Why Kids Want to Play God of War

kratos.jpgHave you heard about God of War? Well, if you’re a parent – you should have. The game sets new benchmarks for both “Intense Violence” and “Sexual Situations” – and the ESRB descriptors don’t stop there! But guess why your teen really wants to play it

Because it is challenging.

Yes, God of War 2 and the new Chains of Olympus PSP game, have a lot of blood and gore. Yes, it’s almost sadistic in its depiction of the various ways monsters, and people, can die. Yes there are “fatalities” that shock, amaze, will sicken some, and will thrill others. Yes, there is a little sex game and yes there are a lot of boobies (partially this is because the Greeks liked their monsters to be half-woman, half-whatever and also because game designers clearly like boobies).

All of that is true, but all of that is also difficult to get to. Most of what you actually spend your time doing in God of War 2 is trying and failing, trying and failing, and then succeeding through a succession of fiendish logic, object, and reaction based puzzles.

Let’s look at a puzzle from the middle of the game. There’s a crank you can pull along the floor. Two huge gates block the way. A pressure plate opens the first gate while the crank opens the second. If you step off the plate, the gate slams closed and the crank moves back to it’s former position.

How do you solve this? You’ve got to search the room and all nearby rooms to find something you can drag or pick up and place there. (For this puzzle it was a corpse, but you get the picture). With the object on the plate you pull back the crank and run – quickly, it won’t stay open long! – through the gates… with a feeling of real satisfaction. You conquered the puzzle using your brain and your reaction timing.

If you’re a nongamer, try this with a similar game. Bet you’ll be impressed at how hard it actually is!

According to Dr. James Paul Gee (PhD UWM) logic puzzles sharpen the mind. The research on that benefit actually outweighs the “damage” violent games supposedly do.

Of course a strategy guide takes this skill away but a strategy guide won’t help you with the combat. God of War 2’s combat looks like button-mashing but you won’t get far until you learn complicated combinations of button presses and you need to have the gamepad layout memorized because those amazing fatality animations don’t happen, and you can’t progress, until you hit the right combo of buttons and stick movements.

The violence, blood and gore, and fatalities, in short, don’t come cheap. You’ve mastered combat, blocked every blow from your enemy, and you didn’t die! The fatality is your reward. Your reaction time was rewarded with something “bad.”

So, yes, your teen wants to play God of War 2 for the violence. But even more gruesome things exist in your DVD cabinet and on the Internet. So, you might say, God of War 2 makes them earn it.

I guess I have to mention the sex game now. Okay, unlike most games God of War 2 has a hidden scene featuring two buxom and topless ladies in a hot tub. With the push of a button our hero grabs them and the camera moves away. You have to push buttons and move the sticks. If you “pleasure them” (there is moaning) you’re rewarded.

Of course teens want to see this, but again, there’s far worse – far more readily available – all over the Internet.

Immobile and plastic looking boobs and pixelated and cartoonish blood can’t be the only reason God of War 2 is a hit and why your kid wants to play it. Maybe it’s because it’s challenging and, like when you’re on a diet, doing something difficult and getting a bad little reward, is satisfying.

Look parents, there are plenty of horrifically, sadistically, gratuitous, and over-the-top violent games out there. Most of even in the bargain bin and can be had for a song. Now, there aren’t very many games with nudity and sex, but that kind of entertainment also isn’t hard to find. My point is, both the violence and the nudity can be found elsewhere – easily – and without having to hit “A, B, X, X, turn stick round left, X” to access it peicemeal!

Teens like it because it’s a great game. It’s going to sell well because it’s a great game. Parents need to be aware of it… because it’s a good game.

So that’s why they want to play it.

But should they? Nope.

The good news is that God of War 2 isn’t the only game of this type on the shelves. For younger kids, games like Sly Cooper and most 3D platformers will fit the bill. For Teens, look for the first or fourth Prince of Persia games. If you’re an adult, go ahead and play God of War 2, 1, or Chains of Olympus. They’re really good. But also really, really hard.


(God of War, the series, is a huge hit. We don’t recommend it for children despite the arguments and talking points included in this article. GamerDad believes games are a permanent part of our culture and parents need to be informed. But he also understands that kids will find the games they want to play. Including this one. This article shows why that might not be “all bad.”)

18 Responses to “Why Kids Want to Play God of War”

  1. Awesome website. I totally agree, I’m 19 right now and when I first played GoW1 about two years ago I was shocked when the boobs came on screen! You bring up some very valid points and I’m glad you’re out there fighting the good fight. It’s M for a reason, but I believe that kids these days mature much faster and that perhaps by the time you’ve hit sophomore year of high school you’d be ready to play this game. A suggestion, you know can buy it and then let your kids play it later when they’re mature enough to handle the content, it really is one of the best 3D platform games I have ever played. Once again, wonderful site, I think I’m going to register!

  2. I play god of war games not because of the challenge (I played God of War 2 on spartan (mediam) difficulty simply to prevent it from being too difficult), I play them because they’re exciting, intense and one of the few games where you rarely want to stop playing. There’s a new enemy, puzzle, platforming section or boss battle round every corner and it’s all done brilliantly. Because of this, the game is a blast from start to finish and you hardly ever want to put the controller down. The combat on mediam is perfect for me. It’s not so easy that you can button-mash right through every battle but it’s not so hard that you need an encyclopedic knowledge of all the button combinations.
    Also, the stories are well done and the cut scenes are still some of the best I’ve scene, even with the next gen consoles out.

  3. When you say 4th PoP do you mean Rising Swords or whatever that port was called. I honestly didn’t like it. It had all the blood an violence but all it did was replace it with sand and all the animations of death were there without the loss of limbs. I have PoP1,2, and the port of the third. I haven’t beaten 2 or 3 though because I got stuck in 2, couldn’t get out with a strategy guide even, and I can’t beat the final boss of the third. Darn you unresponsive, launch PSP!

  4. I… I’ve never heard anyone put this so simply and accurately!
    Awesome and dead on. These are good GAMES that have stuff like blood and boobies (actually very few boobies) in there as ……….. I dunno….. spice?

  5. I think you’re downplaying the subject matter too much as a reason why the game sold. If this game were the same challenge, but you weren’t seeing streams of blood, over the top violence and boobs and sex then I highly doubt it would have the following it has amongst teens.

  6. I think that he threads the subject matter and content in there as an assumption – in other words, your kids want to play this, all you know is that it has ratings descriptors out the wazoo … so what else *might* there be to attract teens?

    But there is a point where I agree – there is no ‘why your kids want to play Ultimate Ghosts & Goblins’ or other hard games. There are many more challenging games that require more brain-power than an action-combat game like this. It is the high quality, the fun combat, and the intense action that are a draw – the rest is along for the ride.

  7. The God of War games are great. They are certainly some of the best of their type. I am currently playing Viking:Battle for Asgard, which is supposed to be similar, and it doesn’t even come close (though it is still pretty good). There are elements that make it somewhat unsuitable for minors, but I can still see why it would be ok for them to play. As a parent, I probably would feel some amount of guilt for getting it for them.

    If I found out that my teen had looked at pornographic pictures, I wouldn’t think it was all that big of a deal, but that doesn’t mean I want to be the provider.

  8. Ah, explaining is needed!
    What I meant was – each year there’s a number of gory games that don’t sell very well. God of War sold VERY well. So, all things being equal and the fact that nudity, sex, gore, and killing are readily available in poorly selling games (or on the net) – THEN it’s the gameplay – not the sex and violence (and to anyone reading there is exactly ONE non-seen (but heard) interactive sex scene in each GoW game).

    I agree with Steve, mainly because – while God of War is violent, I doubt it makes anybody squeamish. Even non-gamers like my wife saw it as cartoonish, rather than disturbing. This isn’t “murder scene, gang hit, or blood drag marks on the floor ” kinda violence.

    Man, the only way to demonstrate that is with video.

    Ladies and gents. Here is Kratos ripping the wings off harpies, Shocking, huh. Now, here is an average scene from Condemned. Uh…. did that mom over there feint???!

  9. Yeah, but the opposite could easily be said as well. EAch year there are plenty of games with great gameplay and no gore and blood that don’t sell very well either. So then it must be the image that sells a game. 😉

    (50 cent game anyone? Licensed titles? ……)

    I do hear you though. GoW has good production values and is fairly well put together. TAke out the subject matter though and it’s no hit.

  10. I could not disagree more!

    If it were subject matter Viking would be as popular as God of War. The key is word of mouth. Kids trust kids. But I also disagree with your assessment of the game. In my opinion this series is the pinnicle of the 3D space arcade fighter (this genre includes: Double Dragon, Final Fight, and more). It’s extremely well made.

    I could also point out that E-rated games sell better than M-rated games. God of War was a monster because it was so good, people recommended it to their friends. This HAS to be the reason for Halo 3’s existence by the way…. The gore helped, but it doesn’t seem to be helping Viking for some reason.

  11. “3D space arcade fighter”? What?
    I meant that the game plays in a 3D space.

  12. Yeah – I was waiting for that analogy to resolve … then re-read and got what you were saying! 😀

    But I don’t see you two as that far apart – Freakhead says there are many great games that don’t sell year after year (which is demonstrably true) so there must be a large ‘image’ factor, and you say that it is word of mouth that has helped propel this particular excellent game to super-sales. I see those as saying much the same thing from different angles.

  13. Although reasonably small, the violence and nudity does play a part in the game’s popularity. There are people who seemed to buy it simply because of the violence and nudity.
    Two people were talking about God of War 2 at my school and I decided to join in, saying that I had played God of War 2 and thought that it was brilliant. One of the guys then started yapping on about the fatalities within the game for about 5 minutes straight, not once did either of them talk about the graphics, cut scenes, combat, puzzles or any of the things that actually make the game good, they talked about the violence, nudity and giant boss battles (which are brilliant but there weren’t really enough of them in the game).

  14. Yeah, my dad let me play GoW at the mall once and after 5 minutes I’m like “You know this is rated M” and he’s like “whatever, that’s pretty cool”. I wish he was always like that though. I’ll be playing games and telling my parents “hey check this out, doesn’t this look real” and from the other ROOM say “yeah, sure”. I hate that.

  15. I didn’t realize how great the God of War games were until I picked up the Conan game for the 360. It’s very similar, just as violent and far more gratuitous nudity, but in general it’s pretty mediocre. 2 weeks ago I’d have said Bub was way off, that the violence and nudity are the primary selling points of GOW, but now I can say that those may be factors but there’s a great game there as well.

  16. Yeah I’m not really taking an extreme, but I thought GD was when his article seemed to really downplay image as a reason for GoW’s success.

    I remember watching Scanners back in the day because my friend said there was a head that blew up in the movie. I think some of that same mentality is at work here.

  17. My favorite part of the GoW series has been the story. I know that a lot of gamers don’t really pay attention to that stuff ( I have a friend that lives for the competition aspect of MMO PvP), but leading Kratos across impossible challenges to reach the Sisters of Fate after being stripped of his deity was nothing short of epic.

    Also of note, some of the games best moments (IMO) are not violent at all. My favorite being the button pressing sequence as Kratos is leaping between pieces of a massive collapsing bridge. Beautifully choreographed, absolutely epic . . . I died on purpose a couple times just to do it again.

  18. Really nice gamerdad. You did a good job on this one.

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