Putting Away the Sword: The Appeal of Non-Violent Adventure Games

I can’t recall the first videogame I played (I do know I once tried to feed an Atari 2600 Kool-Aid) but I do know the kind of games I first played. Super Mario Bros. was a big one. Ikari Warriors, Adventure Island, Legend of Zelda, Immortal, Castlevania, all of these games I know I played when I wasn’t even in elementary school yet. All of these games have something in common: action.

Eventually my dad got Final Fantasy and watching him play it on the NES was a thrill. I could never understand the complicated save feature so no matter how much I played, the whole “hold reset before shutting off” stuff was confusing to a five year old. Still, I was sucked into the fantasy and magic of Final Fantasy, and so happy that once I got my own NES in the Super Nintendo, my parents purchased me Final Fantasy II (IV).

Being a JRPG it’s turn based combat but it was still all about battling with weapons and killing monsters. The game featured death, decay, magic and mystery. It was everything my childhood brain craved, mixed with an amazing soundtrack that resembled string instruments and synthesizers. My love of Final Fantasy IV bled into everything I enjoy today, from the music I listen to, to the games I still play. I still love RPGs, and the closer to Final Fantasy the better.

The problem is that Final Fantasy eventually changed, going 3D. I didn’t really follow it in the 3D realm. I did play some JRPGs like Tales of Symphonia and Baten Kaitos for Gamecube but I always preferred my RPG to look like a pixelated wonderland. I think that’s why I moved more to the Nintendo DS RPGs like Radiant Historia.

I still play videogames, maybe not to the fever I used to but I still love playing them. Whether it be the classics or something new like Xenoblade Chronicles or Captain Toad, I still find something new to play. Captain Toad is actually what made me think about writing, or at least the type of game it is. It all came from a Super Mario 3D World mini-game where you can’t really attack enemies so you have to dodge and get around them via puzzles. I love that sort of puzzle system, and it makes me look bad to the type of games I now invest in. Whether you call them adventure games, detective games, mystery games, it all works out. Adventure works for me, but Zelda is also an adventure game. These are non-violent Adventure games.

I find myself addicted to re-playing some old classics like Snatcher for the Sega CD where you point and click your way through a mystery or watching a Let’s Play of the J.B. Harold Murder Club. I also found once I got my Nintendo DS I became attracted to games like Phoenix Wright, where I’m a defence lawyer trying to keep people from being convicted. Pointing out inconsistencies in testimony or finding clues was far more invigorating and satisfying than killing someone with a sword or using magic spells. I also liked the Professor Layton games that used puzzle solving in lieu of killing creatures.

The two games that ended up hooking me more than anything was Hotel Dusk and Last Window for the Nintendo DS. I had to play Last Window on an emulator because it never came out in North America (and unfortunately, the company who designed the games went under). Those games were slow, the graphics had basic 3D with some nicely drawn character art and were just full of character. I loved talking to these people and figuring out their personal mysteries while I slowly solved my own. To this day if you asked me for a game series I’d love to see return it’d be anything involving Kyle Hyde.

Soon after those games I dived into 999 and its sequel Virtue’s Last Reward. The games tried to up the ante with death and such but it was still about solving puzzles, talking to people and progressing through your brain instead of your brawn.

I know at this point I’m just listing video games instead of getting to a point, but my point is that I found that I’m becoming less interest in violent games or games where you’re supposed to attack and kill to move to your goal and getting more involved in games where I have to use my brain to get further. A lot of times in these games I get stuck and need a walkthrough so don’t think I’m saying this as a humble brag. It’s simply the fact that at 30 years old, having played these “attack” games for over two decades and approaching three, I’m just not feeling it anymore. I don’t get the same thrills. And maybe I never got the same thrills as a lot of people since I played JRPGs where you never see the attacks connect, but I can still play a Xenoblade Chronicles where it does, and I still get a lot of fun out of the Mario Bros. series. I used to be knee deep in the gamer market buying Mortal Kombat, GoldenEye and Grand Theft Auto III but I guess it eventually left me behind to become more violent. The graphics got a lot more textured but I have a tough time saying they got more realistic. In Call of Duty you get shot, hide behind a brick wall and suddenly you’re not bleeding anymore. In Hotel Dusk, you can lose your job. That’s realistic.

I guess I find it interesting that I’ve softened this way. I don’t need to play something where I eliminate something and ensure it no longer exists in my game space. I’m good with just talking to it and hoping it gives me something in return. There’s nothing wrong with what I used to enjoy. I just don’t need to pick up a sword anymore.

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