Latest news
The Thing With Blood: A Study Of Gore In Gaming
by Chris Hawke

WARNING: This article contains images of virtual gore that may be considered unsuitable for work, school, small children, kittens, or those of an impressionable nature.

I know how weird this is going to sound. Believe me, I do. But I'm just going to go ahead and say it: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater had the best blood ever. Headshots produced the finest and most rewarding red liquid even seen in a video game. It just looked right. A perfect colour, a realistic pattern, a suitable size. No game quite did haemoglobin like Snake Eater did.

That did sound weird, didn't it? But before you call the men in white coats, I'll explain why that's important.

Blood is your reward. Like it or not, in most games, you kill someone. And whilst (I hope) very few gamers have actually killed a person in real life, we all know what to expect: a loss of movement, maybe a gurgle or a cry of pain, and blood. Blood is both a notification and a prize; it serves as a marker to say "Hmm, that red stuff's spilling out of his bullet wound. There's no way he can still be alive now. I DID GOOD!". It's also quite a horrific reward of guilty pleasure.

Is it morally right to enjoy the resulting splat? Probably not. Is it kick-ass to watch? Hell yeah.

Those red marks serve a purpose, you see. They're not always needed, but they're a very welcome addition. The point at which it gets sticky is where gore enters the fray. Gore, unlike blood, is much more explicit: having a small red cloud appear when shooting at an enemy in a video game only warrants a Teen rating, if that, but gore is a surefire way of taking that certificate right up to a Mature classification. Gore doesn't serve a purpose - it's just titillation from mutilation. Blood for the hell of it.

Half Life, 1998

Let's look at Half Life, way back in 1998. There was an unholy amount of red in the game, like every character had a massive overload of blood cells. It was explicit, but never really shocking; bullets didn't leave see-through holes and you couldn't hack limbs off.

Soldier of Fortune: Payback, 2007

So, we come to the pinnacle of human gibing: Soldier of Fortune: Payback. It's utterly useless and very childish, but certainly pushed sales up. And even if it's very explicit, it's always scripted and rather lackluster; you know where the arm will come off, and the textures and blood spurt are graphically bland.

Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway, 2008

Jump to the last decade, and to Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway, a favourite of mine. Tasteful is a word only some would use, but realistic is certainly an apt description - legs, arms, even scalps would fly across Holland. It was pretty perverse and relatively needless (slow-motion grenade explosions were a bit gratuitous), but could be seen as exposing the 'shocking truth' of combat, and would only goad a small gasp from the queasiest of players.

Metal Gear Solid: Rising, TBA 2011

Which brings me apprehensively onto Metal Gear Solid: Rising. I have very few issues with the game; sure, I maybe think that MGS should stick to stealth, but light relief in the form of a hack-and-slash can't hurt. I'm totally for a little Raiden romp with a high frequency blade. But something really shocked me when the trailer came out.

There's the trailer from E3 2010. Firstly, the robot slashing. That's totally fine. After all, it's a robot - the white stuff sure does look a little familiar, but robots feel no pain, so you can't complain. The horror comes after that.

Don't get me wrong, I've been around the block. I've capped some skulls. I've broken some legs. I've dismembered civilians. But I don't think I've ever actually been as shocked as I was when I saw that. You literally slice his torso off. This game gives you the ability to actually, physically cut a man's face off. Through the eyes. You can cut his sacred-holy-place straight down the middle. You can maim an arm, then another arm, then both legs, then his head, then stab and cut and slice and hack until there's nothing but a bloody pile of meat. That's more than anything gamers have been able to do in the past.

MGS: Rising is certainly the most explosively bloody game ever seen. To actually slice a proper person (much more shocking than the evident alien baddies of Dead Space or poorly animated wastelanders in Fallout 3) in half, or in quarters, or until your electricity bill reaches it's maximum, while the arteries and organs shimmer in perfectly crisp HD (or even 3D, should the Rapture come early) on some poor guy's 50" TV is just really, really... eww. Imagine if it had Move capabilities?

Frankly, the thing with blood: it can all too easily turn into gore, and gore is just too much. But I'm just a man. A very queasy man. You'll all have your own opinions and views, so exercise your democracy and add your thoughts to the comments. In the mean time, if you really loved those pictures of virtual dismemberment, follow our Twitter. There's always more where that came from.

Labels: , , , ,

- Chris Hawke

Discuss this article in our friendly forums

Sign up to our community today and discuss our articles, debate over upcoming games and organise matches and playsessions with like-minded people just like you.

Liked this? Spread the word - share with your friends!

Done? You might also enjoy these!

All comments are subject to our commenting policy

GGTL Classics
Some of the very best articles dug out from deep in the GGTL archives, written by some of our past and present wordsmiths alike.
Your continued use of this website and/or any others owned by Gamer's Guide to represents your acceptance and indicates your full understanding of all of our legal policies and terms. Our legal policies and terms are legally binding. If you in any way disagree with or refuse to be bound by any part of said legal policies and terms, you are advised to leave this website immediately.