I don’t know how far some of you have got into Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, but there comes a moment where a number of missions revolve breaking into enemy encampments guarded by child soldiers. Otacon makes it pretty clear over the radio that you categorically cannot kill these children, incurring a mission failure if you do so.
That doesn’t make it any less strange of a feeling when you’re aiming a gun at a child’s head and pulling the trigger. Albeit with a tranquilliser dart, but the effect on me was still very much the same. Kojima was clearly trying to make a bit of a point here, and it certainly succeeded in raising a few internal ethical quandaries. Short of killing these children you can drug them, punch them out, slam them to the ground, and even at one point pull a child’s arm out of its socket. I needed a cup of tea after I did all that, let me tell you.
Now I know JRSchro has already done an excellent piece on Videogame Violence And The Issue Of Censorship not too long ago, but I wanted to take a different tack and explore at which point videogame violence becomes uncomfortable to you, and also why.
For me MGS V: The Phantom Pain was one of the strongest feelings I’d had about the matter, and it didn’t even involve killing anyone. I’ve mowed down thousands of digital foes and not felt an ounce of remorse, but there was something there in The Phantom Pain that affected me. It’s not the first time child soldiers been a matter of discussion in an MGS game of course, but it is the first time they’ve cropped up in gameplay.
Obviously I could be alone in this matter. A quick Google for the subject matter pops up with a GameFAQS thread asking “You can't kill child soldiers? WTF. This bothers me, it shouldn't be considered a failure.” The author of that thread seems particularly bothered that he can’t go above and beyond what I found uncomfortable.
Part of it boils down to the graphical advances being made, but I don’t think that’s all. As the videogame medium advances we’re approaching more complex subject matter than we did before. It’s easy to get into the good versus evil mindset when you’re killing comic book villains, Nazis or Stormtroopers, but once the lines between right and wrong are blurred the situation becomes a different beast. These soldiers are doing things in a situation which is out of their control. They're not inherently villains. It's easy to point to the fact they're children to explain it all away, but I killed babies in Silent Hill without blinking, suggesting there's a combination of factors at play.
So what games have made you feel uncomfortable in terms of violence, if any? Is this likely to be a more common thing as we go forward, such as when combined with VR? Let us know what you think below!