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“Having a gun in a game seldom means that one shot gets fired. It means that thousands do. It means that, when we play in these gun-filled game worlds, we live in places where our heroes are merciless, where we/they aim for the head, where everyone we see is defined, at first glance as 1) a person to shoot or 2) a person to spare. There’s a heat to these worlds and a hostility. These gun-filled game worlds feel cynical, angry and, worst, reduced. So little feels possible. When two people see each other in these worlds, most likely, one will shoot the other to death.” – Steven Totilo in The Disappointment of Video Game Guns [at]

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  1. Excuse me? “So little feels possible”? My experience with firearms both in the real world and videogames has never been that way. In both firearms provide a means of not only continued survival but progression and growth. The only thing missing from videogames is the strict adherence to various safety procedures and understanding of consequences.

    • I didn’t get that at all. I got a guy lamenting that what looked like an awesome interactive game had, with the addition of guns, potentially been turned into just another shooter.

      He didn’t draw a single comparison or correlation back to real life. I think your criticism may be unwarranted.

      • I’m going to agree with Matt on this one, I quickly read through it and found nothing really anti-gun about. Just a dude complaining about a video game.

        Even the comments were mostly just grumblings about video games and how most would prefer less shoot ’em up and more storyline. To increase the realism of the game.

        I only thing I would prefer would be that I get the time back I spent reading this dribble.

      • “And in the more interesting game worlds?…..Maybe we can find a computer-controlled character who is there for us to talk to or hang out with, a character who is programmed to help generate feelings other than fear or anger or vengefulness or superiority or whatever it is you experience when you look back at a lawn you just mowed.”

        Nah, I don’t buy it. Here he’s specifically discussing the emotional interaction between game players and guns in games. I’m not seeing anything saying guns in games cause spree killings, but the feelings he describes aren’t the most pleasant ones you’d want to foster in teens and young men who play the games.

        He spends the first paragraph or two extolling the fun of gun games, then literally gives us one of those “But…..” transitions into what becomes a rant against guns in games. I didn’t take that a mere “Oh, they had a good game, but why’d they add random gun elements into where is wasn’t even part of the game?”, the same way one might sigh at a perfectly nice t.v. series which all of a sudden in the fifth season tries to refresh itself with an out of the blue stilted romance between two long established friends in a purely platonic relationship. This author’s criticism of guns in games doesn’t fall into quite the same category, his early self-serving attempt to establish his pro-guns-in-games bona fides aside.

        He pulls that same “guns, I get it, but…..” stunt again toward the end of the article when he ponders the “baggage” guns supposedly come with. Apparently “baggage” is just another word for “my basic quarrel is with reality, where not every interaction with others is necessarily ‘wonderful’ and ‘gun-free’ as I’d prefer them to be.” If his article really is more of a legitimate game review and less of a anti-gun rant, then the key take-away is that he’d prefer more fantasy in his fantasy games, and not to be reminded that evil exists.

      • Same here. And I even agree to some extent. I would rather play more games like LA Noir than GTA, such as it is.

        • I’m replaying last noire now it is great and would love to see more like it but not at the expense of a gta game

    • I got the anti-gun vibe too but after reading the whole article it seems that it is really just a Ad for “Watch Dogs” with an “intellectual” intro exploiting the gun meme. Interesting that the author could lament guns in the game yet pull of making it a advertisement that showcases the “coolest” gun screen shots. Could be the guy just had a poor lead in to “serious” games that have guns as the only tool. The game actually sounds interesting, if it was really as good as the author suggests it could be it would be neat to run through various scenarios using different tools in the game.

      Part way down in the photos from “Watch Dogs” he asks the rhetorical question “Why isn’t one shot enough?” . Perhaps that was meant to be sick humor or was serious. It came across to me as anti-gun propagandist. I am willing to believe that my viewpoint has been heightened to be sensitized and maybe it is just an ignorant remark. In “real” gaming we all know that one shot hardly ever takes an opponent out of play. Just as in real life police are trained to fire multiple times to stop an opponent.

      • The company that makes watch dog ubisoft, is composed of hyper liberals who don’t really like America. I spent a lot of time with the devs in am airport after e3 they were mostly french Canadians or french who had drunken so much of the collectivist cool aid that they couldn’t understand why why anyone wouldn’t want the government to look at everything we do

  2. “One will shoot the other to death,” in a game Steven. Same guy probably gets all tangled up when somebody gets sent to jail in Monopoly. “Well how is this fair. Now they will never overcome the stereotype and the roadblocks attached to having done jail time.”

    I actually don’t care much for most violent movies and video games, but I don’t get twisted out of shape about it. These people need to live and let live.

  3. Fantasy /= Reality

    Most people play games with the assumption that you are supposed to shoot, in fact most games reward such actions over teamwork.

    Let’s not forget… They are freaking games!

    • I didn’t see him draw a comparison between fantasy and reality. That’s not what this was about, at all. He was lamenting that the addition of guns was turning an interesting, modern, and complex thinking game into just another shooter, because when the gun can be used as a master key, often it will be. When you can get through the game by shooting anyone with whom you have a conflict with little to no repercussions, it takes away the motivation to use the harder method that the game was originally designed around.

      • I’m of two minds on this. At one level the nature of guns in games is generally unrealistic and poor, but on the other how could you have a game in which violence and criminality are heavily featured but guns are not an option?

        Some of the comments over at the site where the article first appears are very agreeable to me. A focus on more realistic inclusion of guns and gun play in games would be greatly welcome. If AI behavior was varied and reflected the actual behavior of people presented with lethal violence, if load outs and concealablity was more of a factor, if the police response to shooting in public were adequately represented and if GSW affected NPCs and the player more believably then the inclusion of guns to such a game should be a benefit rather than a distraction.

  4. Perhaps the next generation of games will have a more “real world” feel. One with more nuance, more interpersonal relations, less surety about when to draw and fire. A Sims type game with shooting not necessarily being the goal but surviving and thriving in that “society”, out of jail, as the goal.

  5. Oh, the source is Kotaku. Don’t worry about it. Even in the world of game news, they are ignored. Writing useless articles and reporting on crap that was discovered 2 years ago. So nothing to worry about. Most of the writers don’t even know what they are talking about.

  6. As someone who plays these types of games, I can honestly say if one implements the same self-defense procedures and avoid fights, you quickly find out that you’re carrying too much ammo and the world of GTA becomes a rather quiet place… (Deus-Ex and Red Dead Redemption comes to mind)

    Games nowadays usually give you freedom to do what you want. The ‘hero’ is only as merciless as the player. I went on a murder spree in GTA/Fallout,Deus-Ex and to be honest, I don’t see the enjoyment/entertainment killing random pixelated people…

    • in years of playing GTA games, I rarely shot people indiscriminately. I’ve probably executed thousands via high speed car crashes and driving up into sidewalks and public areas.

    • It’s a story, just more for a video game blog, rather than a gun one.

      Maybe The Truth About Video Games.

  7. And don’t forget that a psycho killer like Adam Lanza spent his days playing such violent video games as Super Mario Brothers. That can’t be healthy.

  8. Yep. Violence in shooting games, driving in racing games, agriculture in Farmville, pissed feathered creatures in Angry Birds, juvenile humor in Adam Sandler movies… See how that works? Also, the sky is blue. The world where things are difficult to decide and you don’t get to be a villain or a hero most days is called reality, and as the saying goes, “imagination is our only weapon in the war against reality.” It’s called escapism, and it is what games and movies and books and television are for if I recall correctly. Einstein said “imagination is more important than knowledge.” I am not an electronic gamer, but I get it. If you want to play “Moral Ambiguity: The Video Game” feel free to create that, but I think it will be hard to market.

    • Heh. Cool concept. The store clerk gave me back too much change. Do I give it back? I mean, who is harmed if I keep it? My daughter is dating a black girl. I’m okay with that, right? I mean, I’m not a bigot. Oh, shoot. I thought about it too long, a monkey just heaved a barrel at me and now I’m dead.

  9. It’s Kotaku; it’s just a tabloid playing but failing miserably at being a credible computer gaming new site. That said, it still manages to get more traffic than it deserves. I’d ignore it, just like anyone else who cares about that sort of thing.

  10. Hey, guess what? Games are fantasy. Just like movies, tv shows, comic books, or any other kind of story. Humanity has been telling stories about fighting and war for thousands of years now. This is not new, nor does it mean people are any more susceptible to influence then we ever were before.

    • Know how I can tell you didn’t read the article? Here’s a hint: it had nothing whatsoever to do with fantasy vs. reality or being “influenced.”

      This post has been an enlightening disappointment. We often have some great, well thought-out conversations around here, but this one seems to have about every other person rushing down here to rabidly condemn the anti-gunner that doesn’t even exist.

  11. All the promise of deep and open gaming falls flat. In the end theyre just programs and they all run on some form of an “if/then” track. Whether its Skyrim, Splinter Cell, Borderlands, GTA, Final Fantasy or ZZT a game any game is just checkpoints and key fetches. Some are disguised better than others or look better than others but as deep as they seem youre always just shooting at something in one way or another.

    Every game ever made or will be:

    if then
    if then
    if then

    I like games once in a while but theyre all essentially shallow and one track.

  12. It’s called a “First Person Shooter” for a reason. If you want to go around buying coffee for someone and talking about your feelings as an in-game interaction play the Sims or something. First Person Shooters offer the dangerous fantasy of gun play, just like RPGs offer the ability to slay dragons and undead with as much blood and gore as possible. Dallas Buyer’s Club will never be turned into a video game just so liberals have something more up their alley.

    • There are actually games for that. The sky is the limit nowadays. There is even a Fork Lift operator game and an upcoming goat simulator game.

  13. I hope you guys all realize that this has absolutely nothing to do with real life, or guns in real life. It’s just an article about game design, and how the tool of game design called “guns” can often be a cop-out feature to make it more attractive. It often takes away from the game what it could have been, or maybe not.

  14. To the new readers who wonder why a videogame review is relevant to the gun culture here: After Sandy Hook there were a lot of emotional statements and points made that may have gotten taken out of context and blown up by the StateRunMedia™ (hey its the trade – “if it doesnt bleed it doesnt lead”).
    One of the memes was Adam Lanzas gamer addiction caused him to kill kindergardeners and Wayne LaPierre made an unfortunate refrrdnce to games in one of his pressers too. Col. Dave Grossman author of Bulletproof Mind, and West Point history instructor has made reference to studies on kids who play a loy of violent vide games. So, not to go OT here on that debate, just to explain the tie-in.

  15. 2. To the main question, no I didng get a deliberate anti-gun take here just gamer critique on what is predictanle and borinv to this writer. If you wanted to know more anout his background a source of hid “voice” as writers say you could read his bio. He an editof of kotaku and been writing on games awhile.

  16. If guns show up in a video game, then yeah; unless it’s a megaturd like Silent Hill 4, they’ll probably get used a lot. The Law of Conservation of Detail applies just as much to games as it does to other media, perhaps more so because of the extra programming and art design needed for whatever assets go into it. His complaint isn’t about guns –the commenters there I can’t speak for– so much as it is him looking at what is clearly an action game and expecting it to be a different genre. Action games tend to feature combat, and if the setting is any time past the 18th Century, firearms are almost certainly going to figure into it because, as it turns out, they work really well in combat situations.

    I don’t get to complain about how Pac-Man is always eating magically-appearing fruit 34 years after Pac-Man came out; I’ve learned to expect it because hunting for random bonuses is a convention of the Maze genre. If this guy finds videogame gunplay monotonous, then it’s his own damn fault for not considering the thousands upon thousands of games out there that don’t revolve around combat at all.

  17. I must say, as much as I like guns and games, I too have longed to see a more complex or psychological spin on shooting or killing in games.

    If a player character is supposedly ‘the good guy’, why would he/she/it just start killing people in a city for no reason? Therefore the game prohibits weapon use in friendly areas unless enemies are spotted

    If a player character acts bad, and slaughters innocents on the daily, why would good npc’s have ‘missions’ for you to do still? Wouldn’t they want to fight you and stop you?

    Maybe the more a character kills, it effects them emotionally or mentally (A psyche gauge like MGS4, or certain player dialogue is changed).

    I’m not saying some current games don’t have feature like this, but I feel like there is a lot of interesting stuff that can be done in future video games that goes beyond healthbars and headshots that current games haven’t even scratched yet.

  18. “When two people see each other in these worlds”

    No. Two people do not see each other in any world other than this one. No one is shot to death.

    A cartoon character than I manipulate simulates killing your cartoon character…sounds a lot less dramatic.

  19. Bull. There are plenty of games out there with guns that don’t feel that way; it depends how the game is contructed. If you play an RPG like Fallout 3 / New Vegas and go around killing everyone you can do it, I guess, but the game is largely over. You’ve broken it because the characters are their interactions are the game, as is your role in the world. People can shift from friend to neutral to enemy depending on the way things go. But GTA is a different game.

    Has nothing to do with guns, just the way the game’s world is built.

  20. I guess this guy just wants more games like Amnesia: The Dark Decent, where all you can do is hide in a closet and hope the monster doesn’t find you.

  21. so the guy doesnt like guns. play literally anything else. or play the game and dont use the guns, because the game is designed that way.

    its amazing that he feels guns overrun so many games; its probably because he isnt looking hard enough. STALKER, Metro, Deus Ex, are all game franchises where there are guns, but they arent always the first choice for various reasons (in STALKER, ammo is scarce, most factions are neutral to you and will allow you to avoid conflict, and even simple wounds can bleed out, in Deus Ex games, stealth and conversation are often more effective routes to completing the objective, so on) and especially a game like I Am Alive.

    I Am Alive is my favorite example, because you get a gun, but there’s also maybe 12 bullets total in the whole game, so the gun is used more for intimidation and diffusing encounters with enemies.

    so maybe the author needs to just look around.

  22. I can see where this guy is coming from. I realize its probably not pertinent to a game like GTA (I can’t recall the name of the game in the picture, haven’t played it), but if you put what he’s saying in a different context, like say, Day Z, then yes, I can totally see where hes coming from.

    I’ve played lots of games where a gun is given to you (or you acquire one) and you are given the option to not use it on someone. Overwhelmingly though, its more fun to shoot people down. I don’t really care if those people are computer AI or other players. At the end of the day, I guess, if someone gives me a gun, I’m going to want to pull the trigger on something, be it paper, steel, or pixels.

  23. TF is he talking about? I don’t aim for the head in BF4 unless i’m sniping and that’s all that’s exposed from behind a barrier. If running around and gunning, I aim for center mass and fire in short bursts or auto depending on the weapons controllability.

  24. Kotaku is first and foremost “a news and opinion site about games and things serious gamers care about. We’re here to inform you and, sometimes, entertain you. We aim to be an inclusive site for gamers of any ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.” from their man Stephen Totillo. Many critics, recently, have been lamenting a certain depth to video games. These same critics want to see the video game industry evolve into a recognized art form, like film has evolved before it. They believe that in order to reach this transcendence, video games will need to push beyond certain tropes that have been chaining them being just disposable forms of entertainment.

    I think this author is off his mark. He says guns, when he should be saying violence. If you replace the word gun with the word violence, then you begin to understand what he is really talking about, and I agree. It is too often in video games that the games almost always revolve around violent confrontation between the hero and the villains. I would love to see games that allowed players to utilize non violent resolutions, or even games that explored the full consequences of using violence – even in self-defense. This author is clearly missing the forest for the tree, as so many other people do when it comes to guns and violence: he is focusing on the tool and not the problem behind the tool. If games are to evolve, then their critics need to evolve, and that means addressing the underlying issues.

    BTW, and for clarification, I don’t believe for an instant that video games make someone violent – just like movies and books don’t make someone violent. I simply think it would interesting to see games that encouraged non-violence, or more precisely non-aggression.


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