Game People Calling: Dark Games Are Good for the Soul

Game People Calling: Dark Games Are Good for the Soul

Dark gaming moments offer a chance to understand our fears.

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GPC:
Provided we have an ounce of responsibility

That's a big provision, my man. A lot of people don't and they are ruining the hobby for the rest of us. Good article though. Very engaging.

No Russian was flawed.

If you don't fire a single shot at civilians, the mission ends the same way as if you slaughtered the entire airport yourself.

SO you can just sit back and walk through it like a cutscene, which it should have been in the first place, instead of of some desperate attempt to cause controversy and give the ignorant game haters more ammunition against our passtime.

This was a highly interesting article. Thanks for the read.

MiracleOfSound:
No Russian was flawed.

If you don't fire a single shot at civilians, the mission ends the same way as if you slaughtered the entire airport yourself.

SO you can just sit back and walk through it like a cutscene, which it should have been in the first place, instead of of some desperate attempt to cause controversy and give the ignorant game haters more ammunition against our passtime.

I think this can still tie in with the article though. As in: Do you shoot the civilians just because you are able to? Like with GTA etc etc It offers up moral decisions which do not appear in real life; I know most gamers who are obsessed with CODMW2 (like my brother) probably wouldn't think too much about this but I think this is interesting because you could argue that it does look at the "darker themes" even if you choose to stand at the side and watch.

Good article, anyway :)

So where does a game like The Void fit into this? I haven't actually played it myself, but I've only heard good things about it. I read the reviews and it sounds dark as all hell, but all in an obscure, heavily interpretative way.

Andronicus:
So where does a game like The Void fit into this? I haven't actually played it myself, but I've only heard good things about it. I read the reviews and it sounds dark as all hell, but all in an obscure, heavily interpretative way.

I think it fits in an category I just made up.

Should we disguise ourselves to be truly happy, or stay as we are?

No Russian was the silliest thing I have ever sat through in a game. And this is coming from someone who enjoys viva piniata. I agree with MiracleOfSound, a cutscene would have at least been able to focus more on the innocent civilians. I sat through the entire thing not caring for the civilians at all, and its not because I'm cool and edgy and whatever those douches try to prove. Those civilians did not feel human. Just a big bunch of blobs and polygons that resembled random human bodies. A much more ethical scenario for the game should have involved something like kidnapping and murdering a doctor in whateverzakistan.

SuperChris:

MiracleOfSound:
No Russian was flawed.

If you don't fire a single shot at civilians, the mission ends the same way as if you slaughtered the entire airport yourself.

SO you can just sit back and walk through it like a cutscene, which it should have been in the first place, instead of of some desperate attempt to cause controversy and give the ignorant game haters more ammunition against our passtime.

I think this can still tie in with the article though. As in: Do you shoot the civilians just because you are able to? Like with GTA etc etc It offers up moral decisions which do not appear in real life; I know most gamers who are obsessed with CODMW2 (like my brother) probably wouldn't think too much about this but I think this is interesting because you could argue that it does look at the "darker themes" even if you choose to stand at the side and watch.

Good article, anyway :)

Personally I think No Russian is more of a reflection on the developers than the people who play the level, however they play it.

I understand that the No Russian level was probably created just for the controversy but seeing as gaming can be a "tailored" experience, like reading a book or watching a film, you can look at these things even if they weren't ncessarily the developer's intentions. But whatever really, I'm in an odd mood today.

GTA series do not give us "moral freedom". Can main character be an artist or a doctor instead of a criminal? No. Therefore, it's not "moral freedom", it's merely a "mission to" - and i quote Yahtzee here - "fuck this world's shit up".

Yes, i remember when i was playing GTA IV awhile back, and the mission where the beginning cutscene for it was you talking to Faustins(i think) wife, and niko is talking about the war and things back home. It's very dark and powerful. That really got me to want to play more. And it also made me want to watch Defiance.

Fallout 3 is deep. thats all i can say, there are too many expamples..

I think that it can good to play violent/scary/moral questioning games because it means, as long as people have common sence like you said, people won't do it in real life. It lets you express how violent/scary etc. you want to be in a non-violent way. Well that's what it think any way.

Thanks for the article, it was very interesting to read.

I thought it was a pretty poor article. he didn't actually go into any depth about anything, just listed off a lot of games that he believes have moral choice. It was an interesting topic but there was absolutely no exploration of it, just a dull, pointless list.

I don't think darkness is "Hurr! look at how mature and manly and mature we are!!" that is given to us by mass market machines such as Call of Duty or gears of war. Darkness that is good for the soul comes more from games like STALKER, Bioshock and The Witcher. Games that present us with a dark world not some superficial manfest or sensory barrage.

Games that get into your head and stay there. Anyone who has wandered the zone will tell you how beautyful it can be and how terrifyingly real the danger can feel. This lonely isolation is what is good for the soul, the feeling of being alone in a world of darkness just you a weapon.

instead of being over the top 'shocking' the world of the Zone is A-Moral. Want to shoot innocent loners in the head for their stuff? Feel free. No one is watching with a Karma meter in this world, but you will end up feeling guilty.

Games can be brutal im more subtle ways, in STALKER if a bandit is wounded but not killed he is left injured on the ground rather disturbingly crying out for aid but you are unbale to give it. you know he was shooting at you less than a minute ago. No choice but to put a bullet in his head and stop his suffering, this is real heavy stuff for such a small part of a game. such a subtle point that turns you from gun ho gamer into mercy killer, i didn't realise this until half way through the game but if there are other STALKERs arround they will caly walk over pull out a pistol, say something cruel in russian and blow the guys brains out.

This is a part of the A.I., just another day surviving in the zone. It makes you live with the consequences of your actions rather then just waving a finger at you and going "Your a bad man!". These horific realities are left out of the sweeping sillness of "no russian" and ironically it is the former soviets that show them what is missing. Why are there so many games in which we kill people but few that show us our wounded enimes as people?

This is the beauty of these type of games, the post apocalypse especially, we are forced to confont the nature of humanity and ourselves not just superficial shock but real moral questions. I know the bandit would bleed out on his own but his crys make me feel actual guilt a compulsion to act in the only way i can, something rare in a medium wich is supposed to be interactive.

Pimppeter2:
No Russian was the silliest thing I have ever sat through in a game. And this is coming from someone who enjoys viva piniata. I agree with MiracleOfSound, a cutscene would have at least been able to focus more on the innocent civilians. I sat through the entire thing not caring for the civilians at all, and its not because I'm cool and edgy and whatever those douches try to prove. Those civilians did not feel human. Just a big bunch of blobs and polygons that resembled random human bodies. A much more ethical scenario for the game should have involved something like kidnapping and murdering a doctor in whateverzakistan.

Agreed.

It was also strangely immersion breaking that the graphics in that section were atrocious compared to the rest of the game.

The military character models all look fantastic in MW2, but those civilians looked like weird floppy Thunderbird puppets.

It was such a stupid scene. 'Oh look we're so edgy and controversial! Ban us so we get publicity!'

Fallout 3, Dragon Age and the Darkness are, in my view, much better explorations of the dark side of human nature.

It's a very intriguing subject to examine, unfortunately I felt the article was too short to cover it in much detail and instead skimmed over it...

carnkhan4:
It's a very intriguing subject to examine, unfortunately I felt the article was too short to cover it in much detail and instead skimmed over it...

Jdopus:
I thought it was a pretty poor article. he didn't actually go into any depth about anything, just listed off a lot of games that he believes have moral choice. It was an interesting topic but there was absolutely no exploration of it, just a dull, pointless list.

This.

Plus, it seems to me that only very recent, popular games are worth mentioning in this article. Maybe I've been spoiled by the utterly fantastic intellectual university thesis-level articles from The Escapist, but this seemed too simple, too "trendy" and too short. Why would they only mention brand-spanking new games? Even then they didn't go into any real detail in their examples.

It's easy for me to criticize; I've never written for The Escapist. Hmmm... maybe that should change...

MiracleOfSound:
No Russian was flawed.

If you don't fire a single shot at civilians, the mission ends the same way as if you slaughtered the entire airport yourself.

I found a MUCH bigger flaw in the level, and it's the fact that Makarov has heat seeking bullets. Next time you play it, let them get into the van without following them.

"And on the 8th day, God created a magical, heat-seeking bullet-firing Desert Eagle and forgot all about it"

Hence why a single terrorist makes the Russian army engage in invasive armed conflict against the USA. Because of the magical Desert Eagle.

Tonimata:

MiracleOfSound:
No Russian was flawed.

If you don't fire a single shot at civilians, the mission ends the same way as if you slaughtered the entire airport yourself.

I found a MUCH bigger flaw in the level, and it's the fact that Makarov has heat seeking bullets. Next time you play it, let them get into the van without following them.

"And on the 8th day, God created a magical, heat-seeking bullet-firing Desert Eagle and forgot all about it"

Hence why a single terrorist makes the Russian army engage in invasive armed conflict against the USA. Because of the magical Desert Eagle.

It was either lag or he switched to the 1887s behind your back.

Kollega:
GTA series do not give us "moral freedom". Can main character be an artist or a doctor instead of a criminal? No. Therefore, it's not "moral freedom", it's merely a "mission to" - and i quote Yahtzee here - "fuck this world's shit up".

Well, tecnhically, you don't need to steal cars and kill innocents, so I suppose the question is there.
However, I think the article is trying to find deep meaning in video games.
There is no deep meaning, it's just escapism. Ultimately, the goal is entertainment, so if the game makes you feel depressed (because moral dilemmas always make you feel depressed), it's probably doing a bad job.

MiracleOfSound:

Tonimata:

MiracleOfSound:
No Russian was flawed.

If you don't fire a single shot at civilians, the mission ends the same way as if you slaughtered the entire airport yourself.

I found a MUCH bigger flaw in the level, and it's the fact that Makarov has heat seeking bullets. Next time you play it, let them get into the van without following them.

"And on the 8th day, God created a magical, heat-seeking bullet-firing Desert Eagle and forgot all about it"

Hence why a single terrorist makes the Russian army engage in invasive armed conflict against the USA. Because of the magical Desert Eagle.

It was either lag or he switched to the 1887s behind your back.

What a magnificently cunning bastard... Gee, those crazy Russians :P

carnkhan4:
It's a very intriguing subject to examine, unfortunately I felt the article was too short to cover it in much detail and instead skimmed over it...

Ill agree the article hit some ke points, but, unfortunatly it is somethingso vast a few pages really does it no justice.

None the less, it does raise various points for further discussion at least

The_ModeRazor:

However, I think the article is trying to find deep meaning in video games.
There is no deep meaning, it's just escapism. Ultimately, the goal is entertainment, so if the game makes you feel depressed (because moral dilemmas always make you feel depressed), it's probably doing a bad job.

Afraid I completely disagree with this sentiment. Videogames have always been more than just escapism for me and I want the media I consume, whether that be films, books or games, to challenge me and make me think. Escapism is great - that's why god created Gearbox Software to make Borderlands - but games that put you through the emotional meatgrinder like DQ5 or Silent Hill are just as valid, if not more so.

If a game makes me feel depressed then I bloody love it for giving me a reaction that's not "BOOM HEADSHOT MUTHERCHUFFER", cos I can get 50 of those for every one more meaningful. That's why games that explore darker and more controversial issues win me over and stay with me far longer, even if the overall experience isn't "fun".

Adamfast:

Afraid I completely disagree with this sentiment. Videogames have always been more than just escapism for me and I want the media I consume, whether that be films, books or games, to challenge me and make me think.

If a game makes me feel depressed then I bloody love it

And naturally I find you have a Megaten profile pic. *high five*

Loved the Persona games, btw, especially 3

I...agree with everything you said?

antipunt:

And naturally I find you have a Megaten profile pic. *high five*

Loved the Persona games, btw, especially 3

Hell yeah! Not played P3 yet but looking forward to the PSP version later this year. Persona 4 still has its claws into me and there's just something about all those SMT games that just sweats dark awesomeness.

I wish there had been more examples of 'darkness' or 'poignant' games, or moments in games.

Personally, the No Russian mission hit home to me very hard. I kept myself in the dark about the controversy, allowing myself to bare the full brunt of what was occurring. Although there is no true reason to participate, i feel that not doing so would be against the message that the game is trying to put forward - do you simply sit back and watch slaughter commence, feeling the fact that you are powerless to do anything about it - or do you participate, sacrificing a part of yourself as well as countless innocent lives for the sake of peace?

More interesting would be if, halfway through the slaughter, the terrorists asked you why you are not firing on the civilians, perhaps questioning your loyalty. Do you then start firing, your choice now taken away with the threat of death on yourself? And even then, would your cover be blown anyways? Alas, that is not given to you, because that takes away the edge of the situation - if you have no choice then the choice has no meaning other then a means to an end. Anybody will kill someone else in order to save themselves (at least a person of weak will, like most people on the internet).

On a side note, a very powerful scene i found was in Far Cry 2. Nevermind the fact that your avatar has superhuman will (ripping pieces of shrapnel out of a leg, pulling a bullet out of a forearm with a multi-tool), but imagine the scene - you've just helped a comrade blow up a convoy full of guns for the opposing faction. You wipe the sweat from your brow, work the bolt to your rusty AK-47 to clear a jam, and stand out of cover - to hear the cries of help from your comrade.

You rush to his aid, finding him lying bleeding amongst scores of dead enemies. He has been fatally wounded - but an injection of your trusty morphine will fix him right up.

However...it doesnt. His pain remains constant, and he asks for another. Then another. Then another...before finally succumbing to the massive overdose of painkillers and drifting into a coma, to which he will never awaken.

...Alternately, you could give him a warrior's end, and put a bullet in his head, looking away as you do to avoid the grisly sight. He even grasps the gun barrel, making sure it is firmly placed on his forehead as you pull the trigger.

Of course, there is very little the game does to adhere the comrades to you, but as an avid 'sucker' (a person who gets sucked into a game and starts role-playing after a while - i personally liked playing as the old seen-it-all-but-doesnt-know-anything-different ex-military russian man), this choice could be quite painful. The choice between a bullet or a pain-free eternal sleep was sometimes hard - seeing as everyone wants to kill you, i didnt know when i would need my panacea in a needle.

Could i risk giving my comrade two or three shots, leaving me with barely any or even none at all? Even then, perhaps forcing me to put a bullet in his brain anyways, which leaves a bitter aftertaste to something that will already leave you with something that you'd rather not have.

MAIN POINT: Good article, this is kind of immersion is why I play games. I would like to add that with my repressed, churchy background my friends would react niavely to games like Doom, Silent Hill, Balder's Gate, Metal Gear Solid. Its just more reasoning that this kind of psychological exploration is healthy for the individual to grow.

MODERN WAREFARE 2:
I agree that No Russian is a flawed example though. Even though the CIA agent's mission goal wasn't clear, Mikael prooves to be too dangerous when he slaughters his own countrymen for political gain. What is stopping me from putting a bullet in his head RIGHT THERE? You keep America safe, save thousands of Russians, and improve American/Russian relations. I even tryied fragging Mikael when the game wouldn't let me shoot him.

Plus it would have made a short game.

OTHER EXAMPLE:
I'm suprised that Silent Hill didn't make the list, so here's my example. In SH1,

The music, direction, and ironic hospital setting emphasised the feeling of pity, helplessness, and uncertainty. All good components of Fear.

Adamfast:

The_ModeRazor:

However, I think the article is trying to find deep meaning in video games.
There is no deep meaning, it's just escapism. Ultimately, the goal is entertainment, so if the game makes you feel depressed (because moral dilemmas always make you feel depressed), it's probably doing a bad job.

Afraid I completely disagree with this sentiment. Videogames have always been more than just escapism for me and I want the media I consume, whether that be films, books or games, to challenge me and make me think. Escapism is great - that's why god created Gearbox Software to make Borderlands - but games that put you through the emotional meatgrinder like DQ5 or Silent Hill are just as valid, if not more so.

If a game makes me feel depressed then I bloody love it for giving me a reaction that's not "BOOM HEADSHOT MUTHERCHUFFER", cos I can get 50 of those for every one more meaningful. That's why games that explore darker and more controversial issues win me over and stay with me far longer, even if the overall experience isn't "fun".

Fine.
But you really do know that your opinion doesn't change mine, so no point replying.

Somehow this article feels too focused on the BIG NAME games in a way that's detrimental to their argument. There are tons of games that explore the dark recesses of human psyche in far more distrubing ways that those quoted. Even the infamous Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy goes into more interesting directions in the first third of the game. Any of the Silent Hill games tread more wierd ideas. I could list games on and on, but I would try to reach out to the history of gaming, not just the AAA titles of the last 4 years and come with a much stronger article. As it is, this piece is very weak, and feels out of place among the high quality of most writing on this site.

Of course, all of this is my pre-lunch ranting, so it's charged with hunger-fueled ire.

Stop reading after you brought up "No Russian" as a dark moment of gaming.

It's just bullshit to stir up controversy and so people could should civilians.

no russia wasnt that bad sure its graphic but outher games like gta saints row are a little whose causse you can kill them in more brutal ways and in fallout you can shoot the head off in three direactions while ther body flys one way

I love this kind of articles, it's very interesting, I wonder how I fare... I sold/gave most of my old games/consoles, leaving me with just my sister's Wii and my Xbox 360, I mostly play PC games, I love FPS, I'm not much into RTS, but I have a couple of RTS, recently I'm loving RPGs a lot more than before. My console library reflects this more or less, only by the exception of an added genre on the consoles, the Action/Adventure, like the Zelda & Okami games. I don't keep them too organized, but on a shelf in my room, PC & 360... I think that makes me a Geek/Nerd... right?

Great stuff. It's good to see a defence of the darker side of moral liberty within games along lines other than "because it's fun". I did not find "No Russian" fun, however, it served its purpose within the game, making me hate the villain Makarov. It would have been more effective if they (Makarov et al) turned on you if you didn't shoot civilians, but the programming for that would have been complex, and maybe that is a mechanic we will see later. I find moral freedom (in Fallout 3 for example) not only lets me go crazy if I feel like it but it actually gives me a sense of achievement for being good. When I don't kill someone straight off and talk my way out of a situation it almost feels like I beat the system.

Game design is an art form and it is good to see the Escapist both acknowledging and encouraging that. It will lead to less cookie-cutter first-person-shooters after all.

 

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