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Is violence required to make a good game great?

BioWare believes it can create a great game with a compelling story line and no violence. Is that really possible, given today's video game landscape?

Doom
Doom has taught us a lot about video game violence. Id Software

In a recent interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Greg Zeschuk, the creative officer at BioWare, a prominent video game developer, said that the marriage of violence and story in video games isn't necessarily required to make a great game. For the most part, making good nonviolent games just hasn't been tried.

"We talk a certain amount internally about whether you need to have combat as part of the experience," Zeschuk told the site. "Folks that are used to playing games over the last ten years, they want to have those battle moments, and the fighting. But there are different audiences that would maybe just enjoy the story."

Although I can't speak for all gamers, I, for one, would be one of those folks. I love a good video game story. Immediately, Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete and Shenmue come to mind. So do most of the Legend of Zelda games. They each offered an outstanding story that kept me captivated. The battles and the fighting were secondary.

But then again, they were still present. Without them, Zelda wouldn't be Zelda, Shenmue wouldn't be Shenmue, and a role-playing game like Lunar wouldn't be a role-playing game. The industry has made violence an integral component of video games. And it might be difficult to suddenly remove it for the sake of a story.

That said, I'd still love to see it.

Admittedly, there are some titles that can be compelling without the fighting. Katamari Damacy was a hit when it was released. Even Tetris, one of the industry's most popular games, didn't need violence to make it work.

But Tetris didn't have a story. And although Katamari Damacy did, it wasn't all that deep. To find a game with a story and no violence is rare. In fact, this list of "nonviolent" video games reveals several games that most of us have probably never heard of.

But that doesn't mean that it's impossible to make a nonviolent game work--it will just take some more effort.

The Wii seems like the ideal platform for developers to try out unique, nonviolent ideas. Judging by its library of games, Wii owners seem to be more accepting of new concepts. The platform is filled with titles like Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, Wii Sports, and a variety of other games that covet fun over violence. And for the most part, they sell well.

But once again, those games do not feature a story line that would rival The Legend of Zelda or Metal Gear Solid. They're designed to entertain you, rather than captivate you with a gripping story line.

Developing a game without violence, but with a compelling story line might be difficult. The average gamer has been conditioned to accept video game stories that feature a protagonist, antagonist, and violence. In fact, the titles included in the list of the top 10 selling games of 2008 that actually had some semblance of a story, featured those three elements. The same can be said for the top 10 most-popular titles released in 2006 and 2007. If it had a story, it had violence.

So, while I'm not saying it's impossible to create a top-selling game with a great story line and no violence, I do think it will be difficult. BioWare might be in for a tough time.

Or will it? Would you buy a game that contains no violence, but a great story? Is violence an important part of any game you might consider buying? Let us know in the comments below.

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