Monday, August 29, 2016

On Looting

Some musing about  video game morality beneath the cut.

 Video game morality is pretty messed up, if you think about it.  Most video games, especially fantasy role-playing games like Legends of the Dark Tower, put you in the role of a saintly hero who's out to help people, protect lives, and save the world... and then they give you a weapon and ask you to kill thousands upon thousands of sentient beings, which your character usually does without the slightest remorse.  By the end of a typical video game, you've become the single greatest mass murderer in the history of the world... but you're also celebrated as greatest hero the world has ever known.

And then there's the looting.  If, in real life, you dug through the pockets of someone who's recently deceased and stole all their belongings, you'd be considered a monster.  Such behavior violates our deepest beliefs about the sanctity of the dead.  But in video games, looting dead bodies is treated as something that's unremarkable, even expected.  I recall a few times in the game Fallout 4 where non-player characters actually say something along the lines of "Take a moment to loot these bodies, and then follow me."  It was really pretty striking.

What makes all of this especially ludicrous is that many of these same games present you with the occasional moral dilemma where you have to decide whether to spare an enemy's life or kill the enemy.  You work your way through a dungeon, ruthlessly slaughtering dozens of low-level minions and goons, to reach the boss, Lucius B. McRotten.  But then McRotten begs for his life, and suddenly you're able to pretend you have qualms about killing.  It's this strange, enormous moral blind spot that video games rarely acknowledge.


  1. Wow - amazing caption and story. I think I prefer video game life to the real life scene you painted. . . lol


  2. Well, we can afford to have qualms about looting the dead and killing people. From the perspectives of characters in fantasy 'verses and Fallout, we're living in a post-scarcity utopia. Without the luxury of mass production, you and I would probably be no better.