Why controversial games like Martha is Dead should not be censored

Lauren Bergin
martha is dead martha and lapo hold hands
LKA

Martha is Dead has turned heads with its graphic displays of violence and trauma, but does it really deserve to be censored?

Martha is Dead is certainly a polarizing experience. A contemporary World War II horror game set amid the emerald pastures of 1940s Tuscany. Characterized by harrowing depictions of mental health trauma and graphic displays of violence, the game has accrued a positive score of 78 on Metacritic.

I gave it a 10 in our review because Marth is Dead is not afraid to push the boundaries of what video games are all about. Sure, I grimaced when Giulia cut off her sister’s face, or cut open her dead body to have a rummage about for an unborn fetus. I questioned whether or not I should be able to interact with a corpse like this – but that’s the beauty of Martha is Dead.

So, while Sony chose to abridge parts of the game on PlayStation, I’m firmly in the SomeOrdinaryGamers camp; we should not censor games like Martha is Dead.

martha is dead girl lies in coffin while dad sleeps in the background
LKA
LKA have created a macabre yet beautiful universe in Martha is Dead.

You were warned

First off, I think that if you go into Martha is Dead expecting it just to be your bog-standard Resident Evil-esque horror game then you have may have misread what the game is about.

As soon as you boot up the title, you are greeted with a warning that reads “the game contains potentially uncomfortable scenes and covers topics that may distress some players. This game is not recommended for players who find mature scenes disturbing.” This is followed by a link to a suicide hotline, meaning that even if you skip by the blurb you are made aware that complex psychological issues are a huge feature of the plot.

Additionally, in the final chapter of the game, you are met with: “WARNING! The following scene contains a scene some players may find disturbing,” allowing you to play the censored version instead.

LKA have done everything in their power to warn viewers about what the game entails, so those who continue to play it know exactly what they’re getting into.

It’s the age-old lesson: if you don’t like it, don’t play it. There are no surprises here.

martha is dead warning screen
LKA
This screen pops up before you even get into game.

Warnings didn’t prepare me

OK, so you’ve read the warnings and played the game, and you’re still in shock at some of the things that happen throughout. All fair and good, I didn’t expect to be carving up dead bodies or watching puppet shows about domestic abuse on a midweek evening either.

Every scenario, however, is a reminder of how much trauma affects the young mind. Giulia, battered and broken by her mother, was never going to grow up with a peaceful soul. Tormented beyond all recognition, the internal scars are perhaps deeper than the physical ones.

While it doesn’t justify murder, it provides players with a window into the darkness of a broken soul, something that (hopefully) many of us will never have to experience. It promotes empathy, understanding, and the urge to help those who are suffering. Censor this, and all of that vanishes.

As I said in my review, “Martha Is Dead isn’t just about the gameplay – it’s about how it makes you feel.” I stand by it, because no game has ever made me feel the way this one did, and the images and what I learned from them will stay with me for the rest of my life.

martha is dead girl lies dirty and dead
LKA
Martha’s death triggers a series of mental breakdowns for her twin sister, Giulia.

A message pertinent to our modern world

What made the whole thing resonate with me even more was the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The game releasing on the same day feels like some sort of warped, divine coincidence.

At the core of Martha is Dead is the wartime setting, which in turn is one of the factors that amplify Giulia’s trauma. While it’s questionable as to how much of the story actually happens given her mental state, the murder of her partisan lover, Lapo, and the incident that follows are a stark reminder of the human cost of war.

As you peruse her mother’s sewing materials in the basement, you come across a sinister blue and white striped shirt, which casts your mind to those who suffered in the persecution. While it may not actually belong to one of its victims, the connections are subliminal.

Of course, these are sensitive topics, but as history appears ever-determined to repeat itself, Martha is Dead reminds us why it shouldn’t.

martha is dead lapo man lies dismembered on ground
LKA
Humans fight wars, and humans die during them.

This is why games like Martha is Dead should not be censored. These are virtual art pieces that push boundaries to evoke both positive and negative emotions.

It won’t be for everyone, and that’s understandable, there are plenty of other games out there. But, if you want a truly unique experience that touches your body and soul, then experiences like this are the perfect way to scratch that itch.

We traverse the plains of Diablo‘s Sanctuary and see dismembered limbs scattered around, or shoot enemy players in the pseudo-historical settings of Call of Duty. Violence in video games is normalized (for better or worse), but when it comes the impact that trauma has on the real human behind the screen or the past figures that we’re shooting, we don’t want to talk about it.

In a world fraught with tension and apparently spiraling out of control, maybe being in touch with our emotions is a good thing – after all, our virtual worlds are just that; virtual.

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