The rise of non-violent games

While rhetoric goes on that connects real-life violence to violent games, media keep citing research that defies any linear correlation between the two.

Vox posted a chart showing that the roots of gun-related violence clearly lie elsewhere than the game consumption.

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Credit image: Vox

Other studies indicate that games, specifically violent in nature, are a good way for people to let their natural aggression out on digital opponents, thus making them less likely to commit acts of violence in real life.

Still others reasonably argue that if you’re home playing games, you can’t simultaneously be out there causing trouble. In fact, violence decreases around the time new games are released.

Be that as it may, one thing is clear: stigmatizing all video games as a medium cannot be right.

Last week, TIME published on the rising phenomenon of “pacifist games.” These titles often deal with mature themes of loss, grief, failure to communicate and utilize an exploratory gameplay. Examples include What Remains of Edith Finch, Florence, Journey, and Firewatch.

The term “pacifist” might not be a very apt one as it clearly hints at intrinsic violence of the titles outside of this category. Plus, it would be reductive to describe the whole diversity of the medium using this pacifist/violent dichotomy.

What remains clear is that games are becoming more experimental both in terms of gameplay and ideas they touch on.

Chris Charla, senior director of Microsoft’s ID@Xbox program, attributes this to the rise of the digital distribution In the late 2000s and arrival of new game creation tools. Digital marketplaces reduced the cost of making games, freeing studios to try new things.  And the very process of making games became easier, with Unity and Unreal Engine allowing more underrepresented artists to take on game development.

Shooters are not going anywhere. Not anytime soon. Neither are those who try to blame real-world violence on games. But hopefully, among other things, it will draw more attention to this whole other part of the gaming landscape that’s becoming a legitimate part of the social discourse.

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