After years of jokes and bad puns Duke Nukem Forever in development’  is finally going to see the dust of a shelf – hopefully not too much dust.   As one of the first graphically – for the time – violent games in the mid-90’s Duke Nukem 3D helped create a staple for both first person shooter gameplay and video game controversy.  There has been a cornucopia of violent and sexual video games since the early 90’s, many of which raised standards for gameplay and storytelling.  The question remains – do we really care about Duke Nukem Forever after over 10 years of waiting?  More importantly, will the game make a dent in a market dominated by violent first person shooters and violent games in general?

Id software is recognized as the father or first person shooters.  Its release of Wolfenstein 3D – a first person shooter in which you are tasked to invade a Nazi stronghold with the goal of killing Hitler and his goons – was controversial in its graphic depiction of killing and praised for its original gameplay.  Id software’s followup title Doom added better graphics and set the stage on a demon infested mars.  The game was lauded by the gaming community and became hugely successful despite being labeled by some as a ‘murder simulator’

3Drealms, the former developer of Duke Nukem Forever, rode their way into the annals of video game history through their release of Duke Nukem 3D.   In respect to early first person shooters DN3D very much emulated Doom, which had become a very successful formula for future fps games.  The caveat of the game was its protagonist Duke, a homage and amalgam of 80’s action movie stars complete with big biceps and cheesy one liners.  The controversy surrounded the fact that you could kill women and ‘pig headed’ cops.  In defense of the game the women only came in two varieties – strippers and mutated damsels begging to be put out of their misery.  The pig cops were clearly mad with power and warped by aliens.   One could look at it as duke providing a service to society – which, considering the general premise of aliens invading earth, was the developers point.  It was not until Grand Theft Auto (1997) that players could kill real police officers.

The Grand Theft Auto series (GTA) is different from early first person shooters in the respect that it is in third person.  The first two games were two dimensional with an over-head perspective.  They featured violence set in a modern city albeit with less detail than Doom or DN3D.  The game’s premise involved stealing cars and doing jobs for the mafia.  The game’s lesser known contemporary, Postal, was released around the same time for PC’s and featured much more detailed depictions of murder and violence.  Due to its relatively non-existent marketing and exclusivity to PC’s, the game did not make a large impact on the gaming community – both commercially and controversially.  In 2001 Rockstar Games, the developer of the GTA series, released what is perhaps one of the greatest innovations in gaming during the new millennium: GTA 3.  Many modern open-world action games owe allot of their formula to this ground breaking third person shooter.  Equally important is its impact on the public perception on video game violence, with parents and politicians rising up in arms over the graphic depictions of murder and other crimes.

In the realm of first person shooters, controversy begins to slowly erode as popular games such as halo and half life begin to incorporate more story and cinematic elements separating themselves from criminal simulators.  WWII becomes a popular theme for shooters, offering gamers a chance to experience the feeling of being a solider in times of war.  As a whole the first person shooter industry begins to see more acceptance from the general public, if not a bit cliche and overused.

By the year 2008 even the venerable GTA franchise has begun to mature.  The latest game in the series, GTA IV, has a very well written story and provides the player with moral choices.  Bioshock – a game by Irrational software  released in 2007- set a standard for story telling and the juxtaposition of moral choices.  Even Disney have take cue from this change in the industry;   their soon to be released Epic Mickey will  incorporate the ability (in fact necessity ) to choose between right and wrong.  We have to wonder:  what will a long awaited game like Duke Nukem Forever bring to the table?  If stripped of its controversial status will the gameplay hold through in the modern era of video games or will it simply be a trip down memory lane, played for nostalgia and then placed on the shelf next to its nearly 15 year old predecessor?  I’d like to think to the contrary as 10 years in development should have been ample time to craft something worth my $60. Maybe a Clockwork orange adaptation could get some concerned citizens back in arms – then again a little video game ultra-violence never really hurt anyone.

http://www.theppsc.org/News/Murder.Simulators.htm

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080514213432.htm

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