Dead Island Exhibits Dead Morals

It’s no secret that most children with autism are heavily drawn to video games. It provides an outlet for them, develops hand-eye coordination and satisfies their need for stimulatory behavior. I often follow upcoming game releases on behalf of my son, who is an avid Nintendo Wii fan.

Today, I came across something very disturbing that reminded me of the urgent need to monitor what we allow our children to access and what they can be exposed to.

"Dead Island" is a soon-to-be-released video game for XBox 360, Playstation 3 and Windows. Its developer, Techland, just released a trailer for the game, which can be seen below. 

It is an "open world" game that requires its players to survive on a zombie-plagued island. Undoubtedly, this game will be slapped with an "M" for Mature rating by the ERSB when it’s finally released — and for good reason.  The opening sequence of the game’s trailer features an incredibly realistic CGI animation of a dead girl, presumably around 8-years-old, who has just been thrown out of a six-story building by her own father.  The trailer goes on to show a sequence of events in reverse to depict the circumstances that led to the little girl’s plunge.

I am not an advocate of censorship and I believe that companies have the right to publish what they want.  However, there are many things that clearly cross the line of decency and "Dead Island" is one of them. The depiction of a dead girl, clearly intended for shock value to sell a product, is a testament of just how far our society has stooped within the last 30 years. When I was younger, the extent of my game violence exposure entailed Pac-man eating some colorful ghostly figures.

Techland is certainly free to release whatever they want and ultimately, the indictment will fall upon the hundreds-of-thousands of people who will eventually purchase this game as a form of "entertainment."

For parents of special needs children (and all parents for that matter), advocacy and protection should not end with the education and health care systems. They need to continue inside our homes and it is our responsibility to closely monitor what they are watching, what they are reading and what they are playing.

*WARNING* Video contains graphic and violent CGI animation sequences:

13 Responses to Dead Island Exhibits Dead Morals

  1. Stee says:

    While I understand your feelings towards the graphic images, I think you are making something of a mountain out of a molehill.

    Certainly we do need to monitor children’s activity when on these consoles but a lot of the worry can be saved if you simply implement the parental controls that are standard on consoles these days. As for the comments about how the most violent thing in your day was pac-man, you need to remember that when the computers could only generate vague shapes, they couldn’t really go for realistic depictions of anything. There was death and violence in movies back then, so the “sick” minds existed, the games just hadn’t caught up yet.

    And my final point, the fact that girl is used is certainly in part because that is more shocking, but when I watched the trailer (and most of my friends who have discussed it with me) there was no thought to the violence as being entertaining. Almost everybody who watches this trailer comes away feeling saddened by the tragic death of this imaginary child. it is a very well made trailer that provokes strong emotional responses in people. Will the game be more of an violence-for-entertainment situation? probably. But as a trailer/piece of digital art, this ranks high up on the charts.

    If this comes off as stand-offish I apologise, I love people having opinions about things and I enjoyed reading your post.

  2. Kevin says:

    I can agree that our children need to be protected from this form of violence. However as a gamergeek and father of 2, I see no differance in this than your average episode of Law & Order, CSI(any/all) and the 50+ other violent cop shows on television. When i went to watch thi trailer I had to prove my age (easy enough to fake, but you stil need to fake it), I can not tell you how many times my kids have turned on the TV and find something REALLY NASTY.
    My min complaint is that TV has a level of realism that video games won’t have for a long time. Is showing the doctor on TV perform surgery worse than seeing a computer generated image? In my opinion, YES.

  3. Stan says:

    I am definitely shaking my head at the last 2 comments. Have we become so desensitized that we now find it acceptable to show dead children to promote video games????? As the father of a young daughter, it was very difficult to watch this video , and the fact that it was computer generated did not lessen the graphic nature of it.

    What’s next? A sequel showing the guy’s wife getting raped by the zombies??? Where do we draw the line? This stuff is sick and to those who find it acceptable I just can’t see how you can justify it.

    Call me old fashion, but I see no art or beauty in a video that shows a family getting killed in a graphic manner.

  4. Daniel McFarlane says:

    Hi. I understand where you’re coming from with this but I thought it might be good to clear up a couple of things. I doubt very much that you will be able to harm any children in the game (zombie or otherwise). Even the most controversial games avoid this, for example there isn’t a single child in the cities of any grand theft auto game, and with good reason. Video game publishers tend to outsource when promoting their games and I assume that it was an advertising company who came up with this trailer looking for the controversy that its now sparked. I personally believe that video games shouldn’t be given special treatment but treated like film and tv. The network AMC recently aired a television series called the walking dead that opened with a scene or a girl the same age being shot and thats much more readily available to kids than over the counter goods. All this said I’m from Scotland and its flat out illegal to sell any video games or dvd like this to anyone under 18, a good system I believe if a little harsh on whats rated what every now and then

  5. Kevin says:

    While I respect the opinions of people who don’t like this sort of story, I think it is uninformed to simply dismiss the image of the dead child as shock value. The trailer’s technique of playing the story backwards reveals that the zombie child is ultimately the daughter of your character. Its meant to invoke the absolute horror behind the story. What begins as a vacation to paradise devolves into a nightmare trip to hell. It will serve as a jumping off point for your character and his emotional struggle against the monsters that took his family away from him. This is nothing new in media. Remember, In Mary Shelly’s 19th century classic, Frankenstein’s monster kills a child. Sometimes art shows us images that make us uncomfortable in order to evoke the intended emotion. That is why this game is intended for “MATURE” audiences, the players should have the maturity level to understand the intention of the story.

  6. Daniel McFarlane says:

    I think that it is fair for us to say the child is being used entirely for shock value. The trailer does not say that the child is the characters daughter, I assumed that it was a separate families story (I have not read any press on the game, only seen the trailer). I think its too early to say that the trailer reflects any emotional impact of the game and that we should thus assume that the game has a good story at heart at least for the time being. I know I’m kind of making this into an argument about marketing but it is just a cynical way of causing controversy and thus sales. We’re all adding to it, including me. Mary Shelly’s Novel did not have a childs death just for marketing purposes and thus it is an unfair comparison. I believe the child will not be feature of the game and if she is she will not be for very long. I’m trying to reserve judgement for now but I doubt this will be a literally classic. I’m sorry, I’m all in favour of free speech, I just hate this manipulation of people for sales. Maybe I’m just saying all this because I hate advertisers, if so I withdraw my previous comment

  7. Jennifer says:

    I am with Stan, and Michelle. This is only a way to get people to want to buy the game. For me, it had the opposite effect; I enjoy zombie games and probably would have enjoyed this, but this kind of marketing just makes me wonder what will come next “in the name of ‘emotional impact art’ (read: marketing)”.

    No, this is going too far. I doubt the game will have kids in it, but the (lack of) ethics behind this kind of marketing does not get my money.

  8. john says:

    You guys saying things should be censored are absolutely ridiculous…Video games, Movies, And Orchestras are all art…censor art? are you kidding me? The parent has a responsibility to monitor the content their children see or hear…Why ruin it for the rest of the population because you have a “retarded” kid who cant think for themselves? i almost have to ask myself..Who is the retarded one…the kid twitching and drooling whilest playing a video game..or the parent who buys the console AND buys the game..then bitches about it being too gory!

  9. john says:

    Also regarding the “hurting the children” comment that Daniel mentioned….You know of all the things going on in the world…im appalled youre disgusted over this video game….Take a step back and look at the united states government and all the Children that have been killed as a result of powerful bankers…i would much rather kill children in video games than real life….EARTH TO DANIEL come back and join reality with us brother!

  10. john says:

    Also one more thing…How desensitized are you folks when IN REALITY there is a war going on killing thousands of INNOCENT CHILDREN and none of you pathetic sheeple bat one eyelash….but ONE VIDEO GAME CHILD gets killed and its an outcry for censorship….you peoples moral compass’ are so screwed up…

  11. fatwalrus says:

    These days adults play video games. So not all games should be held up to the “what if children are playing it?” spotlight.

    In the same way you make sure your children don’t watch inappropriate movies you should make sure they don’t play inappropriate games. Adult movies are not made (or judged) by if children will watch them, that is what the classification system (and parents) are for.

    If you believe a game crosses a line then don’t buy it and make sure that your children don’t play it. The moment you try and make judgements for the good of society in general (based on your personal beliefs), you -are- an advocate of censorship.

    The simple fact is that now more and more adults play games, more game companies will make games exclusively for the adult market. 30 years ago there was no adult market in video games.

  12. Julia says:

    I hate when parents talking like this. Same with Dragon Age 2. Dragon Age 2, Dead Island and most other games like this, that parents complain anout are rated 17+ (18+ in some countries). If a person wants to play the game, they must buy it. If they want to buy the game, they must be at least 17 years old. The child is a child, and cannot buy it. If a parent is allowing their child to play games with these age ratings, and has the nerve fo COMPLAIN about the CONTENT, then they probably shouldn’t be buying it for their child in the first place. Is a parent of an autistic child who is old enough to purchase the game concerned? Then tell your kid not to buy it. Believe it or not, kids can listen to their parents about those sorts of things.
    If games were about ponies, butterflies and cupcakes, it’s pretty obvious that people wouldn’t be buying them. Sneak King, for example. No ponies or butterflies, but still extremely boring. Games that focus around cheeseburgers tend to be that way.
    I cannot think of ONE video game that is a best seller for older teens and is completely violence-free. That’s the thing again. It’s directed towards older teens—nearly adults—and adults. Teen aren’t going to want happy-go-lucky-sunshine video games. It just doesn’t work that way. Games that have violence are usually the games that are getting ripped off of the shelves.
    Then there’s the Dead Island trailer. Oh DEAR god, the trailer. Sooooo much controversy over that.
    I’m going to say it. The trailer was beautiful, and the best damn trailer I have ever seen. They make it real. A zombie game, real? It’s not the events, but the emotions which the characters have that seem real. How would someone act in that situation. Would it change them? How would they feel? That realness of emotion is another reason it sells well.
    A kid dies in the trailer? The game is rated M. This shouldn’t leave anyone utterly shocked. If your kid saw the trailer on TV (which would only be shown on adult and gaming channels) then I suggest monitoring your child’s television as well.
    This is coming from someone who enjoys video games, knows several children with autism and other learning disabilities and has worked with, and supported them.

  13. Julia says:

    And thank you, John. I couldn’t have said it any better myself. Perhaps different word-choice, but that’s another matter.

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