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Author Topic: THE first moral decision in gaming  (Read 3132 times)

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James Edward Smith

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THE first moral decision in gaming
« on: August 11, 2010, 07:24:56 PM »

This is a different question than Doom's so that's why I made it a new thread.

What should we draw from the fact that the vast majority of video games today are murder simulators to some degree or another?

  • Super Mario Bros. and most platformers - crush goombas
  • Virtually Any RPG - fight and kill things
  • Virtually Any FPS - shoot people
  • Virtually Any Fighting Game - beat people up until they can't fight you anymore (dead)
  • Most sandbox games - shoot or beat people to death
  • All murder simulators - murder people

Except for most puzzle games and h-games, every game I can think of is a murder simulator in one way or another. Now, all forms of popular media have violence in them, even music in it's own way; but it seems like in Video games, this aspect is way more represented than in every other medium.

I think the reasons are obvious: killing something is the biggest powertrip that humans can experience and it's not something most of us can ever experience that much in our real existance. The vast majority of us find killing too morally and even rationally objectionable outside of very extreme circumstances which fortunately most of us never run into. Video games both give you a reason (that zombie marine is dangerous and is going to shoot you) and on top of that, remove pretty much all possibility of remorse. The zombie marine is not a real living thing, he's a character in a game and so unless you are so disturbed that you killed something in a completely virtual world that is really just a crude, mathematical representation of a universe in which you just denied a living thing life, you aren't ever gonna feel bad about it.

So there you have it, we have a medium where we can pretend REALLY WELL that we just removed a living breathing thing's ability to ever be a threat to us again, one of the most powerful feelings a human, especially a man I think, can feel apart from Q flashing onto the ground beside you and giving you Q powers.

So, I see the inate value of this, I see why we are fasinated by it and it is so pervasive in almost every genre; but isn't it small minded to keep trotting out ALL THE TIME for much longer? Is there nothing else that is an equally enjoyable experience or better that we can produce?
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Brentai

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Re: THE first moral decision in gaming
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2010, 07:29:11 PM »

Sure, but you can only really market it if you're Japanese.
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Friday

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Re: THE first moral decision in gaming
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2010, 07:39:10 PM »

I'm by far the most violent female I know and I never have gotten the whole "power trip" aspect of murder in videogames. Maybe because I'm not a man? (which Geo touched on).

Anyway, I play videogames for the challenge. I have just as much fun in Knytt avoiding enemies and defeating obstacles as I do cutting them down in other games.

Even in pvp, which I love more than all things, it's not about "pwning" my opponent(s), at least not directly. They simply represent a challenge to overcome.

Now that I think about it, though, I did have an awful lot of fun killing the Village People in Vice City with Molotovs. Huh.
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James Edward Smith

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Re: THE first moral decision in gaming
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2010, 07:43:37 PM »

There is definately fun to be had in all almost games that are murder simulators, Friday, except for in actual murder simulators, and even then there might still be. It's fun to overcome challenges, but (and hell, maybe it is just for men more than women so you wouldn't understand, I don't know) people really seem to just enjoy the fact that they just murdered something, that they shot or punched something and it fell down dead.

I think it's because of what it means instinctively, something was a threat, to some degree, and you just completely removed it as one. You now have complete power over that thing now and it's not a rock or a stick, it was a person or demon or whatever.
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patito

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Re: THE first moral decision in gaming
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2010, 07:51:22 PM »

I beat Deus Ex beating guards unconscious, not really using firearms. Even though the game let's you know when someone is either dead or unconcious it really makes no practical difference, once they're down they're down, but I did go through a lot of trouble not to kill them anyway.

That probably applies better to MGS, where tranquilizing people still carries the risk of them getting back up eventually.
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Brentai

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Re: THE first moral decision in gaming
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2010, 07:53:42 PM »

In all seriousness, I think it's just that it appeals to the least common denominator and is acceptable to most other people.  There are those who are turned off by all the blood and guts but it's dwarfed by the subset who will buy games just for it.  MOST, though, just accept that the most basic, difficult to fuck up way to abstract a challenge is by turning it into a foight.

Alternate answer: Most game designers are sociopaths by nature of the field, and it trickles down from there.
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Zaratustra

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Re: THE first moral decision in gaming
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2010, 07:58:08 PM »

Killing is easy and fun to implement in game design and programming. Target hit, pow, remove from memory.

Also, if someone makes a game about eating pie, I won't play it because I can just eat pie in real life. Get the idea?

BŁge

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Re: THE first moral decision in gaming
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2010, 08:04:16 PM »

It's cops and robbers without the whole "I got you!/noyadint!" problem.
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James Edward Smith

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Re: THE first moral decision in gaming
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2010, 08:17:11 PM »

Killing is easy and fun to implement in game design and programming. Target hit, pow, remove from memory.
nothing else enjoyable is easy?
Quote from:  Zaratustra
Also, if someone makes a game about eating pie, I won't play it because I can just eat pie in real life. Get the idea?
So that's the only thing else there is that is enjoyable, eating pie? Also the only thing that you can't do in real life that is enjoyable is kill people? Yes. Okay. I concede to your clearly superior logic. Well played.

Now where is the Wizard of Oz because I was really looking for this brain thing and....
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Brentai

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Re: THE first moral decision in gaming
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2010, 08:20:01 PM »

Oh, this was an argument.  Okay.

You smell.
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Zaratustra

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Re: THE first moral decision in gaming
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2010, 08:23:35 PM »

Oh! Oh. Sorry, I thought you were asking a question.

Yeah, killing sucks.

JDigital

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Re: THE first moral decision in gaming
« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2010, 08:47:59 PM »

Conflict is interesting. Peace is boring. Conflict doesn't necessarily mean killing, but video games are taking advantage of the medium's interactivity to let you do something that's forbidden in normal society. Video games let you kill stuff without going to prison or being shot at.

I think video games are so popular because physical violence is something inherent in human nature. Our ancestors hunted in groups or warred with neighbouring tribes; today we call it World of Warcraft and Team Fortress, but the principle is the same.

The setting of a first person shooter is pretty basic to the human experience too. You're fighting other guys because they'll kill you if you don't, and survival is a basic thing. There's no moral ambuguity. In Doom, it's right to kill anyone and everyone to save your own skin. That's refreshing, since you can't normally behave so selfishly in the real world.
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Bongo Bill

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Re: THE first moral decision in gaming
« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2010, 08:49:44 PM »

Most mammals, humans especially included, use games to teach and exercise survival skills, including fighting, hunting, hiding, etc. So it's to be expected that many video games serve that purpose.

It might not be clear at first just what video game killing has to do with real killing, but factors like teamwork and delegation, prioritizing goals, managing space and time, and adapting to changing circumstances are all present in various forms when violence comes a-knockin'.

Of course, I don't mean to imply that the purpose of violent video games is to teach fighting skills. That's silly; as silly as to say that sports are deliberately intended as ritualized depictions of warfare, or that kids understand when they play Hide & Seek that they are learning how to evade invaders. Rather, they appeal to the same deep-seated instinct that drives all play-fighting. We like imaginary combat. It is just one of many things we like, but it has an edge over several of them because it's exciting and glamorous in a way that imaginary business or imaginary work are not. Furthermore, it's pretty easy to write rules to represent the concept (even before you get into physics being easier to simulate on a computer than feelings).
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Burrito Al Pastor

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Re: THE first moral decision in gaming
« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2010, 09:00:27 PM »

This is funny, because just the other day I noticed that the bulk of my Steam library was "shooting and explosions", with minorities of "spend ten hours modding this game before playing it" and "craft intricate economic infrastructures".

Having said that, I think "murder simulator" is misrepresenting the issue on two levels. One, "murder" is frequently unfair (primarily in the context of combat/war environments); two, "simulator" is almost universally unfair (on grounds of realism and also on the implications that it is the primary focus of the game). It's possible that Mario is a murder simulator - it's possible that jumping on Goombas really is the most efficient way to kill them, and I'm not going to argue semantics that you can't murder a nonhuman - but there's nothing "murder simulator" about, say, Dwarf Fortress or Dragon Quest IX.

What you're trying to talk about in the most inflammatory, hamfisted way possible is the fact that almost all games, in one way or another, allow you to kill sapient entities. And guess what? I don't think the numbers for contemporary video games in which people can die are necessarily that much lower, by percentage, than the numbers for contemporary movies or books in which people do die.

tl;dr video games are storytelling, dead people make great storytelling elements.
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James Edward Smith

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Re: THE first moral decision in gaming
« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2010, 10:02:41 PM »

Oh! Oh. Sorry, I thought you were asking a question.

I was, and I thought your answer was very dismisive of the question and dumb for the reasons I stated directly and indirectly.

Having said that, I think "murder simulator" is misrepresenting the issue on two levels. One, "murder" is frequently unfair (primarily in the context of combat/war environments);

Perhaps murder is the wrong word. Killing Simulator then.

Quote
two, "simulator" is almost universally unfair (on grounds of realism and also on the implications that it is the primary focus of the game).

I think you're inventing your own definition of the word simulator here that apparently means something that simulates situations to a degree that you find is close enough to real life? A simulator is a simulator, Burrito. The quality of the simulation being poor does not make it not a simulator, it makes it a poor quality simulator.


Quote
there's nothing "murder simulator" about, say, Dwarf Fortress or Dragon Quest IX.

Okay, Dwarf Fortress and Dragon Quest are not killing simulators. I believe my point was not that they are, it was that an overwhelming percentage of games are. I stand by that.

Also Dwarf Fortress' adventure mode is a killing simulator.

Quote
What you're trying to talk about in the most inflammatory, hamfisted way possible is the fact that almost all games, in one way or another, allow you to kill sapient entities. And guess what? I don't think the numbers for contemporary video games in which people can die are necessarily that much lower, by percentage, than the numbers for contemporary movies or books in which people do die.

No way, I can think of a ton of games where you can kill way more people even if you aren't trying to and see it happen than ever happens in any movie or book I have ever read.
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Brentai

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Re: THE first moral decision in gaming
« Reply #15 on: August 11, 2010, 10:39:52 PM »

Dragon Quest is THE killing simulator.  Well, killing game I should say.

You wander around for hours finding things to kill so that you can kill MORE THINGS.

Your ultimate goal isn't to save the princess.  Not you as the player anyway.  Your ultimate goal is to kill the final boss.  The saving of the princess is something that occurs in the game world as a result of you killing the final boss*.  Some notable successors do away with the niceties all together (Smash Kefka, Kill Lassic, Destroy Sin, etc.)

RPGs get away with a lot of shit because they abstract their violence, but they tend to outdo other genres not only in terms of quantity (even if most of that quantity is local fauna which we are assured are really bad) but also in intent.  You never really know who the person on the other end of your gun was in a typical FPS and can go ahead and pretend to yourself that each and every one of them fucks 8-year-olds before eating them alive.  But even the most prosaic RPG, let's say Lunar for example, will give you a good idea of the background and moral boundaries of the person standing at the end of the road and then expect you to NOT CARE and go ahead with your plan to slash/burn/stab/freeze/pummel them repeatedly until they finally stop living.  Except the ones which are basically confusing bullshit of course.

This argument really serves no purpose to the topic as a whole and is merely the result of me being cranky and tired but too wound up to sleep properly.


* Not specifically true of Dragon Quest I but bear with me here.
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Re: THE first moral decision in gaming
« Reply #16 on: August 11, 2010, 10:59:25 PM »

I know some RPGs will go out of their way to assure you that the monsters you face are all soulless abominations, but in other cases you can't help but feel bad for the fluffy critters you endlessly slaughter to get from point A to point B.
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Misha

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Re: THE first moral decision in gaming
« Reply #17 on: August 11, 2010, 11:05:26 PM »

Games (most of the time) are about victory. You beat the puzzle, you win the war, you find all the treasure, you kill the boss, you survive a horde of zombies. Killing enemies allows you to fill your game very easily with small victories, which people enjoy. it doesn't have to be killing (see pokemon) but killing is much more meaningful and versatile in a storytelling sense than "knocked temporarily unconcious".

Basically games are full of killing because it's the easiest way to make your game interesting without actually spending on effort on story, and in games going for something deeper it's because of the adversarial nature of a large proportion of interesting stories that can be made meaningfully interactive.

edit- I just realized how stupid it is to have that basically at the start of the last paragraph
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Burrito Al Pastor

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Re: THE first moral decision in gaming
« Reply #18 on: August 11, 2010, 11:21:29 PM »

two, "simulator" is almost universally unfair (on grounds of realism and also on the implications that it is the primary focus of the game).

I think you're inventing your own definition of the word simulator here that apparently means something that simulates situations to a degree that you find is close enough to real life? A simulator is a simulator, Burrito. The quality of the simulation being poor does not make it not a simulator, it makes it a poor quality simulator.

If we're not judging what is and what is not a simulation by how well it simulates something, then we have to make that judgment based on the intent of the creator. If we just if something is a simulation based on neither how well it simulates nor if it's intended to simulate...

I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch today. It was a very poor simulation of piloting a space shuttle.
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