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Mario and Luigi are Murderers! or: Killing, and Loving It

According to a “running gag in the ‘gamer’ community” (H/T The Best Defense), there are five things you can kill in video games without feeling guilty: aliens, robots, Nazis, zombies and terrorists.

This list is woefully incomplete, so we thought we’d fill it out. (And before we begin, no I don’t think video games make people violent):

- Flying Half-Turtle Creatures (Mario)
- Lines of Blocks (Tetris, Bejeweled)
- Mutants (Half-life. Doom, Castle Wolfenstein, the Fall Out series)
- Demons (Devil May Cry, God of War, Castlevania)
- Hookers (Grand Theft Auto)
- Humans, Night Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Draenei and Worgen (World of Warcraft)
- Evil Corporations (Perfect Dark, Deus Ex, Max Payne, Contra)
- Criminals (Double Dragon, Dead to Rights, the Kane and Lynch series, Rainbow Six, Manhunt, Lethal Enforcers, RoboCop) To be fair, most of the time criminals fall to the ground and fade away. But you never heard an ambulance coming.
- Japanese Soldiers (Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault, Call Of Duty: World at War)
- Bandits (Red Dead Redemption)
- Assassins (No More Heroes, Assassin’s Creed)
- Ninjas (Ninja Gaiden, Shinobi)
- Martial Artists (Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct)
- Russians (GoldenEye, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare)
- Giant Monsters (King of the Monsters)
- Vampires (Castlevania, Legacy of Kain)
- Pagan Gods (God of War, Hidden Beast)
- Mythological Creatures (God of War, Hidden Beast, Final Fantasy)
- Infected humans (Fallout 3)
- Mobsters (Godfather: The Game, Stranglehold, Max Payne, Mafia II)
- Fellow Motorcyclists (Road Rash)
- Whoever is in the Other Car (Twisted Metal, San Francisco Rush 2049)
- Game show contestants (MadWorld, Smash TV)
- Your Followers (Primal Rage, Fable)
- Little children (BioShock)
- Innocent Civilians (Modern Warfare, Grand Theft Auto, Rampage, Fable, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare)
- Anyone (Grand Theft Auto)
- Strangers (Any online shooter/strategy game)
- Your friends (Any online shooter/strategy game)

A few takeaways:

1. You may have noticed, this list is not complete. It never could be.

2. Mario is a murdering, psychopathic plumber gone rogue.

3. Criminals and monsters make up a lot of the list. If the saying included criminals and monsters--maybe even in lieu of zombies, since zombies are technically monsters--the list would be dramatically shorter.

3. Any non-American, British, Australian or Canadian or Western European Soldier is fair game to be killed in video games. Though you reprehensibly kill lots of people in video games that you shouldn’t--check out the last couple of categories on the list--you can’t kill American soldiers as Taliban fighters.

4. The death tolls in some of these games are amazing. If you get the chance, add up the number of killed in Goldeneye, Halo, Perfect Dark or Call of Duty. In Halo, Master Chief wipes out the equivalent of a covenant brigade worth of soldiers. Force multiplication-wise, 1xSpartan=1xCovenant Brigade. In Perfect Dark, they tell you how many people you kill after each level. Michael C and I added it up; during in the first three levels of Perfect Dark, it was over 200 people in one office building.

5. No one ever feels guilty about killing anything in a video game. I wonder if there is a line somewhere. Just as in film, some video games can be too violent. I don’t enjoy watching torture porn films like Saw or Hostel, or the especially grotesque and notoriously low rated films like Chaos or Last House on the Left; I don’t like video games that are too violent or amoral, like Postal, Manhunt or that pornographic cowboy game from the eighties.

Perhaps when a video game finally comes out that makes you feel guilt or remorseful for killing, we will have great video game art.

nine comments

I think we can expand the point about guilt. It is rarely a factor, even in the best games. This is something Dave Grossman writes about and its long term affect on society and the military. (Grossman is another famous example of a military officer who got out and did great things.)

Personally, I disagree. I remember the first time I watched someone play GTA3 and the person I watched mowed down a bunch of animated citizens for no reason. It was like watching a horror movie in the same way that I wanted to see what messed up thing would happen next. A guilty pleasure, so to speak.

Except for True Lies, the villan is always a white Eastern European.

I remember growing up and playing board games with my dad, I would always refuse to play as the Nazis. There always just seemed something unacceptable about that.

I can’t think of any similar gaming compunction I have today, though. True, I don’t game anymore either, but I’ve grown to love red-teaming. I wonder what the change was.

@ Harrison – I think you’ve inspired a post.

@ Matty P – So GTA3 is offensive, but how many of there other games have you played?

@ Eric – I wouldn’t say I found GTA3 personally offensive, but it did seem weird committing acts of baseless virtual violence. And actually, I never played a GTA game after completing that one except in passing. No real intrest. But I have played Red Dead Redemption, another of Rockstar Games’ big titles.

I would like to comment by using something written in your post “War At Its Worst: My War and Falaise.”
Quote: “I’m tired of trite depictions of German soldiers.”

I’m currently writing an essay about the Falaise Pocket and how Nazi Germans were associated as the enemy, thus making the guilt for annihilating them seem almost none-existent, because they deserve it. While the Holocaust is rated as the top genocide in history, and I refer to video games mostly with the bad guys depicting German Soldiers, they are not even listed in this post, but Russian and Japanesse Soldiers are..
Just thought that was interesting.

AND I JUST REALIZED I WAS WRONG. so much for critical reading.

Yeah, in the first five examples—the Ur examples, if you will- Nazis and terrorists are the only people you can kill without feeling guilty.

If you publish the essay anywhere, I’d love to see it.