15 Years!

A clarification on player violence

We’ve gotten some questions about our policy about in-game violence. We understand that conflict is an important part of games, and that there are very different ideas regarding what “school-appropriate” means. We’ve attempted to clarify our thoughts on the matter below.

Firstly, direct person-on-person physical violence of any kind is disallowed. Environmental or nonspecific danger is fine, but use discretion. It’s also worth noting that changing characters to non-humans (e.g. clones or aliens) just to skirt this rule may not go over well. Robots are a little more complicated, since in many contexts robot combat may be considered perfectly acceptable. It is doubtful that anyone would consider Battlebots or Robot Wars unsuitable for a school environment, for instance.

The keys here are intent and depiction. “Disney deaths” are okay, for instance, as the heroes don’t intend to kill and they aren’t depicted clearly. Sonic and Mario are questionable, since the villain is trying to kill you, although the depiction is very cartoonish. Games continually push the limits of entertainment, but this isn’t something you want to push for OGPC. We would prefer if you avoided intent to physically harm altogether.

For some genres this could be more difficult than others. For example, making a horror game nonviolent is naturally difficult, since you need to have convincing threats to your character. Being hunted by a monster or other force of evil is okay. Dying via a fade-to-black or something similar would also be fine, but you need to be mindful of the implications. Our recommendation is that you replace the traditional bodily health with sanity, panic, or some other failure condition that doesn’t involve physical violence, even from a non-person source. Alternatively, you could remove failure states altogether, simply applying psychological pressure to the player. Regardless of what you do, we encourage you to stray on the side of caution and good taste.

In most cases, testing whether a game is school-appropriate is fairly straightforward.  Would your game qualify for an ESRB E10+ rating?  If you feel comfortable showing your game to your principal, teachers, and grandma, then you’re probably fine. If not, go back to the drawing board.

If you need advice on a specific situation or have any other questions, feel free to reach out to us on our Contact page.