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Videogamers Embark on Non-Killing Spree
February 6, 2012 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Some video game aficionados are now trying to beat violent games without killing any other characters in the process.
posted by reenum (151 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Years ago when Unreal Tournament first came out, I was playing a LAN game with some friends when the game glitched out. None of the enemies, and none of us, could shoot our guns. It was very odd watching how we and the AI dealt with this. Mostly by running in circles, jumping up and down, and flirting with each other around corners, but hey, a few thousand years and maybe we'd have evolved culture.

Luckily we were able to reboot and go back to blowing the crap out of each other.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:42 AM on February 6, 2012 [18 favorites]


The halftone portrait — a WSJ calling card — of Mullins's character adds a wonderfully surreal touch.
posted by Nomyte at 8:43 AM on February 6, 2012 [14 favorites]


Yesterday, I was playing Mass Effect 2 and during a conversation about using your autistic brother in lab experiments, my roommate commented on how often video games cover the question "do the ends justify the means?" He's right, it's a pretty common video game plot point that usually requires you to confront an evil scientist/wizard over the the harm they're doing in the service of seemingly noble ends.

The kicker, though, is that the game usually answers "no, the ends don't always justify the means. Now, kill all those people to make sure everyone understands."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:46 AM on February 6, 2012 [34 favorites]


Is this new? I thought there were some games that has rewards for a stealth finish?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:48 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nobody playing Arkham Asylum or Arkham City has killed anyone. Caused something like 10,000 debilitating concussions, yes, but Mr. Wayne's hands are clean, damnit.
posted by stevis23 at 8:49 AM on February 6, 2012 [26 favorites]


The sequels to Metal Gear Solid offered this option as well (well, sorta; the bosses would die -- or not die -- regardless of whether you were using the tranquilizer gun or not, according to the game's script), as well as offering various rewards for making it thru the game without killing anyone.

For example, in the third game a certain boss fight had Snake confront the ghosts of everyone he'd killed so far; if the player had been tranquilizing the Russians instead of shooting them, slitting their throats or throwing grenades at them, that encounter was much easier.
posted by Gelatin at 8:49 AM on February 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nomyte, I think the WSJ calls them hedcuts, and yes, that was bizarre. They did a story a number of years ago about men going hair-free, and the hedcut was of the main fratboy bro they profiled shaving his chest. On the cover of the fucking Journal. Now that was surreal.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:49 AM on February 6, 2012


Is this new? I thought there were some games that has rewards for a stealth finish?

I'm not sure when Nethack introduced conducts but that was at least 10-15 years ago.
posted by theodolite at 8:50 AM on February 6, 2012 [15 favorites]


Pacifist runs are great. I never quite pulled off a clean one in Metal Gear Solid 2, but I made a pretty good go of it at one point. But pacifist runs in games that never were intended to allow it are even more fun. I love seeing people break a game in that direction.

I was super happy to have pulled off a straight-up pacifist run on Deus Ex: Human Revolution last year. It was nice to not have to cheat in any sense to do it—they gave you the tools to pull it off, though you need to know the game a little and have some patience to make it happen.

I even did it on Hard, though if you're being sufficiently sneaky (which is the best way to avoid being in a position to harm anyone in the first place) the difference in difficulty levels isn't so pronounced since tougher enemies that you never engage still don't get engaged.

I put a bunch of hours into a pacifist Skyrim herbalist/alchemist a little while back as well, which was a different sort of thing—unlike Felix from the article here, I wasn't even trying to proceed through the plot, and didn't consider whacking things or casting spells on them sufficiently pacifistic for my tastes, so I just walked around the province, picking every flower and plant I could find, grabbing mushrooms from uninhabited caves, and doing an awful lot of running from most of the residents (humanoid and otherwise) of what is when you're playing non-violently a shockingly hostile place.
posted by cortex at 8:51 AM on February 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


The first MGS let you go through without killing anybody other than the bosses, for that matter. Although I never figured out how you were supposed to get through the tower chase without an infinite supply of stun grenades (thank you, bandanna).
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:52 AM on February 6, 2012


See also the World of Warcraft pacifists.
posted by jedicus at 8:53 AM on February 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


cortex: does that include not killing the three bosses?
posted by murphy slaw at 8:53 AM on February 6, 2012


Even Mario couldn't pull this off, though he came so close.
posted by darksasami at 8:54 AM on February 6, 2012


This is why I loved the Thief ans Splinter Cell games, too. So much harder to not kill anyone, and even harder to knock out as few people as possible, but way cool when it worked.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:56 AM on February 6, 2012


Some games just don't have this option, like Valve's games. Progressing through any of the Half-Lifes requires violence. TF2 offers no non-violent conflict resolution options. Even kid-friendly Portal requires you to kill.

Oddly enough, it is theoretically possible to win a round of de_dust or cs_office in the super-realistic combat sim Counter-Strike without killing anyone.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:58 AM on February 6, 2012


murphy slaw: It's impossible to complete DXHR without killing the bosses - but they don't count toward the achievement.
posted by mrgoat at 9:00 AM on February 6, 2012


NetHack has had this as a recognised play style for years; one of the tracted conducts is pacifist. Along with vegatarian and vegan and not eating at all (in a game where that is the primary way of regaining health and your health goes down every time you move.)
posted by Mitheral at 9:00 AM on February 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ian Bogost, about whom there was an FPP last week, critiqued Grand Theft Auto III in his book Persuasive Games for being an instance of a game that allowed for certain freedoms and didn't allow for others:
[M]any players and critics have celebrated Grand Theft Auto III (GTAIII) as a game that allows the player to "go anywhere, do anything. This sentiment is flawed for several reasons. First, the game does not actually allow the player to "do anything"; rather, in the words of one reviewer, "GTAIII let you do anything you wish, within the parameters of the game." The "parameters of the game" are made up of the processes it supports and excludes. For example, entering and exiting vehicles is afforded in GTAIII, but conversing with passersby is not.
While video games are becoming increasingly complex with regards to simulation and controls, they're developing pretty slowly on the moral front. I'm not saying things have to be moral to be fun, but I like books and movies that make me reflect on being a better person or living a better life, and there are precious few games which have the same effect. Not many people bother asking how the structure of a game might influence the way I think while playing it, and many popular genres are entirely built around beating my enemies, usually violently.

RPGs and FPSs and fighting games and RTSs are mostly all violence-driven. Puzzle games and platformers are more neutral, though platformers are frequently violent too. Simulations are sometimes better at this, but even there you've got a pretty limited selection.

I like seeing people play Skyrim like this, but it gets at the reason I'm pretty un-fond of Skyrim, which is that for all it has this huge expansive world, the whole thing exists as a kind of dollhouse for the player. There isn't much meaningful taking part, not much of a feeling that you're actually becoming a meaningful piece of the bigger whole other than in the over-the-top fantastic sense. I mean, it's great for epic fantasy and swordplay, but that's increasingly not satisfying enough for me.

This is possibly just a personal bias, but I do think games tend to be way too destructive, and not enough creative. They're crude, in a word, not in execution but in concept. My senior thesis is on a game which deliberately set out to buck those trends, and as I've been working on it I've been reading an excellent playthrough by two writers who picked two of the game's major characters and narrated their experience playing it. At the very end they had a discussion in which one of the players said:
[W]hy did we care so much? As you said, part of it's because you and I have at least a basic sense of empathy and morals, and part of it's because we had to work so hard just to keep our characters alive. The big thing for me, though, was the fact that the whole game was predicated on the goal of saving lives. Most adult-oriented narratives in games these days have violence as the engine driving the story forward, as in "those aliens are attacking me so I must blast them in the face with my space-shotgun." There's violent combat in Pathologic, sure, but combat isn't the focus. [...] At the beginning of each day, the game reminds you how many people have died, how many are close to dying. That's a great device; it was a constant reminder to me that the Plague was winning. It lent urgency to everything I did; even when I wasn't close to death myself (a relatively rare situation to begin with), I knew that other people were. Every quest and action felt terribly important, and I was constantly stressed out about the epidemic's tireless advance. No wonder I got so sucked in: lives were at stake.
I think it's the most fascinating concept for any game that I've played. I'm excited to see what happens when developers start coming up with unconventional narratives for games, which focus less on destroying the enemy and more on the creation of something new. Minecraft is another game which does this beautifully.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:03 AM on February 6, 2012 [18 favorites]


cortex: does that include not killing the three bosses?

The boss fights never happened. I don't know what you're talking about.

Actually, I ended up just typhooning the bosses into submission to get those horrorshow disruptions over with as quick as possible, so I'm going to leave that as a "maybe", insofar as the game gives you any agency on the subject; the bosses end up bleeding/apparently-dying in post-fight cutscenes no matter what you do, so it's impossible to evaluate the lethality of any not-explicitly-bulletholeriffic takedown diegetically.

I prefer to think the typhoon system just badly incapacitates the bosses, being as how they're much better armored than a typical enemy. But I did make a point of actually stunning the first boss repeatedly until I beat him that way on one occasion, and I think the second as well but I can't recall. That doesn't work with the third boss, though. Also, maybe you could get the second boss to take herself out by matadoring her into all the electrical conduits in that chamber? I never had the patience to bother, and I'm not sure her being horribly electrocuted would really be non-lethal in any case.

The game at least has the decency to ignore the boss fights for the purposes of pacificism calculations.
posted by cortex at 9:03 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


There was some game that a friend of mine had on the original sega console (or maybe the Genesis) that would reward you with every weapon in the game if you went through the first level without killing anyone. I think it was Target: Earth or something like that?

my roommate commented on how often video games cover the question "do the ends justify the means?" He's right, it's a pretty common video game plot point that usually requires you to confront an evil scientist/wizard over the the harm they're doing in the service of seemingly noble ends.

That question is essentially the entire point of Shadow of the Colossus.
posted by LionIndex at 9:04 AM on February 6, 2012


Even kid-friendly Portal requires you to kill.

That poor weighted companion cube...

Or were you referring to the robots?
posted by Gelatin at 9:04 AM on February 6, 2012


Even kid-friendly Portal requires you to kill.

Well. Sort of.

I personally don't consider machines to be people, but that probably just shows how old and out of touch I've become.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:05 AM on February 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


Some Spiderweb RPGs have explicitly-coded pacifist solutions.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:06 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I assumed that referred to the final (and only) boss, although it turns out to have not been completely murder.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:07 AM on February 6, 2012


I always did this in Ninja Gaiden when I got bored, but rarely other games. I'd just start it up and go "NINJA!....PACIFIST!!"
posted by cashman at 9:07 AM on February 6, 2012


Yep, Target Earth, for Genesis.
posted by LionIndex at 9:07 AM on February 6, 2012


in a game where that is the primary way of regaining health and your health goes down every time you move.

Your hunger goes up and eating is the primary (but not only!) way of decreasing your hunger. Health in the sense of HP isn't restored by eating (in general).
posted by kenko at 9:10 AM on February 6, 2012


A couple of examples of someone trying not only to not kill anyone but to not do much at all. (From Mefi's Own)
posted by jacquilynne at 9:10 AM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is (as TFA properly points out) not a new phenomenon.

Nethack (previously, previouslier, and even previouslier than that) has had a built-in "pacifist" conduct for many versions now.

The Thief series of games (The Dark Project, Metal Age and Deadly Shadows) tends to discourage killing. On the higher difficulty levels, killing a human is an immediate game-over.

Deus Ex (which like Highlander had no sequel SHUT UP! I'M NOT LISTENING!) was another popular game for pacifist runs.
posted by sourcequench at 9:10 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


That question is essentially the entire point of Shadow of the Colossus.

Which is a fantastic game that plays by design like someone playing some open-world Zelda type game and intentionally refusing to do the normal adventure fighting bits. SotC is one of the most arresting gameplay experiences I've had, but also one of the most quiet and meditative in all the non-colossus bits; you have to be really okay with riding a horse around trying to find the occasional important spot.

And which apparently got ported to HD and rereleased (!) along with Ico (!!) last fall without me ever hearing about it.
posted by cortex at 9:13 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


@sourcequench

I used to do Doom/Doom2 runs that way. On the Nightmare setting it was honestly easier that way than to kill, you'd just run out of ammo faster than they respawned anyway.

In Doom2 I got as far as Dead Simple, which required killing spider demons and such faster than they could respawn to trigger the end of the level.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:14 AM on February 6, 2012


Sourcequest: Human Revolution was shockingly good. Maybe pretend it's a different franchise if you have to, just so you can play it without pain :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 9:14 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the things I love about Arkham City (besides, um everything) is that, as Batman, you dont kill anyone. At least on purpose.

You do beat the crap out of like hundreds of guys, but the goal is unconsciousness, not fatality.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:15 AM on February 6, 2012


I was so waiting for the WSJ to link to a Let's Play series on Youtube and collapse the internet into a finite point.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:16 AM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was so waiting for the WSJ to link to a Let's Play series on Youtube and collapse the internet into a finite point.

Not a chance. WSJ wouldn't link to Felix on Youtube. Just like so many new sites they just won't do it.
posted by episodic at 9:21 AM on February 6, 2012


You do beat the crap out of like hundreds of guys

The most bizarre bits are the "interrogations" of the Riddler's accomplices. Batman puts the goon in a chokehold and says something vaguely threatening, and the henchman gives up the information in exchange for "mercy."

But instead of actually being merciful, Batman knocks him out. Dick move, Bats.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:21 AM on February 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


This reminded me of this article from a couple of years ago, about a parent that required his kid to abide by the Geneva Convention while playing video games.
posted by COD at 9:24 AM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Another thing that's fascinating about video game violence is that, even as games have become fuller and fuller simulations of real life, the amount of expected violence hasn't gone down, even though the amount of violence you'd expect in real life is miniscule, even in violent places or times.

Take a game like Red Dead Redemption; now you can expect a character like John Marston in real life is going to do some killing, but he's not going to pick up a Gatling gun and mow down hundreds of people every couple of weeks, like he does in the game. It's a violent setting, a violent story, it's a game that, in some respects, demands violence, but the violence is all out of scale to what the story demands. Hell, it's all out of scale to what you'd expect to see in a 50s Western, which is already pretty violent.

There's a ton of games that draw on violent but not as violent source material and crank the violence up to 11 because they seemingly have no other ideas about what to do, and I think it does a disservice to the narrative value of violence; play LA Noir and compare it to Chinatown, for example.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:25 AM on February 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


With the creation kit upcoming, I wonder if you could create a mod where you're just a shopkeeper desperately trying to turn a profit and not have your store blown up or robbed blind.
posted by The Whelk at 9:26 AM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Vegan Minecraft.
posted by R. Mutt at 9:26 AM on February 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


I spent several levels naked in the Direlands of Dereth.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:26 AM on February 6, 2012


Unless the Geneva Convention now talks about not teabagging your enemies and abstaining from yelling at opponents how many times you copulated with their mothers last night, it's pretty much an empty gesture.
posted by ymgve at 9:28 AM on February 6, 2012


I sometimes play vegan Minecraft, but I get the feeling that my cactus deathtraps hedges are a bit morally dubious.
posted by howfar at 9:31 AM on February 6, 2012


darksasami: That one was actually slightly different. He was going for lovest score possible, which in that one place meant that bouncing off the parakoopa's head was a better choice than making the jump cleanly and inadvertently grabbing the coins.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:33 AM on February 6, 2012


With the creation kit upcoming, I wonder if you could create a mod where you're just a shopkeeper desperately trying to turn a profit and not have your store blown up or robbed blind.

It's not Skyrim, but you pretty much just described Recettear.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:37 AM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


He was going for lovest score possible

A difficult task in anything but tennis and dating sims.
posted by Copronymus at 9:37 AM on February 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


Previously.
posted by mkb at 9:37 AM on February 6, 2012


Vegan minecraft would be a whole lot easier now that you can beat red apples out of the trees. Previously, it would have been hard when starting out a character; your only options would be trying to get a wheat or melon farm up and running on the first day before you starved to death.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:38 AM on February 6, 2012


Wait, The Adventures Of Hanlon's General Store has legs, you could try to pit sellers against each other, choose suitors for your daughter ( she is not seeing that bard again let me tell you), convince farmers to sell to you direc, lose all your Monet trying to add on a hotel, bribe tax officials, and try desperately to keep adventurers far far away.
posted by The Whelk at 9:38 AM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are plenty of ways to play with and subvert the implicit assumptions most videogames saddle you with. Multi-player games are especially good for this sort of thing.

One of my favorite things ever is This Spartan Life, a machinima talk show that takes place in the middle of the battlefield of Halo 2.

The show replicates traditional talk show format, right down to the opening monologue, but host and guests are all Halo avatars and there is a real game going on around them. The show is not infrequently interrupted by other players running in and shooting everything up, killing the guests, and generally wrecking things, often with no idea what they've stumbled into.
posted by Naberius at 9:38 AM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


With the creation kit upcoming, I wonder if you could create a mod where you're just a shopkeeper desperately trying to turn a profit and not have your store blown up or robbed blind.

I have never been tempted to make a mod before, but now you've made me wonder if Recettear could be recreated in Skyrim. Could be an interesting rewrite using western RPG cliches instead of the original's JRPG standards.

Would be fun dealing with adventurers trying to stealth their way into your basement, looking for the goodies. Or waking up in the middle of the night, catching the would-be-savior-of-the-world with a sack full of clothing and a fistful of knickknacks, glaring at him while he tries to look all innocent and noble. And I'd need to research a shopkeeper's anti-charm spell to counteract an adventurer's attempts to improve his haggling via magic.

Back on topic, one other game to toss on the pacifist, or at least semi-pacifist, pile is Hitman: Blood Money. Sure, you can't be a pacifist assassin exactly, but there is a great joy in killing only your target and waltzing in and out of the area without harming anyone else, without anyone else even noticing anything suspicious about the bald guy with a bar code tattoo.
posted by honestcoyote at 9:41 AM on February 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Don't forget that pacifist World of Warcraft character from some months back. Apparently playing pacifists there has become a bigger thing in the time since.
posted by JHarris at 9:43 AM on February 6, 2012


OK, with that half-tone portrait of a Khajiit the WSJ is just trolling.
posted by Nelson at 9:47 AM on February 6, 2012


Any decent shopkeeper mod would have to point out that the economic system in Skyrim makes no sense, maybe you can charge more for fancy looking peole, or straight out refuse to buy things you can't really afford and are unable to sell. Or simulate inflation....
posted by The Whelk at 9:54 AM on February 6, 2012


Looking forward to the Ninja Gaiden pacifist run.
posted by empath at 9:56 AM on February 6, 2012


I'm a minecraft pescatarian. :/ I just hate killing the little piggies. They are too damn cute.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 9:57 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and once I figured out how to make bread I've made the switch. No need for killing anymore! Thanks, Notch.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 9:57 AM on February 6, 2012


Another thing that's fascinating about video game violence is that, even as games have become fuller and fuller simulations of real life, the amount of expected violence hasn't gone down, even though the amount of violence you'd expect in real life is miniscule, even in violent places or times.

The thing is, most games have one or a few central game mechanics that are somewhat independent of the story.

Unreal Tournament has basically no story. It's a game of paintball or laser tag turned into a video game. The game is about running around shooting and trying not to be shot.

Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect 2, and Skyrim (for examples) are all much more closely tied to a story and a "realistic" simulation of a world. But they are still largely combat games. It's not a case of "We need to add lots of violence to make this story exciting" so much as "Violence is one of the main ways that these things are games rather than movies."
posted by straight at 9:59 AM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I was playing Battlefield 2 Bad Company, I would sometimes play my No Killing character. As you can see, not a single kill. Advancement was slow, but shows that you can still play the game.
posted by Argyle at 10:00 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even kid-friendly Portal requires you to kill.

Who do you have to kill ? And I'm talking humans here, no fancy-pancy AI's or robots.
posted by Pendragon at 10:01 AM on February 6, 2012


Don't forget that pacifist World of Warcraft character from some months back.

There are tons of Eve care bears that only do mining and logistical work.
posted by empath at 10:01 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Many years ago, the MMO DragonRealms actually had pacifism built in to one of the classes for a while. Empaths couldn't directly cause harm or they'd lose their healing powers temporarily.

It was not a popular decision, and eventually was reversed and they got some nasty bone-breaking, limb-twisting, fountains-of-blood-and-gore spells.
posted by Foosnark at 10:03 AM on February 6, 2012


starved to death.

I'm not sure this has ever been possible on normal difficulty. Not my problem if you're a masochist. The issue is wool to make a bed (unless you're building a base at spawn, I guess). Unless you're mining for iron to make shears straight off you'll need to rely on the self defence justification in relation to roughly 15 spiders.
posted by howfar at 10:05 AM on February 6, 2012


Who do you have to kill ? And I'm talking humans here, no fancy-pancy AI's or robots.

As I mentioned above, the weighted companion cube, which GLaDOS assures you is sentient, and then taunts you afterward for your "crime."
posted by Gelatin at 10:05 AM on February 6, 2012


The lack of shopkeeper money would be a Bethesda cliche that could be nicely subverted in the mod.

"Oh, I see you want to sell an extremely rare Daedric Pot of +8 Cooking. According to the blue book it's worth .. hmmmm.. 30,000 gold. But I see there's a small dent on the side and I believe the engraving on the bottom says "made in china". Yes, yes, it's there. You have to look very closely. Therefore I'll give you 500 and I'm being quite generous since I know you're trying to save the dragons or the world or something nice like that."

"Oh stop your crying. It's 500 gold or nothing. If you're offended, just click on me, press the tilde key, and type 'give gold 20000'. You'll be happy. I'll be happy. Sure rampant inflation and chaos will ultimately ensue, but I'll be rich and you can get on doing whatever it is you get on doing. And stop trying to sneak into the basement. I'm right here you know."
posted by honestcoyote at 10:05 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of the times I've tried to obey all the traffic laws in GTA, stopping for red lights, etc. It usually lasts until I get rear-ended by a douche in a Banshee or some pedestrian decides to spontaneously jump in front of my car.

Laying waste to the surrounding neighborhood is surprisingly therapeutic.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:07 AM on February 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


As I mentioned above, the weighted companion cube, which GLaDOS assures you is sentient, and then taunts you afterward for your "crime."

I don't want to step on anyone's personal interpretation of the story or insert myself into a hotspot of Portal fandom, but... I think GLaDOS was occasionally dishonest. Perhaps even going as far as to tell outright lies.

Just putting that out there.
posted by Winnemac at 10:10 AM on February 6, 2012 [15 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: "
Take a game like Red Dead Redemption; now you can expect a character like John Marston in real life is going to do some killing, but he's not going to pick up a Gatling gun and mow down hundreds of people every couple of weeks, like he does in the game. It's a violent setting, a violent story, it's a game that, in some respects, demands violence, but the violence is all out of scale to what the story demands. Hell, it's all out of scale to what you'd expect to see in a 50s Western, which is already pretty violent...
"

And it helpfully has statistics on the exact level of violence you've perpetrated in it! This lead to my favorite inadvertently-comic moment when I ended up replaying RDR a few months ago. One of the friendly NPC story characters gets irritated with John Marston's general Marstonness, and angrily demands, "And just how many people have you killed, Mr. Marston?!"

I immediately think, wait! I can answer that exactly! I pause the game to delve into the stats screen, and could confidently respond, "Well, Miss Bonnie, in the past six days, I have killed 963 people!" There are of course no statistics available for John Marston's pre-game career, but extrapolating, I figured he'd personally gunned down several million.
posted by Drastic at 10:13 AM on February 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I remember the No-Kill FallOut: New Vegas being mentioned in that YouTube series with that twitchy video game girl, and it got me to wondering if "no-kill" includes those geckos. Because frankly, despite running in manner quite similar to my nephew and therefore making me feel bad/uncomfortable about smashing their leering little faces in, those geckos totally deserve it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:14 AM on February 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think GLaDOS was occasionally dishonest. Perhaps even going as far as to tell outright lies.

The cake's real though, right? RIGHT?!?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:16 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's gone. You don't even care, do you? This is your last chance!
posted by shakespeherian at 10:17 AM on February 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


But instead of actually being merciful, Batman knocks him out. Dick move, Bats.
I always got the impression from the thugs' dialogue that they were expecting to be killed and that being knocked out qualified as mercy.

But that just makes it more puzzling. Why is anyone still expecting Batman to kill them at this point? Somewhere between the second and third time that Random Thug #2531 wakes up with a nasty headache, shouldn't people start to wonder whether Batman's letting him live on purpose?

Thug #2531 might not be wondering much, what with the brain trauma, but he's got to talk to people now and then...
posted by roystgnr at 10:19 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


This lead to my favorite inadvertently-comic moment when I ended up replaying RDR a few months ago.

There's actually a nice bit of meta-commentary about the importance of cut-scene characters vs. nameless mooks slipped into party banter of Dragon Age 2: (helpful source)

Varric: Oh, cheer up, Blondie. You're making me cry just looking at you.
Anders: Don't.
Varric: You made a mistake. It happens.
Anders: I almost killed a girl.
Varric: You've killed two-hundred and fifty-four by my last count. Plus about five hundred men, a few dozen giant spiders, and at least two demons.
Anders: It's not the same.
Varric: Why? Because this one you feel bad about? Maybe that's the problem.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:23 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another thing that's fascinating about video game violence is that, even as games have become fuller and fuller simulations of real life, the amount of expected violence hasn't gone down, even though the amount of violence you'd expect in real life is miniscule, even in violent places or times.

This is because while games have simulation aspects, in general they are focused on gameplay, and games with violent aspects usually have combat as the primary game play element. It would be more realistic for a military game to feature a lot of sitting around in barracks with nothing to do or going out on patrols where nothing happens at all, but that would be less fun. Games today may have a lot of state of the art graphics that can be very realistic, but at the core of every game is a relatively simple set of gameplay mechanics that have more or less the same function as they did back in the days of Pac Man and other games that seem very abstract and simple by today's standards. In combat games those gameplay elements tend to be violent, so it's difficult to make one that doesn't involve mowing down a lot of enemies.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:24 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've done this with Civ 3, though it required making the map small enough and having enough cpu players that someone else is close enough to kill those pesky barbarians before they start bothering me.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:26 AM on February 6, 2012


Alpha Protocol is very pacifist run-friendly - you get perks for sticking with stealth takedowns, and bar a few unavoidable deaths, it is possible to go through most of the game without killing anyone.

(in addition, its version of your total kill count is "Orphans Created")
posted by GenericUser at 10:32 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


With the creation kit upcoming, I wonder if you could create a mod where you're just a shopkeeper desperately trying to turn a profit and not have your store blown up or robbed blind.

There's always Recettear - an Item Shop's Tale. Although unfortunately you can't possibly win the game without going out with an adventurer and using that adventurer to kill a vast and very dull number of monsters. With that tweaked, though, you could certainly neither kill anyone nor sell weapons to adventurers (which would be like being an arms dealer).

I also Typhooned the bosses on Deus Ex: HR - which was annoying, because I was otherwise playing stealth non-lethal hacker, and it meant I had to waste mod slots on something I wasn't going to use at any other point. I had a similar problem with my stealth build in Alpha Protocol - I could go invisible and pretty much empty my pistol into the heads of the bosses, and they would barely feel it because I hadn't taken enough levels in firearms, until eventually I ran out of ammo. Not very Bond, Bourne or Bauer.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:49 AM on February 6, 2012


I've done this with Civ 3, though it required making the map small enough and having enough cpu players that someone else is close enough to kill those pesky barbarians before they start bothering me.

Talk about the textbook critique of pacifism -- that pacifists are freeloaders depending on other people's willingness to do violence that protects them.
posted by straight at 11:17 AM on February 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


But that just makes it more puzzling. Why is anyone still expecting Batman to kill them at this point?

This is one of the ways that watching Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight broke the entire concept of the Batman for me. Batman can't win an intimidation arms race with the Joker unless he's willing to become something even worse than the Joker--he can only get away with pretending to be worse for so long. (And in fact, I think that every time Batman tries to coerce someone with intimidation in that movie, he fails.)
posted by straight at 11:21 AM on February 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


When I was a kid, I used to play GoldenEye and Mission: Impossible on the N64 quite a lot. This seems horrible to me now, but I remember playing the Facility level in GoldenEye for an hour at a time, the stereo on in the background playing music that would no doubt embarrass me now, and I would just wait there as the endless guards ran down the stairs in the bottling room only for me to shoot them with my limitless arsenal. I would never do this today; I don't even like violence in movies, and I'm sure the violence in contemporary video games would appall me. When did I become so precious? There's just no way to complete that game without killing anyone—that's my excuse. Certain levels, sure, but the Control level for example requires you to protect Natalya by killing guards shooting from all sides, and of course you have to kill Trevelyan at the end. Mission: Impossible, on the other hand, discourages killing quite a lot, unlike any game I remember playing at the time. I remember thinking at the time the game was kind of lame for aborting the mission if I needlessly killed a guard in the Embassy or something. Why can't I just shoot the officer who is arresting me instead of putting up my hands? I wondered. But looking back on it now, I really enjoyed Mission: Impossible, despite its horrid and embarrassing graphics, because it required a unique skill to beat some of the levels. Not that GoldenEye was unchallenging, but it seems much easier to blow people away rather than to try to evade them. Running around on the roof in Mission: Impossible was such a frustrating and difficult level for me—until I beat it and then it was one of my favorites and I played it repeatedly. I appreciate that Mission: Impossible encouraged stealthiness instead of slaughter, and I wish more games I played at the time had done the same.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 11:22 AM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of the things I love about Arkham City (besides, um everything) is that, as Batman, you dont kill anyone. At least on purpose.

You do beat the crap out of like hundreds of guys, but the goal is unconsciousness, not fatality.


Well, sure, but I feel a little bit like this is semantics. You can't kill anyone because the game won't let you- It would violate the central narrative conceit of The Batman myth. Which is to say that the gameplay is not accommodating a pacifist play style, it's simply the only option.

It'd be trivial to add death animations and exploding heads if the main character was Corporal Chainsaw instead of Batman.

Point being that whether dead or unconscious, the game flags these enemies as "non-active" and I'm not sure it's a philosophical/ideological statement that they're unconscious instead of dead. Art being about intent and all.
posted by GilloD at 11:39 AM on February 6, 2012


I got seriously creeped-out by Wheatley's mutant cube-robots in Portal 2. They sort of force you to question whether you see the robots as living or not.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:54 AM on February 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


The only deaths in Katamari are that of my social life and my already tenuous credibility as an adult.
posted by elizardbits at 11:59 AM on February 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


Plus that dog that you rolled up like half an hour before you rolled up all the islands of Japan, you think he survived that?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:00 PM on February 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


yes, because I can still see his little doggy tail wagging.
posted by elizardbits at 12:10 PM on February 6, 2012 [17 favorites]


One thing that's really bugging me about Skyrim is that some of the quests are really morally objectionable, to the point where I can't envision my character actually going along with them. The 'beating a priest to death with a rusty mace' one comes to mind, along with The Whispering Door and a few others. I just wouldn't do them.

And without consulting a wiki, there's no way to tell which of these quests will take a really ugly turn, or which ones will end up being necessary. The rusty mace quest gets you an item which my character would never use anyway, for instance, but what if it's part of a bigger chain, or part of the plot, which I still haven't exactly found, to my knowledge. Probably.

I'm not trying to be a pacifist, by any means, but I figure it's reasonable to draw the line at, for instance, no kidding, cannibalism.

And there's no way of abandoning a quest in the game; once someone has given you a quest, it stays there, cluttering up your list, taunting you...

Not that that'll stop me from spending way too much of my time on that crazy-awesome-beautiful game.
posted by MrVisible at 12:12 PM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The only deaths in Katamari are that of my social life and my already tenuous credibility as an adult.

If liking Katamari makes one a child, sign me up for some 6-foot tall feetie pajamas.

But I don't think rolling up all matter on earth, including the living, until it undergoes spontaneous fusion reactions and becomes a star is exactly "pacifist".
posted by mrgoat at 12:13 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, because I rolled up his doghouse and food a split second before. But what about that "Bim Bim BimBimBim Bim Bim Bim" kid with the big hair? If you're big enough to collect a house, I don't think he's even visible anymore.

On Batman games: One thing about Batman that bothers me is that he's always using great force in games, comics and movies, and not really worrying about whether what he's attacking could survive. It's always assumed that the thug has survived, when really if you take a baseball bat to someone's head in real life you always have a non-zero chance of killing them.

So, you can smack thugs as much as you want and rest assured you never kill them, because the narrative requires that Batman doesn't kill people. If you had to ensure that you always used non-lethal force in every encounter it'd be a substantially more difficult game, as it would be if you played like cartoon Batman and actually had to constantly rescue stupid crooks who accidentally fell off of ledges.
posted by JHarris at 12:14 PM on February 6, 2012


One thing that's really bugging me about Skyrim is that some of the quests are really morally objectionable

Oh, I'm so glad you feel that way! That's one of my favorite things in Skyrim. I believe all the quests you're citing are Daedric quests. They're supposed to be objectionable, that's the whole point, you're working at the behest of immensely powerful demons who are mostly evil or at best ambiguous. It provides a nice contrast to the main heroic story where you're saving the world from the scourge of the evil dragons. They're definitely optional.

If you really want moral ambiguity, the indoctrination quests for the Dark Brotherhood are really lovely in Skyrim.
posted by Nelson at 12:17 PM on February 6, 2012


In Dungeons and Dragons Online, a lot of the quests you can complete without killing anything, and it is faster to do them that way. You also in some quests get bonus xp for not killing anyone.

That aside, DDO's quests pretty much define the "amoral murder hobo" genre of gameplay.
posted by dethb0y at 12:23 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another thing that's fascinating about video game violence is that, even as games have become fuller and fuller simulations of real life, the amount of expected violence hasn't gone down, even though the amount of violence you'd expect in real life is miniscule, even in violent places or times.

What was weird for me was GTA: IV. I loved III, Vice City and San Andreas, but even though I could tell that in all respects IV was an objectively better game, it wasn't nearly as much fun.

I think it's because the world is so realistic, and the game introduces Niko as such a decent guy, regretful of sins in the past, that I just want him to be happy and be able to live as moral a life as he can now. In the games in the past you're playing as Mr. Blonde or Mr. Pink, basically. That's the ethos and aesthetic: either bad-ass professionalism or just ruthless and reckless abandonment of any mortal code.in IV you're playing as Mr. White, and while White is a deeper character, he doesn't really have any fun.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:27 PM on February 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


MrVisible: One thing that's really bugging me about Skyrim is that some of the quests are really morally objectionable, to the point where I can't envision my character actually going along with them.

Fallout New Vegas has that too, which is making it hard for me to proceed past where I am. I'm pretty sure I have to choose between killing the guy who saves your life in the very beginning of the game, and killing an entire bunker full of characters from a group who were definitely good guys in Fallout 2 and 3.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:29 PM on February 6, 2012


You don't have to kill Odo. You can just leave him in a horrible vegetative purgatory for all eternity.

And not to get spoilery but that guy's a dick. He didn't save you bro. You didn't choose this life!!
posted by danny the boy at 12:39 PM on February 6, 2012


I'm not to that point yet, but that's really surprising to me - it's been my experience in NV that if you have to kill a named character, you're either in an optional quest or didn't put enough points in Speech or Barter.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:39 PM on February 6, 2012


I kind of like the idea of some sort of exhaustive "how far without violence?" project that looks back at classic games (of the sort where violence is an explicit component) and looks thoroughly at (a) how far you can get in the game's plot/narrative/exploration without committing any apparently violent acts and/or (b) how long you can plausibly survive in a world as a conscientious objector, refusing to harm or by action or inaction allow to be harmed other people/creatures/entities in the game. Basically look in detail both at the limits of declining to use weapons/attacks and at the indirect consequences for other forms of life in the game as a consequence of whatever acts you do take.

Like, with Super Mario Bros. it's really neat that you can beat the whole game without actually stomping on or fireballing any baddies. But you do still kill Bowser through a direct consequence of your final action—hitting the axe at the far right of his castle bridge and thus plunging him into lava. There's no option to not kill him; at best you could get right up to him and then dodge his fire breath and hammers until time runs out, making a case by your own behavior for the fundamental incorrectness of violence even if it means you die as a result from the timer running out.

But even before that, while you can jump over goombas and koopa troopas and such, they are in many cases marching toward open pits into which they will fall and die. In the case of goombas, there may be nothing you can do (or almost nothing; you could fling yourself into a goomba's path in order to kill yourself and thus end its forward movement in the game); in the case of a green turtle headed for a pit, you could stomp on it once to put it into inert shell mode, and then wait for it to revive and repeat, again and again until the timer runs out, to prevent its death from falling.

In these cases, Mario's not really culpable for the falling death of creatures that cannot be persuaded by any means in the game to stop a suicidal march, but there are other games where enemy behavior—and specifically enemy reactions to player movement—is more complex, and the decision of where to stand or when to jump could be the difference between another living being in the game safely traversing a gap or avoiding spikes and that being dying from being in the wrong place.
posted by cortex at 12:41 PM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I only killed seven people the last time I played Parcheesi. Improving!
posted by jfuller at 12:41 PM on February 6, 2012 [13 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I've made actual human players cancel their EVE subscription, purely through in-game actions.

(hey, it's a sci-fi dystopia, it's supposed to suck)
posted by ryanrs at 1:00 PM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]



On Batman games: One thing about Batman that bothers me is that he's always using great force in games, comics and movies, and not really worrying about whether what he's attacking could survive. It's always assumed that the thug has survived, when really if you take a baseball bat to someone's head in real life you always have a non-zero chance of killing them.


Consequence free ultra-violence is the best kind!
He's kind of a fascist too, if you want to be bugged about things.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy batman, but you can't condone that behavior. :)
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:18 PM on February 6, 2012


Don't get me wrong, I enjoy batman, but you can't condone that behavior. :)

If you want to read about a wealthy gentleman bachelor detective with kick-ass martial arts skills who doesn't choose violence as a first resort, well, there's always Sherlock Holmes. There's even a video game.
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:29 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just wish I had a better method of filing away the quests I'm never going to do. Sure, the 'beating a priest to death with a rusty mace' quest is Daedric, and I'm never going to finish it, but it's stuck there in my quest list, and will be there forever. And I had no way to tell it was a Daedric quest to start with; I just helped investigate a haunted house. The Scooby gang does that all the time, and as far as I know, they've never ended up beating anyone to death.

So, I guess my objection isn't as much moral as it is organizational.
posted by MrVisible at 1:38 PM on February 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've done this with Civ 3, though it required making the map small enough and having enough cpu players that someone else is close enough to kill those pesky barbarians before they start bothering me.

With Civ like games I sometimes do a variation on this: play like Iain M. Banks' Civilisation, just noodling around doing my own thing and expanding my empire but if somebody attacks me I moiderise them. Inspired by The Player of Games, where the games played where a metaphor for the Civilisation and its enemy.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:42 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or were you referring to the robots?

"They're sentient, of course. We just have a lot of them."
posted by mhoye at 1:53 PM on February 6, 2012


Of course, the important part of Portal 2 isn't what you're killing, it's what you're resurrecting...
posted by mhoye at 1:54 PM on February 6, 2012


I kind of like the idea of some sort of exhaustive "how far without violence?" project that looks back at classic games (of the sort where violence is an explicit component) and looks thoroughly at (a) how far you can get in the game's plot/narrative/exploration without committing any apparently violent acts and/or (b) how long you can plausibly survive in a world as a conscientious objector

Contra: Give or take thirteen seconds.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:56 PM on February 6, 2012


so I just walked around the province, picking every flower and plant I could find, grabbing mushrooms from uninhabited caves

Until you try to catch a butterfly to let it rest gently in your hands, but find out that you really PLUCKED ITS WINGS OFF AND THEM IN YOUR ALCHEMY BAG.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:03 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


"So, which one of you is Contra? Is it me? Am I the Contra? Man, I hope I'm the Contra…"
posted by Nomyte at 2:06 PM on February 6, 2012


The day I killed my cube is the day I put away childish things and became a sociopath.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:11 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Contra: Give or take thirteen seconds.

Or however long it takes to get all the way to the end of that level. Probably more like thirty seconds or a minute? At which point there's a door you can't get through without shooting at a bunch of red lights and destroying them. But I don't think Contra had a timer, so you could in principle dodge around there indefinitely, gun holstered, as an act of protest.

I suppose you could also argue that shooting a door isn't a violent act if the door is presumed not to be a living thing. In which case, you proceed to the second level and...shoot a lot more switches to get to the end of that segment, at which point you need to shoot some weird stuff that seems like it's getting firmly into biomechanical territory from what I can recall.

In Metroid you have to shoot doors to open them, something that seems somehow less violent in execution than the end-of-Contra-level-1 door situation, possibly in part because the doors seem to be undamaged in the process. And you need to bomb some terrain to make progress in some areas, but that again doesn't strike me as problematic violence if we're not assuming a biological nature for the terrain itself. But you'll never get into Mother Brain's hideout without taking out Kraid and Ridley, let alone get past her without shooting her a whole lot.
posted by cortex at 2:12 PM on February 6, 2012


Wait now I want to see a pacifistic Ikaruga.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:18 PM on February 6, 2012


Like a few others in this thread, I enjoyed hugely the challenge of a Pacifist run in Deus Ex Human Revolution last year.

When I completed it I felt a rather unexpectedly huge wave of satisfaction to be honest. Great feeling to have gotten through thegame without killinganyone, and really only using takedowns, tranq darts and shocks.
posted by chris88 at 2:19 PM on February 6, 2012


Until you try to catch a butterfly to let it rest gently in your hands, but find out that you really PLUCKED ITS WINGS OFF AND THEM IN YOUR ALCHEMY BAG.

In the world of Tamriel, the metamorphic process of that species is different from what we know on Earth; butterflies are the adolescent form of the the creature, and their maturation into the adult caterpillar is triggered by the shedding of the wings. So you are not capturing a butterfly and mortally injuring it by tearing off its wings; you are only accelerating the molting process by providing the butterfly with a little help in shedding its adolescent physiology.

Furthermore, they are very private creatures most of the time, spending time fluttering around in broad daylight (or moonlight) only when they've reached the end of their adolescent period; what looks like whimsical, carefree flight to the naive observer is actually the brief window during which the adolescent Lepidoptera tamrielae is rapidly growing and is in a state of significant and, later, mortal discomfort, attempting to cause by flapping and by interaction with objects around it the detachment of its wings so that it will proceed to molt properly. If it cannot do so, if the wings remain attached, it will eventually succumb to fatigue and then die, constrained by its unshed exoskeletal structure.

You learn a lot of things as a dedicated pacifist scientist in Skyrim.
posted by cortex at 2:21 PM on February 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


The kicker, though, is that the game usually answers "no, the ends don't always justify the means. Now, kill all those people to make sure everyone understands."

Are we playing the same Mass Effect 2 where you make those "ends do/don't always justify the means" decisions?

TF2 offers no non-violent conflict resolution options.

Herr Doktor.
posted by jmd82 at 2:24 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


A person playing a single player game eventually becomes aware, on some level, that the game is an illusion, and that they are the only real end (in the sense of means and ends) in the game, and with that realization everything in the game becomes morally permissible. At this stage the player will not act against their interests*, and that poses a problem for 'moral' game design, because then either the moral choice must also be the best choice for the player, which is problematic on many levels, or it will mostly not be chosen by the player. The player is essentially a sociopath within the game, and any game that attempts to include a moral component must take this into account.

* The player's interests may include such things as abiding by conducts, like pacifist runs, but the player is then avoiding killing not because it is morally bad, but to add variety or challenge to the game. Deus Ex: HR is a good example of this, where the pacifist run includes killing the bosses; the player justifies this by needing to kill the bosses to progress, and by pointing out that killing the bosses doesn't affect getting the achievement, which is to say that they are willing to act morally so long as it doesn't make their chosen challenge impossible.
posted by Pyry at 2:30 PM on February 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is all lovely and everything but really what I want is [Prototype 2] so I can turn into a massive bowling ball of horrible alien spikes and just roll up a street and collect citizen Childs and Womens like the best Katamari ever and roll all the way to the top of a massive building and transform and all the people fall away to their deaths below, screaming and screaming until SPLAT!, and then I jump down and land on top of their faces and use my fist-spears to impale those others trying to escape and then there's a special power where I tear them in half and their guts rain down on me and the top half of them doesn't despawn for a while, it just lays there on the ground thrashing and choking and moaning with big eyes that stare up at you, filling with tears, as if to ask "Why? Why? Why?" Also their legs kick around like something hilarious with just a little nub of white spine sticking out like a wind-up cog. Man this is going to be BADASS *huge boner*
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:42 PM on February 6, 2012


The 'beating a priest to death with a rusty mace' one comes to mind, along with The Whispering Door and a few others. I just wouldn't do them.

The first quest you mention is a bit double whammy on Bethesda's part. Sure it's bad enough that you have one demon asking you to dispatch the worshiper of another demon who's been profaning his altar, but to get to that part, you have to go through a situation where you help a paladin investigate a house for possible demon worship, only to end up trapped inside with him, and the only way out is for one of you to murder the other. And because you transitioned from an exterior cell to an interior one, your last autosave is inside the locked house.

Complicating matters is the fact that this upstanding paladin gets driven bloodthirsty nuts by Molag Bal way too quickly, and because it's a Daedric-induced madness, he never has any pangs of guilt over what he's doing to you.

(My girlfriend, who plays this game even more than I do, is convinced the Vigilants of Stendarr are already half mad to begin with, with their "We're going to Mercy and Light the FUCK out of you" attitude, but given the severity of the Oblivion Crisis that inspired their founding, I cut them a little slack about that.)

When I got caught in that trap, I sheathed my weapon to see just how long he'd keep beating on me, and he just keeps attacking. It would have been great if he'd gone stir crazy on his own instead of being the Daedric Prince's puppet at that point, so that if you held out long enough, he could comes to his senses, and then the two of you can work on figuring out an alternate way out of the house, but the developers didn't go that route.

(I'm not ashamed to say I usually play in god mode in Bethesda games. Potion micro-managment is not nearly as fun to me as being able to explore the worldspace, and I don't care to have to waste my limited gaming time by replaying everything since my last save if I die.)

I sort of see where they're coming from -- you agreed to help this guy fight the forces of darkness, and therefore you have to deal with the consequences of that choice in a world where Bad Things Happen, but there's no build up to it at all, to give you time to reconsider your choice. It's not satisfying from a narrative standpoint.

I lucked out, but only because I had Meeko the stray dog following me around, and when I sheathed my weapon and tried to avoid getting hit, he took care of the paladin for me. Told him to go home after that, because even though he was only trying to protect me, my character felt he couldn't trust him any more. (For all my character knew, the dog was Bal's puppet too. Maybe on my next character, I'll snag Clavicus Vile's dog Barbas, but not do that quest right away, and use that dog to dispatch the Vigilant.)

As for the second quest you mention, the Whispering Door, I'm having trouble seeing what's so bad about it, since all you need to do to complete it is a little bit of petty pickpocketing to get the key for the titular door, followed by the removal of the artifact behind it. That's a small price to pay to keep an innocent child from being corrupted by something immensely more powerful than himself. Especially since that child is potentially an heir to the Jarlship over an entire Hold; who knows what atrocities may have happened had the situation been allowed to continue?

Now the post-quest activities for Whispering Door, yeah, those are pretty vile, but also entirely optional. Doing them is the difference between a sword with a 10 point absorb health enchantment, and a 30 point absorb health enchantment. Even if you're one of those people who obsesses over open entries in the quest journal like you're required to complete all of them (ProTip: You aren't.), the quest is marked as finished once you have it.
posted by radwolf76 at 2:44 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sort of confused, because you have to kill in Skyrim (the first dragon). Although, maybe they are allowing standing idly by as other people kill, essentially for you, as a quote-unquote pacifist run. Which, I think, would kinda suck and defeat the purpose.
posted by xmutex at 2:47 PM on February 6, 2012


This isn't a game where you can choose violence or not, but years ago I enjoyed Prisoner of War so I thought I'd mention it. Your character tries to escape increasingly secure P.O.W. camps during World War II. You may get shot by the guards, but you don't use violence at all if I recall correctly. It's all stealth and I enjoyed that. The game was pretty difficult as well.
posted by Danila at 2:50 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Deus Ex: HR is a good example of this, where the pacifist run includes killing the bosses; the player justifies this by needing to kill the bosses to progress, and by pointing out that killing the bosses doesn't affect getting the achievement, which is to say that they are willing to act morally so long as it doesn't make their chosen challenge impossible.

Well, the player also points out that the boss fights were horribly-implemented piles of crap that were stapled onto the rest of the game after being developed by a third party, and that they accordingly stood out as by far the most fundamental flaw in an otherwise really intelligently put-together game with an otherwise pretty consistent devotion to the idea of player choice and moral agency. Which, yes, is justifying in-game behavior based on things external to the game world itself, but suspension of disbelief is badly shaken by jarring missteps in game execution so that's a bit inevitable. Had the boss fights been designed as they were but by the core development team, I'd be less willing to excuse the whole mess as something to pretend never happened. From a design perspective, I think it's fair to argue that the boss fights are simply incorrect for the game, thematically and mechanically and morally.

But that aside, your general point is good, and it's I think a pretty interesting aspect of what's going on when we game, though I think it's worth noting that a lot of folks when given moral options in a game will partition their sociopathy to a separate run from their more morally grounded play. I certainly tend to do just that: I'll have a go as a decent human being (to whatever extent the game allows that option) the first time, and then if the game still has some fun to it mechanically and I'm curious about the content available to a sociopathic play style, I'll go back through as a jerk.

A big part of that is just the question of content. The main self-interest I'm serving in replaying a game like Mass Effect 2 is seeing what else the creators made that I missed the first time. If I find the writing compelling or funny or the interactions engaging, I want to see all of them, something that's not practically accomplishable in a single playthrough in games that use moral choice or dialogue branching to serve up disparate content as outcomes. So I'm a sociopath some of the time because they went and put content I'd like to experience behind the wall of sociopathy. If you want to see the Dark Side stuff, you've got to give into your fear and hatred and suffering and yadda yadda. It's sociopathic behavior as game mechanic; it's not any more immoral, at that point, than doing the Right Thing to progress the content is moral. As a player, you're left without the freedom to get at the product's contents other than making the limited sort of choice the game provides.

What I've found interesting is how much I will put up with, as far as this alternate-playstyle stuff goes. I've found I'm very willing to play the darkbad type in an RPG to see the other side of some story interactions (and in fact my core ME character now, the one I'm looking forward to my ME3 playthrough with, is really seriously a jerk), but my occasional notional "let's see if I can murder everyone" experiments in anything from Skyrim to DE:HR tend to stop being interesting pretty quickly. Literary interest trumps pure bloody spectacle for me, apparently.
posted by cortex at 2:52 PM on February 6, 2012


I'm sort of confused, because you have to kill in Skyrim (the first dragon).

If you're talking about the chargen tutorial dragon, you don't kill that one. If you're talking about the dragon in Winhelm, that one only comes out if you actually visit the Jarl and give him the news about the return of the dragons.
posted by radwolf76 at 2:55 PM on February 6, 2012


If you're talking about the dragon in Winhelm, that one only comes out if you actually visit the Jarl and give him the news about the return of the dragons.

Actually, it only comes out if you go to the watchtower after telling him about the dragons. Which you don't ever have to do, really, as I discovered when I was looking around at about level 37 and thinking, huh, weren't there supposed to be dragons in this game at some point? Maybe I should stop messing around and go do a main quest for once OH MY GOD ALL THE DRAGONS ARE ANCIENT NOW I'M SO FUCKED
posted by Errant at 3:01 PM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Taking the environment of Batman as it's own little universe, I always thought that Batman was suffering under some massive amount of denial and a mental block the size of the Cleveland Dam because of the villains he's caught. And then they escape. And kill people. And Batman punches them and puts them in jail and they escape and it happens all over again. All because "killing is wrong", and he's not going to stoop to their level.
So [villain] kills an average of ten people each time he escapes, and he's escaped from the prison ten times so far. How many people does [villain] have to kill before people'll start talking about killing him? If Batman let himself realize that because he's still only punching homicidal baddies and there are a thousand people lying dead and many more grieving for them, he'd go stark raving mad.
Kill the [villain] when it looks like all he'll do is escape, and there'd be lots more people alive. But a lot less plot.
posted by Zack_Replica at 3:10 PM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


One thing about Batman that bothers me is that he's always using great force in games, comics and movies, and not really worrying about whether what he's attacking could survive.

I always enjoyed shooting PMC mooks in Metal Gear Solid 2 with tranquilizer darts to the eye, causing them to doze off before being kicked awake by their comrades a few minutes later. Some of them became human pincushions, but it's okay they always woke up!
posted by Apocryphon at 3:13 PM on February 6, 2012


The current record for Donkey Kong without using a hammer is 640,500 (with is 1,090,400). That's pretty damn impressive. Of course with a hammer you're only smashing barrels and pies and putting out fires but that's still pretty aggressive.
posted by bfootdav at 3:13 PM on February 6, 2012


But you'll never get into Mother Brain's hideout without taking out Kraid and Ridley

This one isn't a pacifist run by any stretch, and while it's tool assisted, I believe the two glitches used are actually performable by a human. No bombs also. So, while I couldn't find an example with my cursory search, it may be possible to get through the game without shooting anything but doors and Mother Brain.
posted by radwolf76 at 3:19 PM on February 6, 2012


Mega Man 2: Taking the Hitman logic (i.e. you're there to take out the primary, but try not to kill anyone else...)

Flashman - It might be possible to skillfully avoid most enemies through a clever use of the maze, but you're still going to have to take out a few of those circular archer guys unless you've got the crash bomb already.

Quickman - Most of the level involves no enemies anyway. Item1 might allow you to get past the fire-spitting things halfway through, and you can just run away from the mechs (or shoot them until it's just the guy and try to jump over him then (not killing! Just breaking the suit!) But of course then you'll probably be very weak while trying to fight the toughest of the 8 bosses.

Metalman - you've got to shoot your way through almost everything here. No dice.

Bubbleman - ditto. Can't progress without killing the frogs and the giant fish and the crabs, at the very least.

Heatman - definitely possible, but a huge pain. those hovering, rotating things place themselves specifically in ways to fuck up your jumps, and the suction-cup-springy-dudes will be troublesome to be sure, but it's doable.

Woodman - The giant fire-dogs and the gorillas are unavoidable without using Flash Stopper, and you'll only have enough for one of them.

Airman - the mini-tikis will almost force you to shoot them, but you might be able to avoid it. The thunder-dudes MUST be killed to move forward, however, and you can't even skip them with Item-2, because you get that for beating this level. The apes at the end can be moved past with a glitch which makes them disappear, however (as you've probably noticed if you've ever played the level.

Crashman - even if you just take the pain through the rotating things, the metools, and the shuffling trashcan-man, you'll probably have to get rid of the birds somehow if you want to progress up the ladder.

There's a playable character in Sly 3 named The Guru who is stated to be a pacifist, and as such won't attack anyone. Instead, he'll jump on their back and mind-control them into destroying themself, which makes me wonder how exactly his philosophy makes that better.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:46 PM on February 6, 2012


I hated, hated, hated when my intention to free a slave wound up with Bethesda making me into his permanent and irrevocable owner.
posted by Flunkie at 3:49 PM on February 6, 2012


My pacifist run through Assassin's Creed is, uh, not going well.
posted by Ritchie at 3:53 PM on February 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


So [villain] kills an average of ten people each time he escapes, and he's escaped from the prison ten times so far. How many people does [villain] have to kill before people'll start talking about killing him?

It's not fair to put that on Batman, though. I would rather blame Arkham, which apparently isn't a prison/asylum as much as a holiday resort for villains with a big revolving door as their gate.
posted by ymgve at 4:13 PM on February 6, 2012


My kids used to do something similar to Celsius1414 in Midtown Madness (which was a kind of sandbox fantasy urban driving game). They called it "driving like a citizen" and instead of tearing around Paris jumping over the Seine and driving through metro tunnels they drove sedately with the flow of traffic. The payoff was that the police car AI only had one setting - HOT PURSUIT - and would smash full speed into a clot of cars patiently waiting at an intesection to ram the dangerous criminal waiting at the stoplight.
posted by gamera at 4:15 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


shakespeherian: "Wait now I want to see a pacifistic Ikaruga"

Google "ikaruga dot eater" sometime. There's a special bonus the game gives you for basically just that.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:16 PM on February 6, 2012


My pacifist run through Assassin's Creed is, uh, not going well.


I'd love an Excedrin's Creed mod - where you just hit people on the head and they wake up half an hour later with a splitting headache.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:27 PM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dude, you redirect rockets at an entity presented as being capable of making moral choices and then perform impromptu lobotomies until autonomous functions cease. That's violence and killing in every narrative I can imagine.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:32 PM on February 6, 2012


Now the post-quest activities for Whispering Door, yeah, those are pretty vile, but also entirely optional.

For me, the most repellant mission was "Taste of Death," which I won't ruin for those who haven't played it. But yeah, those Daedric quests have you pulling some seriously foul shit.

I believe all the quests you're citing are Daedric quests. They're supposed to be objectionable, that's the whole point, you're working at the behest of immensely powerful demons who are mostly evil or at best ambiguous. It provides a nice contrast to the main heroic story where you're saving the world from the scourge of the evil dragons. They're definitely optional.

Maybe so, but I have two problems with these quests: (1) some of them are utterly foul and nasty, and (2) it doesn't make sense that the great hero would do this stuff. Altogether, it makes any kind of encompassing narrative. I can't play all the way through as an anti-hero, because there's no way to resolve the main storyline in that fashion. I can almost reconcile myself to the assassin and thief guild quests, but the Daedric quests are uncomfortably Satanic (and I say this as an atheist).
posted by Edgewise at 5:02 PM on February 6, 2012


* Altogether, it makes any kind of encompassing narrative hard to imagine.
posted by Edgewise at 5:03 PM on February 6, 2012


I would rather blame Arkham, which apparently isn't a prison/asylum as much as a holiday resort for villains with a big revolving door as their gate.

I blame the American judicial system.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:08 PM on February 6, 2012


Altogether, it makes any kind of encompassing narrative hard to imagine.

I dunno, at a certain point when you accept the absurdity of the Epic Figure Who Saves/Changes The World there's an argument that such a figure's defining characteristic is not so much their morality (though they may or may not have a coherent personal moral philosophy) but their capacity for accomplishment.

So, why not both slay the dhova menace and fulfill the dark wishes of the Daedra royalty? Why not grasp control of both the Mage's Guild and the Dark Brotherhood? Your character might hunger for power more than anything, be wanting a challenge in a world that never manages to present a sufficient one. They might, more than anything, crave experiences, crave new ways of being.

Not the standard cut of a heroic figure, but then most heroic figures are a bit simpler and streamlined as idols from a distance or after the fact than they were as complicated humans in life and up close. The fact that people don't necessarily agree on who the heroes are certainly plays to that. "He was a crazy son of a bitch, but he killed the dragons off" seems almost like a more plausible narrative than "wow, that was the best and most moral person in the history of the world" when you get right down to it.
posted by cortex at 5:19 PM on February 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Edgewise, that's the sort of thing I mean; I just can't reconcile myself with some of the stuff I find myself faced with. And I don't have any choice in whether I end up doing the quests or not, because at the beginning of a quest chain, you can't really tell what it's going to end up like. The Daedric quests aren't labeled as such in advance; you just help a good guy investigate a haunted house. And you're stuck with that quest in your list forever.

(I know you don't have to do all of them; not doing some of them, and not having any way to mark them as "quests I will not be completing" or dropping them altogether, makes for a complete mess in your quest journal.)

For a really good example of the 'quests I wouldn't have taken on at all if I had looked in the cheat book...

***>>>SPOILER ALERT<>Forsworn Conspiracy quest is a trap. You start off helping a good guy investigate a murder. You follow a trail, a fun mystery quest, finding out that the whole town of Markath is corrupt, and then go back to report to him.

And find he's been killed by corrupt guards. So far, so good; no objections. Great plot twist.

So, on my first attempt, I kill all the guards who murdered him, thus ridding the city of a good chunk of the corruption, all without disrupting the delicate balance of power. And I walk outside and found that I have a massive bounty on my head, and murders in my record. Dammit.

So, I go back to my recent save file, re-discover that Eltrys has been murdered, and surrender and go to jail. That's my ONLY OPTION at the end of this quest chain, unless I want to abandon Markath forever.

And I end up in the No One Escapes Cidhna Mine quest, which ends in one of two options:
a) Kill an innocent man, and let the Forsworn rampage all over Markath, killing innocent civilians, but overthrowing the current corrupt regime.
b) Killing the Forsworn leader, thus supporting the rule of the corrupt man who falsely imprisoned you, and ridding him of the Forsworn problem.

I ended up saying screw it, and went back to the same save file before I got imprisoned, or marked as wanted. There are times when the current balance of power, no matter how awful it is, is better than any of the alternatives.

And the quest still sits there, in my journal, unfinished.

You really should be able to abandon these.
posted by MrVisible at 5:20 PM on February 6, 2012


the Daedric quests are uncomfortably Satanic

Yeah, isn't that great? Seriously, I think it's great game design that you're so disturbed by the quests you are repelled by them, don't want to complete them. That's emotional writing, they've put you in the game, you care about your moral actions. No small feat. That goes double for MrVisible's notes about the Markarth quests.. That's one seriously dark town and my hat's off to whomever did the design and writing.

I agree Skyrim could have executed the evil quests a little better. I'd have preferred a "good" way out of all of them, as noted above there are some that don't really have any pleasantly moral resolution. Also they should totally let you abandon or hide quests you choose not to finish, just so that choice becomes a positive action. But I'm willing to overlook all that.

The other RPG with such moral choice I enjoyed as much as the original Knights of the Old Republic, with it's light side / dark side choices. But that was much easier because KotOR is so much on rails. Much trickier to pull off this kind of moral ambiguity in an open game like Skyrim. In some sense Bethesda just faked it, your moral choice is whether to do the quests or not. But it works for me.
posted by Nelson at 5:39 PM on February 6, 2012


Think of the unclearable journal markers for quests you've walked away from in disgust as the lingering, unshakeable thread of a traumatic memory. Sometimes life fucks you up and you can't entirely forget about it.
posted by cortex at 5:50 PM on February 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


And as someone pointed out recently when I went into my unclearable-journal-quest rant, "you could just quit playing the game."

NO! NO I CAN'T! YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND! SKYRIM IS DOOMED WITHOUT ME!

Plus, my husband would miss me.

Ghorbash is so hot.
posted by MrVisible at 6:01 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK, speaking of morally repugnant quests: I recently finished Dragon Age (the first one). I had purchased all of the DLC beforehand without knowing anything about it, and in particular without knowing that some of it is standalone. I know see that one of them is apparently from the point of view of a darkspawn.

In these games, I try to be a paragon of virtue. I try to be kind, respectful, and polite to everyone, I try to resolve situations fairly but with mercy even towards the wicked, I am generous and humble, I refuse pretty much every reward that I am given the opportunity to refuse, et cetera.

And beyond that, I really, really don't like being a bad guy. Having played a couple games of this genre that are essentially from the point of view of a bad guy, I know that that gives me a deep and discomforting feeling.

So, my question is: Should I bother playing that darkspawn DLC? Will the game allow me to be a good guy (even if only in a somewhat relative sense)? Or is it just an outlet for teen angsty "hah hah slaughter the losers"?
posted by Flunkie at 6:06 PM on February 6, 2012


tumid dahlia: "Man this is going to be BADASS *huge boner*"

I just want to find the people who did this to me and make them pay before another innocent person gets hurt.

Prototype did have a pacifist-type achievement, though! It involved taking care to not eat more than N civilians for health. Murdering them was fine, of course. I mean, good luck avoiding murdering them, you'd kill several hundred bystanders by accident in any given mission, you just had to not absorb any. Which really wasn't so much pacifistic as being a picky eater, when you got right down to it.
posted by Drastic at 7:22 PM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


They might, more than anything, crave experiences, crave new ways of being.

My character craves avoiding loading screens and as such doesn't enter buildings. He's very outdoorsy.
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:35 PM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I haven't played Skyrim yet (my gift to myself for the end of this round of bar study) but I played the hell out of Oblivion, and have friends who never touched on things like the Dark Brotherhood quests there because they were so far afield from what their characters would have done.

Noe, I've played Oblivion with a few different builds, but my favorite was a Female Breton named Josie DeLeon, specializing in Blunt and a few useful magic skills, among other things, who ended up looking uncannily like this.

With her, it just felt right that, this prisoner, who no one treated with any respect no matter what she did, would just eventually branch out everywhere. You don't notice or respect the Hero of Kvatch? Fine. You don't recognize the Savior of Cyrodiil? Whatever. Don't know me as the Arch-Mage? Don't care. For I am also the Grey Fox. I am also the ruler of the Black Hand. I am the Madgod made flesh. Treat me as you like, but I run everything your little lives depend upon.

And I can keep a secret.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:40 PM on February 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


And as someone pointed out recently when I went into my unclearable-journal-quest rant, "you could just quit playing the game."

NO! NO I CAN'T! YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND! SKYRIM IS DOOMED WITHOUT ME!


You and the rest of us.

At least with the Taste of Death quest, it may not be the pacifist's way, but you can kill the questgiver for that one (not the introductory misc quest, but the questgiver for the quest proper) and it will clear itself from your questlog as a failed quest.

I missed out on the dialog option to make her angry right away, and then promptly ignored her for like 30 something levels. Came across her again, quite by accident, and said to myself "Oh yes, you're quite foul," and sworded her promptly.

The Cidhna Mine quest is a trickier bit of railroading to deal with, but as long as you're not trying for pacifism, you can always kill the Forsworn leader, and then later balance your karma by quietly killing the powerful man who used his influence to have you framed in the first place, as the game clears his essential NPC flag at the end of the quest. (Not that Skyrim tracks karma, like Fallout 3 and to a lesser extent, New Vegas, but some of us care anyway.)

Heck, if you don't mind the blood of that innocent prisoner on your hand, it's possible to get the quest rewards from both sides by siding first with the Forsworn until you get your stuff back and the reward they give you, and then double cross them by dropping all of them before they have a chance to escape out into the town to cause their mayhem. Shouldn't be a problem for a suitably bad-ass PC, and once the King in Rags is dead, you can exit the mine and collect your other reward. Cheesy, yes, but so is the heavy-handed railroading that put you there in the first place.

What makes the Markarth railroading quests so galling, I think, is that it wouldn't have taken much at all to give a third choice them.

Cidhha Mine? Let me pickpocket the escape plans and key off the Forsworn leader, and then sneak past the guards to hunt down the Silver-Blood who framed me. I could then either persuade/intimidate/bribe him to have me pardoned for my false crime, and/or have a journal in his inventory that I could pickpocket him or kill & loot from him, and present to the Jarl in my defense.

House of Horrors? Don't make the exit plot-locked, but a master level lock instead, and ensure there's at least a handful of easily found lockpicks inside, and maybe a very well hidden key.

Now, not everyone develops their lockpicking skills (or brings a follower along to do it for them), but even at the lowest skill level if you just go into the pick interface, try to turn the lock, and if it doesn't immediately go, drop back out again, when you re-attempt the picking, the sweet-spot will be re-randomized, and it may have moved to the twelve o'clock position on your next attempt. The lockpick's health is carried forward between attempts, so you don't get to pull this trick off forever, but the fact that you have to drop back out of the mini-game leaves you open to taking another few hits from the Vigilant, making for nicely tense moments as you scrabble at the lock trying not to break every pick while the nutjob is swinging at you.

Eventually (possibly after a death and a re-load or two), you'll open the master lock and get out of the house. Have Vigilant Tyranus follow you out, still attacking, at which point the guards can notice and help you out. He still dies, but not directly at your hands, and you're free to walk away.

Whenever the Creation Kit drops, I may have to partially implement these myself. Any speechcraft options I add to the Cidhna Mine quest may have to go unvoiced (as well as the part about showing evidence to the Jarl), but at the very least, adding in a part where you can sneak past the guards and kill Thonar to stop the guards from attacking you should be pretty straightforward, with no need to try to mess with new dialogue.
posted by radwolf76 at 8:04 PM on February 6, 2012


Nelson: [Daedric quests in Skyrim provide] a nice contrast to the main heroic story where you're saving the world from the scourge of the evil dragons.

(Possible Skyrim spoilers follow...)

I saw the dragons as being a lot more ambiguous than that. The way I read the lore is that most of them are doing what they do either out of fear of Alduin, or because they've been deceived by him, or both. They're intelligent, but sufficiently alien that their motivations are to some degree unknowable.

My character certainly didn't feel good about killing them, even in defense of himself and others. (And, that was before he talked to the Greybeards.)

Even the world-eater... Evil? Another aspect of Akatosh? A necessary part of some kind of cosmological life-cycle? Equating bad-for-me to capital-B Bad in some universal sense requires a certain narrowness of perspective.

And, Paarthurnax at least seems a lot more introspective and self-aware than any of the human characters in the game (and/or is an incredibly sophisticated liar).
posted by sourcequench at 8:09 PM on February 6, 2012


Seriously, I think it's great game design that you're so disturbed by the quests you are repelled by them, don't want to complete them.

Is it? It's pretty easy to come up with a story that people don't want to hear. I think it's juvenile, honestly.
posted by empath at 8:31 PM on February 6, 2012


That's one way of looking at it. I think the intent was more of along the lines of "What would you do for a Klondike Bar?" The Daedric Artifacts are among the most powerful items in the series, but you have to deal with foul forces to obtain them. The quests being unpalatable are precisely what distinguishes them from other, powerful in game items.
posted by radwolf76 at 8:45 PM on February 6, 2012


Oh, pshaw. I've been playing MetaFilter this way for years.
posted by dhartung at 1:09 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, my question is: Should I bother playing that darkspawn DLC? Will the game allow me to be a good guy (even if only in a somewhat relative sense)? Or is it just an outlet for teen angsty "hah hah slaughter the losers"?

No, it's just "kill all the good guys". There's basically no plot, it's all battle. But the main reason not to bother is it's just not very good.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:04 AM on February 7, 2012


I mean I think it's repellant in a true to life kind of way. Like, yeah, when you agree to help some random stranger off the street with a difficult task, you shouldn't be assured that everything's gonna turn out ok. You might get punished, hard, for your good intentions. If you're not ok with that you shouldn't be meddling in other people's affairs. Stick to dragon slaying or flower picking or whatever. Life is random and uncertain and ugly. I wish games would lie to you more.
posted by danny the boy at 10:12 AM on February 7, 2012


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