Combat is an easy way to pull you into the storyline; the adversarial nature of most games is a way to engage you and provide a challenge and sense of progression – whether it's with bigger better weapons or improved skills. Playing Doom all the way through with just a pistol would have been very boring indeed.
The problem with the games industry's intense focus on violence as a driver in a game's storyline has made it an easy target for those less liberal folks out there. Just as with rock 'n roll, heavy metal and tabletop RPGs before them, games have become the targets of lazy journalists and the easily brainwashed who believe that games are the source of all of society's ills.
Whether or not you believe this viewpoint is valid, the games industry's reliance on combat as the main part of interactivity in a game has lead to many spurious accusations, such as the fault of gaming behind the numerous high school shooting around the world.
The problem is that violence in video games has been with us since the very early days: we shot down marauding aliens in Space Invaders, and even Donkey Kong was based around the abduction of the Princess. Quake would have been a totally different game had your character walked up to them, shook their hands and proceeded to enter complex trade negotiations.
So without turning every game into My Little Pony 32: Fluffy Bunnies Go To Stroggos, is there really a way of keeping the adversarial nature of games without resorting to violence? Well, probably not. Action games rely on adrenaline to keep you excited and engaged with the game, and the easiest way to achieve that is to have your character fight for their survival.
Of course, one way of mitigating the violence is to direct all of that violence against your character, but have that character eschew violence, for whatever reason. This is the road that DICE has gone down with their latest offering, Mirror's Edge.
Set in a dystopian, unnamed slightly-future city where the flow of information is tightly controlled and monitored, the only way to share information securely is through the use of parkour-skilled couriers who carry sensitive information across the rooftops of the city away from prying eyes. They are called runners and they are relentlessly hunted by The Man.
You play Faith, a runner who has just returned to the rooftops after an unspecified injury. Your first delivery attracts a seemingly unwarranted amount of attention from the city police and things go from annoying to worse as your sister gets framed for the murder of a candidate in the city's mayoral elections. Suddenly your life is spiralling downwards towards the foreboding underbelly of the city, and it's enough to make you wonder whether it's worth a girl's time going to work these days.