“It’s not about killing your opponent but eliminating them.”
That’s what the product manage for Nadeo Live, Edouard Beauchemin, told Penny Arcade Report in a preview of ShootMania Storm from last year.
“The idea behind it is that we aim to be the most accessible FPS possible,” Beauchemin told Ben Kuchera. ”In competitive gaming there has been a problem in the past, even if it’s a great game, of presenting the e-sports scene with an FPS because it’s violent, with the headshots, blood, and all of that.”
With this in mind, and based on his own time with the game, Kuchera declared the FPS “Safe for Children.”
ShootMania Storm is set to come out this April, and PAR has since run several more stories about the upcoming PC game. Only a couple of weeks ago, Sophie Prell re-affirmed Kuchera’s description, explaing that,
“ShootMania is a non-violent take on the FPS genre, substituting bullets and gun crosshairs for a simple aiming reticule and rockets that look like fireworks. When you hit an enemy and deplete all their health, they float mid-air for a moment, scattering into digital particles. There’s no blood, and no screams of agony.”
In the comments, some readers took issue with her account, like (ironically enough) “Lonegunman,” who argued,
“Wait? Shooting people with “firework” guns and watching them explode into digital sparks makes the game non-violent? It might be LESS violent than a game with blood and gore but you’re still talking about offensive action against another human being.”
Another reader “Slaign” made a similar point,
“The idea of trying to make a non-violent shooter is just oxymoronic, however. The entire idea of a shooter is based upon eliminating opposing forces on the field of battle. Simply put, shooters are combat and combat is violence.”
Other readers disagreed, saying the game was more like paintball or laser tag, and whether you think it’s violent or not will depend on how you view certain kinds of competetive simulations.
What I think some of the counter-arguments miss though is that just because a competition is violent doesn’t necessarily make it a bad or immoral thing. Boxing and football are very clearly “violent” forms of competition, in so far as harming and/or incapacitating opponents is integral to performing well. That doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t box, or play football, or enjoy watching either of those sports. But to call them non-violent simply because both sides have agreed to compete is (as a third reader noted) a fig leaf that doesn’t even begin to hide what’s really going on.
ShootMania looks like a genuinly fun game (from what I’ve seen and read so far). And though the creators have clearly attempted to make the game less violent, by among other things leaving out the gore and glorified killing that usually accompanies most FPS gameplay, the game remains a competition wherein you are required to kill (destroy/eliminate/obliterate/end) your opponents. You don’t even shoot innocuous lasers or tagging devices (as in laser tag and paintball), but rather explosives. And according to the above articles the game will even include conventional weapons like sniper rifles and shotguns. People know what those objects are for, and simply reskinning them and whitewashing the results doesn’t change that.
In PAR’s most recent post on the game, Sophie Prell continues to claim to the contrary,
“Less objectionable content like blood and gore means more viewers, more viewers means more possibilities for sponsorship, sponsorship means money.
It’s always okay to question whether a game needs violence, how that violence affects us, and what to do about it. Sometimes, violence can send a message that shocks us or teaches us. Other times, we just need a fun game to play, and ShootMania looks to show how that can be a winning situation for all involved.”
I’m not a parent but I have a niece, and I probably wouldn’t have a problem with her playing this game. What’s concerning though is that people are often so willing to change the way we talk about things, and assume that that somehow changes what we’re talking about.
Calling a game non-violent doesn’t make it so, which makes it dissapointing that Prell doesn’t really take the time to spell out what she think’s violence is, and thus why this game is so much less so that it might even qualify as “virtuous.” I understand that the developer PAR is talking to wants consumers to think that, and has gone to great lenghts to take out the “objectional content,” like blood and gore, in order to make them feel like ShootMania Storm really isn’t violent.
There are plenty of violent games that I love, and some of them that I love precisely because they are violent. We just need to be clear-minded when we talk about these things though, and not get trapped by our rhetoric, or get lored into contradictions simply because a game’s marketing and branding tells us otherwise.