pretty sure I've never read someone being disturbed by the violence in a game review.

Launch day came along, and I picked up my copy at midnight. I was shocked how much I agreed with the statements I'd read. Don't get me wrong, I loved the game (GOTY contender for me), but damn: talk about violence in a game. It concerned me, but I also felt that as the industry gets more mature, so must the games, I guess.

With last week's release of Hotline Miami, I started to feel the same sentiments, but in a more pixelated perspective. While Max Payne is a game that glorifies fantastical, bloody deaths, Hotline seriously makes you question it. With the next generation of consoles looming on the horizon, that uncanny valley of graphic violence isn't far away. My question to all you Polynauts would be, is this a good thing? Certainly there's a huge variety of gory, bloody movies, but we (the game industry) don't always get that same luxury without criticism from outsiders. As we hit that next level of graphics and storytelling in the gaming world, is there a level that goes outside of your comfort level?

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