Because I was talking to peardita about this and she said I should post it publicly:
What makes something a game, as opposed to an activity or a simulator, is win/lose conditions. A game designer needs to figure out how the player can win the game, and how they can lose, and that can be more complex than you think.
Basing a game around combat and violence is a convenient short-cut on that front. How does the player win the game? They kill the other guy. How do they lose? The other guy kills them. Boom. Done. Put it in a box and ship it.
And because this is the path of least resistance, almost every modern game designer does it. To the point where games without violence in them are frequently declared to be “not real games.”
But the thing about using violence as a shortcut is that it’s not only lazy, but it very quickly gets boring, especially since the market is saturated with violent games. Some studios try to change things up by adding compelling characters and intricate plots to their shootypunchygames, some go the nonviolent route (puzzle games, Portal, etc) (many of which, you will note, have been extremely successful outside the “hardcore gamer” demographic), and most just try to one-up their competition on the blood and gore and brutality. Which is how you get entire teams of people working on hyper-realistic blood spatter and slow-motion kill cams and Mortal Kombat fatalities and on and on and on.
People look at this from the outside and assume everyone involved in the industry must be a bloodthirsty sadist, but in reality, it’s all a desperate attempt to grab and hold the interest of a fickle and rapidly-shrinking core demo.
And this is why we should put video games out to sea on a wooden boat filled with Modern Warfare discs and shoot flaming arrows at it until it’s a burned husk at the bottom of the ocean.