The Mortal Kombat 11 drama saga continues. Only instead of current and former staff at NetherRealm Studios complaining about sexism or long working hours during the crunch period of development, there are some developers who are claiming that having to research and work on such visceral gore for the 11th sequential entry in the long-running series has had the unintended consequence of giving them post-traumatic stress disorder.
The story was originally covered by Kotaku‘s Joshua Rivera, who recounted their time working on the game and the research required to build semi-accurate gore models of the characters and viscera.
One developer who worked on Mortal Kombat 11 – obviously wishing to remain anonymous – told Kotaku…
“I’d have these extremely graphic dreams, very violent. I kind of just stopped wanting to go to sleep, so I’d just keep myself awake for days at a time, to avoid sleeping. […]
“You’d walk around the office and one guy would be watching hangings on YouTube, another guy would be looking at pictures of murder victims, someone else would be watching a video of a cow being slaughtered. The scary part was always the point at which new people on the project got used to it. And I definitely hit that point.”
Later on the developer who worked on the gore cinematics told Kotaku…
“Mortal Kombat is….it’s Mortal Kombat,” the anonymous cinematics developer who had graphic dreams told me. “You start to feel like an idiot for thinking about what the impact of working on that game has been on yourself. Other people I’ve talked to have been like, ‘I know what I’m working on, I know what I’ve gotten myself into here.’ And you start to blame yourself for being shitty or weak or spineless.”
Former Assassin’s Creed creative director, Alex Hutchinson, also offered a comment to Kotaku about the work that goes into bringing the art to life in a realistic way, and the consequences that come with it. Hutchinson stated…
“I think as realism improves, it’s more of a danger. The fidelity of the assets you deal with, and the world you’re building—it’s more likely. We had some friends out here working on Outlast. I don’t think he was upset, but the character artist was joking that he’d spent a lot of time modeling dead babies, and it wasn’t his favorite moment, you know?”
The article notes that some of the developers went to see therapists who were then diagnosed with PTSD, not just from working on the game but also from all the real-life reference material they had to research that contained real gore.
Kotaku also goes on to explain that working on the game and some of the imagery made it difficult for certain people to go home and see their pets. The article paraphrases some of the exchange, stating…
“Eventually, the developer found out about coworkers who had similar problems with the content as they did who also left. One coworker, for example, told them that the toll of working on Mortal Kombat 11 was eliciting horrible images in real life. “When he looks at his dog, he just sees the guts inside of it, and he couldn’t look at his dog without imagining all of the viscera.”
The real story here isn’t that these developers are suffering post traumatic stress disorder, but the fact that the spread of this story – which has already made it across most of the gaming news sphere – means that NetherRealm is going to have to do one of two things: keep pushing the envelop on violence at the risk of more negative media exposure, or tone down the violence in Mortal Kombat 12.
Now given that NetherRealm has already given up their integrity in the department of sexualizing the female characters, claiming that they were aiming for a more “mature” and “respectful” depiction of the women, and executive producer Ed Boon claiming that the women shouldn’t be “fighting in bikinis”.
Dick Masterson from The Dick Show stated that Mortal Kombat 11 had basically started taming itself down to accommodate the complaints of the soccer moms. This was actually something that had started right after Mortal Kombat 9 when complaints from Social Justice Warriors started about the females being over-sexualized in the game. You’ll find blogs and scatterings of complaints from the usual suspects about it from back in 2011, which led to the game toning down its sexualization in Mortal Kombat X. But things went even further after Ashly Burch and Rosalind Wiseman held a survey about sexism in gaming and did a discussion about it at GDC 15, titled “Curiosity, Courage and Camouflage: Revealing the Gaming Habits of Teen Girls”.
As pointed out in a post over on KotakuInAction2 by SupremeReader, Burch had direct connections to Mortal Kombat when she voiced Cassie Cage in Mortal Kombat X, which was obviously significantly toned down compared to Mortal Kombat 9. Burch was also responsible for influencing the redesign of Aloy in Horizon: Zero Dawn, who went from a more soft-featured and attractive young woman to the strong-jawed rendition that’s depicted in the final game, as reported by GamesRadar.
You can see what Aloy originally was supposed to look like before she became… Burchified.
The reality is, it looks like in the case of Mortal Kombat, it may end up becoming true for the game becoming a soccer mom’s wet dream not just for the sexualization aspects being toned down but for the violence, too, if the pressure keeps up and NetherRealm are encouraged to reduce the gore/viscera in the next entry.
At that point one must question: what’s the point of playing Mortal Kombat if it’s as tame and as politically correct as the politicians from the 1990s always wanted?
(Thanks for the news tip Weeb Pride Worldwide)