(Image credit Gamesradar)
Has a game ever truly made you feel like a despicable person?I like to think about this question, because I think it helps to frame the classic entertainment/art debate: If games are solely entertainment, then their only goal should be making them feel good, whereas if games are exclusively art, their goal should be to make the viewer reexamine a facet of life. So to further frame this question, I want to establish that I’m not talking about games where being cruel is integral to the game’s enjoyment (the Overlord Series, Saint’s Row 2, Zoo Tycoon.) I want to examine games where you’ve actually had to put down the controller and think about whether you’re any better than the game’s antagonist.
One example for me is at the very end of Remember Me, which I will explain in purely emotional terms to reveal as little about the plot as possible. There is a part at the climax where the game puts a button in the middle of the screen, as it sometimes does, which allows the player to manipulate somebody’s memory. In this particular instance, the scene directly preceding the sequence was clearly a sympathetic examination of the character who would be the subject of the Remixing. It was clear to me as a player that something had gone horribly wrong in this person’s life, and the game had gone to lengths to show how dangerous it is to rely on memory manipulation as a form of therapy. Yet the button in the middle of the screen only gave me one option, and there was no other way to progress. I grit my teeth and went through what was normally the most fun part of the game feeling disturbed and, honestly, kind of filthy. Yet this was the only way to progress.
Afterwards, I wasn’t angry that the game had taken my agency away; I was happy that it had made me truly feel something, as too few games do. Stealing my agency may have made the experience extremely unpleasant, and I found myself liking Nilin a lot less afterwards, but the game had done its job. It had made me question my use of one of the core mechanics, and by doing so I felt a deeper connection to the world of the game.
So colleagues; Have you ever felt like a terrible person performing some function of the game? Was getting through that sequence of Remember Me (or the entirety of Spec Ops: The Line) easy, or were you made uncomfortable knowing you were acting against your own morals? Feel free to comment below.