I Am A Coward

By John Walker on March 26th, 2008 at 9:29 am.

This is a short piece that originally appeared in PC Gamer, recalling a key moment in my gaming life. While playing Call of Duty I experienced something horrific. I survived a level by hiding. It was humiliating, and with Call of Duty’s emphasis on the cruelty of war, I felt broken. The piece was written for the Double Life section of Gamer, which adopts the voice of the character. Hence, it’s melodrama. But it captures an honest moment of horror in response to my own instincts. Have games affected you this way? Revealed your weaknesses, or made you feel wracked with guilt?

All’s not fair in love or war

The building in question.

My name is Alexei, and I am a coward.

I’m a conscript, and I don’t want to be here. This isn’t my war, this isn’t my battle, this isn’t something I ever asked for. I am not a soldier. I’m not interested in being a soldier. When I was a child, the other boys would spend their afternoons chasing each other through the woods, shooting each other with sticks, practising for this. I sat in my house, the door closed, and only occasionally looked out of the window. That was where I was happy. That is where I would be happy now. Now I’m being shot at by men who don’t know me, men who look exactly like me.

That I am alive is something I do not understand, and cannot explain. What I have just been through I don’t want to understand, but feel I must explain. I need to confess. I need to be punished.

Sergeant Pavlov determined that we had to clear out this building – this house. Six stories high, and full of Nazi soldiers. Nazi soldiers who look exactly like me. With a sniper rifle put in my hands, I found myself shooting at windows, shooting at these men. And then we were running toward it, running inside it, and then just shooting – shooting at men in uniforms a slightly different green from mine. And we shot and shot and shot for six stories, until all the wrong-green men were dead. And then, at that moment, after all that death, just for that moment, I felt like a soldier. Ordered to fire anti-tank weapons at the approaching machines. Done. Simple. Efficient. And then calm.

Let's play hide and seek - I'll hide first!

And then hell.

Then the building, the building we’d emptied of wrong-green men, has now been taken back by them. And we have to stop that. We’re told that reinforcements will arrive in less than four minutes, and that all we have to do is keep this building, just keep shooting, just keep killing… But I am not a soldier. I am a coward.

This is my crime. I ran away and hid. I ran away while my comrades, my leaders and my friends shot and were shot at. Killed and were killed. And I hid, on the fifth floor, in a back room away from the sound of the tanks. I hid because I knew that here I would not die. The others would die, but I would not. I would survive, and go on to kill other wrong-green men.

My hiding place.

And I will, forever, be the conscript Alexei who ran and hid while his friends died. That is how I am able to write this. That is why I am not lying with my comrades and leaders and friends. It is their families I shall never meet. It is their graves I shall never visit. It is their dead green bodies that shall scream through my dreams every time I find sleep.

I won. They lost. I cheated.

__________________

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63 Comments »

  1. Babs says:

    Firing squad!

    Defending that house is an absolute mare though, easily the most difficult part of the whole game. I think I’ve actually tried to hide through it and ended up being found and killed, though I can’t say I was as emotionally broken by the experience as you seem to be :)

  2. nabeel says:

    I recently re-installed this game, and only just got past that part. Awesome game, still holds up.
    nabeel

  3. Butler` says:

    I’ve sunk low, but you’re right, I’ve never sunk that low.

  4. Sucram says:

    ‘I’m going to play this, like it was real..’

    Typically with shooters, I charge like a madman. If I’m playing co-op it’s often accompanied by a cry of ‘avenge me!’.

    But after going back to a checkpoint half a dozen times, I steel my nerves, look at the screen with grit determination and mentally declare:

    ‘No more tomfoolery, I’m going to play this, like it was real. No mad charges, no bunny-hopping to catastrophe. I’m going to sneak through the shadows and apply skill, not bravado. Play like the life matters.’

    5 minutes later I’m usually dead. A lonely thought emerges:

    ‘I’d be rubbish in a war.’

  5. Sören Höglund says:

    “Have games affected you this way? Revealed your weaknesses, or made you feel wracked with guilt?”

    I felt a fair amount of guilt and self loathing over killing the stuttering thinblood that had been revealing kindred secrets in Bloodlines. He was just scared and confused, and an outcast by no fault of his own. I could’ve scared the living daylights out of him to shut him up, but instead I blew his face off with a shotgun. He didn’t even try to fight back. He just ran, cowered and blubbered.

    Man.

  6. Alec Meer says:

    My kleptomania tends to overwhelm me in games, but occasionally self-awareness breaks through. A couple of hours on from killing Sander Cohen to find out what was in his box, I could no longer stomach the guilt of having slain this beautiful, weird monster in the name of base greed, so I reloaded an old save and proceeded from there.

  7. Okami says:

    @Sören: I loaded an older savegame and spent a few experience points on Humanity, so I could unlock a new dialogue option and let him run away, just because I didn’t want to kill the poor guy.

    I also stopped playing The Witcher because my actions had maneuvred me into a position, where I just didn’t want to continue playing .

    WARNING HERE THERE BE SPOILERS

    See, I helped out the Order of the Burning Flame, mainly because Sigfried seemed like a decent chap and the leader of the non-humans was an arrogant twat.

    When I returnded to Vizima later in the game, all my friends hated me, because I’ve helped the Nazis and my friends from the Order were killing Non-Human civilians left and right. I had to fight my way through the city, killing countless resistance fighters, who were only trying to protect their families.

    I really didn’t feel like taking part in something that was clearly a genocide and haven’t played the game since then. (Though I will start a new game on hard once the next patch comes and then I will help the squirrels. Never should have trusted that blond haired Nazi bastard anyway..)

  8. Irish Al says:

    Moments like this are gold. I remember the level in SWAT 4 where you’re infiltrating a house owned by some doomsday cult, and you eventually make it to the basement and find a row of kid’s graves. I’m standing there with the cultists in handcuffs, looking between them, my team and the graves. Do I behave like a professional and bring them in to face a court? Or dispense justice myself? A unique moral choice moment you don’t often find in gaming.

    Of course I shot them.

  9. Espy says:

    Oh, how I loathed that building.

  10. cliffski says:

    the COD games do the best ever impression of real warfare. It can indeed be pretty unsettling at times. God knows what COD 6 will be like.

  11. Captain Bland says:

    I used to love this collumn, some of my favourites were Kieron’s Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines one and Tom Francis’s Morrowind one. Did it just get faded out or was there a point when the PCG staff got tired and cancelled it?

  12. Janto says:

    Playing the Thieves’ Guild level in Thief I Gold I thought I was in a bottleneck with two guards between me and progress. Time for a bit of sniper action I thought, and took out the manfool to the left with an arrow to the head. Drawing my second round, the other guard turns to his downed comrade, and as best I can remember says ‘Hey, are you alright? No, no, of course you’re not. Murderer!’ It’s still one of the most affecting moments I’ve had from a game, and needless to say, I began to use minimum force extensively afterwards. Although I do seem to remember trying to put the Hammerite interrogator into his own Iron Maiden.

  13. msucrat says:

    COD1. Best COD ever. Still.

  14. Phil says:

    Based on my experience of getting shot to bits in a recent paint ball match, shooter tactics, especially wild charges to capture points, blind firing hopefully around corners and crawling along the muddy, muddy ground, really wouldn’t work in a real war (or they’d work to some extent while leaving you horribly stained.)

    Hiding, silently in an abandoned house, becoming the last survivor of your platoon, then selling your story to the press is an altogether a safer strategy.

  15. Tikey says:

    It is fun that you brought this subject.
    I am currently playing Ultimate Spider-Man. Not much of a game but fun non the less.
    But, see, i have this problem. While playing as Venom, to regain life you have to “consume” people. Often meaning innocent bystanders. I am constantly overwhelmed with guilt of killing an innocent so I can go wreck havoc somewhere else.
    There have been other games that affected me like this and worse, but it is strange in this game, because it is a superhero game, a comic book game. It feels strange having the game telling me to kill someone and not having another choice.

  16. Kieron Gillen says:

    Captain Bland; I probably should repost that Masquerade one. It’s on my blog, but could would have a larger audience here, obv.

    (I dunno if it was canceled – Extra Life is a section which is subject to a lot of what we call Editorial Drift. I suspect it was quite a hard section to fill, so it found itself being sorted out)

    KG

  17. drunkymonkey says:

    To me, I’m split between which I liked better – Call of Duty 1 or Call of Duty 4. Call of Duty 1 gives you more of these inspiring moments, when reinforcements arrive, great odds are overcome, and finally, you can rest. I remember most of the missions fondly (particularly the American ones, which were just /great/), but at the same time, 4 I think is the more accomplished game, and the pace and tempo it keeps up is superior.

    Still, taking and subsequently defending a town at night… as my first PC game, Call of Duty 1 was just incredible.

  18. Knijn says:

    It’s too lang ago to recall the exact details, but I remember there was a point in Star Control 2 where at the Druuge homeworld, you were given the option to trade in some of your crew members for an additional ship or something like that, which I did.

    At a later point in the game you were sent on a mission to stop the Druuge from doing some evil thing, and when you tried to do so, they reminded you of the trade you did with them earlier, and that you thus had no right to act moralistic to them.

    I felt very guilty after that.

  19. Ian says:

    I’ve had a few moments like this in games. to name a couple…

    One was in Half-Life 2, in Ravenholm. I came across that headcrab zombie who’s in this cage thing against a wall. Naturally the muffled moans of the zombies can be unsettling but when it’s your head or theirs the shotgun is normally the cure. When I did whatever it is you do to set that one on fire, however, and it screams it really hit a note with me. Probably sort of what you get in zombie movies when some dunce at the start has a “these are PEOPLE!” moment. It didn’t bug me for too long but the screams of that one when I doubt he could have got to me anyway bothered me at the time.

    A stranger one was playing Hitman: Silent Assassin. I was in the church grounds, admiring my shed of weaponry and looking for things to fire at and pulled out the silverballers. I took a few pot shots at birds and then saw the pig pen in the corner of the grounds. I shot a pig from distance and then ran up to the pen to have a look. Seeing it just lying there when it had been busy minding it’s own business (oinking, rolling in filth and what-not) was strangely sad and I actually switched off the game.

    Funny how things can hit you, eh?

  20. Phil says:

    If we’re discussing ‘moments of remorse’, could I suggest damning Morte in Planescape Torment to return to the hellish Tower of Skulls as the gold standard?

    I felt so bad that, despite playing through the game as a utter heel to that point in the game, I actually plucked him out again when he came screaming to the surface, -1 strength plenty be damned.

  21. Jonathon Halliwell says:

    BioShock, couldn’t for the life of me harvest the little girls. Anyone who did is a cold hearted bastard!

    CoD4 when the American soldier dies of radiation posioning. I thought I must’ve played badly so I replayed it 3-4 times trying to see if I could save him, lol :(

  22. Pishtaco says:

    I had a moment of shame like this just yesterday, playing Vietcong:Fist Alpha. I was leading a five man squad as part of an attack on a Vietcong base in Cambodia. The pointman had stopped at a narrow spot in the path just before a slightly more open piece of jungle, saying “I think VC very close now, chung si”.

    I went ahead down the path and couldn’t see anything except lots of trees. Then extremely loud firing started somewhere. I called my men forward and tried to find some cover, but couldn’t work out what the hell was going on. I think I saw one muzzle flash and got a shot off at it, but otherwise it was just noise and chaos and leaves everywhere. I got hit and my heart started pounding (in the game), and I had this sensation that I really should be somewhere else. So I ran back the way we had come and hid in the bushes. I felt genuinely guilty for leaving my men to do the job I wasn’t man enough for.

  23. Conscript Pod says:

    This sounds like an identical mission in COD2 on the 360. Did they just re-use this mission or something?

  24. Vaughn says:

    I had to do the same in the last minute. I kept getting shot in the back, so after taking out the tanks I just grabbed a load of ammo and hid in a corner with a nice view of the stairs where I could surprise enemies. Still barely made it through alive.

    Call of Duty is such a visceral series. Half-life, Quake, all those games are entertaining, but it always feels like you’re just driving a robot; Call of Duty makes you live in the game. I only really appreciated FPS when I started playing COD.

  25. kadayi says:

    Heh I just remember vividly resenting the constant shouts of my superiors in CoD2 ‘Alexei take out those Panzers!!’ “‘Alexei take out the Machine gun nest!!!” “Alexei plant the explosives!!’” as I frantically darted from one task to the other, and hoped a bit of friendly fire would be acceptable ;)

  26. Cavalcadeofcats says:

    Meer: And the nice thing there is that later on, there’s a room you can only get into if you haven’t killed Cohen. I didn’t know that, and when I found out I had no inclination to replay the last four-plus hours of the game. So, probably a good move on your part.

    And yeah, neither I nor my father or brother could bear to harvest the little sisters.

  27. Alex says:

    COD certainly is visceral, but not in a “I care about my brothers”-way, to me at least.

    To me it’s always been more of a rollercoaster-ride, with the same sense of artificiality – it all feels very dangerous and adrenaline-inducing at the time, but all without consequence, leaving the player with a kind of emotional emptiness (which isn’t a complaint, btw).

  28. James T says:

    Sissy.

    In the words of Dudley Streetfighter… Let’s fight…. LIKE GENTLEMEN!

  29. Ian says:

    RE: Bioshock, I think I’d have found it tougher killing the Little Sisters if they didn’t just sort of…. evaporate. I know it wasn’t originally going to be that way and I wish it hadn’t been purely because I’d have put more thought into it.

    As it is, they look pitiful when you’ve taken down their Big Daddy but when there’s little to otherwise make you feel bad about it visually it lost a lot of impact.

  30. dhex says:

    the great success of cod and cod2 (particularly stalingrad) is that they give you the horrible sensation of being in the middle of something awful. i died constantly, which helped reinforce just how utterly fucked that style of warfare is.

    it’s almost entirely missing from cod4, which was more about personalities than the events that enfolded them. great – and with some unforgettable setpieces, especially the ac10 segment – but not as compelling in many ways.

  31. matt says:

    Is fear eligible ? Because, i’m not quite sure about guilt, eventhough i have myself at times been hiding in games, or so much prepared my way into a particularly difficult passage in a game that i felt guilty at not trying to beat the game with my own skills (say, in HL, the moment you have to fight all the guards while waiting for Alyx, i used to set up all kinds of stuff using the Gravgun, to block the soldier’s way… or pretty much the same kind of set up in that darn elevator section in HL2..).
    But fear. I remember this clearly : i had come home, and my folks had been playing Resident Evil, and had left, leaving the game running. I picked up the pad, and started playing, it was night, i was alone, and it was the crocodile scene i did not know about… All was well until that crocodile jumped right at me. I was so surprised and shocked that i dropped the pad, had to turn the console off for a moment before picking it up again… I’m not even sure i ever played RE alone again…

  32. James T says:

    WITCHER SPOILERS: (Now, to be precise, Siegfried was part of a NON-genocidal faction of the Order, but yes, despite the occasionally indiscriminate violence of the squirrels, they were clearly a more estimable bunch than the Order scum. I hope the next Witcher game ups the ‘moral ante’ a bit; they’re certainly on the right track.)

    RE: Bioshock, I think I’d have found it tougher killing the Little Sisters if they didn’t just sort of…. evaporate. I know it wasn’t originally going to be that way and I wish it hadn’t been purely because I’d have put more thought into it.

    As it is, they look pitiful when you’ve taken down their Big Daddy but when there’s little to otherwise make you feel bad about it visually it lost a lot of impact.

    That and the total nerfing of the experience w/ Tenenbaum’s charity, which undermines the ‘quandary’ completely. I had no need to ‘kill the little girls’, so I never did.

    Apart from removing Tenenbaum’s gifts (or making them rarer, like, two or three of them total), I wonder if it would’ve felt like a more conflicting moral problem if there had been characters OTHER than splicers in the game (or at least, semi-rational spliced individuals) on the run from the Little Sisters who are sneaking into their groups and siccing Big Daddies on them to get at their Adam. The homicidal malice of the LS-es against men, women and their fellow children would make ‘redeeming’ them a smidge more morally troubling.

  33. Ian says:

    The LSes not having done much wrong aside from corpse-bothering is a good point and it would have made the whole thing more interesting once you’d got your hands on one if they had.

    I guess, though, that the point of the LS/Big Daddy relationship with you (the player) is that they’re just there. The vast majority of the time they’re only antagonists if you start on them.

    See your point, though.

  34. Muzman says:

    I did that COD mission the exact same way. I don’t think I felt quite as bad (a clump of germans in the next room, their MP40 barrels sticking through the wall, unable to find me as the pathfinding system didn’t reach there lightened the mood. I know every game has such flaws but COD didn’t have “The Impact” so I noticed them more) but it did make me reflect on the situation. Hearing the last of the gunfire be replaced by nothing but boots and knowing that there went all my friends. All I could do was take a couple of grazes and hide in a corner. Boy reality must suck.
    As far as war goes my early experience playing Operation Flashpoint with a chum drove it home; I was playing a little devil may care, like a regular FPS (or even a regular tactical FPS really). And saw some guys in the distance. Realising I was exposed I mused “huh, if this is as realistic as all that I guess those guys could probably hit me from there, computer distance impressions being what they are”. Sure enough trees start splintering, whizzing sounds, small *pop*s in the distance. I copped one in the leg and dragged myself behind the nearest tree, but it wasn’t all that wide and I was still attracting fire. My mood at the time was something like “Mummee, I want to go home! I don’t like war any more!”
    Thief was a good one though. First level, I’d blackjacked someone ok and was crawling around still getting the hang of things, at least trying to sneak. I crawled into a sort of anteroom at the front of the house and I could see a guard upstairs in the window. I couldn’t get across the room without getting spotted. Foolishly I interpreted this as a sort of introductory mechanic, set up so I’d think about the bow. So I knock an arrow and shoot the guy like it’s a fairly ordinary game. The sound he made was so loud and painful. And people seemed to come running from everywhere. They’d find him and say “Oh the blood, THE BLOOD! and “Murder! There’s a killer about” and things of that sort and then run off to tell more people, or look for me! I was like “Oh god whathaveIdonewhathaveIdone! Firing sharpened metal things into people is bad, bad, bad!” I reloaded. (I don’t get all Rain Man outwardly, just so you know).
    And the last one was Stalker. I was tackling the Monolith base in the Pripyat Palace of the Arts and a Freedom guy was doing the same. I sort of hung around him, shot people who were shooting him and he ending up shooting some guys who were shooting at me a couple of times. We continued inside, our partnership going well, but eventually got split up. I went into the auditorium bit and had a long sneaking battle with the guys down in the basement. I played cat and mouse with one guy for a while, creeping with my eyes only on my sights for the longest time. I finally circled around behind him and took him out. I wasn’t sure the place was clear so I went over quietly to check his gear. Just as I got there the Freedom guy came in the room behind me and said something quite friendly sounding in Russian. I freaked. Before he could finish talking I’d spun around and emptied my clip into him and he slid to the floor.
    I had to quit the game. There was just no point going on. I didn’t want to play any more. I felt utterly despondent. If I’d paid attention to my scope I would have seen that little green dot. But this would never happen again on reload. It could not be undone, redone or made up for (or so I felt at the time). And had he lived he probably would have just walked out the door into an anomaly.
    It’s funny how these things work. (boy that was wordy. sorry)

  35. [Blademaster] says:

    Ah yes…that level…

    The way I survive was hide behind the stair and shoot the enemy that comes up…hell indeed if I didn’t do like that…

    The similar level from COD2 was way worse…as there’s no place to hide…

    Wracked with guilt? I don’t know…I just do what I do to survive…but I did fight the enemy though…

  36. Skye says:

    I was actually a tester for CoD, back when I was a tester. Every day I would get up, drive to work, clock in, slap in a new video card to test, and get to war.

    I just couldn’t get over it. All I could think was, “This is scary. We make people go do this. And they really, really die, alone and frightened.”

    I’m not squeamish — I was laughing gleefully the other day as I shot the heads off of zombies and watched blood spurt out their necks in Umbrella Chronicles — but it just seemed so real, and so very sad.

  37. AbyssUK says:

    Cowards!! all of you.. I remember shooting so many guys I ran out of ammo and had to get out the knife…and charging down the stairs at them!

    But of course the classic in Sonic 2 (yeah I know not a PC), having your little bro attempt to kill Robotnic as tails.. so many deaths..always made me feel wrong..but then it was only Tails

  38. Chaz says:

    The only emotion the CoD games ever left me with was a feeling of bitter anoyance and frustration, at the cheap ass game mechanic of sending wave after wave of constanly respawning enemies at you. You were then forced to suicidaly charge through a hail of bullets to find the spawn cut off trigger so that you could advance to the next line of constantly respawning enemies. Rinse and repeat through Call of Duty 1 through to 4.

    Ah well, different strokes for different folks and all that.

  39. Cooper says:

    Whilst wollowing in sentiments of remorse with games: Defcon anyone?

    It’s amazing how easily cultural knowledge in the form of gameplay mechanics takes over. Those bombers were (literally) just icons, heading towards cities – no more than diamonds containing the sought-after points.

    It wasn’t until something like my tenth game, when I was paying more attention to the aesthetics of the game (especially the sound and music). I noticed the subtle changes as you zoom in, the deepening of the bass, that white-noise hinting at the scale of destruction and ’3 million dead’ appears over Mumbai.

    Despite the stripped-down RTS gameplay and almost abstract, minimal UI and aesthetic – there is that unease when playing – that your actions aren’t killing a handful of NPCs, but are dooming billions of people and that this is, at its heart, is a simulation of death at extreme, but not entirely unimaginable scales.

    An unease which arrises when I realised. I’m enjoying this. This is fun. And maybe not just because it’s a good game, not just because of the intricacies of strategy and tactics, but that maybe I’m enjoying the simulation.

    I’ve often wondered if Defcon would still be good if the gameplay was maintained, but the setting – the simulation – was changed.

  40. Someone says:

    About Bioshock,I didn’t rescue a single little sister,I only harvested them.
    In some cases it was because it felt more rewarding after the tough fight against the big daddy.In other cases because I was addicted to ADAM !

  41. Dav says:

    I was bitterly disappointed by the “moral choice” in Bioshock of “is it justified to kill little girls” (to which the correct answer is no, obviously.) People occasionally pretended that it was a question of “is it justified to kill little girls if it gives you power” (to which the correct answer is still no, but at least it gives a plausible reason besides sheer sadism)…but that isn’t actually the question given that a) with the rewards for rescues you end up with plenty of stuff anyways and b) YOU ARE ALREADY *IMMORTAL*. And not just the “I am playing a game and can reload to pretend I didn’t just make that mistake” kind of immortality either.

    I do find it interesting that some people left Cohen alive. Me, I tried to kill him immediately, and was bitterly disappointed that my superpowers and massive armaments were foiled by a metal gate. (I could fire flames from my fingertips and carried high explosives! The gate had holes in it! Come ON!) When he finally stepped out into the open I immediately shot him in the head. (I later read that he would have offered me a reward for completing his masterpiece if I’d waited. I have no regrets.)

    Oh, and as long as I’m complaining about lame “moral choices” I’d like to call out Knights of the Old Republic, where the dark side option was usually a tacked-on “or you could kill them.” I tried to play through as a dark Jedi once, but I could never get excited about killing people for money or just because. Especially considering the considerably-more-heroic fall to the dark side presented by the villain:
    Villain-to-be: We must save innocent people from death and oppression!
    Jedi Council: No, we must proceed cautiously, trading the lives of innocents for valuable information!
    Villain-to-be: What kind of defenders of the galaxy are you people!? I’m taking the fleet and going to the rescue!

    Mass Effect was soooo much better about that. (But I guess I should save that discussion until it comes out on PC this summer.)

  42. Leeks! says:

    Playing Champions of Norrath with my girlfriend:

    We had been pushing our way through an unending tide of giant spiders for hours. The soft, muddy walls were all so similar that the best way to find our way around was by “breadcrumbing” their shriveled corpses. Eventually, we noticed the hallway opened into an antechamber, and I told her to hold up.

    “I think the queen is here.”

    “Okay.”

    “So here’s the plan. You go in and make it mad, then try to bring it back here. Bottleneck it in the door and I’ll throw these exploding potions at it until it dies.”

    “Okay… but won’t I die?”

    “Nonsense. You’ll be fine.”

    Needless to say, she died in seconds. I killed the boss, took all of the experience, gold and a unique staff that dropped for her mage character, which I then traded back to her for a sword.

    Thinking back on it, I felt pretty bad about that.

  43. yimbo says:

    Never felt guilt about killing a character, but there is a part in Deus Ex that stopped me in my tracks. First time through I play Deus Ex primarily with the sniper rifle so I sneak around and try and pop enemies off from a distance.

    During the 3rd level you are tasked with assasinating Lebedev. I get to the aircraft hanger where the game leads you to believe your target will be. I quietly sneak in. Once through the door I see a body in the distance near the plane. I pull out the rifle, get the sights up and zoom in to see… your brother Paul. At that point I stutter. Do I shoot or don’t I? He’s your brother. Has he betrayed you? Is he there legitimately? What do I do? Even with the weapon wobble I pretty much know I could take him out with one headshot. Do I approach him and see why he’s there? Do I approach him with his head in the sights?

    I had him in my sights for at least 10 minutes whilst I went through inner turmoil.

  44. ACK says:

    Sins of a Solar Empire:
    Having to commit genocide by planetary bombardment to be able to take over a planet. Makes me feel dirty every time, and I usually zoom out and go to some other system. I do wish they had implemented some kind of choice there.

    Actually Sins is probably the only game I’ve played where all factions seem tarnished in some way, I have a hard time sympathising with any of them, despite the fact that their story is only told through the tech-tree.

  45. Mike says:

    Moments like this really are ace. I don’t find them very often. Multiplayer is more about the opposite; the heroic moments like charging through artillery. Ignoring my teammates screaming down teamspeak to retreat my men on CoH, so I can cap that last point.

    These moments that you describe are rarer, because we have so little to lose in games. I remember Hideo Kojima once said that he wanted to design a game where game over meant literally that – you got one chance to play the game. And I like the idea of games with larger penalties. Because they’d bring this out more.

  46. Noc says:

    @Cliffski, way back up there:

    I know not with what weapons COD6 will be fought, but COD7 will be fought with sticks and stones.

    On a more personal note: there was a mod for NWN1 I played a while back. I forget the name, but it was really well done . . . pretty dense, detailed areas, decently simulated busy streets, some interesting scripted “magic” bits, like potion making and managing a pet summoned demon.

    But anyways, you’re there to investigate something, and you start picking up clues to a wererat cult. And there’s a family that’s got a little girl who’s sick, and you determine that she got bitten by a wererat. You spend a lot of time digging to get to this point, and really get to know the family. You brew up a potion to cure her, but while you’re on your way back the wererats come back and abduct her. But they leave a trail you can follow, so you head off in pursuit.

    On the way, you encounter this woman, who’s (if my memory serves me correctly) an escaped slave. She’s looking for her brother, and it’s pretty clear that the wererats took him, too. She joins you, and you set off together.

    You break into the wererat haven and go through the usual RPG motions of clearing out the monsters, including the more difficult boss wererat. Everything’s going well.

    The boss drops a key. The key opens a locked room, where you see two little swathed bodies on the floor. There’s the family’s daughter, and your partner’s little brother. Both are sick. Both will turn into a wererat without the antidote.

    You’ve got one antidote. And two kids, one of whom will turn into a ravening, bloodthirsty monster if not treated immediately. The woman’s begging you to help her brother, but you told the family in the city that you’d bring their little girl back alive.

    And whoever you don’t chose to help will immediately turn into a wererat and force you to kill it. And then explain yourself to the child’s surviving family, and tell them why you intentionally and knowingly allowed their beloved daughter/brother to succumb to lycanthropy and then subsequently blew their darling’s off with a fireball.

    So I quickloaded, ran back to my apartment, cooked up a second batch of potion, then redid the whole process. And it turns out that the transformation is triggered by the dialog in which you administer the potion, so even if you’ve got enough for both you’re forced to kill one of them.

    At this point I got pissed at the module for forcing me to make that kind of choice, and haven’t played it since.

  47. Harbour Master says:

    Planescape: Torment SPOILER

    …when you go to the Sensorium (sp?) and happen upon, by chance, a particular experience that is actually from your character’s past.

    By this point of the game I was already identifying myself as ‘The Nameless One’ but the realisation that *I* had actually been a evil, cold-hearted piece of shite – in perhaps one of the most stunning story moments in the game, any game – was moving. The narrative is explicit in capturing all three perspectives – your victim’s innocence and trusting nature, your masterly cold exploitation of her and the horror that you actually did this.

    I remember thinking briefly – “I can’t believe *I* did that.”

    God damn that was an insanely great game.

  48. OldmanTick says:

    I love FPS and I creep around and kill NPCs, or fall back to a good spot and wait for them. I’m also a father with a not so little boy and girl, so I could not imagine harvesting the little sisters and I didn’t kill Sander either. I didn’t kill the slicers until they gave me no choice. I never killed the solo Big Daddies even after I figured out how to kill them easily.

    For me COD2 the most emotional part was the Russian assault where those a**hole comissars forced us out of the boats into that meat grinder of a battle with no weapons. I had no idea what was going on and got killed a few times and went to hide and the comissar shot me. Talk about anger and frustration and thinking that war is crazy.

  49. Kommissar Nicko says:

    Cooper: I felt bad playing DEFCON too! I love that game so very much, but at some point I felt a little different after noticing just the same thing–that you WANTED to blow all those people up, and that even the loss of your own people could be mitigated by blowing up even MORE. I started playing a little more defensively after that.

    ACK: Sins of a Solar Empire is a little strange in that way too. I wished it was like Space Empires IV or V, where you could occupy the planet and live (peacefully?) alongside the conquered, rather than obliterating everyone.

  50. KaiserPanda says:

    I play ArmA with an amazing group. Just the atmosphere of the game and the missions we play makes for some incredible laughs and drama. In a regular session if you die, you’re dead for the mission – which can mean 30 min to 1hr making jokes in the peanut gallery.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9e4cL7laL_M
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4j5EVc9fvs
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J01HD5mQSbc