Chandler, Arizona, United States

There's an old saying. If you don't want someone to join a crowd, you ask them, "If everyone were jumping off of a cliff, would you?" Well, I have. So my answer would be "Yes". True story.
Profile continued . . .

Video Game Kills That Actually Affected Me

Sunday, July 06, 2014

this entry brought to you by a perfect circle, "weak and powerless"

I was reading an article on Kotaku, and it was a collection of stories from people and the moments of violence that actually affected them that they could remember, and several games got brought up, several moments that I remembered and said "Yeah, whew, that part was a doozy." And two games that came up were Fallout 3 and, believe it or not, The Sims, and I had my own experiences with them that I thought I'd share.

When you're playing The Sims, there will inevitably be a time when you decide to kill a Sim. Maybe you're the type of gamer whose impulse is to immediately try it. Maybe it doesn't set in until you've played for a long time and just want to do something different. But it will occur to you that your Sims sometimes die-- either you'll have one of them accidentally bite the dust, and you'll be horribly sad, or perhaps you just figure it can happen because the game's characters react the way people do when deprived of things. They get hungry and will complain when there's nothing to eat. They will collapse from exhaustion if denied sleep. It doesn't take much of a leap of logic to figure that you can kill them on purpose.

I'd been playing for a few days and was on my second house. The first house I made I created three Sims, but my second house, more used to how the game worked, decided to challenge myself with 8 Sims, the maximum allowed in a family. I had downloaded some Sims from the Internet, so Austin Powers, Dr. Evil, and Beavis and Butthead lived amongst other generic Sims. However, when I started the game, Beavis and Butthead looked awful, and shortly thereafter I downloaded better versions, and needed to get rid of the old ones. There are actually cheat codes in The Sims, and there is one where you can take a Sim and simply delete him. But before we knew anything about that, in order to get a Sim out of your game, you had to kill them.

The most obvious way to kill a Sim during the game, and everyone will eventually try this unless they're specifically told about an easier way, is to pause the game and build a box around him. He will not be able to access food, so he will eventually starve to death. There was a sort of horrible glee I took in doing it, boxing this Sim to his doom, because he was ugly, and he didn't look like the other Sims, stuck out like a sore thumb, and he couldn't exist there. Fuck this stupid, ugly Sim.

I'm not sure what I was thinking would happen. The whole point to The Sims is that they are reasonable facsimiles of human beings, and while the series got wackier with each expansion and sequel with magic and silliness, the core concept is that Sims are still motivated by the same things you and I are regardless of the situation. And listening to a Sim starve to death was tortuous.

First Beavis and Butthead merely puttered around, bored and listless. But then the hunger started to kick in, and the anguished cries for help started. They'd plead to God in the most pathetic voices, pointing at their mouths. They'd grumble to themselves in frustration. Then they'd scream in more anguish. Then they'd pee themselves, and burst into tears. Oh, god, the crying. So much crying. And then, out of pure exhaustion, they'd collapse in their own pee, waking up starved and crying and anguished that they were still in this situation. And, worse, the game forced you to watch what they were doing by continually zooming in on them every time their mood worsened. And this went on for days. Turns out, like in real life, it takes a long time to starve to death. Now granted, one day was only 20 minutes of real life, but listening to someone starve to death for an hour is one of the most unnerving things you can do when you are supposed to be entertaining yourself.

At some point I started to realize what exactly I was doing. These people in this world where I allowed everybody else to go about their business were too ugly for my liking, too disgusting, too unlike what I envisioned as the way people were supposed to be. So I was torturing them to death for it. And, like a group of ethnically privileged people, the other 6 Sims behaved as if nothing was going wrong, as if there weren't two people being starved to death just beyond where they could see. Yes, its just a video game. But the parallels to real life couldn't be shaken. This was nightmare fuel. And to top it off, when the Sims eventually die, they curl up into a horrible ball, often on top of their own urine if they are killed in this fashion, and then after a moment, they turn into little urns. Ash. Like the remains of a certain people who were treated exactly like this in real life.

Of course, I should also mention that after this hour of nightmare, I came across a much easier way of disposing of virtual human beings, and that's sending them out for a swim, and then removing the ladder. They swim and swim and can't get out of the pool and after about a day of this, they drown. There is certainly historical connotations to a certain people being thrown en masse over board, but in this case, at least its way quicker, and there are no tortuous screams of anguish, only the jolly sounds of swimming.

Fallout 3 is actually one of the most graphically violent video games ever. It usually isn't listed that way, because the violence isn't the point of the game-- its not splashy or exploitative like games when we think of the most graphically violent games, such as Mortal Kombat or God of War. Its more atmospheric, something that plays into the harsh realities of living in a post apocalyptic world. But its still very, very graphic in its portrayal of violence. People explode like a bag of gore, body parts flying in slow motion as what was once their person disintegrates, usually in slow motion. It was upsetting the first few times it happened, but generally speaking if you're being attacked by humans they're gangs of marauders whose territory you've wandered too close to, gangs of assassins sent by people who wish you were gone trying to jump you, or gangs of slavers who have kidnapped a bunch of people.

Another thing you should know about Fallout 3 is that it is a big open world where you can wander around where you want. Sometimes you'll wander into a place before you're ready for it and get demolished. Other times you'll find a place close enough to the beginning area that you realize the game had intended on you discovering it earlier, because you can essentially walk through it, decimating anything in your way.

I'd been playing the game for some 40 hours-- not in a row, but accumulated-- and wandered into a town that was having a problem. Some weirdo who thought she could talk to ants had made herself a supervillain ant costume, and had been terrorizing the town. Some loose canon in town had deemed himself a super hero, made his own homemade costume, and decided to fight her. The town had been having problems because these two keep showing up, and sometimes there's collateral damage.

So I decided to head into the villain's lair and end this. Her lair was filled with fire breathing ants, quite the terror when I first encountered them 35 hours prior, quite the joke now. And then I found her. She called herself the Ant-Tagonizer. She was wearing a cheesy, homemade ant costume. She was clearly a crazy person, pushed over the edge by living in a post nuclear wasteland, a weirdo who was a nuisance but probably held no real danger other than the fact that her presence was annoying to the towns people. She even spoke in 50s sci fi villain grandeur, boastful and over-the-top.

And the moment she stood up, I can't remember if she was in mid sentence, but she had absolutely done nothing to me, I shot her, trying to get the first shot in on what was clearly about to be a battle. But instead of having a back and forth boss battle where I have to watch my health, find cover, and think tactfully, she exploded into a red mist, coating the walls with her blood.

I felt. Awful. I'm sure if I'd waited another moment she would have opened fire on me. Maybe she would have even had a devastating weapon. Maybe if I'd let her do her thing she would have taken over the town and killed everybody with her crazy ants. But as far as I knew, she was a crazy person in a dumb ant costume who had actually hurt nobody up to that point, and now she was nothing but arms and a red splatter, a person a moment ago, and now just red vapor. By that point in the game I'd blown up hundreds of marauders and I'd gone into a camp of slavers who had actually not antagonized me even a little, but they kidnapped children so they were all going to die, and I went into their camp and killed them all one by one, even though I knew there was a peaceful way to get the slaves out, and missions associated with the camp. Didn't care. Slavers kidnap human beings and sell them, so they were all going to die. Nobody sells kids when I'm around.

But there was something about this ant lady meeting the exact fate as all the slavers I'd blown up that really disturbed me. "Jesus Christ!" I said as she blew apart, and I just sort of sat there for a moment, considering whether I should reload an old save game. No, I thought, there's no reason to do that, its not like she was my best friend I had accidentally shot by dropping the controller when I was looking at her and completely by accident killing her. She was just some weirdo, and the town did specifically ask me to stop this craziness, and, well, the craziness was stopped.

Still. Felt so weird about it.

with love from CRS @ 4:23 PM 


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