An important part of any popular video game is the language of violence. Pac-Man ate the ghosts provided he had eaten the right pebble previously, Super Mario jumped or shot fireballs at goombas, and Sonic "spindashed" his way through Dr. Eggman's robots. It's the main ingredient of video game cuisine. Without violence in some form, video games would lose their "aspect" of play. And these days, we've moved on from fireballs and pellets to guns.
These days, most contemporary video games put a lot of emphasis on real-life actual guns that real-life actual military people might or might not use on other real-life actual people. In video games, though, we -- the player -- don't have to think about the repercussions of our actions. We can fake-shoot a fake-person and not feel anything because we know it's fake.
Jordan Sortiv argues that the role of the gun in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier strips the player of their identity by allowing more options for customization for the player's gun than the player's avatar. Many contemporary video games include some kind of customization option for the weapons (Fallout 4's most talked about feature is the modifications one can put on their weapons), clothing, and character. But what Ghost Recon does, or Ubisoft (the company that developed the game) is put all of the customization into the weaponry of the soldiers that the player controls.
In this instance, much like Sortiv says in his piece (excerpt above) the main character of Ghost Recon is the gun. The game makes the player an inanimate object, a tool used for death -- or in the case of the game "freedom" or something -- and destruction. In this specific case, the use of guns in the game is something that is problematic. By putting so much importance on the gun itself, Ubisoft, subconsciously tells the player that guns are more valuable than the lives (or fake-lives) that they are being used to take.
For younger generations, video games have become the way of consuming a visual story. But when the gun becomes the focus of the game itself, video games lose the power they have to tell an interactive story. The story is about the gun and less about the characters involved in it. For example, imagine you watched a Batman movie that only focused on his gadgets. It would be an experience you'd probably dislike.
It also begs the question: are guns -- or violence for that matter -- even required in order for a video game to be "fun"? The answer, obviously, is no.
Richard Hofmeier's game Cart Life is marketed as a "retail simulator" but it's much more than that. It captures a lower-class American experience. The player gets to choose from three predetermined characters and the objective is to make it to next week with enough money to pay rent.
It's one of the more poignant experiences I've had playing a video game and there isn't a second of violence throughout the game. It sticks with you, it eats at you, and it does what games should do best; it lets the player experience a life that isn't necessarily their own.
This War of Mine on the other hand, is so closely related to games like Call of Duty or the aforementioned Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. Both Call of Duty and Ghost Recon include segments of soldiers fighting through cities that were once lived in. And in both of these games the question, "Where did everyone go before this war started" isn't answered.
This War of Mine rectifies that. It shows us where the civilians are and what their lives are like while a war is going on their country. It, much like Cart-Life, gives us an image of the world we aren't used to and allows to to experience some thing new. And yes, while acts of violence are included in TWoM, they are necessary to progress through the game. It's gives the player the choice instead of forcing them into acting a way that might not be natural to them.
Games like Cart Life and This War of Mine show us that we don't actually need violence or guns in our games to enjoy them. They help reinforce the idea that video games are art. They give us experiences that we wouldn't otherwise have. And even though I still play video games that use the language of violence and guns as a means to communicate; I know I'd still enjoy a change of pace.