Mortal Kombat 1: Why man behind infamously violent fighting game keeps coming back after more than 30 years | Science & Tech News
Besides “bon appetit”, few phrases fill me with as much anticipation.
The Mortal Kombat series might be even older than I am, but more than 30 years after it became a poster child for moral panic about video game violence, its infamous “fatality” moves remain intriguing.
Not content with allowing players to beat each other to a pulp, the fighting series always brings each match to an unapologetically grisly finale by inviting the victor to perform a finishing move.
Different button combinations lead to different results, from decapitations to immolations. Every single character, and there are many, has their own selection.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that after more than a dozen entries, the franchise’s developer NetherRealm would struggle to come up with new methods of murder.
But for series creator Ed Boon, it’s just one of the ways his team continues to raise its game – this time with a reboot entry dubbed Mortal Kombat 1 (MK1).
The fatality committee
“It’s about getting as many minds into the conversation as possible,” he tells Sky News.
“There’s a sort of ‘committee’ who bounce around ideas, talk with our concept artists, make mock-ups.
“They’re sent over to me and I’ll ask for modifications, or if I’m not keen I’ll ask for different ideas.
“I supply ideas as well, it’s a collaborative effort. Anybody on the team who has an idea for a fatality, we’re all ears!”
Call me (and tens of millions of other players) a sicko, but there’s definitely a morbid curiosity in seeing what kind of fresh fatalities have made it into each new game.
Boon admits there have been plenty of times when even he’s had to draw the line – and given I had just eaten lunch when we spoke, I dared not ask for details.
But that morbid curiosity is never higher than when the series, which has sold 80 million copies, hits new consoles.
MK1 is the first instalment built with current-generation PlayStation and Xbox consoles in mind, and Boon says the ever-improving tech helps keep him motivated after all these years.
“We always try to introduce something brand new to every Mortal Kombat game,” he says.
“That’s been a really good motivator for us to be innovative and drive things forward.”
Growing love of video games
Game development can be long and brutal, as evidenced by the 10-year wait for a new Grand Theft Auto.
That series was another poster child when it came to what now seems a quaint debate about violent video games, given the industry is now an absolute juggernaut.
GamesIndustry.biz reports the industry was worth more than $184bn (£140bn) in 2022, and this year has seen developers deliver some of the most critically acclaimed titles of the generation.
MK1, which released in the UK this week, is among them – as is Street Fighter 6, the latest instalment in another big series that has rivalled Boon’s since the arcade days.
“Games seem to be capturing more and more of the public’s time,” says Boon.
“They continue to mature, technology continues to advance, and it enables us to make more and more engaging experiences and people are really attached to it.”
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MK’s ‘full circle moment’
Other industries are taking more notice than ever, with gaming behind some of film and TV’s biggest hits this year, including Super Mario and The Last Of Us.
Mortal Kombat’s relationship with the big screen goes back to the 90s, when two live-action films were released. It returned for another go in 2021 and a sequel is on the cards.
Not that fans need to wait that long for some Hollywood prestige, as MK1 features Jean-Claude Van Damme and Megan Fox in its cast.
For Boon, a child of the 70s who’s previously managed to get the likes of Rambo, Alien, Predator, and Robocop in the game, it’s a career-long ambition fulfilled.
“Thirty years ago we basically wanted to make Van Damme: The Game and could not make it happen,” he says.
“A couple of 20-something guys making their first game, going to a film star and saying ‘can you be in our game’… I can understand why he wouldn’t want to roll the dice!
“Thirty years later, he said yes! And with MK1 being a restarting of everything, it really is a full circle moment.”
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