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Guest Post: Rules of En"game"ment

(Today's post is a guest post by longtime reader Matty P.)

In each game of The Call of Duty series, you use various weapons, to kill either computer simulated enemies or player controlled avatars. Successfully doing so rewards the player with either advancement in the story, or experience points, that make upgrades available for your character.

By design you are meant to kill.

While impossible to advance in the main story mode without scoring a kill, it may be possible to advance to the highest echelon of the online multiplayer community without ever firing a single shot. One gamer is attempting to acquire level 70 without killing a single enemy. Player Mr_No_Kills is leveling through non-violent means. In certain game modes, players can receive experience points through accomplishing specified tasks. In one mode, players must attempt to take and hold certain key locations on the map. In another, players can obtain points by disarming an explosive device. Further, for every full match played, experience points are rewarded.

Mr_No_Kills is playing with the rules intention of the game a little bit. While possible to advance without drawing virtual blood, the game is designed so that not pulling the trigger on the enemy team only hurts his attempts to advance. Further it hurts whichever team he’s on (speaking as one with far too many hours invested, I would not want him on my team). Modes like deathmatch modes offer no avenues for experience other than staying in the game until one team wins. This means his only option is to run around and avoid being killed or hiding while unable to actually help his team win. In the previously mentioned game modes, it is possible to earn extra points without killing, but the same tasks are more difficult when a player doesn’t shoot back. Taking and securing a location is near impossible if there are enemy soldiers firing at you. The mode rewarding bomb disarming also requires one to set the very same explosive device or automatically lose the round.

G4 has titled him the "Modern Warfare 2 Pacifist" and proclaimed him a "hero to hippies." Whether his intention is to promote pacifism, protesting war and violence in our culture, or simply to do something that has yet to be done, Mr_No_Kills attempt brings to light a truth about one of the most popular games on the market: in the fictional universe the programmers have created. Gamers are not only encouraged to kill, but in fact rewarded. Think Pavlovian training, except instead of dogs salivating over food you have gamers salivating over the next tier of weaponry.

While the idea is novel and perhaps even a statement, Mr_No_Kills’ potential achievement defeats the purpose of the game in general. The point is kill the other players, sometimes while accomplishing specified tasks and sometimes not. Whether this may denote something about our culture or simply the nature of entertainment is unclear; but practically by not participating he’s hurting whatever team he’s on. The idea seems more gimmick than challenge. Realistically, pacifism is better served by not playing the game at all. There are plenty of non-violent videogames...like Myst...and Pong.

seven comments

This guy’s actions are totally pointless, unless viewed as some sort of personal challenge. He certainly isn’t a pacifist. From an anti-war perspective, this is like attending a Klan rally, but not wearing a hood. In the game he is playing, killing is the point.

If he wants to make a statement, don’t play the game. don’t stick pacifism on this.

Sometimes it’s just fun to beat the game at it’s own.. game.

I doubt that it’s anything more than that.

I’ve done it plenty of times. For example once when playing on the ‘cp_well’ on Team Fortress 2, everyone on the server, from both teams, agreed to a ceasefire so that we could block the train. Other examples are speed runs, and completing games with a particular weapon (such as the Crowbar or Gravity Gun in HL2).

Games are designed to be played in a certain way, so when you are able to complete the game in a way that was not intended, people do it. Why? Because it’s fun. That’s why we play games in the first place.

@ Plasticusforkus – I agree w/ you. I used to love Halo speed runs. I will say this though, Mr_no_kills probably pisses of a lot of teammates…

@Eric C. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did piss of some. But I expect he’s probably about as effective as a noob, therefore a useless team-mate isn’t going to be a new experience for players. Besides, in a public server of 20+ players 1 crap/unhelpful player isn’t going to make much difference, unless CoD is an unusually tightly balanced game. Personally, I admire the guy’s perseverance and audacity.

In the multiplayer of CoD MW2 can you resurrect teammates like in the campaign? Cause then he would be like a medic if a medic didn’t have a weapon, though he would still piss quite a few people off.

@Michael – No medic function. He literally runs around trying not to die. He could basically just lay in some hidden corner of the map and simply not move until the round is over and achieve the same amount of points.

See I could see a function where you could restore people’s health, and then function kind of the same way. The new Halo has a mode where you could hypothetically do that.