Tagline, 1993. I’m 14. Living in a new town, 600 miles from everything I’ve ever known. Our house is a strange mix of cable-spools and lawn chairs for living room furniture and the smell of new waterbeds wafting down the hall.. I do have a computer and I eventually have a dedicated modem line to run my OBV/2 BBS, The Graveyard. At night, Razor1911 couriers are dialing into the PC to drop 0-Day Warez and I hear mom and dad in the other room arguing -talking about “maybe going to jail” because of [wah-wah - insurance, something-something - wah-wah] that I didn’t fully understand at the time.
We lived in a hotel the previous summer - The Ramada Inn on the Causeway in Mobile, Alabama that has since been demolished - near R&R Seafood. I suppose we were technically homeless but getting a new start. Growing up on 10 acres on the edge of an Indiana Forestry I found myself for the first time with the suburban freedoms enjoyed by kids in my favorite Spielberg movies.
Me, my bicycle and a BP gas station a few blocks away with a Mortal Kombat acade machine & Taco Bell Express. My teenage mind was blown with the opportunity. I fed so many quarters into that machine and played against football-playing high schoolers that were twice my size and a tendency to menace me when they lost. Admittedly, sometimes I let the Wookie win.
Sometimes, I didn’t.
This person named Hillary Clinton was on the television talking about censoring my favorite albums (2 Live Crew, RATM, Tool, Gravity Kills, God Lives Underwater) and the dangers posed by this new menace to America’s youth: Video Game violence.
- ”Is all the world Jails and Churches?”
(well, that was VietNow (1997) but you get the point)
Agreed that is a long walk to get you into my headspace. Now that you are here, pull up a lawn chair and let’s set at the cable-spool turned-coffee table and have a chat about video game violence, 26 years later.
I remember being annoyed when Mortal Kombat (1 and 2) were finally ported to home consoles with minimal gore, no-blood and paired down graphics. It just wasn’t the same game, anymore. Mortal Kombat 1 was the first arcade game I ever bought. I own and often still play a MK4 w/ MK1, MK2, MK3, Mk4 PCBs in it. I let my 13 and 9 year old kids play it and think nothing about it.
Enter, Mortal Kombat 11. MK11 (I’m playing on the Nintendo Switch) continues a trend in the MK franchise through the introduction of mid-fight super-move sequences that can be triggered during a match when a player’s health bar reaches a critical part. MK9 called these X-Ray moves because they used an X-Ray camera view to show the devastation being wrought to the opponents skeletal structure.
If you think of MK3, where there are improbable grapples where an opponent might crack the fighter’s neck or damage their spine during the match. It’s like that. The moves do an incredible amount of damage at the expense of player control for both players but do not necessarily completely drain the opponent. As unlikely has it might seem, Liu Kang can hop back up and keep fighting after Katana snaps his neck..
Mortal Kombat 11 calls these Fatal Blows and they are a strategic crutch that either player can employ to provide momentum for a comeback or level the health meters. The thing is: Fatal Blows in 2019’s Mortal Kombat 11 are the equivalent of 1993’s MK1 or MK2 Fatalities.
Which means.. the fatalities… are more so.
How much, more?
Maybe, PTSD levels of more.
In my best Obama, “Let… me.. be.. clear:” I’m not saying that playing through MK11 gave me any form of PTSD. But I will say that MK11’s fatalities in particular probed the edges of what I’m comfortable watching and classifying as entertainment. Several points during my initial play through of the game, I had a sensation that I can only describe as my neural-net-firewall throwing a warning. “Hey, there are things going into your eyeballs that you should be aware that we aren’t sure is good for us.”
Sure, previous Mortal Kombat games were equally horrible in the fatality death of a character through evisceration, explosion, decapitation and more. This installment in the franchise pauses at the worst bits of horror while the reward and menu system delay to return user control by to the player.
For instance: You get to see Kronica tear your character in half length-wise. Pause. Put you back together through a time-rewind and then tear your character in half at the waste. Repeat as many as 6 times until the menu renders allowing you to navigate the game.
Most fatalities now end in the complete drawn-and-quartered explosive destruction of the opponent and the game developer seems pretty proud of their bloody accomplishment as featured through the game credits.
Searching the web, I found that there is at least one case of an individual who worked on the game being treated for PTSD:
Take that with a grain of salt, it was picked up as click-bait by half of the internet. No such thing as bad publicity, right?
I’ve met soldiers who operated turrets from inside armored vehicles in Afghanistan. Instead of gunning from an exposed position, “Playstation Johnny" sits in the relative armored comfort of his vehicle as he mows down the enemy from a computer monitor and gamepad. Despite this, Playstation Johnny has just as much potential for combat fatigue and mental trauma as the guy with boots on the ground carrying a rife.
In the mid-90’s I found myself frowning at the Pant-Suited Politician trying to censor my video games and music. 26 years later I find myself wondering if the ratings label on this game is an adequate communication device juxtaposed to the affect it might have on an emotionally developing mind.
I feel like I should love this game but I don’t. The hazards of adulting, I suppose? If my 14 year old self could see me now, he’d probably kick me in the nuts.
“Go get laid, kid.”