Video games can make you feel a spectrum of emotions. Pride, joy, sadness, you get the idea. One of the most interesting emotions a game can make you feel though is guilt. Games are not real. The people in them are just lines of code and polygons. The world inside the game isn’t real, and what happens to it has no actual consequences. And yet, some games are capable of making you feel shame for doing the wrong thing. It may seem silly, but I am genuinely impressed whenever a game makes me feel bad about something I have done while playing it. Those moments stick with me.
Today I’d like to share some of those moments with you. The ones that really stick in my memory and make me feel ashamed every now and then.
Obligatory Spoiler Warning For The Games Below
Let’s get this game out of the way. However you feel about this game or it’s director, the game does put you in positions where you are expected to make some tough choices. Cutting off your own finger, choosing to save the life of a mobster, and such. But none was genuinely more difficult then when the game has the main character, Ethan, have to choose whether or not to shoot a drug dealer. You see, if you don’t shoot the dealer you can’t get the final clue as to where your son is. Sounds simple enough, but the dealer himself is a father as well. And, you know, another human being. Up until this point all of the challenges Ethan had faced were things he had to do to himself. This time he has someone else’s life in his hands.
As you might suspect, since this is on the list, I shot the guy. I didn’t even hesitate. I was in for a penny, in for a pound. No I did not agonize over the decision when I made it. No, I agonized over how quickly I made that decision. I wondered if, perhaps, I should not have been so quick to off the guy. Perhaps I should have taken the time to weigh out the choices. But I didn’t. And for a time, it weighed on me. Made me feel like there was something wrong with me. On some level, it still does.
Catherine, is an interesting game. One of the most unique games I have ever played. Part puzzle game, part social simulator, part horror game. A bizarre amalgamation of genres that I don’t think will ever be replicated.
The game has a “karma” system of sorts. Rather than going for good versus evil. it goes for something more akin to love versus lust. Even that isn’t exactly what it judges you on. Essentially, it leans toward whether you will stay with Vincent’s girlfriend Katherine or whether you will leave her for the succubus Catherine (or if you’ll fall somewhere in between). I ended up with Katherine, getting the True Lover ending.
However, that’s not why this makes it on the list. No, in fact, the Katherine/Catherine thing isn’t even a part of this. Instead, the reason this makes it to the list is because of what happens between the meat of the game, the puzzle segments, at the local pizza place. Vincent can meet up with other men that have the same sheep-y dreams as he. Vincent can help them out with their own problems in an attempt to spare them from a grisly death. For the most part I did well on this part. I saved almost every single person I could.
Save for one.
Yes, I failed to save one person. I messed up one time, and said something that ended up costing him his life. It made me feel awful. I’d interacted with him almost every other night, managing to keep him from falling to despair. And yet, this one time I failed to do so was enough to lose him. I had a hard time reconciling with that reality. Even if he was just a fictional character, I felt guilty for not being able to save him.
Life is Strange
This one is pretty similar to the last one. So basically this is what happened. I played Life is Strange, as some of you may know, largely to appease one stab-happy Dtoider who we sadly don’t see much of anymore (if you’re reading this Angie, I miss ya). I quite liked the game. It was interesting. I was getting pretty into it. The setting, the music, the characters, the mystery of Max’s powers. It was all quite engaging, in my humble opinion.
There was one character, in particular that I didn’t really expect to be interested in. Her name was Katie. A sad girl, who always seems to be getting shit on by life. At one point in the game this hits the worst as a video of her making out with a guy starts getting spread around. Katie, who comes from a very religious family, feels terrible about this and her depression breaks her.
After a segment of the game in which Max stressed her time travel powers, she returns to the college campus to find Katie on a roof. Max uses her powers to get to the roof to confront Katie, but loses it temporarily once up there. At this point you have to talk Katie down, unable to use your power to save her.
And this is where I realized that I had made a mistake at some point. I didn’t know enough about Katie to talk her down. I misspoke, not really knowing the right things to say, and Katie died.
This one hurt. I felt for Katie. I wanted to help her. I wanted to save her. But I didn’t.
No joke, I haven’t touched the game since. Every time I consider it, I remember how I failed and I end up not going back. Booting the game back up will mean having to face my failure again. I’ll do it someday. Just not someday soon.
God of War III
Kratos has done some really horrible things. He’s killed scores of men and monsters, all for the sake of revenge. And as a player, while I didn’t advocate his actions, I was mostly okay with them. Kratos’s rage was justified, although his actions were not always. But for the most part, I was able to deal with his actions since I understood why he was doing them, and I was able to justify them in the context of the story.
What he did to Poseidon’s princess, however, I was not able to.
Long story short, In God of War III, while Kratos is traveling through Poseidon’s palace, Kratos happens upon a young, beautiful woman chained up to a wall. Kratos frees her, despite her protests and drags her through a hallway. All just to use her body to keep a door from closing long enough for him to squeeze through. And then it crushes her.
Kratos makes no attempt to save her life. He shows no remorse for her death. The princess did nothing to Kratso to warrant such a harsh death. Not in Kratos’s eyes, or in the eyes of the player.
Throughout the series, Kratos commits a lot of horrific acts. But none made me feel as uneasy as this one. As a player, I had no ill will toward the woman, like I did for most of the other people Kratos killed. The game forced me to drag a scared woman and use her as a solution to a puzzle. Like she was just an obstacle between Kratos and his precious revenge. It made me feel sick and made my connection to Kratos as a player feel tarnished. Dirty. Wrong. Which was probably what the developers were going for. But still, it is one of those moments in gaming I really, truly did not enjoy, even a little. And I feel the game would have been a lot better had it not existed.
And that’s that. There are very likely other examples I could share. But this blog is long enough, and these are, I believe, the best examples I could write about. These are the ones that stick out in my memories. The examples where I personally find myself questioning my own actions and regretting my mistakes. These are the moments where I felt the most naughty while playing video games. I hope you enjoyed the stories and if you have any of your own to share I’d like to to hear them. Thank you for reading, happy holidays, and have a happy New Year!