Is There a Audience for Non-Violent Video Games?
For whatever reason, most popular video games are exceedingly violent; I do not wish to delve into the probable reason for why this is true, because I have my own suspicions, and those suspicions are depressing, there's nothing I can do about it, and dwelling on it is a waste of time.
Many of the games that aren't necessarily marketed as being violent, still carry a violent undertone. The situation leads me to wonder if there is a viable audience for nonviolent video games.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a person who is overly sensitive to violence, I was just as hooked on The Sopranos as a lot of other folks were. However, I cannot seem to get into a game where I have to spend a lot of time stressing about the personal safety of my player.
Why am I questioning the viability of non-violent games? Well, I'm a tech geek who writes code, I like video games, and I'm interested in game development, but I want to start a gaming channel first. Therefore, I decided to go on a fact-finding mission to test the waters and see if my goal is worthwhile, and what follows is what I discovered.
The Nonviolent Game Genres
It is important to keep in mind the fact that video games are relatively new on the scene when it comes to entertainment, so nothing is exactly written in stone. In general, non-violent games are generally divided into two categories, completely non-violent games and non-violent player games.
These are games where there is literally no violence that occurs in any part of the narrative or gameplay. In this type of game, there is no death or conflict, and there's usually not even the presence of disturbing sounds or situations.
Completely non-violent video games include titles like Sudoku, Animal Crossing, Gone Home, etc. These are the type of games you wouldn't mind your younger children playing.
These are the games where a certain amount of violence does occur in the game world and/or possibly to the player. The violence that occurs to the player, if any, is often caused by environmental hazards, like falling rocks, or the player falling off of a landscape or object, etc.
The main characteristic of the non-violent player game is the fact that the character is usually able to avoid the danger and "get away" from whatever could potentially cause harm.
There is normally no actual "enemy" in this type of game, or rather, the environmental hazard is the enemy the player is tasked to avoid. In this category, you can imagine games like Temple Run, Subway Surfer and the classic game, Roller Coaster, etc.
There is an emerging third category of nonviolent video games that have to do with players who are non-violent only to sentient beings. In this type of game, the player opts to direct the violence towards robots or androids. However, I haven't found enough games of this nature to be able to justify an entire category..
Non-Violent Video Gaming Attempts
Although there is no doubt the vast majority of popular video game titles include a certain level of violence, there are several nonviolent gaming community attempts that have recently sprang to life.
Religious and cultural organizations are seriously concerned about the possible harmful effects and influence of violence in video games. Many organizations have formed gaming studios to develop and publish titles that are in-keeping with their values and the goals they set forth for their communities; they include:
- Christian Games
- Hindu Games
- Buddhist Games
- Jewish Games
- Muslim Games
- Sikh Games
- Baha'i Games
- Taoist Games
- Religion Neutral Games
The issues with many of the titles that fall under the above categories have to do with the fact that most of the games are educational in nature, and they are designed for children and adolescents.
Also, there is the fact that many players may not be part of the stated religions or cultures, so the game objectives probably would not hold much value or interest. However, it is inspiring to see emerging gaming communities banding together to create alternative gaming experiences.
Perhaps an often overlooked option for people who want to enjoy a "calm" video gaming experience, is the multitude of "casual" games that are in development every day.
I did not initially look to this category, because these games are normally thought of as being boring and cheesy. Additionally, people who play casual games aren't taken seriously. But, then I began to consider the following question: Why should it matter if I'm taken seriously by anyone else when it comes to the games I choose to play?
Casual games can exhibit any type of gameplay and genre. They generally have simpler rules, shorter sessions, and less learned skill than hardcore games. Casual games can include adventure games, puzzle games, hidden object games, word and trivia games, etc. Some of the casual gaming titles include: Bejeweled, The X-Files: Deep State, Mystery Case Files, Nancy Drew Mysteries, etc.
When I concluded that it doesn't matter what anyone thinks about the games I chose to play, I started to see the casual gaming category through a clearer lens. I encourage you to adopt a "I don't care" type of attitude about casual games as well.
Traditional Non-Violent Games, Exploration Games, Sports Games
Traditional Non-Violent Games
There are those video games that are traditionally considered to be non-violent, like simulation games, city management games, adventure games, music games and the like. Think of titles like The Sims franchise, Sim City franchise, Rock Band, D.J. Hero, etc.
There is also what has quickly become my favorite category of non-violent games, exploration games. Exploration games are adventure games that are often played from the first-person perspective.
The main objective in exploration games is to explore the environment and to discover a narrative about the game, but the gameplay usually has little to no direct interaction with the environment itself; for this category, think of titles like: Dear Esther, Gone Home, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture and What Remains of Edith Finch.
There is also always the option of playing violent video games on an exploration mode, where the player simply explores the landscape without participating in any sort of violence.
For example, my son recently informed me that some of the earlier Fallout game titles can be played on exploration mode with no violence, and the same is true for some of the Assassin's Creed games.
And of course, there are tons of wildly popular sports games - although sports games aren't for me...because I don't like sports, but they are a viable alternative for people who do enjoy sports and do not enjoy violent video games. Everyone knows these games, think of titles like the Madden franchise, FIFA franchise, all of the EA Sports games, etc.
What is your favorite type of non-violent video game?
During the course of my research, I have surprisingly discovered that there exists a great deal of alternatives to violent video games. So, I have come to the conclusion that if there are companies out there creating nonviolent video game titles, there must be a sizable audience.
I want to delve into the world of video games to relax, and to be taken away to other realms, I do not want to be immersed in violence during gameplay, and I now feel that there are a lot of people out there who feel the same way.
So, I'm going to forge ahead in my quest to create content about non-violent video games on this platform, as well as on Twitch and YouTube, so please stay tuned for more content.
© 2020 Rachelle Williams