The Ryan Lambie Column: The XBox 360’s most violent game

Ryan's going from one dog-house to another this week, as he finds himself shocked by an unlikely xBox outing...

Stop this filth. What about the children...?

I am wearing a fake beard and dark glasses as I type this. A friend of a friend has arranged a safe house for me at a secret location somewhere in Kent. Last week, I churlishly added Zelda:Twilight Princess‘s Midna into a list of my least favourite video game characters, which, if certain internet forums are anything to go by, hasn’t gone down well with some people. To all the disgruntled Midna fans out there, and to Midna’s friends and family, I humbly apologise. Now please, can I take this fake beard off? It’s starting to itch..

Still, it’s not all bad news this week – after months of clandestine plans and strategies, I’ve finally managed to acquire a fabulous XBox 360. This might not sound like a big deal to most of you, but those who read my first ever column way back in the mists of time (okay, four months ago) may recall that Sarah, my better half, had flatly refused to let me have any latest generation console other than the Nintendo Wii.

Then, a few days ago, I found her Achilles’ heel – Viva Piñata. If there are two things that Sarah loves in gaming, it’s: a) management sims and b) cute animals. Sarah would stay up until strange hours in the morning, tending her farm and milking cows in Harvest Moon, and she still hasn’t forgiven me for accidentally throwing away the memory card with her Animal Crossing data on it two years ago. When she saw an article in one of my magazines about Viva Piñata – a management sim packed full of cute animals – I knew I’d finally found the ideal bargaining chip.

‘I suppose we could get an XBox,’ she said, ‘as long as you buy me a copy of Viva Piñata.’

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‘Go on then,’ I replied, doing my best to sound casual while jubilant church bells rang in my head. Cut to a day or so later, and I’ve handed over a pile of cash to the local Game shopkeeper and walked away with my shiny new 360. There was, however, an unexpected surprise – its prodigious weight. Hauling the thing back to the car was like transporting a washing machine in a carrier bag; what do Microsoft make them out of, dark matter?

Now the 360 is set up in my living room, nestling alongside my rather uncomfortable looking Wii. The poor old Nintendo is completely dwarfed, like Woody Allen squashed up next to Giant Haystacks in an elevator.

The XBox is big, heavy, and aesthetically challenged. The games though, as we all know, are great. Alongside the Viva Piñata bargaining chip, I’ve also purchased GTA IV and Halo 3, which look, sound and play like noisy, shooty masterpieces.

Of these three games, one stands out above all the rest, such is its level of depravity; it contains animal cruelty, sex, violent death, and even incest. I’m referring, of course, to Viva Piñata. It may lack the prostitutes and drive-by shootings of GTA IV or the grunt genocide of Halo 3, but the filth remains, lurking under a veil of pastel graphics. There’s copious sex from the start (euphemistically renamed ‘romancing’), and animals can even, disturbingly, mate with their parents.

Murder is also a central part of Viva Piñata – small animals must be fed to larger ones in order to progress – and if some of the creatures in the Piñata garden get too greedy, you can beat them to death; ‘my Fudgehog [Viva-ish for hedgehog] kept eating all the other little animals, so I killed it with my shovel,’ Sarah told me with a troubling lack of concern.

Most worryingly of all, this is a game aimed at youngsters. I’m surprised the Daily Mail haven’t run one of their knee-jerk ‘ban this sick menace’ articles yet. What would expert video game psychologist Tanya Byron make of a game that allows the player to batter a defenseless animal to death with a shovel?

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Sarah’s just read this over my shoulder, and she does not seem impressed – in fact, I think she may be about to use her shovel on me. Looks as though I’ll be needing that safe house in Kent after all…

Add your voice to the growing dissent and calls for a public flogging:The Ryan Lambie column: are these the worst videogame characters ever?