Developers ‘have an obligation over game violence’

Warren Spector says he’s finding it ‘very hard’ to balance gore in System Shock 3

Warren Spector has found it “very hard” to balance the level of violence in System Shock 3, considering his stance against gratuitous gore in games, he’s said.

The System Shock designer has previously spoken out against gratuitous violence in games and told VGC in a recent interview that his ambition is to one day create a game that has no weapons.

However, with System Shock 3 being in part survival horror, Spector said he is going to listen to his team and the game’s audience before deciding on a balance.

“It’s very hard, to be honest with you,” the designer said. “System Shock at one level is a survival horror game and achieving horror is about creating tension and making people stop to wonder what lies around the corner.

“There are expectations with a game like System Shock that I’m going to go a little bit further [with violence] than I normally would. So what I’m trying to do is listen to my team, listen to the audience and adjust my beliefs, or work within my beliefs, appropriately.”

Spector added that even Epic Mickey, the Wii adventure game he created with Disney, didn’t achieve his ambition of creating a weapon-free game experience.

“Some day I want to create a game that has no weapons. I can’t tell you how much I want to do that. Epic Mickey was kind of an attempt at that, but the deep, dark secret was that with the paint thinner you still had a weapon, to be honest.

“With System Shock 3 it’s going to be a very delicate balance and we’ll see if I fall into one side of that.”

In March 2018 Spector reacted to a video reel of violent games shown at a White House Meeting, featuring games from the Call of Duty, Fallout and Wolfenstein series.

Spector stated at the time that “everyone associated with those games should be ashamed of themselves.” However, he now concedes that the footage shown “doesn’t reflect the majority of games on the market.”

“That video was put together specifically to show the very, very worst and it doesn’t reflect the majority of games on the market,” he said. “So it is kind of a trap to use that as a starting point for a critique of the entire medium.

“I have a tendency to overstate to make my point and I may have fallen into that trap.”

However, the Deus Ex creator said he still feels that game developers have a responsibility to be “sensible” with the level of violence in their games.

“There are things that I think are too far, there’s no question. I wish the audience would fight back and I wish other developers would show a little bit more restraint,” he said. “I just don’t see any reason for a chainsaw, or a meat hook, or decapitation in a game, ever. It’s in bad taste.

“I genuinely don’t believe that games cause behaviours, but there is good taste and bad taste. I think developers have some obligation to just be sensible about stuff. But I also don’t want to fall into the trap of telling people what games they should make.”

System Shock 3 was most recently shown at GDC in March, when Spector confirmed it’s being made with the Unity engine.