Bumping off Little Sisters in BioShock? No problem. Being a sociopathic asshole in Liberty City? Love it. Carrying on like a cheap philandering slut in Fable 2? I didn't even use a condom!
As a relatively sane person, I've never had a problem keeping what is 'Real' and what is 'Not Real' separate in my head. Just because I enjoyed playing Manhunt doesn't mean that my moral code includes a by-line advocating the real-world use of plastic bags to violently asphyxiate shaven-headed men.
But for the first time ever, playing a game that flies in the face of my own personal ethics has made me feel... uncomfortable. The game? Monster Hunter Tri. Yes, the one with dinosaurs and dragons in it.
Admittedly it's not the sort of game that's going to cause red-faced spasms of rage from loathsome, self-appointed, self-important moral guardians and upstanding defenders of the children (I doubt even PETA would be that bothered), but something about it jabbed incessantly at my conscience and consequently impaired my enjoyment of the beast slaughtering.
My first 'hunt' involved going at a group of docile, lumbering herbivores with my moderately proportioned sword. There were two big ones and two little ones. A happy family. Just munching grass and minding their own business. The fight was pretty one-sided. I hacked at one of the 'grown-ups' until it fell over dead. The others ran off, now a single parent family. I actually felt guilty. I kept playing, but my heart wasn't really in it.
Despite Monster Hunter Tri being about killing pretend animals in a fantasy land, it conflicts with my vegetarian, be-nice-to-animals sensibilities so much that I'm not sure I want to keep playing it. Although I probably will because I like the idea of taking down a dragon the size of a Boeing. I'm sure I'll be fine just as long as there aren't lots of little doting baby dragons to witness the crime.
So that's my irrational but true moment in a game that made me feel all out-of-sorts and morally uncomfortable with myself. What about you guys? Have you ever encountered something in a game that has double-crossed your conscience - your moral fibre - and made you take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror? A game that has made you think "Am I really happy to be doing this?" I'd like to know.
April 30, 2010