If you read a recent piece on video game violence, there's a good chance that somewhere in that article, included is a screenshot of a Dishonored neck stab. Last year was the year of the neck stab, after all. Rock, Paper, Shotgun spoke with the developer that coded that move in-game — Joe Houston — and he had Opinions On Game Violence.
For those that haven't played it, Dishonored is a stealthy game in which you are free to choose how to approach a problem. This poses unique questions about video game violence and what a player chooses to do, versus what a game developer gives as an option. Who holds responsibility, the person choosing or the person that gave the option in the first place?
Delving into the issue a bit in relation to actual-life violence, Houston said the following:
So does that mean that linear violent games are better for society than those like Dishonored, those that touch only superficially on violent acts versus those that allow the player to make extreme choices? I argue that linear games that have a lack of personal ownership in game violence actually do so at the disadvantage of society.
I don't believe that game violence causes real world violence, but I do believe that it does little to prevent it. And games with meaningful (and potentially distasteful) choice just might do better because they stand a chance of making the player think about what they're doing on screen.
Linear versus choice-driven games and what they offer/do when it comes to violence is arguable; there's probably no right answer. But the idea of whether or not games even have a responsibility to prevent violence is a curious one.
By nature of how ubiquitous the medium is, it's probably irresponsible to not even think about it, at least. Certainly we've had games that aim to educate or make the world better. So it wouldn't be impossible to make a game that tries to prevent violence.
Food for thought between our neckstabs.
Dishonored Dev Joe Houston On Violence In Games [Rock, Paper, Shotgun]