Former Uncharted director talks about brutality and avoiding cognitive dissonance.
Violence in video games has always been a tricky deal, especially in the context of story-telling for today’s games. After a point, the character’s struggles start to feel less special, his or her battles more video game-esque and less realistic within the context of the story.
Former Uncharted director Amy Hennig, who now works with Visceral Games on an upcoming, unannounced Star Wars title, spoke about this with Games Beat, especially with regards to The Last of Us. When it came to games like Tomb Raider, enemies near the end seemed to be disposable while each fight in The Last of Us was about life or death.
Hennig added that, “That’s what I mean about genre. It was very smart to pick a genre that suited the brutality of the gameplay. They could make sure there wasn’t this cognitive dissonance between what you had to do to play the game and what it meant in the context of the story. That’s very smart. But not every game can do that.”
“The question is, then — A game like Uncharted that might have that dissonance, should you not make that? Or do you just do your best to make sure it’s as non-dissonant as possible?”
After a point, Uncharted protagonist Nathan Drake even joked about all the killing he had to manage. Hennig stated that, “That’s why we took some of that away. And we did do a little winking back at the audience at how ridiculous it was. ‘No, we don’t take this seriously either.’ But it becomes tough. Movies are a passive medium. You’re the privileged observer. You aren’t necessarily meant to identify with the protagonist. If they have flaws, you just observe them. If that character is the one you’re playing, though, you’re complicit in their actions.
“Taken to the wrong extreme, it means we’re very limited in the kinds of games we can make because we’re trying to avoid causing that dissonance, and that would be a shame. It’s a tricky problem to solve. I don’t think we throw up our hands and say, ‘It’s just a game, get over it.’ But it is hard to solve.”
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