Andrew Magrath (biggrumpy) wrote,
Andrew Magrath

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Prince of Persia Sands of Time Trilogy and Violent Video Games

I recently finished The Two Thrones the concluding game in the Prince of Persia Sands of Time Trilogy, and I must say I was very impressed.  I am going to talk about some minor plot points of the games, but I promise I will not reveal anything that you could not get from reading the box cover art or game manuals.  So this will be spoiler free.  At the end I am also going to talk a little about violent video games, so be prepared (ohh yes, be prepared).

The great thing about the Two Thrones is that it truly is the completion of the previous two games.  The Sands of Time (SoT) introduced the noble and, slightly, arrogant Prince.  He was fairly good natured and a nice guy.  My favorite part is at one point you are sliding down a lot of ropes and he yells something like “Yippie!” (okay that may have been a spoiler, sorry to all you “I wanted to be surprised by the rope climbing joy scene” people)  It looks like a lot of fun in the game, and it is just cool that the hero has a really fun time doing it.  He is an innocent young man trapped in a complicated situation. 

 In the Warrior Within (WW), the prince is very different.  He is dark and boarder line evil.  It is a radical departure from the serious, but happy-go-lucky, character you played in the first game.  A lot of fans were disappointed by the darker direction the game took.  I was at first.  As you play the game you start to understand why the prince has fallen so low, but it is still hard to enjoy the game’s story sometimes.  The prince has become a killing machine.  The WW is a very violent game, but it uses the violence to make the point at just how corrupt the hero has become.

Then the Two Thrones (TT) comes along and really twists everything on its head.  The prince is back, but there are now two souls trapped in one body.  There is the kind noble prince form the first game and the dark violent prince form the second game.  Suddenly the dark twist the second game took becomes a crucial part of the storyline.  Far from celebrating the violent prince, it shows him in a complicated light.  It does not dismiss his battle prowess offhandedly: the prince is forced to fight for his and other’s survival.  Yet, the game does not excuse his lust for carnage.  It is a very good look at violence and force.  The game was masterfully done, and the ending… WOW!  I don’t want to give it away because it is something so unique to games, but wow is it good.  It is a poignant and wonderful commentary on the use of force to accomplish goals.

I read recently Will Wright’s (creator of Sim City, the Sims, etc) commentary on video game violence studies.  He brought up an amazing point, most of these studies are conducted by people who do not play video games.  So the authors do not know the way video games give users a sense of accomplishment, engage them with solving puzzles, etc.  He compared these studies to someone that studies the affects of movies without having ever seen a movie.  If you only observed the audiences watching a movie you would probably conclude that movies encourage slothfulness, consumption of junk food, and antisocial behavior and that’s it.  You could never truly know the emotions that a movie can invoke.  And forget about books!  If you studied the negative affects of books, having never read a book yourself, it is fair to say that books would look worst of all (complete antisocial behavior, extreme slothfulness, long periods of inactivity, strain on the eyes, etc.).  In essence, unless you have watched a movie, or read a book, or played video games, it is difficult to really study any of them in a meaningful way.  He does not defend video game violence (his own games are very tame in regards to violence), but he does bring up a valid point about the methodology used in most of these studies.

The Prince of Persia series really crystallizes that line of thinking for me.  On the surface it is a fairly violent series.  Casually it may appear to glorify violence and encourage it.  But when you play the game you realize that most of the time violence accomplishes nothing for the prince, and, in many cases, only makes the situation far worse.  Does that mean that I think every eight year old should play it?  No, the last two games are rated M for a reason.  Parents still need to be parents and do their job by truly examining what their children are consuming.  The subtlety and skillful application of the anti-violence message contained in the games is probably way too difficult to grasp for younger kids, but this series (and others like it) should not be condemned out of hand. There is more too it than gruesome sword fights and blood:  there is morality.  Which is something studies rarely measure.

Also, I have a new "entertainment" icon (shown here).  I didn't like the old azumanga daioh icon so it has been DELETED.

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