Poll Question 015 – Should anything be taboo in FPS games?

26th January 2007

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half Life 1, 2 and 3
introduction

This week’s poll could be very divisive amongst my readers. “Should anything be taboo in FPS games?” The question doesn’t really have to be specifically about FPS games but since that is what PP is all about it only seems natural. Also it is always the FPS genre that is blamed for effecting the teenage population.

Children in HL2

Allow me to give you a graphic example taken from a real game. More observant players may have noticed the complete absence of children in Half-Life 2. An interesting discussion can be found on the HL2 World Forums.

Imagine for a moment that children were present in the game and they had been used by the Combine to infiltrate rebel groups or simply plant bombs in places adults couldn’t reach.

The children had somehow been conditioned to behave like normal children, not like the cliched automatons in sci-fi movies. Currently no method is known to recondition them. Perhaps the Combine were even more sinister and only conditioned 30% of the children.

During the game these children can appear at almost any time; from around corners or behind crates etc. Near the beginning of the game it is possible to see a child walk towards a group of rebels and then suddenly explode, killing everybody is a ten metre radius. The stage has been set.

Now the player has to make a decision every time they see a child. Do you take a chance that this child is innocent? Shooting them in the leg induces a very emotional response from the child “Please help me. My parents have been killed and I haven’t eaten in days. Of course the voice used is straining with despair and the facial expressions are difficult to ignore. Perhaps more importantly they still continue to move towards you. By killing them you may be saving many rebels, by letting them live you may be condemning the rebels. Is killing children taboo for you?

Many Other Scenarios

I’ve just used one specific example but they must be many, killing patients in beds is another one that springs to mind. With the world’s current problems it shouldn’t be too hard to think of some others regarding race or religion.

One of the aspects about gaming that interests me is its use as a teaching tool and I don’t just mean facts. No doubt it has a future for teaching history, geography, physics etc but what about subjects like ethics, societal interaction? I didn’t want this poll to become too deep philosophically but perhaps that’s unavoidable with this subject.

Conclusion for this poll

If you are the type of person who believes that all subjects and topics should be discussed openly then perhaps you should vote NO, if on the other hand you feel that some topics are too delicate for games then you ought to vote YES.

Maybe the real question is “Are we, as a society, afraid of what happens to some young people who believe that their actions have no consequence?”

Final Results
  • Yes: 53%
  • No: 47%
  • Total Votes:51
Final Results Comment

This one was a close one and I would have been interested to compare the vote with the age of the voter.

Help me create more and better content - please support me on Patreon

Help me create more and better content - please support me on Patreon

28 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Um… that’s a disturbing question, actually. The answer feels like a very obvious “YES” when it comes to killing children.

    However, the concept of children in a game has been used in Prey (or at least in the demo). An important thing I notice about the scene in the demo is that the player has NO interaction with the actual children, he watches a graphic scene from behind a glass wall.

    Really it depends on the context. It would take a lot of explanation before the player would think that killing a child would somehow help save the human species from extinction. Realize that the initial reason that Gordon killed the first grunt in Half-life 1 was because it shot and killed one of the many unarmed, allied scientists at Black Mesa and started to shoot at him. It was not because there was a 30% chance he was going to shoot the scientist or Gordon, and definately not because it was a child.

  2. Simple answers: Is there anything taboo in games? For games specifically, no. Media in general has a wide-ban when it comes to putting children in dangerous and hostile situations. Half-Life 2 took children out because, if they didn’t, then their game would be illegal in Europe (who forbid games with children involved in dangerous (ie, death-giving) situations).

    I, myself, would not care about massacring children. Regardless if they are 5 or 25. If they are my enemy, they will die as my enemy. I don’t look at the Combine and feel sorrow for the poor soul who was practically assimilated inside. I shouldn’t, because he’s my enemy and thus, he needs to be defeated.

    Since it’s mentioned. Games don’t influence violence. Input influences everything. Killing people on Games might make you kill people in real life. Listening to someone say you look good in black might make you wear black. There are no specifics here. If you want to ban video game violence, you might as well ban books, music, and art for the same reason. You might as well ban eyeballs and blind every single human being.

  3. On an added note: BioShock seems to be an exception to the Europe ban rule. Possibly ruling it out since the children are possibly under mind-altering drugs… Or they relaxed the law, maybe.

  4. Ryan "Quakis" Rouse

    For me, I could never think of hurting or killing off a child. And ingame, even if it would be fictional it would somewhat have realism making the thought of it still there. I’d probably avoid a game if it had a similar theme for the purpose of the children to be honest, though it’s still true that if they ARE a danger to everybody else then it might be the right thing to do. Either way, I can’t even stand fiction where a child is in spot of bother of some sort – therfore ingame would not work for me either.

    Hmm, I’m not sure about having taboo stuff in gamind, I don’t really feel it’s needed either. Things are getting too realistic rather than entertaining (IMO)

  5. I think the forthcoming Bio Shock is going to raise some interesting points on this issue, and also probably be on the receiving end of a lot of flack for having the balls for approaching the subject (if you don’t know what I am talking about: 1 – where have you been? 2 – Go read about it someplace).

    Personally while I am pretty sick of games being scapegoated by every parent who somehow wasn’t keeping track of the fact that their 14 year old kid seemed very despondant and had a stash of firearms hidden in their house, I still think that there should be limits on how far games can go. Movies have limits and they aren’t half as immersive or offer the scope for interaction as games do.

    Over the years we’ve seen those limits reduced and chipped away, we’ve seen games banned for excessive use of taboo subjects or for crossing a perceived line of decency (anyone remember the original Carmageddon?), and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect to continue to see that happening.

    I think a universal rating system would go a long way to reducing the backlash, but then again I think returning to old fashione education and parenting values would go lot, lot further to reducing the negative attention that games always attract.

    Bottom line for me: Games are about experiencing another world for a little while (note WoW players – 130 hours a week is NOT a little while) – and just like in movies, if you don’t enjoy or are disturbed by the experience, you can switch it off.

  6. Jimbo

    “Also it is always the FPS genre that is blamed for effecting the teenage population.”

    If those people saw half the stuff my brother did to people on “The Sims”, they’d think differently.

    Kids in games? Fallout 1 and 2 had kids that would attack you and throw rocks and grenades. You could kill them, but then you’d be marked as a “Child Killer” in your skilldex and bounty hunters could hunt you down. It’s been done, but not too much.

    This is really a touchy subject and I find myself jumping around. One of my history teachers who served as a soldier in Vietnam once told us a story about how he killed a man infront of him with the butt of his rifle. He went really into what had happened and how he did it. It was very awkward, but interesting to hear. I could have done without it, but you could tell it bothered the teacher and he just had to tell his story and how bad the conditions were there. But once he got to the point of how he killed the man, the student sitting behind me blurted out “Awesome!”.

    I was majorly ticked off. I wanted to turn around and flip out at the guy, but I didn’t have the guts to do it. It’s been a year since that happened and it continues to bug me that he blurted that out. But after reading all these good posts, that story just jolted to the front of my mind for some reason…

    Thinking about it, I guess the reason I don’t like the idea of kids in games is because it could be capitalized upon. If Phillips idea did happen in HL2, fine. It happened. It was a moral shocker. I didn’t like it, but it was a good twist of events that makes you think. But what about all those players who shoot the child and go “Awesome!”? That’s just sick, but suddenly every new game is trying to top that scenario. “Lets have children you can kill in the new GTA game! Yeah! Totally unique!”

    Killing in vg’s was once a big issue, but now it’s not looked heavily upon. We’ve all been exposed to it. Killing children just seems like the next step.

    I am not for the censorship of vg’s. I’m all for having touchy or unique ideas in games even if they are taboo. They have worked in films for a long time now. But the problem is not every player has a decent moral sense. If a real/sad story about killing a man can provoke a excited positive response, something is wrong there. And if enough players thought that one kid-killing scenario was “awesome” and developers see its lucrative ($) trait, we can probably expect more of these games– each one being more retarded until no one cares. I’m one to think we can do without that.

    …that’s my 2 cents.

  7. zeroth404

    You would have to be a fascist to say that games should not contain taboo subjects, and no fascist is respectable by any means.

    that said, I voted yes, because this doesn’t blanket all games to the effect that they should or shouldn’t all do this or that.

  8. zeroth404

    Games ARE an emotional journey. The greater the emotion, the greater the game. Action, Horror, Survival, Hack & Slash, Run & gun, Killing children, it just doesn’t matter.

  9. zeroth404

    Lets all go play Super Columbine Massacre RPG:

    http://www.columbinegame.com/

  10. Aniline

    If you want to ban video game violence, you might as well ban books, music, and art for the same reason.

    Well Fluffy, books and art are banned – depends on your culture and its history. FPS games with Nazi’s gassing jews (arrests were made) was about as taboo as you can get here in Germany. Same goes for rape, child porn and so on. In fact Quake II was released here in a less bloody version – although the mod to add more blood was easy to get.

    FPS usually give you a clear hint i.e. if it’s gonna kill you then it’s fair game but there will no doubt be an underground for taboo mods. I hate the idea of censorship but is allowing someone the right to sell “Brutalize your Bitch” (no, it doesn’t exist) any different from allowing any FPS?

    When I was 7 I used to be on the cowboys” side – I must have wasted thousands of redskins. It didn’t make me a racist or a murderer.

  11. Ryan "Quakis" Rouse

    But what about all those players who shoot the child and go “Awesome!”? That’s just sick

    I have to agree, this is one of my main concerns about having children in games for exactly that reason. I don’t want to end up in several years time (possibly) worrying if my child has been murdered by teenagers playing games who thinking killing the children is “awesome” – quite depressing thoughts to be honest.

  12. i agree. people try to hold video games in a different light, but it still all comes to entertainment media. the only difference I think in the scenario is the fact that there is a presence (very well put in the question) of interactivity that is not present in the rest of the entertainment mediums. imo I think the answer to the question lies solely to the discretion of the developers. they are the ones trying to convey a setting, and its up to them to decide on how a player would be able to interact with that setting.

    on the note of killing childeren and ppl saying awesome, and dont take get me wrong here. such a thing is quite a discusting thought, but if you think about it logically, how is this any different than someone getting enjoyment from shooting a hooker in GTA or blowing up a crowd in a mall in postal 2? it really is not. killing a human and enjoing it regardless of it being young or old is sick. but it comes down to that old saying “its just a game” and for 99% of us, yes thats really just what is is. a game. the other 1% that go out and do sick chit like this, are allready messed up in the head and find it easy to justify that illness with the video game scapegoat.

    a more subjective point I would like to add. the combine would not resort to this tactic. not that they are above it, but why would they feel the need? they have 3 legged frigging walking tanks with a weapon that can tear apart reality and use the resulting energy to destroy a city block in minuets. why the hell would they need to waste usable resources like that? (if you are not hip to the HL2 universe, there were in fact children models in the beta. they were used as manual laborers. yet another explenation as to why there are no children in HL2. not as offensive as using them as suicide bombers, but still quite despicable).

  13. Lets all go play Super Columbine Massacre RPG:

    http://www.columbinegame.com/

    I do hope you were kidding. If you were, not funny. If you weren’t, still not funny.

  14. shungokusatsu

    Now when I play games, I really don’t take them seriously at all (you might say this takes away the fun, but it makes me a better player when I play online because I keep my cool). So I don’t think I’d mind if it was part of the game, to continue with the mission, however I think games like GTA with unneccessary killing of civilians are pointless.

  15. shungokusatsu

    If you want to ban video game violence, you might as well ban books, music, and art for the same reason.

    I agree with this also, music such as Slayer could be thought totally unnacceptable if a game with as much ungodliness were released.

  16. vashts1985

    i actually went to the site. zeroth might have been making a very sardonic remark aimed at this tread, but the game itself looks like a serious venture rather than “lets be stupid and promote this kind of sick chit with toilet humor” type of game.

    sorry I read all the comments left on it. and if the game is as described, it would be worth the educational and intelectual stimulation to play through it once.

    why?

    hate to sound like a old jedi, but if you remove yourself from the emotional aspect (everyone has emotions, this is why we precieve such events like this as horrable and sick) you are left with cold hard fact.

    colembine happend. it cant unhappen.
    would you rather educate people about the events that happend there so they know why it was so horrable? or tell them that it was a bad thing they did and you should never ever ever do something like that?

    err we seem to have gotten off topic here (sorta) but im opininated and I had to comment on it lol

  17. Jimbo

    I have to agree, this is one of my main concerns about having children in games for exactly that reason. I don’t want to end up in several years time (possibly) worrying if my child has been murdered by teenagers playing games who thinking killing the children is “awesome” – quite depressing thoughts to be honest.

    Yeah that would be depressing, but it’s bound to happen one way or the other. As society gets more complex, morality and ethics usually get flushed down the toilet. I wouldnt necessarily brand teenagers as the problem. I would brand retarded people with retarded parents.

    on the note of killing childeren and ppl saying awesome, and dont take get me wrong here. such a thing is quite a discusting thought, but if you think about it logically, how is this any different than someone getting enjoyment from shooting a hooker in GTA or blowing up a crowd in a mall in postal 2? it really is not. killing a human and enjoing it regardless of it being young or old is sick. but it comes down to that old saying “its just a game” and for 99% of us, yes thats really just what is is. a game. the other 1% that go out and do sick chit like this, are allready messed up in the head and find it easy to justify that illness with the video game scapegoat.

    VERY true. But to go further in, it massively depends on how the developers portray it. For instance what would you have a bigger problem shooting–

    http://wiki.half-life2.cz/images/6/64/Combinepolice.jpg

    or

    http://www.health.vic.gov.au/rch/four.jpg

    If future games have you shooting kids, I’m to believe this line would get blurred (that is if you believe there’s a line). And why would any decent developer want to provoke that 1% you speak of?

  18. James

    Some very interesting points being made, on both sides of the discussion here. But the bottom line is that while it’s ” fun” to waste a combine squad, or other players in Deathmatch, with a huge choice of weaponry, and its obviously fiction, and set in a fictional universe…I for one would err on the side of what some of you think of as puritanical. How can wasting children, even ones who are simply a collection of digital information ever be acceptable? The bottom line is it simply isn’t, and should never be.

    We’re all different, but in the cartoon worlds of Half-Life (1 or 2), if we need more NPC models to fill the story, then let them be adult ones. I don’t normally get on my high horse, but if you seriously believe that we need child characters to “add realism” which I can nearly accept, but that its then okay to have to kill them, then boy oh boy, you worry me!

  19. While I had assumed that what zeroth404 said was in sarcasm, it still didn’t ring well. I also went to the website, read the artist’s statement & then watched the video clip. Personally, I think that guy is full of crap. Tell me, what was “educational” about that? What real education did it provide? I personally don’t think it’s going off topic either. He raised a very valid argument (if you call it that) to Phillip’s poll question. In fact, hit straight to the heart of the question & thus, should be taken seriously.

    I would not play a game where children were involved in being killed, slaughtered, massacred, whatever. There is just something morally wrong with it to me. I do have conflicting issues with it though which make me feel a bit of a hipocrit. Like Fluffy said (in essence), if a child becomes a mortal enemy of mine, then that child should be treated as such. You see/hear about it more & more every day especially with the war in Iraq. Unfortunately so, it’s becoming more of an acceptance in reality. Should it be incorporated in gaming? What purpose does it really serve? Please don’t tell me educational again. If you want education, read a book, read a newspaper, watch the news. I can’t even watch a movie with this same content without grimacing or feeling my heart being tugged at.

    Gaming has become more & more a forefront for technological & future advances and I think should hold some kind of a moral standard for what a better future can be like. While “we” use gaming for entertainment purposes, the military uses the similar for training exercises. Pilots use simulations for flight training. I am wondering now if the military has incorporated children into their training simulations since they have become such a threat (and I’m sure they have). You will always have someone who says “awesome!” & all I can think is what a twisted, dark mind that person possesses. There are no clear lines in what is politically correct & what is not.

  20. vashts1985

    I would not play a game where children were involved in being killed, slaughtered, massacred, whatever. There is just something morally wrong with it to me. I do have conflicting issues with it though which make me feel a bit of a hipocrit. Like Fluffy said (in essence), if a child becomes a mortal enemy of mine, then that child should be treated as such. You see/hear about it more & more every day especially with the war in Iraq. Unfortunately so, it’s becoming more of an acceptance in reality. Should it be incorporated in gaming? What purpose does it really serve? Please don’t tell me educational again. If you want education, read a book, read a newspaper, watch the news. I can’t even watch a movie with this same content without grimacing or feeling my heart being tugged at.

    well my education argument was geared totally at the columbine game.

    to simplify my earlier point, should stuff like this be incorporated in to games?

    i say yes, if its how to potray the bad guys correctly. nothing would show how evil a bad guy is than having him force someone to make such a dispicable emotional decision. you dont want to see it. you dont want to know about it. you dont even want to think about having to make that decision, but you know what? im sure that coalition soldier forced to make that decision in iraq feels the same way. unfortunatly for them, they do not have the choice to just ignore it, and as such I dont see why the main character in a video game should be exempt from such a situaton just cause a few people feel that they should never have to be subject to such an emotional decision.

  21. to simplify my earlier point, should stuff like this be incorporated in to games?

    i say yes, if its how to potray the bad guys correctly. nothing would show how evil a bad guy is than having him force someone to make such a dispicable emotional decision. you dont want to see it. you dont want to know about it. you dont even want to think about having to make that decision, but you know what? im sure that coalition soldier forced to make that decision in iraq feels the same way. unfortunatly for them, they do not have the choice to just ignore it, and as such I dont see why the main character in a video game should be exempt from such a situaton just cause a few people feel that they should never have to be subject to such an emotional decision.

    One, because most of us aren’t in the military. Two, gaming is suppose to be FUN. An escape from reality for most & also, entertaining. What is possibly entertaining about killing children in a video game?

    IF a developer feels the need to produce such games, then I think a warning label should be very visible with that exact content. Of course, kids these days hardly pay no attention to the rating/warning labels & neither do most parents. In fact, the more severe a rating/warning, the more kids want it.

  22. I’d like to remind everybody that this poll is NOT specifically about killing children in games. It’s about taboo subjects. I used the children point as a graphic and relevant illustration only.

    I voted YES to the poll question because I believe society needs limits that protect people from themselves. I have withheld my opinion until now because I wanted to see what others would say first. Personally I believe that subject matter such as this are never really discussed.

    All that happens is people give their point of view and counter somebody else’s. How many people reflect on the points raised and truly try and see the other person position? How many people actually change their position? Very, very few.

    whist I am interested in others” opinions I highly doubt I would change my opinion. Why? Because my experiences through my life have lead me to this point in time where I view things from a unique perspective. Listening to your perspectives won’t change my experiences.

    I’m going to be honest now and probably upset quite a few readers. I believe, but accept I could be wrong, that most of the readers who voted NO are young. I believe this because it seems to me that when you are young you are constantly rebelling against authority.

    You reach 16 and feel that you are an adult and can make decisions for yourself. Anybody who is over 40 is old and has no idea what it is like to be young. Not all 16 year-olds are like this but I believe a vast majority are. They (you?) think that they have enough experience to make every decision. I don’t believe they do. and to use a clich, when you are older you will realize that.

    Somebody mentioned better parenting and family values. I agree that society needs to go back to the basics values but that’s easy for me to say because I come from a stable and loving environment.

    I think that anybody who believes that interactive violence has no effect on people are very naïve. Do you think the companies around the world spend billions and billions of Dollars/Euros/Yen etc on advertising if people weren’t effected by what they see? I don’t.

    Yes, games, books, films, television and other media should be censored because a society with no limits is a society in chaos.

  23. Listen to yourselves. Has any of you realized that it’s not the people you kill that excites you, but it’s the method?

    I don’t get excitement from killing Combine. I don’t get enjoyment from killing Combine. I do, however, get enjoyment from shooting automatic weapons at targets. I enjoy having to duck from returning fire.

    This is why I don’t care who I shoot.

    Now, why put children in video games? To challenge you. To take your views, your ideals and challenge them. Would you kill that child? Inside, would you be able to live comfortably knowing you ended a child’s life? Due to survival instinct, most of us will say yes and get on with it. BioShock did it better and made the children take away a resource from you (a valuable one at that), but not actually represent a physical threat. Would I shoot them for that? Most likely, no. No point wasting my ammunition and health on the midget and the big looming man nearby.

    Ironically, the whole thing comes to this. Would you limit the boundless mechanics of art because human beings as a species is so flawed? I say no, but i’m bound to be outnumbered in court.

    I hate arguing this, though. Some people (say, most people, but I digress) tend to automatically revert away from the topic due to moral pressure.

  24. Kudos Phillip. Couldn’t agree with you more.

  25. zeroth404

    [quote comment=”61574″]Lets all go play Super Columbine Massacre RPG:

    http://www.columbinegame.com/

    I do hope you were kidding. If you were, not funny. If you weren’t, still not funny.[/quote]

    I was not kidding, and your prejudice toward the game is foolish.

  26. I don’t happen to think so, but I tell you what. You lose a child & then come tell me some more. Maybe then, that personal experience will put you and I on a more level course of discussion because I have had that personal experience. Until then, you’re just one opinionated person that I’m glad I don’t have to deal with.

  27. I have chosen to close the comments on this post because I feel that we are no longer exploring the core issues.

  28. I’ve posted the final results.

Comments are closed.