(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.