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October 2, 2019 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Nearly 30 years ago, Mortal Kombat’s blood forever changed the video game industry [Polygon] “Mortal Kombat’s fatalities were so graphic that they had to literally be seen to be believed. One kid would hold court on a playground and strive to convince a jury of peers that he’d seen one character rip off his face and breathe fire, reducing the other guy to ashes and bones. Another kid swore up and down that a fighter in a white jumpsuit and straw hat could zap characters’ heads off with a bolt of lightning. “That breeds interest and foot traffic,” later GamePro editor Dan Amrich said of the rumors surrounding MK’s gory finishing moves, “and before you know it, you have people looking closer because that controversial thrill was so unexpected. And that’s going to be very powerful with kids whose media is largely — and rightfully! — gatekept by their parents. Here’s a game you’re know you’re ‘not supposed to play,’ even if you haven’t been strictly forbidden to play it. It tapped into the lure of the forbidden.””

• Sekiro’s blood spray draws from the messy history of Japanese cinema [Polygon] [YouTube]
“Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice features unique enemies, beautiful landscapes, and abundant jets of blood. Hopefully that blood is spurting from your enemies. But why does it fly so high, in such a powerful stream? In this video Patrick Gill examines the tradition of blood spray in the Japanese samurai films that heavily influenced Sekiro. But Sekiro’s use of copious blood fountains isn’t just aesthetic. As Pat points out, it’s a holistic part of the gameplay. Just as the fights in Kurosawa films escalate to an explosive, messy act of a violence, so too the boss fights in Sekiro revolve around breaking the enemy’s posture meter and unleashing a torrent of damage all at once.”
• 25 Years Ago, How ‘Killer Instinct’ Brought Blood And Guts To Nintendo [Geek]
“To truly understand Killer Instinct, we need to go back to Mortal Kombat. Midway’s digitized arcade brawler was one of the most influential games of the 90s, taking the addictive head-to-head action of Street Fighter II and adding guts and gore to grab the attention of gleeful kids and horrified parents. But when the long-awaited home ports of the game came to 16-bit consoles, Nintendo dropped the ball hard. Wanting to maintain their status as the “family-friendly” home video game platform, Nintendo demanded Midway change all of the red blood in Mortal Kombat to white sweat and neuter a bunch of the fatalities. That left competitors Sega a huge opening, which they drove right through. The Genesis version had all of the arcade gore (if you put in a special code), and not only outsold the SNES version but also drove hardware sales. Nintendo knew that they needed to strike back, and they grabbed one of their most trustworthy third-party developers, as well as a huge name in the arcades to help.”
• A Disgusting History of Gore in Video Games [Vice Gaming]
“There was a time, long before the gushes of crimson coloring contemporary offerings of extreme violence--Gears and God of War, Dead Rising and the more recent Resident Evils, Max Payne 3, the Dead Space series, Bulletstorm and BioShock (to name but a few)--where you had to lean on your imagination to bring scenes of disgusting dismemberment to life. Today's games are suitably rated, informing parents that something like Shadows of the Damned really isn't for their six-year-old. But there was a time when violence in games was barely regulated at all, when a kid much like myself could slip Barbarian into his ZX Spectrum's tape deck and settle down for an afternoon of decapitating. Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior , to give Palace Software's 1987 one-on-one fighter its full title, is today mostly remembered for two things. One, it featured Wolf from Gladiators on its packaging (alongside, when first published, Page 3 girl Maria Whittaker); and two, you could cut your opponent's head off and see his corpse dragged away by some goblin chap.”
• The Future is Bloodless! China Bans Blood in Video Games [Gamasutra]
“Think about age-old classics such as Mortal Kombat and GTA, as well as modern favorites like Bowmasters and Sniper 3D. Can you reimagine them without a single drop of blood, in any color? That’s what China’s game scene is about to look like. And those are just a few iconic examples of popular action games. Many other types of games use blood to add realism because that’s what players like: games that feel real. In the past, games that wanted to publish in China could get away with things like “colored” blood—as in any color but red. Now, the new rules are very clear and straightforward: no blood means no blood. That includes anything that can be imagined as blood. Before the new regulation, blood, bones, guts, human corpses, and dismembered body parts were already banned. Older regulations have already required many games to make alterations to their assets before they could be launched in China. However, when it came to in-game blood, developers devised all kinds of clever ways to get around the restrictions. This included changing the color of blood from red to blue, black, or white, and many games pulled off getting licensed in China with these techniques. Now that new regulations have been passed, blood—and anything players might perceive as blood—is definitively forbidden.”
posted by Fizz (45 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
And now we have the developers on the latest MK developing PTSD from the gore. Meanwhile, the top selling digital game on the Switch is all about being a horrible goose in a British village.

Gore is overrated.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:01 PM on October 2 [30 favorites]


And now we have the developers on the latest MK developing PTSD from the gore.

I think this article is what you're referring to: 'I'd Have These Extremely Graphic Dreams': What It's Like To Work On Ultra-Violent Games Like Mortal Kombat 11 [Kotaku]
“Here’s one such story, about a developer who worked with the cinematics team for Mortal Kombat 11 and requested anonymity in order to protect their employment prospects. They told Kotaku that they had worked on the game throughout 2018, and spent their days reviewing violent animation work, discussing it with leads, sharing feedback with animators, and generally being surrounded by the kind of bloody real-life research material that creators reference in order to animate video game gore. Within a month, they started feeling the effects. “I’d have these extremely graphic dreams, very violent,” they told Kotaku in a call. “I kind of just stopped wanting to go to sleep, so I’d just keep myself awake for days at a time, to avoid sleeping.” Eventually, the developer says they saw a therapist, who diagnosed them with PTSD. They attribute this to their work on MK11—not just the content of the game and having to process and discuss its violent cinematics frame by frame, but also being surrounded by the reference materials artists used for research.”
posted by Fizz at 2:05 PM on October 2 [8 favorites]


I remember being a kid in the early 90s, and Mortal Kombat II was like the coolest thing I'd ever seen. I wasn't drawn to the blood, I was drawn to the cool spooky atmosphere. I mean, we'd laugh about the gross-out aspect of things, but between that and Doom, I got to see all this totally rad Satanic-looking stuff. Skulls and things. And I was a nice, well-behaved kid! I just thought skulls and demons were cool.

I specifically remember this being in contrast to all the other kid stuff that felt like it pandered to me. My friends and I still played games like Sonic and the Avengers (the one on Genesis), but I preferred spookier stuff, and the Mortal Kombat games struck a balance between dark themes and still somewhat cartoonish representations.

As an adult, I'm kind of put off by gore for its own sake. There's a point at which it feels like dead baby jokes, 2edgy4me, lurid but stale. Mortal Kombat was shocking, but it's been nearly 3 decades.

Anyway, I only ever played it at the arcade and at friends' houses on Genesis. I didn't know the SNES version was so sanitized. I guess MKII must have done away with some of that censoring, because I'm sure I remember those giant drops of blood on the screen. Actually, when I was in high school we fired it up for old times' sake, and I remember being surprised at how jerky the animation was -- I wonder if that was to save on memory use, or just what everything looked like at the time.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:14 PM on October 2 [7 favorites]


I was drawn to the cool spooky atmosphere. I mean, we'd laugh about the gross-out aspect of things, but between that and Doom, I got to see all this totally rad Satanic-looking stuff. Skulls and things. And I was a nice, well-behaved kid! I just thought skulls and demons were cool.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk


Epony you know what.
posted by Splunge at 2:19 PM on October 2 [8 favorites]


I walked into a dingy convenience store one afternoon in to play some arcade games in the middle of Cape Town only to find a bunch of office workers in smart shirts and and slacks crowded round a new machine. Managed to peak over their shoulders to see a rain of blood cascade across the screen and that was the first time I saw Mortal Kombat.
posted by PenDevil at 2:30 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


It was "gory" but in a very "cartoony" way that also drew me to ultraviolent anime and the like around the same time. It was cool and over the top but it never reached a level of realism that disturbed me and a lot of the times you could laugh at how ridiculous it was and that is what made it cool. The latest versions which have a level of realistic suffering and death that seemed to me to undermine the tongue-in-cheek nature of the original and I couldn't play it more than once.

As a reference point, my mother used to play with us and knew all the fatalities. She often won.
posted by Young Kullervo at 2:31 PM on October 2 [6 favorites]


> And I was a nice, well-behaved kid! I just thought skulls and demons were cool.

i mean dead baby jokes are lame and edgelord stuff is trash but isn't it like a truth universally acknowledged that skulls and demons are, and always were, and always will be cool?
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:34 PM on October 2 [18 favorites]


My mother was not a good parent in many ways but I am endlessly thankful that she allowed me to be exposed to things like this and have only her quiet boredom with it all the draw from. Similarly, sex scenes garnered eye rolls or mockery while nudity was normal or worthy of (artistic) praise.

Except Original Sin (Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie) ... boy, did she have some detailed praise for the sex scenes in that one.


> Meanwhile, the top selling digital game on the Switch is all about being a horrible goose in a British village.
> Gore is overrated.
>posted by NoxAeternum

I love the Switch precisely because of the range of top quality titles with minimal violence and gore. Because it is boring and often a crutch. (and I really hate guns)
posted by seraphine at 2:36 PM on October 2 [9 favorites]


I love the Switch precisely because of the range of top quality titles with minimal violence and gore.

And yet the release of so many third-party games on the Switch has also had them allowing a lot of the mature content they've gatekeeped in the past. We're getting a lot of sexy visual-novel games with scantily clad anime ladies.

I mean Nintendo is still very much about appealing to children/family, and that will always be a thing. But the Switch eShop has a ton of games that I never thought Nintendo would allow to be sold.
posted by Fizz at 2:50 PM on October 2 [4 favorites]


It's somehow extremely perfect that in porting the home version of the game that ostensibly led to industry agreeing to police itself via the ESRB, they just hid the blood behind a cheat code. If I were a parent at the time who thought that developers were going to try to sneakily include more graphic content than what was advertised I would be pissed, but I was a kid so it was awesome.

Regarding the Chinese attempts to remove blood and killing entirely from games. That's a challenge that developers have responded to in some interesting ways.
posted by subocoyne at 2:52 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


I was a weird American teenage boy because I remember when MK came out thinking it was stupid and the worst and was going to ruin video games. I’ve lightened up a bit but even something like Game of Thrones I watch in spite of the gore and would be just as happy if they cut away and showed a shadow of a guy getting stabbed on the wall. Yes I was an 80 year old man at 16. I’ll be ready when it’s time to retire! I was also playing bridge and doing crosswords at that age ...
posted by freecellwizard at 3:20 PM on October 2 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I definitely remember being in middle school history class and overhearing a bunch of kids talking about Mortal Kombat fatalies. I just assumed they were making shit up.

Turns out nope!
posted by selfnoise at 3:26 PM on October 2


i mean dead baby jokes are lame and edgelord stuff is trash but isn't it like a truth universally acknowledged that skulls and demons are, and always were, and always will be cool?

RIP AND TEAR UNTIL IT IS DONE
posted by tobascodagama at 3:27 PM on October 2 [5 favorites]




> showed a shadow of a guy getting stabbed on the wall.

well there was that one time they showed a shadow on the wall stabbing a guy...
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:44 PM on October 2


i love that MK creator ed boon is also the voice of rudy in "FunHouse".
posted by bruceo at 3:47 PM on October 2 [4 favorites]


I remember once pausing a game we rented to go and check with my dad if it was okay for us to play a game with blood in it. Turns out it was just a red kinda "pow" effect, not blood, and we could keep playing. Looking back, I have no idea why I self-NARC'd. We were not allowed to rent even the SNES version of mortal kombat, but we got kicked out of the house most days to go "outside and play." Turns out "inside of someone else's house" is still part of "outside my house."
posted by GoblinHoney at 4:08 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


And now we have the developers on the latest MK developing PTSD from the gore.

I used to play a lot of DOOM on a then lightning fast 486 with a nice video card and too much RAM because it was a graphics workstation, and I used to get an intense amount of dreams and nightmares that were obviously related to first person shooters in general - especially multiplayer games.
posted by loquacious at 4:17 PM on October 2 [4 favorites]


Everyone had Doom dreams when it first came out.

Everyone who played it. Everyone having Doom dreams would have been pretty cool.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:27 PM on October 2 [8 favorites]


I used to get an intense amount of dreams and nightmares that were obviously related to first person shooters in general

I used to have those dreams too. But they were just running through empty corridors looking for a f$%&ing key.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:33 PM on October 2 [10 favorites]


I had to quit playing Dr. Mario and similar games because of the geometrical nightmare hellworld I would enter as soon as my sleep cycle had gone on long enough. There was one Tetris clone that I have literally expunged from my memory because the dreams were so horrible. Give me blood and demons over inexorable grid-based doom any day of the week is what I am saying
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:34 PM on October 2 [5 favorites]


Epony you know what.

EPONYSTERICALITY!
posted by oulipian at 4:50 PM on October 2 [10 favorites]


The Genesis version had all of the arcade gore (if you put in a special code)

Unlocked by “ABACABB” pressed at the title screen, a sly nod to the Genesis song of the same name that took me nearly two decades to realize.
posted by dr_dank at 4:50 PM on October 2 [5 favorites]


I used to get out-of-breath-and-heart-poundingly scared from the phantos in Super Mario Bros 2. And for several NES games I had a comfort zone that usually consisted of the first few levels where I knew I could beat them. Go beyond that safe zone and I'd break out in terror. Sometimes I'd even punch the power button before I "died" so I wouldn't have to endure the horrible fate of encountering some boss I knew I wasn't able to get past.

But those experiences couldn't hold a candle to how I completely shut down after seeing things like the false grail scene in The Last Crusade. I spent weeks trying to get over that one, and it still bothers me.

I don't think it's right compare the scares from older video games with current ones. We were scared of those for different reasons. Doom wasn't scary because of it's graphics. It was scary because of the (relatively new) first person perspective combined with coming face-to-face with low-res monsters around nearly every corner.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:54 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


Unlocked by “ABACABB” pressed at the title screen, a sly nod to the Genesis song of the same name that took me nearly two decades to realize.

I had that and it was this minutes ago that I learned that.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:55 PM on October 2 [3 favorites]


I remember when MK came out and my teenage friends and I were temporarily wowed by all the gore, but we quickly got bored of it and went back to Streetfighter II. Even then, gore got boring pretty quick.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 5:18 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


Yes I was an 80 year old man at 16. I’ll be ready when it’s time to retire! I was also playing bridge and doing crosswords at that age ...

I was too! Mortal Kombat's aesthetic absolutely drove me away. However....

i love that MK creator ed boon is also the voice of rudy in "FunHouse".

This is legitimately amazing. That game has so many great lines, Rudy's voice really makes that game. Especially that scream when you get a multiball jackpot. You don't hear anything like that in Mortal Kombat!

Steve Ritchie, BTW, is the voice of the Black Knight in all three of his games!
posted by JHarris at 5:34 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


For all the crap the SNES version got, their version of Rayden's finisher ,where you get electrocuted to dust and your skull falls to the floor, is absolutely better than the boring original where your head flies off. Sometimes boundaries help creativity.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:22 PM on October 2 [2 favorites]


Steve Ritchie was also the voice of Shao Khan in Mortal Kombat.

A lot of voices in the Williams/Bally/Midway games were the result of looking around the building and going "hey, we need a voice for in this game, wanna do it?" Union voice-over talent took time and money - we usually had neither.

I managed to get my voice in a few games myself by just being around when someone needed the help.

posted by mookoz at 8:23 PM on October 2 [7 favorites]


One time me and my friend Casey were playing MKII on the Sega Genesis and somehow we did the exact right thing to get Reptile to take off his mask and spit acid at the other player. This happened ONCE and we have no idea how we did it but I know what I saw. This isn’t even a My Uncle Works for Nintendo thing, I just want to know if anyone else has seen this.
posted by gc at 8:38 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]




The problem I've always had with Mortal Kombat as a series is not the violence, per se. It's that they're not good games. The Street Fighter series has just always been better, and if you're going to depart from that, you either go in the crazy direction (Capcom vs. Marvel) or the technical direction (Guilty Gear, Blaz Blue). At the casual party level we even have the Smash Bros series.

Mortal Kombat has literally nothing going for it except the gore.
posted by explosion at 9:13 PM on October 2


Yup, i spent one quarter on Mortal Kombat, said "this play control is weak," and went back to beating up people with Blanka and Chun-Li.
posted by Chronorin at 10:52 PM on October 2


Man I had forgotten about Harvester, the King's Quest of serial killer grooming games (from the vice article).
posted by benzenedream at 12:23 AM on October 3


I would like a fight game that's like the fight scene from They Live! Two heavyish guys moving slowly very slowly pounding each other and getting more and more tired before flaking out.
posted by Damienmce at 6:37 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]


So tell your folks, "Buy me Bonestorm ... or go to Hell!"
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:19 AM on October 3 [5 favorites]


No honorable mention for NHL '94 with the pooling blood under the player's head after a fight??
posted by Grither at 7:43 AM on October 3


I never got any Doom dreams. Donkey Konga though? Like the tetris effect but with my hands.
posted by ToddBurson at 9:57 AM on October 3 [1 favorite]


I was never any good at fighting games, so the only criteria for me was whether they looked cool. Which is why I may be the only person whose favorite was Primal Rage.
posted by bjrubble at 11:50 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]


Developers getting nightmares from the games they're working on goes back at least as far as Missile Command.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:05 PM on October 3 [3 favorites]


Mortal Combat was the beginning of the end of video gaming for me. It's all any of my friends wanted to play but I had no interest in memorizing button combinations and pressing them as quickly as possible for the special moves and finishing moves. Street Fighter was no better. There was no 'there' there, there was no flow, no feeling you ever accomplished anything fun. The scenery wasn't even any good.

It was just about competition and actually playing sports to me was more fun, even though I was never any better than ok.

I picked up video games again a few years ago. I'm not really resentful, but do sometimes wonder what I missed.
posted by The_Vegetables at 6:22 PM on October 3 [3 favorites]


The cool thing about the games that came out between Mortal Combat and a few years ago is that a lot of them are still excellent.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:30 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]


I worked on an Alien license, and it took years to get them out of my occasional nightmares. Turns out they were a proxy for my imposter syndrome, as they faded and disappeared at the same time.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 8:58 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]


Yup, i spent one quarter on Mortal Kombat, said "this play control is weak," and went back to beating up people with Blanka and Chun-Li.

I'm not surprised. Mortal Kombat has only one control advantage over Street Fighter 2 - and it's one that doesn't apply to arcades. Quarter-circle combinations (or even three eighth circle combinations) are all over the place in SFII - but don't work well with a 4-directional D-pad for the SNES. Meanwhile Mortal Kombat's special moves used only the major directions that are actually on the d-pad.

I picked up video games again a few years ago. I'm not really resentful, but do sometimes wonder what I missed.

Quite a lot, both for good and ill. But that's more for Ask Metafilter :)
posted by Francis at 8:03 AM on October 4


I can’t believe no one got to this yet:

TOASTY!!!
posted by sara is disenchanted at 11:53 AM on October 7


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