Dark and Gritty Themes: Do Video Games Really Need Them?comments powered by Disqus
Posted on Monday, October 1 2012 @ 14:59:43 Eastern
This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.Is it just me or have video game characters become dark and gritty like “realistic” graphics? Instead of throwing them in the wash with bleach and hope they shine and sparkle again, video game characters need a trip to a psychologist, a vacation, or maybe a few lap dances just to feel better. Just like how video game environments have become very dank and depressing, the characters themselves seem to have been hit with the darkness bat and now they must display as many variations of the serious and brooding mood as they can. For the love that is all of chocolate, why do they have to be this way?
Kratos showing one of the few expressions he knows best
However, the general media saw these games as nothing but mere toys. Whenever a kid shot up a school or some other place, the media blamed the violent games for the kid’s actions and it made video games in general look more childish and even evil. Video game enthusiasts shook their heads in disgust knowing that their beloved hobby was not just for children and that their games can have a more serious tone to them. What were video games to do about this? They became serious business and tried to present themselves as such.
Don't you tell me you felt nothing when Areith died, you cold hearted bastard!
Let’s take Sonic the Hedgehog for example. As stated previously, Sonic is a hedgehog that runs pretty damn fast and he thwarts the plans of a fat, evil doctor trying to take over the world. That was it. No one gave it a second thought, plus it was fun running at mach speeds destroying all the robots. By Sonic Adventure, things started to get pretty grim when the game shows Chaos destroying Station Square and leaving it in total ruins with pretty graphic details. Shadow the Hedgehog has Shadow use guns and, depending on the player, is willing to kill a bunch of people to achieve his own goals. By Sonic ’06, the world is ****ed in the future and in the present, and the world is ready to be ****ed up at a moment’s notice because the sealed evil in a princess will be freed if said princess cries (I hope she doesn’t cut onions!).
Damn it, Elise! I told you to stay away from chopping oninions and now look what happened!
By Grand Theft Auto 4, the series was struck with the realism bat. All forms of humor and outrageous characters were heavily reduced and everyone had some sort of hardship or relationship issue that makes playing the game almost depressing. Niko is always going on about the hardships he still has to face and a good portion of his friends are depressing as hell except for Jacob and probably Roman. Despite the game having two different endings, both of them are downers and no one is happy in the end. It’s as if the game is saying “Happiness is for pussies! Real men are brooding and gritty and life must always suck for them!” Life sucks, but damn I don’t remember it ever being this dark.
Top: Flying with a jetpack and shooting at people on a moving train in a colorful desert
Bottom: Roman annoying the hell out of Niko in the gritty streets for a game of bowling because he has no friends
I am not saying that video games should be more like Mario, but what I am saying is there needs to be a better balance or presentation of the darker themes. For example, Super Mario Galaxy is pretty whimsical for the most part and it’s quite fun hopping from planet to planet with low gravity as Mario goes “weeeee” whenever he flies. However, if you decide to listen to Rosalina’s story as she tells it to the Lumas, it’s quite sad as she reads the story about how a girl (herself) never saw her mother again and she was going to be all alone forever, but she then grew happy again when she became friends with the Lumas.
Another example is the game’s ending (*spoiler alert*) where Bowser’s shenanigans causes the sun to become a super black hole that sucks up everything in the universe, including Mario and Peach, if the Lumas didn’t jump into the black hole to sacrifice themselves in order to stop the dire event. The way Super Mario Galaxy presented the darker theme in the ending was to let players know that **** just got real when you thought you were safe this whole time. A false sense of security that is taken away suddenly is a great way to draw people into the game and story.
Mario shows how accomplishing a goal makes you feel good
The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion (but in this case the images are all his). It has been submitted for our monthly $20 Vox Pop prize. ~Ed. Nick