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E3 Had A Surprising Number of Nonviolent Games

Venba is a narrative game about an Indian woman who immigrates to Canada with her family in the 80s.

Venba is a narrative game about an Indian woman who immigrates to Canada with her family in the 80s.
Screenshot: Visai Games

Thirty-three percent of all the games shown at E3 and Summer Game Fest were nonviolent, according to an analysis done by GamesIndustry.biz.

The website looked at 349 games from 15 events, coming from organizations large and small such as Microsoft, Nintendo, and Devolver Digital. 115 games were categorized as nonviolent, mostly coming from indie studios and presentations like the appropriately named Wholesome Direct. Only 15 of those nonviolent games, or 4 percent, came from major publishers.

Twenty-two percent of games featured by Nintendo were nonviolent, the highest out of all its peers. Xbox came next with 13 percent, down from 24 percent in 2019. Square Enix, Capcom, Gearbox, and Koch Media collectively showcased 36 titles, but none of them were nonviolent.

Of course, “nonviolent” is a pretty broad term. GamesIndustry.biz laid out the specific guidelines it used to determine if a game could be considered nonviolent:

  • No title where you are required or encouraged to harm or kill another living entity.
  • No title with graphic or realistic depictions of violence.
  • We have also counted cartoon violence, e.g. Mario Party mini-games that involve knocking out the other players or Party Animals hurling each other off levels.
  • Games around contact sports are considered violent.
  • Reference to unseen violent acts, e.g. a game where you are solving a previous murder, does not count as violent.
  • Minimalist depictions or representations of conflict, e.g. a Hearthstone-style card game, do not count as violent.
  • Games in which you give direct orders that lead to violence, e.g. strategy titles or turn-based RPGs, are considered violent.

This is a similar criteria to what GamesIndustry.biz used for its analysis of nonviolent games in E3 2019. That list also had a bullet point for sports games, which were considered violent if they were depicting combat sports such as boxing or wrestling.

The reason for these studies, as GamesIndustry.biz explains, is because most games are about fighting and killing. Violent actions and themes have long been held as an essential component in video games. Even a kid-friendly series like Pokémon still features caged animals tearing each other apart for the glory of their trainers.

Documenting this trend is not the same thing as pointing fingers. As someone who enjoys violent games enough to unlock every achievement in Sekiro and beat both Doom and Doom Eternal on Nightmare (with a successful Ultra-Nightmare runs incoming when I get a week off), I still appreciate the importance of highlighting games that aren’t about hurting people.


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