The University of Rochester has come to the conclusion that violence doesn’t necessarily make a game more fun. This means that all that time in Soldier of Fortune shooting off people’s fingers, or spent in Mortal Kombat cutting off heads was wasted, and nothing to do with how much I enjoyed the games. Of course, they have made sure to keep themselves extremely vague about the whole thing, using phrases like “Cranking up the violence knob doesn’t automatically make a game automatically more fun.” It is, however, automatically more realistic if it’s a game about, y’know, shooting people.
The research was carried out by having a set of people play Half Life 2 in two ways; the first was with a shotgun, shooting people. The second was when given the psychic power to make people float up and disintegrate. Apparently neither version was favoured more than the other, which confuses me, as I’d have thought being able to disintegrate people with my mind would be a far more interesting prospect than merely blowing their knees off. But then I’m not a teenager in a case study.
I’m perhaps being a little too harsh, but the findings of the study merely say that violence isn’t really an indicator to how enjoyable a game is. So increasing the violence doesn’t mean an increase in enjoyment. It’s true; there are many games out there that prove that violence doesn’t make a game brilliant, and non-violence works in exactly the same way. Really, both are somewhat irrelevant. If a game should have violence, then have it. If it’s something like Psychonauts, where it’s not really necessary, then there’s no point to force it in. In the end, mechanics and innovation are what make games fun to play, not how many limbs or digits you can sever with the surgeon’s shotgun.