Digital games have a reputation for including excessive violence, and violent content tends to be the focal point when games become the target for public criticism. However, as interactin with the gameworld through the use of simulated violence is a convention in many games; and while game violence certainly can be experienced as unsettling, it seldom leads the game to become ”unplayable” for players. Rather, it seems that the game context contributes to reduce the offensiveness of such content. Indeed, players themselves often present this as an argument in the debate about game violence, stating “don’t take it so seriously, it is only a game”, and common – although contested – definitions establish play as something non-serious and withdrawn from everyday life.
The hypothesis that the game context works as a filter that guards the player from distress, does not go against the idea that there may be games in which the goal is to expose the player for uncomfortable ethical situations. While such games may be seen as speculative or questionable because they break social norms, they may also provoke players into reflection.
The question that remains, however, is why players would intentionally put themselves under distress, and how the playful attitude may be affected by such content.
While playfulness on one hand is associated with the pleasures of exploration within a framework; and transgression on the other hand is about breaking norms by presenting the player to activities that create discomfort and thus reflection, transgression and playfulness may appear to contradict each other, running the risk of trivializing the transgression or collapsing the playfulness.
Organizer is Kristine Jørgensen at the University of Bergen, Norway.