Game Design Theory Level 3 – Customization and Creative Design Techniques

Level 3 Section 4: Combat


Whether we like it or not combat is a major part of gaming today and to be a successful designer you may need to know a little bit about how combat works in a game. You can choose how violent to make a game, or to make a game with no violence at all. There does need to be conflict, and in this section we’ll discuss the most common type of gaming conflict – combat. However we must do our boy/girl scout duty and remind you about the dangers and perils of using violence in your games, and of course we will tell you repeatedly that you should consider what’s in good taste and what’s appropriate when making games . In general you should try to keep your games fun but without malice or hate towards people or other living things. 


Be Mindful of ESRB Guidelines When Creating Violent Gameplay



There are specific things that reviews are looking for at the ESRB ratings board that tell them where you game falls in the overall range of violent content. Things like blood, gore and killing innocent people are considered pretty heavy and will get your game a more mature rating. You should be aware of what the standards are at the time you’re designing so that you can properly estimate your audience and design for that purpose. If you’re designing to a teenage crowd but your game is for those aged 17+ you may not get as many sales or promotional help. Games that are acceptable for younger audiences naturally have a broader appeal because almost anyone can play these games and parents can play them with kids. Keep in mind that it’s important to know who your audience is and what you can and can’t get away with.


Violence Is All About Context


Although we may not agree personally with violence against anyone, and I personally do believe in being kind and never starting confrontations, in video games there is a huge demand for games that include violence in some way or another. The violence in games ranges from minor attacks like bouncing off of an enemy’s head (Super Mario Brothers) to ultra gory combat (Mortal Kombat). It may not matter in the real world why the character in a video game does what he/she/it does but to players, audiences and ratings board judges it does matter why the character is carrying out violence. Players of the game will see your character differently if they are causing harm to innocent or non-threatening enemies. They will experience the story, plot developments and gameplay differently and certain players may be turned off by excessive force. 


There is a whole section of fans that watch other people play their favorite games online, and these fans will see the game and it’s story in a different way if there isn’t a good balance and justification of force in a game. You generally want players to enjoy being in the driver’s seat of this character, and you want to produce a dramatic tale that shows why it’s completely necessary for the player character to do what’s right. Even if you as a developer want to make a game where players can use excessive force you should consider the ESRB ratings board which can influence how the game is perceived. They want a positive message, redeeming or heroic behavior and justification of force. Games like Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto have no excuses but you should still be aware of the general ESRB standards and what is prohibited in each category.