Warren Spector: 'I Was Pretty Appalled With What I Saw At E3'

The fallout from E3, and the issue of ultra-violence in video games has been a huge discussion point for gamers in recent weeks. This discussion can be attributed, at least in part to Warren Spector's comments, and his statement "ultra-violence has to stop". Last night, at a Game Masters event, Spector expanded a little on his thoughts on E3, and clarified a few things.

"I will stand by every word I said," he began, "but I do have to clarify. I basically said that the ultra-violence has to stop... I was pretty appalled with what I saw at E3.

"I wish people would stop making stupid games. I wish everybody made games like I do, but it’s not realistic and it’s not my place. I’m really not trying to tell people what to like. That’s the first point.

"The second thing is, I wasn’t so upset… I could give a damn about video game violence, I don’t believe games cause anything. I started out as a film critic, I was serious, I was working on my doctorate, I was gonna be a professor… and I was a humanist, I was always arguing with the social scientists who were saying TV was going to destroy everything, oh no wait, it’s rock and roll! Oh wait, now it’s movies. No, it’s novels — because kids should be out living life not reading about it. No wait it was Shakespeare because, because he thinks he can break out of blank verse, he’s creating low brow entertainment for criminals hanging out at the globe theatre! Whatever medium the adults don’t get, kids like."

According to Warren Spector, the problem is not necessarily the violence itself, but the way in which it was presented.

"There were two things that bugged me," said Spector. "Bad taste. We crossed a line. When you’re fetishizing violence… slow motion blood sprays is not mature content. The lollipop sucking, sexualised teenage girl with a chainsaw is not mature content. A woman who’s character is defined by rape, is not mature content. There’s more mature content in Disney Epic Mickey than in any of those games.

"I wish people wouldn’t make games like that, I genuinely do, but when I hear whooping and hollering about that, and the gaming press and gamers getting all excited about that I want to go slither into a corner and die."

The main worry, believes Spector, is not that well-made, innovative games don't exist. The problem is we're shining the spotlight on one specific sub-set of games. The ones featuring fetishised violence.

"E3 is our one opportunity to talk to the world," he said. "That’s where games — which I think are the most beautiful medium and the medium that is going to dominate this century — get to talk to the world. There are beautiful non-violent games, there are beautiful violent games, there are stupid violent games — the variety of content in video games now is our greatest strength. If you have an idea there’s a way to reach an audience with that idea.

"The bottom line is there is such a variety of games being made right now and we showed the world none of it. E3 was about ultra violence that is fetishised. And Nintendo.

"I thought that did gamers a disservice. It did the medium a disservice and I am furious about that."


    I agree with Spector definitely as far as this E3 was concerned, there was so much focus on shooters and action games, but hardly any coverage on a beautiful little indie game for the PSN called "The Unfinished Swan". Man that game looks good, should have received much more interest.

    I actually disagree with the analysis of most of the commenters in this article.

    It's not violence as a mechanic that Warren is arguing against, its violence as feedback.
    If you were to play a game, solve a problem through violent means, and get rewarded with stars or points or a cutscene with you finding the princess in the tower, or a bit of text-delivered story, then that is fine.

    However, if your reward for successfully interacting with the game's mechanics is a close up, slomo shot of a skull explosion, there is an issue there. Violence and gore becomes the reward, and it says that these are desirable things to chase. It's absolutely tasteless.

    Its the difference between a film that uses violence as another way to deliver story and emotion (say, LOTR, Payback, etc), and one that just uses it for shock value and cheap thrills (Saw 99999).
    If you watched the academy awards, and saw nothing but torture porn films, you'd say there was something wrong with that industry.

    I don't know anyone who would argue against the point that lollipop chainsaw wasn't mature content. In fact, isn't he missing the point with that one? One should definitely view it as a game of immature content. Thank Christ for that. I don't think I could handle every game being like Heavy Rain.

    Someone up-thread mentioned Assassin's Creed 3, and I think that perfectly encapsulates what Spector's talking about. Uninspired, pulpy meta story aside, the Assassin's Creed games draw you in with an engaging narrative, well drawn characters and fantastic gameplay mechanics (leaving aside Revelations). The face-stabbing, impaling and limb-breaking just feels totally superfluous to that. Slicing innumerable faceless Italians in half isn't 'mature' violence, it's just gratuitous. Doesn't stop the games being great, but it's not needed.

      when do you saw some one in half in the assasins creed games also why hate revelations

    I like gratuitous violence.

    Im lucky warren spector isn't running the games industry.

    We should remember that Spector had a hand in Deus Ex and Thief which were clearly adult games so it's not like he's misinformed about the subject. I personally don't think ultra violent games and the like are killing gaming because many of them are quite enjoyable. At the same time though, I can see where he's coming from.

    Warren is 100% right. Deus Ex and System Shock which are his best works didn't need gore and violence. The gameplay was just a way to tell his stories and set the atmosphere.

    I'm really quite against super violence in games. Especially games that don't need violence. Violence is only really necessary to set the game you want to. Gears of War 1 and 2's violence was great because the game was portraying a gritty, gothic war while Gears of War 3 was very colourful and the story was hardly about a war which totally killed the experience for me and it didn't need the violence it had. In fact, Gears 3 was hardly a Gears of War game for me. If I made it the way it was (which I wouldn't of), I would've gotten rid of its personal story and open it way more up.

    Nowadays, finding a game with a mature story and no violence is nearly impossible. Deus Ex: HR was probably the only game that got everything right last year and maybe Batman.

    I disagree with Warren. He tried to nip this criticism in the bud
    (oh sneaky fellow), but there is no difference between him being oh
    so shocked and appalled at the state of current video game culture
    as there was at Elizabethans being upset at the vulgarity of
    William Shakespeare. That's right - no difference. Absolutely none.
    He obviously also knows this - so I find his argument not only
    false, but disingenous a well. I suppose these sort of "man shakes
    fist at the sky" moments seem less senile when you're the one doing
    it, but objectively there's no difference between complaining about
    Lollipop Chainsaw being vulgar as there was about my great grand
    parents decryng the swing in Elvis's hips. Get over it. Or don't -
    ultimately it doesn't matter because we're certainly not regressing
    backwards on this front.

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