The Banality of Killing and Spec Ops: The Line

I wrote a short piece detailing the brilliance of mature story-telling, this time in a video game. Spec Ops: The Line is a military-shooter that is aware of itself, the kind of world that makes games like it, and, indeed, the kind of people that play it. Since I've been focused on villains lately, this is a brilliant example of what creating and moulding and demonstrating villainy can be when done properly.


Sure: you’re meant to be there rescuing survivors, finding out why and whether a well-renowned general went rogue, as per Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the film Apocalypse Now. Yet, your squadmates tell you: this is pointless. They don’t need saving. You’re making things worse. But no, you’re in command – both as player and character.

Only you’re not: the game is.

The game pushes you forward, not because you’re some noble, fighting warrior, defending innocents. It pushes you forward because you bought this game, dammit; you clicked New Game, you have to finish. You have to complete the mission. Even in your continual slaughtering of innocents, you push forward because you don’t care: you must finish the game!

It annoys me when people assume video games can't be vehicles for mature story, well-structured characters, and moral dilemmas. The more people consider this, the more writers will get lazy and start creating those Saturday cartoon villains again. I hope this article helps show what kind of impact games, like any novel or film, can have when creators bother to treat their audience as adults.

Read the rest here.

Image Credit: Detail from Spec Ops: The Line cover

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