Dark tones in video games

Before I go on, I’ll explain what I mean by “Dark Tones” in video games. Basically, it’s a combination of minor details (decaying buildings, ruins, corpses with words, symbols, or other things that tell you something next to them, civilians/innocents suffering, or otherwise obvious signs that shit’s going down), atmosphere (fairly self explanatory; how the game looks and feels), and character interaction/characters in general (do they react in a negative, positive, or simply realistic way).

I recently got myself into Spec Ops: The Line, and it’s been quite a ride. Playing with morals/psychology is something I personally find interesting, and that game does that. You start off the game just fine, like an average shooter game, and end up in a deep pit of insanity by the end, conflicted over the choices you made and the damage you have caused. Your character tries to justify everything he’s done, but does it really work out?
If you haven’t played the game, the below is a spoiler.


There is one cutscene where Walker stares at a woman and a child he’d basically just killed via White Phosphorus, and that scene in my opinion really says “he’s breaking.” He put the blame on the 33rd and moved on. I think it really put perspective into war as a concept - how many innocent people must suffer because of a conflict- as well as how people deal with atrocities like that. When you’re damaged psychologically, you practically shut down, like Walker did in that scene. There was no “This is terrible and I hate that we were put into this position but we must move on,” instead, after a long stare, it was “the 33rd put us into this position and it’s their fault.”

How do you like “darkness” in video games? Do you like seeing subtle hints at the chaos that is happening? Do you enjoy seeing something go from normal to completely different?

I’ll put a few examples of games I think are relevant to this topic here: This War of Mine, Spec Ops: The Line, Far Cry 3, The Forest, Inside, Bioshock, Dead Space, and one you might not have heard of: Condemned: Criminal Origins.

That last game is interesting because it takes something somewhat “normal” (A police officer dealing with criminals) and puts a completely different twist on it, forcing you to slug enemies with melee weapons and going down a progressively more and more dark path.

All and all, I kinda enjoy more darker tones in games. Nothing edgy, like for example, “YOU KILLED MY PARENTS YOU MUST DIE REEE I DRAW KATANA”, but still hitting that dark, sometimes messed up vibe. I’ve always liked interesting, generally massive environments (Rapture in Bioshock, Rook Islands in Far Cry 3, and the entire factory/lab/whatever the fuck in Inside). They manage to be unique without being unbelievable. Lastly, when games take something you consider normal and makes you seriously think about it (how we treat war games for fun, but then Spec Ops: The Line kicks you in the balls) as well as thinking about your actions, it creates an interesting interaction between the player and the game.

That’s my (2:30 am) thoughts on the matter, and I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on the matter.

Games like This War of Mine sell themselves on that atmosphere, but it annoys me when some plain and simple shooter decides it needs to say something grand about human nature.

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What do you mean by this? If you’re talking about Spec Ops: The Line, it doesn’t really bring up human nature but rather what’s right and what’s wrong, and also just how fucked up war can be.

SO:TL and TWoM are excellent examples.

Generally any well-known game with a moral theme pulls this off remarkably well.

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