One of my Facebook groups just addressed an issue that will make me think for a long while. I have already thought about this stuff for a long while. When I started gaming eleven years ago it was hard for me to distance myself from the character I played and I couldn’t “steal” stuff from containers in peoples’ houses even when my game designer husband explained that stuff was placed there for the gamer to use. It was a peasant’s life savings for chrissake! It took time to adapt and get rid of that internal safety catch I had. It was the same with killing enemies. It was hard unless I was attacked. Playing an evil character like an assassin or a blackguard was out of the question. It took years to get used to it.
But I got used to it – to a certain extent.
Nowadays I happily snipe bandits in Fallout 3 or Borderlands without feeling any remorse at all. Boom, headshot! I know they are only bits of data and I’m having a good time. The safety catch is off, for these games at least. There are games that are still too realistic. Take S.T.A.L.K.E.R. for instance. It is not a new game. My husband played it until his eyes bled, we watched the films (Stalker and Solaris) and awed over pictures from Pripyat. I got the game, started playing and shooting people and stopped. There was a scene near a train yard and there were lots of enemies around. I maimed one and he started to moan. It was very realistic. I could feel his pain, his fear, his longing for life. I rushed to his side and offered health kits that I had in my pack, but the script of the game didn’t allow me to heal him. He was simply not expected to live. He just lied there, moaning and pleading. At that very moment my safety catch, the one that keeps me from killing people IRL, hit. I couldn’t kill him and I couldn’t continue the game. It was simply too close to home, too realistic, too easy to empathize with.
But Borderlands and Fallout are not and this is the scary part. Drone operating is like playing Borderlands. If it was me, I could probably kill those people and it scares me shitless