My Enemy This Week: My Conscience, And How ‘Grand Theft Auto IV’ Made Me Feel Regret May 7, 2008Posted by patrick.klepek in video games.
*This is an entry once meant to appear at MTV Multiplayer, but won’t, so I decided to put it here. Enjoy!
I’ve never felt bad about killing anyone in a video game before. Never blinked twice. Never thought about turning the game off, starting over, booting an earlier save.
That changed last night while playing through “Grand Theft Auto IV,” otherwise known as my first real trip through a “Grand Theft Auto” game.
I’ll leave the context (aka spoilers) to after the jump, but needless to say; last night marks the first time I’ve ever stepped back from a game and thought: I feel bad about my actions. I made the wrong decision. I killed the wrong person.
But I can’t go back and change it.
The mission in question occurred during the story arc of Playboy X, a dominant, young criminal who promises to do good when he’s finally made it, and Dwayne, his former gangster sensei recently released from prison. Rockstar asks you to make a choice: kill one or the other. There’s no third option. You have to pick one.
On one hand, there’s Playboy X. He’s cocky, and I don’t buy his give-back-to-the-community rhetoric. But only a few missions back I caused Roman to lose his apartment and his business. Playboy X might be my best shot at coming out on top and making a decent living in Liberty City.
Then, there’s Dwayne. He went to prison for a reason. He probably deserved it. But now that he’s out of the joint, the world’s moved on without him. Dwayne’s depressed, borderline suicidal and without many prospects. I feel for Dwayne; Playboy X has clearly screwed him ove — but Dwayne offers no future for me.
So I decided to kill Dwayne. It’s just business, right?
It felt wrong, though. In my gut, I was killing someone with a second chance. Dwayne served his time. But in a dog-eat-dog virtual world, it was about me.
Except it wasn’t. It was about me, the player. When Playboy X called me up after the deed was done and denounced our relationship — calling me “cold” — he was right. There was a knot in my stomach over this. I made the wrong decision.
It was too late; the auto save function had kicked in. Dwayne’s fate was signed, sealed, delivered. I have to live with that decision for the rest of the game.
I’m told there are much heftier, dirtier decisions to come later in “Grand Theft Auto IV.” That excites and scares me. I’ve never had this kind of response to a game before. That’s important, but also a little intimidating.
But how will my conscience, however virtual, feel at the end of the road? Am I alone in this? Am I taking the decisions of “Grand Theft Auto IV” too seriously?