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Subject: Violence in Board Games? rss

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Sean Malone
Ireland
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Hey guys, first post so I thought I'd introduce myself! My name is Sean and I'm one of the game designers and lead artist at Turtle Dream Games. We've just successfully funded our first game Exquisite Beast and are looking to the future with some more of our game concepts.

Anyway, on to the topic. I am currently prototyping a police procedural deck building game and while doing some concept sketches a question arose about the depiction of crime and violence. Essentially, players attempt to keep civil unrest down while trying to solve an overarching case. Each of the Incidents players deal with depicts a crime, ranging from muggings, and drug deals, to much grander and gruesome crime.

My question is where do you draw the line when it comes to violence in games? Many fantasy games depict incredible violence but keep gore to a minimum. I'm inclined to keep it reasonably restrained but am interested to hear your opinions?
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Joe Salamone
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I think violence is okay if it supports the theme without being gratuitous. For example, if someone gets stabbed, I don't think it is necessary to use a picture of a body with 12 stab wounds and blood all over the place. A body with a knife on the ground beside it is probably sufficient to get the point across. In any event, if you make sure to label the box and advertising materials appropriately so that potential buyers are aware of the violent images, you should be okay. Also (but probably not financially feasible) you could release two versions. One with toned-down images and another with more graphic images.
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Quantum Jack
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Get the point across... Clever there.

Zombies!!! Has some fairly gruesome art on the cards. I have only had one negative reaction to the art so far. Had one player that just had to ignore the art and read cards.

Bottom line: make your art the way yoou want it. Some people are offended at the very idea of violence, others will never complain up to and including real crime scene photos.

If you curb your art due to fear of offending someone, you may not be happy, and someone somewhere will be upset anyway.
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Signal FromTheRim
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There is no line. If it is well done, it does not matter how graphic it is. Poorly done and you will get flak.
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Sarah Kelley
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Looking forward to playing Exquisite Beast!

On topic . . . I've never seen a game that I found the images too violent, but I'm sure they're around, and I can imagine passing on a game if I found the images too graphic or disturbing, sure.

It depends on your target audience,doesn't it? You're shooting for the people that enjoy police procedurals, right? Then I'd guess that you'd be fine if you kept the images on par with what you'd see on Prime Time TV and draw the line at what you'd see on a movie rated R for violence.

Reasonably restrained strikes me as the sort of middle ground that will keep your sales unbound by questions of taste and propriety, but you're the one who decides if that's the priority, or if something else is more important to you.
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Sean Malone
Ireland
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Violence in Board Games
Yeah, I've played many games that include some graphic imagery and it's never bothered me. I guess when you think about having to put it out there to the public, there is that nagging feeling that someone will lose the plot.

I'm aiming at a teenage to adult audience so movies and comics would be good reference points!
 
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Jason Brown
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Check out Police Precinct. It has the exact same premise that you describe and the art depicts crime in a very reasonable manner.
 
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Carl Frodge
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I think with the insane amount of police brutality and abuse of power that is happening today, making a game like this could delve into some territory that people won't like.

I think the easy answer is, make your game as violent as you want. But violence in a realistic setting is weighed much heavier than violence in a fantasy setting, so what would normally constitute as a family game might, in this case, not be okay for some players.

My advice would be to look at other games that depict realistic violence and see how well they sell, how popular they are, and the general response from players.
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Michael Schneider
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The whole game set in a high Fantasy-theme would be interesting. I've never seen that.
 
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France
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Does the game need to show graphic violence?

We see enough on a daily basis that we don't need to see some more in our games. Especially those set in a realistic world.
 
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Mark Mitchell
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TrueCold wrote:
Hey guys, first post so I thought I'd introduce myself! My name is Sean and I'm one of the game designers and lead artist at Turtle Dream Games. We've just successfully funded our first game Exquisite Beast and are looking to the future with some more of our game concepts.

Anyway, on to the topic. I am currently prototyping a police procedural deck building game and while doing some concept sketches a question arose about the depiction of crime and violence. Essentially, players attempt to keep civil unrest down while trying to solve an overarching case. Each of the Incidents players deal with depicts a crime, ranging from muggings, and drug deals, to much grander and gruesome crime.

My question is where do you draw the line when it comes to violence in games? Many fantasy games depict incredible violence but keep gore to a minimum. I'm inclined to keep it reasonably restrained but am interested to hear your opinions?


May I ask what you mean by 'procedural'? Its a word used in programming (Procedural Generation) but I have never seen this term used in boardgaming.
 
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Jason
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gamecat_uk wrote:
May I ask what you mean by 'procedural'? Its a word used in programming (Procedural Generation) but I have never seen this term used in boardgaming.

Police procedural is a genre that focuses on building the case (forensics, warrants, etc.). Wiki for more info.
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Sean Malone
Ireland
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I think I may need to clarify. I'm not setting out to create a game depicting graphic violence. It was merely a question I thought of while illustrating a brawl.

The game has some horror elements and draws some inspiration from Se7en and Silent Hill among others. I don't intend for the game to contain graphic depictions of violence, but I thought it was an interesting topic for discussion. Many people wouldn't think twice about violence in video games, comics or movies and I wanted peoples opinions on board games.

Me personally, as a horror fan would have quite a high tolerance for certain themes but not other themes. I wouldn't try and force taste on anyone. I suppose game or movie ratings are a good metric for what people consider too much.

Have you ever come across a game where you felt either the art or theme was crossing a line?
 
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John
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TrueCold wrote:
Many people wouldn't think twice about violence in video games, comics or movies and I wanted peoples opinions on board games.

I'm less tolerant of violence in board games than in comics or movies. This is probably partly due to my gaming style (if I like a game I want to play it lots, I'm not that interested in thematic games) and partly due to not liking the effects that seeing violence can have on me.

In a comic or movie the violence is (usually) an essential part of the story and even in a moderately violent comic or movie the total time experiencing violence is usually fairly small. Not every comic or movie if violent and I'll likely only watch a violent film or read a violent comic once. With a board game I'll want to play it multiple times and the kinds of games I like don't tend to have a narrative story line, so from my point of view there isn't much reason for the violence. I don't want to see a violent image dozens or hundreds of times whilst playing a game and get desensitised to the violence.

Obviously different games do different things, some games are designed to tell a story and maybe be played fewer time and more violence might be appropriate in those games. Other people react to violence in different ways to me so for them a deck builder with violent images on every card might be fine (example picked as it seems like the best example of something I wouldn't want to play).

I've not played video games much in the last 15 years but suspect if I did start playing them my tolerance for violence would be somewhere between a movie and a board game.
 
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John
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TrueCold wrote:
Have you ever come across a game where you felt either the art or theme was crossing a line?


I don't think this is too bad but for me the prison in Citadels seems unnecessary. It has people being flung from a bridge and dead bodies lying around with one being eaten by crows.



If that appeared in a graphic novel as part of the plot I'd have far less of a problem with it. In a game like Citadels it seems unnecessary.

It didn't stop me playing the game but it might have made me less likely to buy it if I've seen it beforehand. I'm glad the new version has a less violent prison (a prisoner in chains being led somewhere, possibly to be executed).
 
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France
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I would say toning down the violence a bit should work in your favour by expanding your potential customer base whereas I can't see your potential customers increasing by being more graphic. To use TV as an example and specifically Blue Bloods where the violence is really minor compared to other shows but doesn't seem to have done its ratings any harm.
 
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Lewis Johnson
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Quote:
My question is where do you draw the line when it comes to violence in games?

Muggings, drugs, robbery, vandalism and even murder are probably fine with most of your target audience, as long as their depiction doesn't cross into the realm of sadism (so murders should look like they happened quickly with no prolonged suffering for the victim, and muggings should not include serious/unnecessary physical assault).
Sexual assault and hate crime will be 'crossing the line' for almost all of your audience. Even for those ok with it, they'll have a hard time finding others to play the game with them. In a way it might feel disingenuous to 'sanitize' these very real and relevant crimes from a game trying to portray real-world policing, but a boardgame just isn't the place to try and have that fight, at least not yet (and maybe not ever).
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Remus Rhymus
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I think it depends on your target audience and your vision for the game. If you're looking to produce a game that will appeal to as wide an audience as possible, you will want to be more cognizant of toning down the art where necessary. If your vision for the design leans more towards "Art" then "Product" and you're going for a realistic, visceral and dark vibe from the game and your target audience are fans of films like Se7en, etc. then you may want to stay more true to the brutality of the genre and not tone it down.

See Nate Hayden's Psycho Raiders and Cave Evil for examples of the latter.
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Laura Blachek
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Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game has an age range of 17+ due to the card art. Its quite popular.

( these days ALL of my gaming occurs with my kids present, which limits what i personally play, but that doesnt affect the community as a whole)
 
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Mark Watson
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If it's a police procedural you'd probably be better off illustrating the after-effects of the violence rather than the violence itself. It's pretty easy to solve a case if the police turn up while the crime is being committed

It also means players will need to use their imagination to work out how the victim ended up that way which at least in my experience tends to be far more effective in terms of horror than any kind of graphic depiction (which is exactly what Se7en did come to think of it).
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John
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Jorath wrote:
I would say toning down the violence a bit should work in your favour by expanding your potential customer base whereas I can't see your potential customers increasing by being more graphic.


It depends. People like different things. Almost any change you make to a game will both lose and gain players. Whether there is a net loss or gain is what you care about (if your only aim is increasing sales). If the violence depicted on cards in Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game was toned down then would it cause a net gain in players? I doubt it. The target audience is presumable fans of the Alien films who are unlikely to be put off by violence.
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wayne mathias
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The art should probably reflect the theme and this sounds like a "detective" theme with maybe some lab work involved so the violence would be somewhat abstracted - Psycho vs Chainsaw Massacre graphics?
 
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Christian K
United States
Albany
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Honestly I wish there were more games with graphic violence depicted. There really aren't many, but in an industry with only so many customers it makes sense to take the safe route and keep violence implied.
 
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