With a new 'Mortal Kombat' game being released in a few months, over the next few weeks we can expect two things: the first several trailers that sell the game by showing imaginative and gruesome ways to kill someone. Then, after this, we can expect dozens of news articles telling us that the thousands of people who buy this game will become serial killers, having seen theses unrealistic over the top deaths. Ever since video games first showed violence people have objected to it. Many are under the impression that violent games make violent people, an archaic view that was in, November 2014, proven to be entirely false. Research led by psychologist Christopher Ferguson and published in the Journal of Communication, not only found that there was no link between violent media and behaviour, but also questioned the methodology of any previous study that suggested the two were related. Ferguson’s findings argued that other studies commonly “provide exposure to brief clips of media, rather than full narrative experiences” and that “the resultant aggressive behaviours are also minimal, and sanctioned or facilitated by the researchers themselves.”
Although made as a response to 'Mortal Kombat' the clear inspiration for ‘Clay Fighter’ was the superior 'Street Fighter II'. Two characters fight on a 2D plane, attacking each other until someone’s energy bar is depleted. Each fight comprises of three rounds and should you win two, your chosen character progress to fight someone else, eventually reaching a more challenging end of game boss amusingly called "N Boss". Much like the original 'Street Fighter II' a player can choose one of eight characters, but these are much more inventive and unique combatants than you normal see in similar 2D fighting games.
The colourful characters are animated using scans of photos but the subjects of these images are clay models rather than real people. The end result is far better than that seen in 'Mortal Kombat' though, probably because the game was designed from the outset for 16bit consoles rather than arcades. Limitations of the 16bit machines were taken into account and the outrageous character design makes solid blocks of colour and basic skin shading more forgivable. The characters are much larger on screen than most other Snes fighting games, "the biggest guys ever seen in a Super Nintendo game" boasts the box. Critics at the time noted “it hard to imagine how a Super NES game can look better”. However while the graphics look good static, the few frames of animation means in motion the game looks jumpy and primitive. Of course, larger characters are easier to see than smaller ones so it’s clear what's going on.
If my daughter saw 'Clay Fighter' it would be hard to say the funny green blob wasn't cutting a big fat opera singer in half, so ironically this clarity causes problems. The childish characters are clearly meant to be attractive to the young; this was the point of this "family friendly" fighter. The problem with this basic idea is that when a character a child is attracted to gets hurt, they are more emotionally effected. My daughter would be more upset when a giant baby gets hurt by a snowman, than if a ninja gets hurt by a kick-boxer.
Fighting games therefore provide a cathartic outlet for frustrations and the player should, in theory, be less angry as a result of playing. For 'Clay Fighter', the safe “family friendly fighting game", the reverse is true. Playing for long periods actually increases tension, not because of the depicted violence, but because the controls are so unresponsive. The best fighting games depend on fast reactions and complex button press combinations. Timing is everything and games like 'Street FighterII' even demand the player hits the button at the right frame of animation to string the most complex combinations together. There is no such demand on someone opting to play 'Clay Fighter'; the game mechanics are far less sophisticated. Sometimes there's even a few seconds delay between a button being pressed and your character performing the required action. This is ok when you're playing a two player fight as both of you are at the same disadvantage. However, when you're battling with a computer foe that is able to pull off moves far faster than you can, it becomes very frustrating. Research carried out by Oxford University found that it isn’t aggressive games which make players angry, its badly made ones. After extensive study, they reached the conclusion that awkward controls and unnecessary difficultly caused angry impulses in the player, however the actual content of the game had very little effect.
According to lead researcher Dr Andrew Przybylski, it seems that how well a player does is more to important to maintaining a happy mood than the level of violence shown. "We focused on the motives of people who play electronic games and found players have a psychological need to come out on top when playing," said Dr Przybylski. "If players feel thwarted by the controls or the design of the game, they can wind up feeling aggressive". It isn’t what you’re playing it’s how you’re playing it after all "you can get very angry playing a card game."