Monday, March 21, 2011

Revisiting the Mortal Kombat kontroversy

If you were a kid in the 90's, I'm sure you remember the glut of one-on-one fighting games. Street Fighter II, World Heroes, Samurai Showdown, Virtua Fighter, I could go on and on.

(By the way, my name is dustin Faber, and Andy was kind enough to let me post on this blog. Instead of a self-congratulatory post talking about the wonder that is me, I'll stick with letting you know I'm an engaged graphic designer/customer service rep who loves the Boston Celtics, classic gaming, and blogs at, and Oh and Root Beer rocks).

Anyways, one fighting game stuck out, and it wasn't due to it's superior gameplay (Street Fighter was a better game). Mortal Kombat. Instead of beating people up, you literally killed the other guy, with blood splattering all over the place and the ability to rip someone's spinal cord out of it's socket.

While the gameplay's merits are up for debate, there's no doubting that this game made news. Parents and senators were up in arms, to the point that the ESRB was created due to games like this (and Night Trap as well). The ESRB made me mad: it prevented me from buying Street Fighter II: Championship Edition, even though my Mom had watched me play an entire match it in the arcades with no objections at all (To this day, it's the only parenting decision I strongly disagree with Mom on. She goes strictly by the ratings, I say there are other sources to go by as well).

But the realistic violence was too much for some people, and understandably so. If you wouldn't let your kids watch an R-Rated film, why let them recreate one on the Genesis?

But a few weeks ago, my fiance and I plugged Mortal Kombat II into the Sega Genesis, used a Game Genie code to make the fatalities automatic, and enjoyed pre-marital bonding by slicing each other up with razor-sharp fans. It made me wonder, during all of the bloodshed, if the criticism of Mortal Kombat was well-founded, or overblown.

Is this really that over-the-top violent as congressmen claimed?

Perhaps the HD graphics of today distort my views on the game, but the violence seems so cartoony and over-the-top, especially when you compare it to the upcoming MK title. It's not as if we were up in arms over life-like actors and actresses mutilating each other for our own amusement. More than once while playing MKII, I thought to myself that the game wasn't so bad.

Or is it? I really can't find any redeeming values in the game (then again, what redeeming values are in Pole Position?), other than the fact that it's really fun to trash talk your loved ones after a close battle. Perhaps the bloody carnage helped us bond in ways that Tetris Party could not do.

But I'm curious to your own thoughts. If you have younger children or nieces/nephews, would you let them play this game now, under the guise that it isn't as "graphic" as the violent games of today? Or would you consider the game just as off-limits as your standard M-rated FPS?


damien said...

Welcome to my favorite Catholic Video Game blog. Enjoy your stay.

Regardless of the graphic quality, I have to ask myself; what's the point? Mutilating a human body does not appeal to me in a video game or in real life.

However, I would caution against the ever sprawling desensitization that enters through our eyes.

Super Smash Bros is my ultimate fighting game; combat becomes art.

dustin (The 16-bit Catholic) said...

Good point about not becoming desensitized. However, going by the logic that mutilating a human being is wrong in a game opens up the doors to so many other things, ridiculous as they may seem.

For instance, in Super Mario Brothers, Mario could easily get through the level without any casualties. He's been blessed with an amazing jumping skill, and could simply dodge all enemies. If he can avoid needless murder of goombas and koopa troopers, are their deaths unjust and immoral?

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Regardless, I salute you giving me a different perspective.