"Thou Shalt Always Kill," but it certainly seems like a prime directive when you pick up a controller. Booker DeWitt grinds Columbian policemen's faces right off while Lara Croft takes a pan species approach to slaughter, doing in tigers and mercenaries with equal efficiency. No wonder! Violence is exciting. Conflict and destruction are immediate ways to affect a player, to bridge the gap between digital and material worlds. Sometimes, though, the extremity and frequency of violence in games can disconnect you from the action. After shooting the 900th enemy in BioShock Infinite or Tomb Raider, Booker and Lara start to feel insane.
Drakengard 3, this week's most unusual release, attempts to mitigate violence-born cognitive dissonance. "[When] we were working on the original Drakengard that I thought about the meaning of 'killing,'" explains director Yoko Taro in a new interview, "I was looking at a lot of games back then, and I saw these messages like 'You've defeated 100 enemies!' or 'Eradicated 100 enemy soldiers!' in an almost gloating manner. But when I thought about it in an extremely calm state of mind, it hit me that gloating about killing a hundred people is strange. I mean, you're a serial killer if you killed a hundred people. It just struck me as insane. That's why I decided to have the army of the protagonist in Drakengard be one where everyone's insane, to create this twisted organization where everyone's wrong and unjust. I wanted to weave a tale about these twisted people."
That's just one solution, though. Another approach is to ignore it entirely. Wolfenstein: The New Order is full of great characters, but none of them ever bat an eye at B.J. Blazkowicz killing literally thousands of people. The question then is this: Do you want violent games to justify your actions? Do you want a shooter or hack-and-slash to make you question the morality of killing? Or do those moral stakes not matter, at least not in every game? Take the poll, discuss in the comments.