“Part of these things are about playing the game and putting them in context – making sure it’s thought-provoking in the right way.”
If games are ever to grow as an artform, and a medium for legitimate storytelling, they, like a movie, TV show, book, song, or painting, must not be afraid to approach and deal with sensitive and taboo subjects. The thing, however, is that these subjects usually must be dealt with delicately- and they can’t be gratuitously added to your story, you need to contextualize them with narrative and thematic movement.
All of which is to say, a scene with shocking violence, domestic abuse, or attempted sexual assault, can work within the context of a larger story, as long as the story builds up to it and justifies the scene’s presence- as a matter of fact, The Last of Us had all three of those scenes within it, but they worked within the context of its story.
What you can’t do, however, is take a scene showing something like that in isolation, show it to people, and expect them to not be uncomfortable with it. But that’s exactly what Sony did at Paris Games Week- they showed off some very violent scenes without any of the surrounding context to them, and they ended up making people uncomfortable.
Speaking to VG247 about the backlash that their violent showing had, Michael Denny, said senior vice president at Sony, said, “We’ve always wanted to have a variety of content, lots of choice, we’ve always wanted to be innovative and sometimes challenge as well,”
“If you look at Sucker Punch’s new game, Ghosts of Tsushima, it’s great new triple A game, Concrete Genie, something that’s very creative and innovative in its own way, PlayLink and new VR titles. To have thought-provoking and mature content if it’s handled in the right way and aimed at a mature audience, I think that’s part of PlayStation as well.”
“It always has been that we trust in our creators. It’s about the experience and the game they want to make.
“Clearly, we’re involved in producing that and if you’re going to go into areas of challenging content we need to make sure it’s done in an appropriate way as well,” he added. “Part of these things are about playing the game and putting them in context – making sure it’s thought-provoking in the right way.”
I think his last sentence absolutely ails it- it is about contextualizing these horrific things, and not just making them gratuitous, and that is something Sony utterly failed at with their showing at Paris Games Week. I can only hope that the final products end up handling this matter more maturely than Sony did this week.