Battlefield 3 producer explains why innocent civilians are off-limits

“We would be the ones to be blamed,” says Patrick Bach

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How far a war game will go to convey the brutal realities of combat is a decision each studio must make on its own, and for Battlefield 3's executive producer Patrick Bach the boundaries of digital decency end at killing innocents. Not that he's against player freedom, however, he's just wary of how far some may take it. Defending EA Digital Illusion's CE's move to omit civilian slaughter from Battlefield 3 in a recent interview, Bach noted the choice wasn't so much about personal preference, but  a fear it would have otherwise attracted negative media attention.

“If you put the player in front of a choice where they can do good things or bad things, they will do bad things, go dark side – because people think it’s cool to be naughty, they won’t be caught,” said Bach in his chat with Rock, Paper, Shotgun. “In a game where it’s more authentic, when you have a gun in your hand and a child in front of you what would happen? Well the player would probably shoot that child.”

Understanding that, Bach said it was necessary to impose restrictions on killing non-combatants in Battlefield 3 in order to curb immoral behavior and – more importantly – the bad publicity it would encourage, adding, “We would be the ones to be blamed. We have to build our experiences so we don’t put the player in experiences where they can do bad things...Me personally, I’m trying to stay away from civilians in games like BF because I think people will do bad. I don’t want to see videos on the internet where people shoot civilians. That’s something I will sanitize by removing that feature from the game.” 

Considering series like Prototype, Saints Row, and GTA make a hilarious sport of offing innocent bystanders and committing heinous crimes, it's interesting to see a more realistic war title take the opposite stance. But then, if no one is questioning the limits of 'acceptable evil' in a videogame, who's to say games like Baby Strangler 2014 or Super Puppy Puncher would be any worse? Are some vile acts more acceptable than others? And if so, where do you think the line should be drawn (if anywhere)?

Aug 31, 2011