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Video Game Pacifism

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The Idealistic World of Videogame Pacifists:

Daniel is just one of a growing number of virtual pacifists who are either frustrated or bored with videogames’ insistence on violence. Daniel understands that there are people in Skyrim that want him dead but “that doesn’t mean [they] deserve to die.” Certainly the way in which games tend to portray violence is conveniently consequence free and far too productive in terms of solving problems. In the real world violence lends itself to lasting consequences, it rarely solves problems and more often compounds them. So perhaps the noble course is to traverse the frozen tundra of Skyrim in peace.

I appreciate that videogame pacifism exists–it is a sign that videogames as a medium are biased toward creating situations where violence is the primary means of solving problems. Pacifism generally works in real life–in some of the most popular games it doesn’t. Certainly games are diversifying and providing players with a plethora of different game experiences but nonetheless violence still seems to function as the default problem solving mechanic. Does this mean that we should all be videogame pacifists? Is violent action ever noble?

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Posted · Report post

Thanks for linking to this. It is a good read. I agree that "Pacifism in Skyrim is neither virtuous or immersive." Christian pacifism is in part based on the idea that those who commit injustice in this world will be judged by God, who is able to judge and punish evil much more effectively than we are. A game world like Skyrim lacks this eschatology, making pacifism an impossible moral choice.

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Posted · Report post

That was a good read, Jason. Thanks for posting.

It made me think of the Thief franchise, specifically the first game. If you play the game at the hardest difficulty, killing at all automatically causes you to lose — game over. I've always appreciated that, especially from a first-person game.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

As for Skyrim, I haven't played it, but I know that in Morrowind, the Elder Scrolls game I am most familiar with, some NPCs were required to be killed to proceed. Besides that, one could disable hostiles with magic, but the game's so set up towards melee combat - after simple spells, magic gets kind of esoteric, at least compared to some other RPGs. Also, you could get a certain item which allowed you to run at very high speeds at the cost of your vision (though since I was always a Breton character, I had 50% magic resistance hah.gif), and I definitely used that to flee from battles not worth fighting.

Edited by Kinch

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