Mortal Kombat and gory, over the top violence have always gone together, like fish and chips, or the Modern Warfare 2 voice chat lobby and abusive 12 years olds.
From the very first release way back in 1992, developer NetherRealm has managed to shock – and often outrage – with the sheer level of brutality in its iconic fighting game series.
Most of us know this violence has always been intended as fairly tongue in cheek, of course. But as graphics have developed over the years, the spine crushing fatalities that helped propel Mortal Kombat to infamy have become all the more visceral.
The latest game in the franchise, Mortal Kombat 11, is easily the best looking yet, and a genuinely good game to boot. The upshot of this is that those of a more delicate disposition may balk at the levels of realism in some of the nasty kills the game has to offer.
Among other things, we’ve seen characters in Mortal Kombat 11 ripped in half, disemboweled, and eaten alive, all rendered in more terrifying detail than ever before – but if you think these fatalities are hard to watch, imagine being one of the developers that has to make them.
A new report from Kotaku tells of how an anonymous developer at NetherRealm would spend days, sometimes weeks on end working on these photorealistic executions. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that this had a pretty negative impact on them.
The developer explained:
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.
As if animating and going through horrific CG kills frame by frame wasn’t bad enough, a big part of the fatality development process apparently involved real-life research into very real, incredibly visceral gore, death, and injuries.
They told Kotaku:
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 intensity of the work was such that the developer eventually opted to leave NetherRealm along with a number of others who had worked on fatalities, and was ultimately diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
The developer explained to Kotaku that their decision to walk away from the project (an entirely understandable one, to be honest) left them feeling “weak” and “spineless.”
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 sh**** or weak or spineless
While the developer doesn’t place any blame on NetherRealm, they do suggest that upper management perhaps didn’t appreciate the grisly lengths the team had to go to in order to fully realise many of the fatalities in the game.
Many gamers seem to forget that the video games they play are made by actual human beings. As the developer points out, while the final fatalities might not seem that offensive or extreme, the process of making them could be massively taxing.
It’s the developer’s hope that in future fellow members of the development team and the gamers who buy these products can all start talking to each other more, and foster a more supportive atmosphere.
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Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.