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My Enemy This Week: My Conscience, And How ‘Grand Theft Auto IV’ Made Me Feel Regret May 7, 2008

Posted 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?



1. thephotoshopwhore - May 8, 2008

Great to finally see console games that allow the gamer some real narrative choice.

2. Ross Arbour - May 10, 2008

I feel the same way, I blogged about it on 1up.com
I went with Playboy X and felt right about it – what a relief!

3. TheGraciousOne - May 10, 2008

“I feel bad about my actions. I made the wrong decision. I killed the wrong person”

I would never feel bad about my actions in a GTA game only because I think everybody is a criminal and in one way or another has done something wrong or bad.

4. alex - May 13, 2008

wow…I did the same thing and felt the exact same way when I found out about the benefits of killing playboy x….I don’t care that I made the “wrong” decision, just cannot get 100% in the game now. Guess I will play through it twice.

5. Ed - May 20, 2008

After I killed Dwayne I had to turn off my PS3, i felt awful. Only for it to get worse with PlayBoy’s reaction. Later when i helped out Cherise, even Niko talked of the regret.

I accidently saved over my game so can’t go back… just like real life i guess, you makes your choices!

6. CHAOS TACTICS BLOG » Blog Archive » Gearbox Carefully Defends ‘Brothers In Arms’ Extreme Violence - September 25, 2008

[…] I asked Cooke whether there’s a line that will eventually be crossed by games. Will there be a day when realism becomes too much, and developers will need to start holding back? The question sprang from my own response to “Grand Theft Auto IV” earlier this year. […]

7. Klem - September 26, 2008

Wow, I can’t wait to play GTA IV !

A game with such “guts”, a game that don’t fear to scare you, to go against your “I-want-that-thing”, that’s incredible. You’ll never see this in the Halo/CoD series, they’re more “OMAGAD a sniper laser-rifle ! let’s headshot these villains !”.

I hope Fallout 3 will have that kind of “feature”, making “difficult” choices.

Sadly you can’t kill them both and send their head to their families… that would be fun 😀

8. nintendo roms - October 12, 2008

I hate how they made the controls different in this one : /

Funny post tho ! thx !

9. DibO - October 27, 2008

Had an interesting conversation about this very topic o GoogleTalk:


10. BioWare: Consequence Has Left Gaming, ‘Star Wars’ MMO Will Fix That | Console Informer - October 27, 2008

[…] One way games can counter a player from going back on a decision is by auto-saving the moment their choice is made. “Grand Theft Auto IV” did that — though you could turn it off — and resulted in me feeling something powerful. […]

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