Has Mortal Kombat 1 become too violent?

On September 19, 2023, the fighting game Mortal Kombat 1 will be released on Xbox Series, Playstation 5, Steam PC, Epic Games Store PC and Nintendo Switch.

Despite its name, it is the latest installment in a very long series of games existing since 1992.

Mortal Kombat is therefore a series of 2D fighting games (the vast majority of the time) pitting human, robotic, anthropomorphic characters against whimsical powers in 1 against 1 (most of the time). Originally released in arcades and developed by Midway Games, the series has had many successes but also failures, special series, adaptations in films, cartoons, toys and goodies.

The series of games has made its reputation thanks to the ultra-violence of these fights and fatalities. Fatalities are ways to finish a fight you have just won, by killing, beheading, dismembering, humiliating your opponent in the cruellest way possible.

In Mortal Kombat, blows cause sheaves of blood, pierce bodies, cause slow motion and X-ray visions damage to bones and muscles of opponents.

Except that in 1992 it looked like this.

If this seems ridiculous and childish now, at the time it did not prevent to shock public opinion, parents and politicians. Video games have been blamed for all the ills of society, and the world has discovered that video games are computer programs and therefore you can put the content you want inside.

This also led to the creation of the ESRB: the Entertainment Software Rating Board, the content rating body for video games, primarily indicating levels of violence, sex, drugs, alcohol used in a game, for North America.

Back in our time, Mortal Kombat (9) released in 2011 restarted the series, offered a very good game, put the game back in the eye of the general public and offered graphics up to date.

Naturally since MK9 (2011), the series is constantly progressing in terms of mechanics, content, and especially realism.

It is now the escalation of violence: all the abuses described above are the but in 4K, very high definition. The 3D models of the characters have so much detail that they have skin, muscles, bones. We are very far from the still images of the first episodes.

NetherRealms studio, the video game studio owned by WB, which is now in charge of the series, does a great job because the latest installments are great games, but they also show a lot of ingenuity and imagination when it comes to putting their characters through all the horrors possible.

WARNING: Very violent and gory content below. Reserved for an informed adult audience only. Sensitive souls abstain.

Except that to make a game with such a high level of realization, it takes a lot of work, and time on the part of the developers. How about working, modeling, researching, programming horrors on mostly human characters for years?

As you can imagine, it causes trauma, stress, post-traumatic syndromes. A 2019 article in Kotaku also gathered the testimonies of NetherRealms employees on this subject.

Ed Boon, historical creator of the series explained in a documentary of Noclip his reasoning and how the famous Fatalities were created.

WARNING: Very violent and gory content below. Reserved for an informed adult audience only. Sensitive souls abstain.

With each new game, the characters have to do something new, shocking, satisfying for the winning player. It has to be ridiculous, outrageous, unrealistic and therefore unachievable in real life, says Ed Boon.

Unrealistic and unachievable it works with fictional characters, but the series has also made a habit of getting guest characters in these productions: Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, Predator, Alien, The Joker, Spawn, Robocop, are fictional characters. John Rambo and Terminator are too, but they are represented by the actors who played them in the cinema. Thus it is possible to inflict all possible abuse on virtual versions of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

WARNING: Very violent and gory content below. Reserved for an informed adult audience only. Sensitive souls abstain.

It is hard to imagine that they accepted and signed such contracts. Even the comments of the viewers of these YouTube videos are moved by this violence.

The scandal is an important marketing element of the communication of WB, the publisher of the game. Before each release of the game, or additional content, video game players are inundated with these atrocities in conventions, in conferences, on the Internet. The goal: to shock to make people react, to make people talk. Moreover, in writing this article, I am well aware of maintaining this communication.

Mortal Kombat 1 Fatality Jak
Mortal Kombat 1 Fatality Jak

If the Mortal Kombat games have always been reserved for adults, according to their ESRB rating, the communication of the series is dedicated especially to teenagers and young men. With these scandals, teenagers see it as a way to challenge parents, adults, to shock, to go in the opposite direction as is specific to this age and find ways to play it.

With each new title, voices are raised against this debauchery of gratuitous violence. Some fans of the series, or who appreciate the excellence of the titles would also like an option to disable or at least lessen the violence. Indeed, players are encouraged in the game to constantly effector Fatalities to unlock content, get rewards. After 1000 iterations, the character of Scorpio who ejects in the air the head of the character of Sub Zero and pierces it with his spear, we are tired of the same animation, we become insensitive. We wish we could play the game without it.

Even in tournaments, with audiences, or on YouTube or Twitch for streamers, where violence is censored, we would like to be able to disable it, to be able to better enjoy the game. This hypothetical option does not detract from fans of ultra-violence, but it allows part of the public to discover the series beyond these scandals and perhaps to finally appreciate these playful qualities.

Mortal Kombat 1 Kano Liu Kang Shared Screeen
Mortal Kombat 1 Kano Liu Kang Shared Screeen

About Marc Shakour

Former video game programmer, columnist, teacher, competitor ... Marc has always been very familiar with the world and industry of video games. He decided to help neophytes about it, to discover new universes, worlds and fantastic creatures.

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