The recent revelation that Borderlands 2 will allow you to turn off “gore” -- that is, the blood and guts that you’ll inevitably come across and probably cause -- has me thinking about why such a feature didn’t already exist in console games. Left 4 Dead 2 was banned for being too bloody, but was subsequently released in a less-than-stellar way. Would Australians have been playing Left 4 Dead 2 as it was intended had a “gore toggle” been included?
Maybe. Probably. I personally can’t help but see this addition to Borderlands 2 as an attempt to keep the game’s gore “under the radar”, especially considering the developer’s mentioning of Australia and Germany, two nations notorious for inconsistent censorship benchmarks and banning precedents.
Whatever the intention, it will be fascinating to see how Borderlands 2 plays out with gore switched to “off”, because Left 4 Dead 2 was actually quite atrocious: the removal of blood and gore severely compromised that game’s artistic appeal, making it feel less like a contemporary zombie shooter and more like a mid-90s arcade shooter, full with disappearing dead enemies.
It was surprising to see how the removal of blood and gore had such a negative effect on the experience, although I’m not sure that Borderlands 2 is especially reliant on ultra realistic blood and gore to offer an enjoyable experience. Still, commentary saying gamers can make Borderlands 2 a “less violent experience” appears to have come out of nowhere, perhaps in response to the recent “Batman shootings” in the US.
If Hollywood and developers can learn anything from Gearbox’s approach, it’s that perhaps, just maybe, government intervention can be avoided.
Is Gearbox playing it safe in an effort to avoid any possible scrutiny as to Borderland 2’s violence? It’s certainly a question worth pondering, just as Hollywood looks to discuss the use of violence in films following the tragic circumstances in Colorado.
Gearbox’s design choice doesn’t seem especially outrageous, but rather particularly opportunistic in an attempt to distance the medium from those that use it (and film) as a scapegoat for an individual’s own horrendous actions.
Game developers have more freedom than filmmakers in this regard, as they can reduce the effect of gore with some added coding and design elements. Hollywood doesn’t have that freedom, especially if it hopes cinema remains relevant into the future. The digital landscape might allow film studios to offer different versions of a film, which would really be no different to game developers adding “gore toggles” to their games.
If Hollywood and developers can learn anything from Gearbox’s approach, it’s that perhaps, just maybe, government intervention can be avoided, and consumers can at the very least have the option to limit the amount of gore being displayed in their household. That freedom hasn’t really existed in the past, and governments have felt obliged to intervene. Hopefully this is a tactic used more regularly, and hopefully it can alter the ways in which young (and troubled) people interact with violent material for the better.
By Gaetano Prestia
What are your thoughts on Borderland 2’s “gore toggle”? What do you think is Gearbox’s reasoning behind the design choice?