God of War Devs Pull Back on Violence Against Women
About a month ago, I wrote a post discussing the strange messages being sent by a seemingly off-the-cuff interview with an executive from Crystal Dynamics about their depiction of Lara Croft in the new Tomb Raider reboot. In the time since then, there’s been plenty of controversy about women and their place in the world of video games.
Interestingly, a new interview with David Hewitt, Sony Santa Monica’s game designer on God of War: Ascension, tackled the issue as well. Hewitt explains to IGN that the game’s creators are easing off depictions of violence against women despite the fact that, it could be argued, Kratos is something of an equal opportunity violence-maker. In response to questions about whether or not the developers have “an internal line of what kind of violence” they won’t show, Hewitt says:
“We do. In fact the team has a set of rules that define those sorts of things very clearly. Where it shows itself is how the combat designers and animators have designed Kratos’ moves. He’s always leaning forward, he’s always moving forward. He’s seeking revenge and he’s after his ultimate objective and he will tear through enemies—rip them in half—as quickly as he can. But there’s not a lot of flourishes, there’s not any kind of enjoying the moment. There’s nothing about this that he’s enjoying.
There are some things we’ve pulled back from. I think where this has been an issue is with violence against women— the team’s pulled back from some of that and assessed that a little more carefully. There are certain things that carry has a different kind of resonance that we don’t want to get into. This isn’t about statement-making in that regard. It’s about fleshing out this character.”
Pardon me while I opinionate for a moment: while it’s really good that Hewitt’s team is shying away from unnecessarily violence against women in the game, I have to admit that I’m slightly disappointed that he had to clarify that he wasn’t making a statement. I know that it’s important for people making games and other forms of media to avoid political statements when they’re not trying to be political. That said, I don’t think there’d be anything wrong, necessarily, with “statement-making,” particularly when it addresses something that’s been more or less proven to be an issue.
Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying I want Kratos to turn to the camera mid-game and say, “violence against women is wrong.” But it seems just a little bit of a cop-out for Hewitt to qualify his statement as not actually being a statement.
Even still, semantics aside, it’s encouraging to know that there are people making games that are, in fact, aware that what they put into the games has an effect on the larger conversation. Whatever the reason, it’s laudable that Sony Santa Monica is aware of the world into which God of War: Ascension will be released. Our beloved medium is huge, but it’s still fighting for acceptance and legitimacy in society. Having creators who are conscious of their work and what it represents is an important part of gaining that acceptance.