Let me tell you a story, A Story About My Uncle. Okay, so this isn’t my story, but it is about an upcoming indie game that I think looks really interesting.
It’s about a boy, armed with nothing but a grappling hook, who is searching for his lost uncle and somehow ends up in a beautifully alien landscape. The best thing about this first-person adventure platforming game? It’s completely non-violent.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against violence in videogames. I’m not squeamish about fake blood, and I’ve no problem shooting, stabbing, or blowing up enemies when the occasion calls for it. Sometimes, mechanically speaking, violence is consistent with a game’s narrative.
Imagine a game like Fallout 3 without guns. In post-apocalyptic America, it goes without saying that survival would necessitate the use of firearms. Or a game like Left 4 Dead: what else are you supposed to do, have a nice long chat with the zombies about why they shouldn’t eat you?
There are some games where violence just makes sense. But there are others in which violence seems incompatible with the story and its themes, causing so-called “ludonarrative dissonance.” For the record, I hate that term as much as you probably do: it’s offensively pretentious and jargon-y, but so far it’s all we’ve got.
Anyway, A Story About My Uncle is one of those games: violence would seem superfluous, forced even. Which is why the decision to make it a non-violent game is so sensible.