Home It’s the culture, not the player says DOOM Designer John Romero on video game violence

It’s the culture, not the player says DOOM Designer John Romero on video game violence

2 min read

John Romero

Video game violence has always been a thorny subject. Ever since Sub-Zero ripped the skull out of his opponent in the first Mortal Kombat, concerned people and opportunistic vultures have always circled the medium and questioned the effect of violence on an audience. It’s a controversial subject to some, and a complete waste of time for others who claim that video game violence has no effect whatsoever on the psyche of anyone engaging in it. And now the designer of DOOM himself, John Romero, has chipped in some thoughts regarding the issue.

“I believe games are cultural and the violence that we see in the world goes beyond games,” Romero said in a keynote talk at the GameOn Ventures conference in Toronto via GI Biz and GameSpot.

Plenty of countries play games. Canada, Germany, Japan, England, Ireland… They’re all hardcore consumers of games, yet we don’t see similar outbreaks of violence in these countries. It’s not the game, it’s the gun. It’s not the computer, it’s the culture. It’s not the player.

And that somewhat makes sense. It’s not only the culture surrounding a player which has an impact on them committing terrible, terrible things to each other, but also the culture which is very quick to cast the blame on a convenient scapegoat. Something that you sadly see a lot of in the US of A, when compared to other more civil nations around the world.


Beyond that, Romero also spoke about what it means to actually define what a game is these days. “Computer games weren’t games according to people who played board games back in the ’70s,” Romero said.

While console games were not games according to computer game players in the ’80s… As we expand the boundary of games, people question whether it’s a game at all. Is Gone Home a game? Is Life is Strange a game? Is Her Story a game? Yes, I think they are.

When we push the boundaries of games, when we experiment with the medium to see what it can do, there are always those who will question if the new work at the end is still within the boundary, when in fact it has just pushed it.

It’s an interesting analysis from Romero, a designer who helped turn video gaming not just into a hobby, but an art form as well. Games are so much more than just blood, guts and excessive violence these days. Unfortunately I’m not more than that, so I just find it unbelievably cathartic to engage in a game that allows me to beat demons to death with their own severed limbs. Which in itself, is actually quite artistic.

Last Updated: October 25, 2016


  1. I’m still waiting for the game that’ll let me make blood angels from the bodies of my fallen foes.


  2. HvR

    October 25, 2016 at 11:57

    Politicians, activists and political groups will always blame music, tv/movies, games and guns for their societal issues time and time again. It is how they make their living, get donations and funding, push dodgy studies and shouting the loudest.

    Yet real life and history have shown us violence is always related to combination of the societal makeup (poor vs rich, political destabilization, war etc), the effectiveness of the police force and the judicial system,


    • Pariah ???

      October 25, 2016 at 12:02

      And university fees.

      Wait, what?


  3. BakedBagel

    October 25, 2016 at 12:00

    What he said is pretty much spot on.

    But lets not forget that games cause sexism



    • Pariah ???

      October 25, 2016 at 12:03

      Yup. Now, a bagel’s place is in the kitchen is it not?



      • BakedBagel

        October 25, 2016 at 12:04

        ! A bakery preferred



  4. Dungeon of JJ

    October 25, 2016 at 12:11

    Either way, that’s what age restrictions are for.
    I watched a ton of violent movies as a child though, because that’s what the 80s was all about. So it is definitely a culture thing, I agree. But the media just loves to hammer on something popular.


  5. Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

    October 25, 2016 at 12:25

    Leave my violent games alone or I’ll kill you! Oh my, excuse me.


    • Dungeon of JJ

      October 25, 2016 at 12:35

      How rude. We need to discuss in detail first HOW to kill them. You know that’s how it works with us violent types.


      • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

        October 25, 2016 at 12:42

        Chainsaw MUHAHAHAHAHA


  6. Dungeon of JJ

    October 25, 2016 at 12:47

    I really need to get Doom sometime.


    • Vulcha

      October 25, 2016 at 13:11

      It’s still on sale on steam, no? 50% off so it’s now R400.

      Edit: but you only have 5 hours to get it at that price, so hurry.


      • Dungeon of JJ

        October 25, 2016 at 14:52

        R400 is still not cheap though. So it’s a tough decision for me to make.


  7. Robbie Flynn

    October 25, 2016 at 13:32

    He paints his nails black. EDGY :/


    • Deceased

      October 26, 2016 at 11:36

      Meh – just shows he doesn’t play rugby 😛


  8. konfab

    October 25, 2016 at 13:34

    Books contain more violence and disturbing thoughts than any computer games. Yet no one will ever blame a mass shooting on GRRM.


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