Splinter Cell: Blacklist director Patrick Redding believes gaming violence wouldn’t be as controversial if it was rendered in a more stylised fashion and presented systemically rather than as the only option in a scripted sequence.
"If I'm playing the game and these events are being shown to me, and I feel as though it's like a cinematic moment in the middle of the game, then my discomfort with it comes from the feeling that I can't avoid it, or that it's part of the story that has to happen," he told Gamesindustry.
"If we're willing to embrace a more systemic approach in the future, then we have the ability to explore these kinds of meanings in a way that will be less uncomfortable for people."
"It won't just be about having beautifully rendered blood and extra-visceral bone-breaking sounds. It'll be more about the decisions, the choice of, 'Do I believe that ethically, the situation is bad enough for me to do something really terrible to this person in order to get a certain game result?'"
Moving the most violent parts of a game out of cutscenes and making them an optional part of the game would shift the blame for those actions from the game to the player, he said.
"My argument would be that the initial feeling of outrage that hits when someone sees that a game enables the player to do something morally questionable because the systems support it – that passes a lot faster because as people look at the game, they become more literate procedurally in what makes the game a game, and what makes it interactive."
“They start to understand that just like the message says at the beginning of the game, 'interactions are not covered by the rating'. Human beings have the autonomy to go in there and do things that are distasteful or of questionable merit, but they're taking those actions on their own."
Redding also suggested that the types of games being produced these days focussed too much on violence for its own sake, when there existed a huge market for more nuanced titles.
"I think we all agree that for the last several years, games have been dominated by the adolescent male power fantasy-type experiences, across all genres and across all platforms.
"I think most of us would like there to be more different kinds of games out there. And if we can do that, if we can provide games that are of interest to a more diverse audience and relatable to a wider range of people, then the presence of some games that are still more violent or action-oriented is going to be less disturbing.
“There will be a sense that this is a medium that's mature, that's rich, capable of tackling a lot of different subjects, whether they're serious and difficult, or frivolous and purely entertaining. Same as any other medium. But it becomes an easy target when it's the only thing we're doing."
This isn’t the first time Redding has espoused the benefits of systemic design. On Monday he said that AAA titles would eventually shift away from glossy production towards an emphasis on systemic elements – that is, a focus on emergent gameplay rather than scripted sequences.
It'll be interesting to see whether he has heeded his own advice when Splinter Cell: Blacklist drops next Autumn.