Let’s Talk About Tastelessly Violent Game Trailers
We’ve all heard the stories. “Video games are too violent!” “They’re ruining our youth!” Every time someone who shouldn’t have a gun gets one and hurts people, Video games are on the list of scapegoats to gloss over plenty of other reasons for dangerous people doing dangerous things. As a person who enjoys video games I’m naturally against these claims, but it does beg the question, ‘what do we do when a game does get too violent?’
This week, two video game trailers are making the rounds for violence. At Paris Games Week, on the main stage, The Last of Us Part 2 and Detroit: Becoming Human decided that they wanted to show the world they were big boys by depicting heavy topics- domestic abuse and torture. We’re going to take this time to talk about that.
I have beef with the crowd that wholesale defend either of these trailers. I have seen “Art is supposed to make you uncomfortable” as a defense of this whole fiasco, and I want to draw the line here that that is a rubbish catch-all justification for poor taste. “Art is supposed to make you uncomfortable” usually refers to art with a message, like the sexualisation of women in Blade Runner, not making me watch women get tortured to commemorate the end of Sony’s press event.
More importantly, “Art is supposed to make you uncomfortable” is like free speech- it doesn’t shield you from the criticism of said art. And here’s my critique of this “art”: It felt like a cheap, exploitative use of very real topics, all in the name of getting some headlines. Obviously it worked, or we wouldn’t be here writing this article. Worse still, it’s got the Reaper mains flocking around it defending it from any kind of criticism because you’re not allowed to critique depressing media or else you’re a snowflake.
This topic is relatively tricky when it comes to me because I am strongly opposed to the idea of censorship. However, I’m also against the whole “I want to be edgy, suck it up you snowflake” idea that people conflate with opposing censorship. Content warnings are a great middle ground for this- “edgy” content gets to exist, and people like me who don’t like watching children get harmed can go do literally anything else besides watching trailers that use them. Heck, most trailers already sort of do this by starting with an ESRB rating for the game. If we could have them be more specific for the trailer, that’d be amazing.
Ultimately, this all boils down to the venue and delivery of these trailers. There’s a reason so many E3 trailers look the same, it’s because E3 is about as niche as Despacito and they’re casting a net big enough to catch all the people who didn’t buy a Wii U at launch. There’s a reason the event wasn’t called Paris Torture Porn Week, too. It was a mainstream event for a mainstream audience. That means having to take into account the sensitivities of that crowd. You wouldn’t show a trailer for Saw at a Lion King screening, you probably shouldn’t show your torture porn trailer at PGW, either.
If you think this is all SJW nonsense, look at it this way: you’re at a party, you pick up a guitar. Everyone stops dancing to listen to you play a song. Suddenly, silence. Not awe-filled silence, but uncomfortable silence. Why? Because the girl you like is now dating Todd from accounting even though Todd’s a jerk and you’re a nice guy but she thinks you’re weird, and you just belted out an overly-slow and weepy rendition of Creep by Radiohead and killed the mood like it was Visceral Games.
We all know that guy, don’t be that guy. If you have to be depressing to a massive crowd, be deceptively happy about it, like Hey Ya. When in doubt, always be Hey Ya.