When you have spent play anytime dead island 2, you probably noticed the game’s progressive damage system. The Fully Locational Evisceration System for Humanoids, or FLESH as developers Dambuster Studios call it, is a procedural tool that makes dismembering, melting, or burning zombies look more realistic, as signs of trauma correspond to the attacks you perform and are visible through chewing the skin, muscles, organs and bones. Naturally, dead island 2 applies all that blood to a fluffy slapstick effect. But FLESH might make you wonder how such gruesome detail translates to games with more serious themes.
Issues surrounding violence in games have a long history, ranging from moral panic attacks in tabloids to concerted academic research. While the topic of whether playing violent games in real life can lead to aggressive behavior is still hotly debated, Studies tend to show that any correlation is tiny at most. However, with the advancement of visual fidelity in games, from the FLESH system to the current trailer too Not recordedwhich some thought looked too lifelike to be true, it’s no surprise to see the question circulating again.
Aaron Drummond, Senior Lecturer at the University of Tasmania’s School of Psychological Sciences (and co-author of the study linked above), believes that while the topic warrants further research, if increasing realism in gaming violence actually led to more aggressive behavior then then if so, signs should already be in place.
“You would expect to see three things,” he explains. “First, an increase in the number of studies demonstrating an impact of violent content on aggression; second, an increase in the effect sizes of violent games on aggressive behavior; and third, an increase in assaults and violent crime.” None of this has happened, he adds, but rather the data is trending in the opposite direction.
Paul Cairns, Head of Computer Science at the University of York in the UK, takes a similar view. “My instinct is that if violent video games made people really violent, we’d be going through hell with a handcart right now,” he says. Cairns explored the concept of ‘priming’, the idea that gaming violence can somehow alter our response to violence elsewhere and potentially lead to violent behavior. There’s no overt evidence of priming, he says, and “when you manipulate the realism of games, it doesn’t actually change priming at all.” If there’s a pathway from gaming to violent behavior, it’s not just because of it violent content. “There must be something else going on.”
However, despite previous research, it’s impossible to say for sure that increased realism won’t have negative effects, Cairns says, simply because we’ve never seen the current level of realism in interactive media before. Still, humans — adults, at least — are very good at understanding what’s real and what’s not, he continues, “that’s why.” [some people] can stand a horror movie but can’t even watch people get injected.” So as long as we understand that we’re not participating in a real scenario, even a very realistic simulation is unlikely to trigger problematic behavior.
However, visual fidelity isn’t the only consideration when it comes to the effects of violence. The fact that we engage in violence in games, rather than just observing it, like in film and television, makes it a different issue, as do structures that lead us to repeat aggressive acts over and over again. Indeed, if you liked it dead island 2Also, given the gory performances, you may have noticed that the novelty wears off after a few hours. Over time, the sight of blistered skin and broken legs can feel commonplace. When so many games are based around combat loops of this sort, are we becoming desensitized to the effects of violence?
It’s entirely possible, says Drummond, that it may result in a “decreased emotional and physiological responsiveness to the violence witnessed.” But that’s not necessarily a problem. “For example, desensitization is useful when you want to help someone overcome a phobia,” he explains, “which is what clinicians are now using VR for.” Also, no “reasonable gamer” generalizes in-game violence to real-world contexts without considering the moral and legal ones to be aware of the implications.