Up For Debate - Do you ever feel uncomfortable killing in a game?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sun, Oct 6, 2019 4:13 PM
System Requirements Optimum 1080p PC Build Low vs Ultra Screenshots GPU Performance Chart CPU List That Meet System Requirements GPU List That Meet System Requirements

Just thinking about how much games have changed within my lifetime is kind of bewildering. There was a time when I booted up the original Half-Life and stared in wonder at how realistic it all looked. It’s a bit quaint to think of it now, but I couldn’t believe how a game could ever look better than The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. If we were being kind we’d call these games aged classics. If we were being a bit crueller we’d probably say they’re butt-ugly now.

My point being that the past two decades has demonstrated an inexorable march toward realism. Texture resolution, animation quality and lighting have improved to such a degree that today’s games are unrecognisable from how games are stereotypically thought of. Earthbound’s King looks like no more than a pixelated blob of a dog. Red Dead Redemption 2’s Labradors look damn near the real thing. I’ll leave it to you to decide which made me feel profoundly guilty when I accidentally unloaded an explosive shotgun shell in its rear.

We’re at that stage now where the lines between fiction and reality are ever-so-slightly blurring. Games are designed to evoke emotions from us, and visuals are a key component on this. What was once some harmless slaughter now looks like a crime scene. Of course, deep down we all know it’s just lines of code, digital wizardry designed to fool us. But we’re human beings; we’re fickle things prone to tricks.

Developers will be intensely aware of this, and of the feelings they can evoke. It’s cheap but that doesn’t really stop them from exploiting it for emotional gain. Look no further than the recent spate of The Last of Us: Part II previews, a large chunk of which chose to focus on the attack dogs which can be brutally put down. We’ve all probably killed plenty of dogs in games over the years, and yet in heightening the intensity, the realism, and the brutality of the event, Naughty Dog is tapping in to something which makes a lot of people feel very uncomfortable. This won’t be the last you hear of it, either. The more we push toward absolute realism, the more pertinent the question of what is and isn’t acceptable.

A lot of games don’t tend to get too hung up on the idea though, even if what they’re asking of you is a tiny bit strange. I’m pretty much responsible for elk genocide in Red Dead Online, while I’m definitely guilty of skinning a badger or two in Far Cry just so I can have a bigger wallet. Screw the sustenance I could gain from that badger corpse, I need an extra slot for my Costa loyalty card.

Personally, there haven’t been too many games which have made me feel overly uncomfortable with the act of killing but there have been a few stand-outs. Specs Ops: The Line springs to mind immediately, as does just about any game where my horse can meet a grisly end. But for some reason, it’s Monster Hunter World which really got to me. These monsters are fantastical. They’re non-existent in reality. And yet I can’t help but feel a little bit strange for tracking them down in their home, hacking them apart for 20 minutes, and then carving up their skin to make a pair of snazzy new boots like some sort of colonial Gok Wan. The series never really bothered me before but there’s something about MonHun World, and its plot which is all about claiming territory, which sat a bit awkwardly with then.

So then, over to you lot. Does digital murder ever make you feel uncomfortable, or is it all just for giggles? Are there any games which made you feel particularly uneasy about what you were doing? Let us know below!

Do you ever feel uncomfortable killing in a game?

Our favourite comments:

No. Why would I feel uncomfortable?

psychoman

if i need to hunt for an animal for 100% like RDR, or kill it to defend myself. i close my eyes and shoot :'( thn, i wont kill innocent people, like some real good guys,old ppl, kids.. out of civilians in openworld. basically animals i wont dare touch, and outta people try not to hurt whoever didnt deserve it.

Adi993

Login or Register to join the debate

Rep
7
Offline
17:35 Oct-14-2019

It depends on the game. In "Until Dawn" killing someone certainly had more weight and meaning to it than killing some random NPC in GTA or generic enemies like in CoD games. Metro did a good job at making you care about NPCs with it's morality system and the same goes for RDR2.

1
Rep
7
Offline
17:37 Oct-14-2019

But at the end of the day neither of those games had an impact on me since I know that they are just "games" and a bunch of pixels on the screen. Killing has become such a big part of video games that I doubt a lot of people would be bothered by it,but as I've said, it depends on the game.

0
Rep
-25
Offline
22:50 Oct-08-2019

It doesnt, unless the game make me feel like it was a mistake, like when i killed pagan min in far cry 4

1
Rep
-7
Offline
07:04 Oct-10-2019

faggot monkey perfect, no worries there ????

0
Rep
383
Offline
senior admin badge
09:16 Oct-15-2019

What's this supposed to mean?

0
Rep
35
Offline
admin approved badge
07:05 Oct-18-2019

I too am wondering.

0
Rep
154
Offline
admin approved badge
13:14 Oct-08-2019

It really depends, if the game can manage to simulate real human reaction torwards the act of harm it could trigger a question to one's sense of morality. For me it did at least; last year I found myself shocked at how gruesome RDR2's gore and violence can truly be. Imagine massacring terrified every-day folks in a train robbery, listeting as they yell for mercy before you ultimately end their digital lives. Watching as they squirm for a brief moment from being shot in the head or stabbed in the neck and bleed out. There comes a point where realism makes you aware of your surrounding and actions. It does something to the brain that registers the information you're veiwing as harmful and p-

4
Rep
154
Offline
admin approved badge
13:22 Oct-08-2019

potentially dangerous. It's the reason people watch horror films & videos with shock value. It tricks the brain to some degree that it is witnessing something concerning. Hence releasing adrenaline, triggering fight-or-flight response. But, because we know what we're watching isn't real and mere inanimate objects with no real conscience simulating human behavior, there is closure. Which is why it isn't so far fetch for even a moment to question what you're doing or feeling bad about what you just did. Another thing I'd like to make note on is attachments. Attachments we make with characters in-game or characters that remind us of real-life persons or animals can trigger an emotional response

2
Rep
154
Offline
admin approved badge
13:27 Oct-08-2019

I must say, this article has really gotten my attention as it has a lot to do with human psychology. When the moment arises that we're the ultimate deciser of someone's or some people's fate, some video games do a splending job at making the player question the next move as it profoundly impacts the game. Maybe you made a choice that had variables you hadn't considered and dreadfully regret it? I think a concrete, 'sometimes' answer is appropriate. Context and personal characteristic matters. Thank you for the article Jon, it was a great read :)

2
Rep
383
Offline
senior admin badge
14:08 Oct-08-2019

Thanks, interesting take! Like anything, the more you do something the more that feeling fades away but RDR2 certainly had an impact on me in the first half. It's good, it makes the world feel more interesting, like your decisions have more weight and meaning. Some day it really is going to be crazy in these types of games, particularly once they figure out a way for the scope of your decisions to expand. You know, massive consequences rippling out from who you kill, rather than a binary split.

2
Rep
22
Offline
junior admin badge
11:30 Oct-08-2019

I kill only when the game asks me to do it and is tied to progression of the game.

2
Rep
154
Offline
admin approved badge
13:30 Oct-08-2019

Why does this comment remind me of Skyrim's Dark Brotherhood initiation quest lol. "I said kill, and you killed".

2
Rep
11
Offline
04:06 Oct-08-2019

Only time I've had issues with killing in game was inFamous 2 when spoilers for a 2011 game when killing zeke for the evil ending end spoilers for a 8 year old game

0
Rep
-7
Offline
03:14 Oct-08-2019

yes. far cry 4 i haven't brung myself to kill an elephant yet. hate killing grass eaters .goats, pigs, cats lesser cos they keep getting me. badgers less again scratch the fuk outs me. but then the honey badger after i kill it i hate it

0
Rep
386
Offline
admin approved badge
12:34 Oct-08-2019

You know I've always wanted to taste elephant meat in real life. IDK, it's so big, it must have some very good, juicy stakes on it XD

0
Rep
383
Offline
senior admin badge
13:20 Oct-08-2019

I kinda wish I could know what dodo tasted like

0
Rep
386
Offline
admin approved badge
14:36 Oct-08-2019

But isn't Dodo extinct?

0
Rep
383
Offline
senior admin badge
15:05 Oct-08-2019

Yeah Darwin ate them all He was a bit of a fatty when it came to eating endangered species.

0
Rep
386
Offline
admin approved badge
15:20 Oct-08-2019

rofl, really? O_O

0
Rep
383
Offline
senior admin badge
15:25 Oct-08-2019

Yeah he went out and ate everything he found and then wrote about it. The dodo was so tasty it was hunted to extinction very quickly...

0
Rep
35
Offline
admin approved badge
05:34 Oct-09-2019

He was the Ernest Hemingway of evolution!

0
Rep
35
Offline
admin approved badge
05:35 Oct-09-2019

^Forced evolution. By consumption.

0
Rep
93
Offline
00:34 Oct-08-2019

I have no problem killing people, domestic animals on the other hand...

2
Rep
6
Offline
15:29 Oct-08-2019

This. It doesn't bother me to play more of the violent games, I k is it's just a game, but I feel so awful if I have to kill a dog or a wolf or anything like that

2
Rep
97
Offline
admin approved badge
00:26 Oct-08-2019

If its not real life, then i do feel comfortable killing everything.

2
Rep
33
Offline
23:32 Oct-07-2019

When the NPCs in Breakpoint get too aggressive, just because I'm around, I shoot 'em. I have no problem with it. It's completely disassociated from the real world. Nothing makes me think "oh this could be real". Things can be beautiful, things can be emotional, but it is just a game. I kept annoying my friends on DIvision 2 because I would shoot the dogs. Yet I love dogs almost as much as cats.

0
Rep
21
Offline
20:51 Oct-07-2019

If someone is shooting or attacking me in a video game then yes, I have no issues killing the person, animal, alien or creature doing so. However, I usually go out of my way not to kill anybody or anything in a video game that isn't necessary to off. In GTA, I'd point my gun at cigarette smokers but never kill them. The reaction of them screaming and running away is uproariously funny.

3
Rep
-4
Offline
19:09 Oct-07-2019

Those people that answered yes need to see a psychiatrist immediately. Potential sociopaths.

0
Rep
-4
Offline
00:00 Oct-08-2019

So you're a sociopath when you feel uncomfortable killing in games?

1
Rep
14
Offline
17:10 Oct-07-2019

I will say that killing the colossus in SotC made me feel sad, like, i don't want to kill them :'(
And in The Last of Us, that final mission in the hospital, i truly want to let Joel die.

0
Rep
-2
Offline
14:41 Oct-07-2019

Slaughter everything, except domestic animals, I mean who does that?

6
Rep
17
Offline
admin approved badge
14:32 Oct-07-2019

For me it's the context of the situation/killing. A random faceless npc with no background that's there to jsut fill the void? No problem killing. A character that's a part of the story and been built up over the game and brought to like them? Probably would feel bad and not want to do it. For example killing ur teammates in Mass Effect 3? Felt terrible.


If its a character that was in the game and part of teh story but barely there for interactions probably completely fine killing them.

0
Rep
39
Offline
09:57 Oct-07-2019

Short answer is that I don't. I mean a great movie will stick with you for a day after you watch it and then you can discuss any deaths or frightening scenes with your mates without getting emotional about them. If a character that I've grown to care about is killed by me or another character in a game then yeah it's a little sad but uncomfortable? to kill? in a videogame? I especially don't get..

3
Rep
39
Offline
10:00 Oct-07-2019

...it when people talk about animals being killed in a videogame. The death of a pet in real life is emotional but a dead dog or horse in a videogame is the least interesting thing you could have. My 2 cents I guess.

3
Rep
39
Offline
10:06 Oct-07-2019

Immediately after writing this I realised that the character I play greatly affects how I feel about killing or any action really. There are the characters that do no harm at all, then there's the psycho wiping out everything within a kilometer, then there's the methodical killer who doesn't kill unless it's necessary but doesn't hesitate to do so either. I think the question you ask works well...

1
Rep
39
Offline
10:09 Oct-07-2019

...when discussing a game filled with choices. RPGs maybe? If it's a story and character driven game then I'd like devs to never worry about the content they create. I want them to realize their vision as much as they want without thinking about whether it'll feel uncomfortable to the player. Many people in this thread will no doubt bring scenes like the 'civilian killing' in MW and tell you how..

0
Rep
39
Offline
10:12 Oct-07-2019

...it was uncomfortable but if the scene proved to be conducive to the theme and plot of the story why question it? It was made to be unsettling. That was it's message. Games are at this moment mostly business like, engineered to be what will sell in massive numbers. It's commercial appeal, it's profit and that's fine as long as the artistic value of a game never dies.

0
Rep
383
Offline
senior admin badge
10:24 Oct-07-2019

I don't think making the player feel uncomfortable is a bad thing. A storyteller is going to actively want that to happen, particularly if they're adopting a serious tone.

2
Rep
383
Offline
senior admin badge
09:48 Oct-07-2019

If pixels on a screen make you feel nothing then I can't understand how you'd feel anything from a piece of fiction at all? If the argument is it's not real so it doesn't matter then the events in any fictional game, movie, or novel are meaningless. Seems odd to me.

1
Rep
33
Offline
23:37 Oct-07-2019

They are meaningless in the grand scheme of things. I've never been so moved by a piece of media that it shifts my outlook on life. Things can stick with you for some time, but eventually, you'll stop thinking about it, and it just won't be important anymore.
Killing Paarthurnax is one of the very few parts in a game that made me genuinely sad I had to do it.

0
Rep
33
Offline
23:39 Oct-07-2019

I also have faint memories of having to shoot one of my favourite character in a game, but for the life of me I can't remember what. I just remember sitting there, staring at my screen, refusing to carry on. Eventually I reluctantly did, but hated every second.

0
Rep
383
Offline
senior admin badge
09:08 Oct-08-2019

Well yeah, so's everything if we're going to be nihilist about it, including our own existence. What matters is if it feels important there and then, which feels crucial to any narrative game to me

0
Rep
2
Offline
09:31 Oct-07-2019

Depends on the game. When you have been playing with an NPC and all of a sudden you have to kill it, then yes.

2
Rep
94
Offline
20:16 Oct-07-2019

Those poor minecraft villagers. They just didn't trade whatever you were seeking for. :sad:

1
Rep
79
Offline
admin approved badge
07:20 Oct-07-2019

I'm writing a "Dear Jon" letter with a simple question. WTF?
Oh yeah…

2
Rep
383
Offline
senior admin badge
09:40 Oct-07-2019

Sorry man, it's been a tough weekend so I had to write about it. Just got back from burying my dead horse in Red Dead Online. It was a nice ceremony though and at least I'm sure he had a great digital life. See you up there in horsey heaven, Mufasa

1
Rep
79
Offline
admin approved badge
15:47 Oct-07-2019

Well, at least he didn't went to a glue factory. R.I.P Mufasa :(

1
Rep
22
Offline
05:46 Oct-07-2019

I depends on the game for games like CoD and Battlefield things are straight forward but for games like Mass Effect and Witcher I try to make a moral decision.

4
Rep
8
Offline
05:18 Oct-07-2019

Of course not, it's not real. That's why l play games, to get away from reality and do whatever l want without guilt and consequences lol

0
Rep
94
Offline
20:20 Oct-07-2019

plays telltale's games

1

Can They Run... |

| 30FPS, Medium, 1080p
Ryzen 5 3500U 4-Core 2.1 GHz Radeon RX 540X 2GB Mobile 8GB
| 30FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i5-4670 3.4GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Ti EVGA Gaming 4GB 8GB
| 60FPS, High, 1440p
Ryzen 7 3700X 8-Core 3.6GHz GeForce RTX 2080 EVGA XC Ultra Gaming 8GB 32GB
| 60FPS, Medium, 1080p
Ryzen 7 4800H 8-Core 2.9GHz GeForce GTX 1650 Ti 4GB 8GB
| High,
Ryzen 7 2700 8-Core 3.2GHz Radeon RX 5600 XT Gigabyte Gaming OC 6GB 16GB
100% Yes [2 votes]
| 60FPS, Medium, 1440p
Ryzen 5 3600 6-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1070 Palit Super JetStream 16GB
50% Yes [2 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Core i7-11700K 8-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1060 Asus ROG Strix Gaming OC 6GB Edition 32GB
75% Yes [4 votes]
| 60FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i7-4770 4-Core 3.4GHz GeForce GTX 1060 Inno3D Compact 6GB 8GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i5-9300H 4-Core 2.4GHz GeForce GTX 1650 8GB
| 60FPS, Low, 1080p
Ryzen 5 5600 6-Core 3.5GHz Radeon RX 5500 XT 8GB 16GB
Ryzen 5 5600 6-Core 3.5GHz Radeon RX 5500 XT 8GB 16GB
| 60FPS, Low, 1080p
Ryzen 5 5600 6-Core 3.5GHz Radeon RX 5500 XT 8GB 16GB
| 60FPS, Medium, 1080p
Ryzen 5 5600 6-Core 3.5GHz Radeon RX 5500 XT 8GB 16GB
| Medium, 1080p
Ryzen 5 5600 6-Core 3.5GHz Radeon RX 5500 XT 8GB 16GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-10700 8-Core 2.90GHz GeForce RTX 2060 6GB 16GB
100% Yes [2 votes]
Core i5-9400F 6-Core 2.9GHz GeForce GTX 770 DirectCU II 2GB OC Edition 16GB
57.1429% Yes [7 votes]
Pentium Dual Core B960 2.2GHz Radeon HD 6950M 4GB
25% No [8 votes]
| 60FPS, Medium, 720p
Athlon II X2 245 GeForce GTS 250 4GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 5 3500U 4-Core 2.1 GHz Radeon RX Vega 8 8GB
| 60FPS, High, 720p
Core i5-2400S 2.5GHz Radeon R5 340 (OEM) 4GB