October 10, 2012

I think I is broken

I've talked before about vidyergeeme morals and such, but I think I'm broken now. Spec Ops: the Line started my descent and now Dishonored has destroyed my ability to indiscriminately murder.

It's tough to rationalize.

In Bioshock you have to kill a fuckload of people, but it's cool, they're junkies. They attack you. The choices made are between being a cock and not being a cock (which doesn't actually make you a good person). This is true for most games: the player is thrust into a situation which requires a healthy pile of bodies to surmount.

Spec Ops is the same way, but it asserts that, because you, the player, chose to play the game at all you are fundamentally flawed as a human being. The protagonists have no choice but to follow player commands and the story, but the person behind them loaded that shit up. The story reflects this, as every decision to move forward, to pursue the mission, is met with harsher consequences. You are punished for playing the thing the developers made for you to play, and you deserve it.

Dishonored takes it a step further, or perhaps simply reinforces the terrible feeling I have from killing nameless minions. It's a stealth game, but it doesn't have to be. You can gleefully murder your way through everyday people doing their jobs. They stand in your way, but, as with Spec Ops, the decision to confront them this way makes you awful. I can't play without wandering who I've widowed (something the guards specifically mention), and early on the Outsider gives you a fucking heart that tells you secrets about people. That guy? He wanted to open a gift shop. She makes ten cents an hour and is paying off her father's debts. You're a monster.

There are videogames that don't require you to harm anyone, but they're typically kid games. Violence is a part of the medium, same as with books and movies. What's interesting (and the reason I feel like a bastard) is that you don't feel responsible when Gimli or Legolas decapitate an orc, when Dorothy smooshes the Wicked Witch (or goddam melts her sister). But in a videogame, regardless of what the story requires, the player makes more decisions in the narrative, even if the only decision is to play the character.

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