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Deconstructing Tones: Video Games

Updated on February 15, 2015
Kill a monster. Carve its body. Use its skin as clothes or weapons.
Kill a monster. Carve its body. Use its skin as clothes or weapons.
Find monster. Kill monster. Feel sad.
Find monster. Kill monster. Feel sad.
The fact that Capcom helped make this game kind of explains the positive tone when it comes to beating something to death.
The fact that Capcom helped make this game kind of explains the positive tone when it comes to beating something to death.

Monster slaying is good. Monster slaying is bad. Two games with two very different tones

The interesting thing about video games is that while the premise may sound the same, the tone with which the video game set itself can affect how the player feels when progressing. Two games that reflect with idea are the entire Monster Hunter franchise and Shadow of the Colossus. Monster Hunter makes the idea of slaying monsters an epic affair where slaying the monster is encouraged. Shadow of the Colossus however emphasizes the fact that the "monster" was really just minding its own business and that slaying it may have negative consequences. These differences in tone helps determine whether the player will feel happy or sad about about progressing through either game.

Slaying Monster is Awesome!

Monster Hunter is a fantasy role-playing game where you play as a human hunter taking requests to slay monsters. This being a Capcom game, the violence that is associated in monster slaying is seen as a positive factor. You kill monsters, take pieces of their slain body, and either get weapons or armor. The slaying of these monsters is made even more positive by including music that congratulates the player on their killing and pointing out that certain villages would be in danger if you were not slaying certain monsters. Because of this positive tone in a game about slaying monsters Monster Hunter lets players enjoy themselves while committing homicide against monsters.

Slaying Monsters is Bad and You Should Feel Bad

While most games portray slaying monsters as an epic and positive affair, Shadow of the Colossus looks at the idea in a more negative perspective. Set in an unpopulated landscape, you play a normal human out to slay numerous colossi all to resurrect a dead girl traveling alongside you. The game does not give you your character's background, nor does the game establish the relationship this dead girl had with your character. Also the idea that slaying the monsters of this game is presented to you by an ethereal voice that points out that what you are doing will have negative consequences. Even fighting the actual colossi of this game makes your character's journey questionable. These monsters are not hurting anybody, nor do they look violent. They are just gigantic entities trying to mind their own business, and you have to kill them for vague reasons. Needless to say, Shadow of the Colossus makes monster slaying a lot more depressing when nobody is really in danger. And the ending implies that your character committed some very serious crimes just to get to this area and that killing the colossi would just add to your character's list of crimes.

Monster Slaying is Awesome!

It Was Just Minding Its Own Business!


During the end of either game whether slaying monsters is bad or good has two interpretations. In Monster Hunter the killing of monsters had to happen because these creatures were attacking people and getting closer to their settlements. Here the player fells good about his killings because there was no other choice. These monsters were getting closer to civilization and had to be stopped to prevent huge amounts of destruction. So after killing all the monsters and ensuring that civilization can continue, the player gets to see a big celebration congratulating the hunter for his deeds. Shadow of the Colossus however presents their monster slaying in a different light. Yes the girl you try to bring back from the dead resurrects, but the being who gave you the task of monster slaying possesses your body and you become a monster because that voice was also a monster and all power from all of the slain monsters, who were pieces of itself, end up getting absorbed by you. On top of all this another group of humans intercept you and flat-out say all your monster killing was a bad thing and now they are forced to slay you. And they succeed. And while the girl you tried to resurrect is still alive int the ending, she is stuck in the empty landscape with a reincarnated infant version of you. Overall a bittersweet ending.

In the End

The idea of monster slaying can have two different interpretations. You kill monsters because they are threatening people and ending their lives is the only way to ensure safety to humanity. On the other hand, if the monster is not harming anybody and is just minding its own business, killing it may be seen as a negative idea. Monster Hunter and Shadow of the Colossus embody these two ideas perfectly. Monster Hunter celebrates your ability to kill monsters, whereas Shadow of the Colossus makes the player question whether or not the killing is a good idea. Both ideas are valid in their own way, but the player ultimately decides which interpretation is acceptable.


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