In the movie, Kung Fu (yes, the David Carradine one) there is a training montage where Master Kan explains the physical and moral approach of the eponymous martial art when responding to force: “…avoid, rather than check. Check, rather than hurt. Hurt, rather than maim. Maim, rather than kill. For all life is precious, and none can be replaced.” I’m going to talk about this very important concept to conversations about violence and the justified use thereof. There’s no particular game I’m going to discuss today, but I’ll revisit this concept repeatedly whenever I offer commentary on a video game, or anything else for that matter, where violence is used to solve problems.
It seems that both the people who produce media and we as a society that consumes that media have abdicated this nuance in favor of the simpler “kill ’em all” or shooter narrative. This is not to say that games where lethal force is depicted are wrong to do so, but there is precious little else available on the market – and plenty of games where there is ample room for a more nuanced approach, but that approach is absent. I don’t expect the Call of Duty franchise to pick these themes up, for example; Call of Duty comes to the violence well after it has already been escalated. But games where the violence occurs in greyer territory (Deus Ex’s quasi-law-enforcement context, for example), and especially in the so-called ‘Open World’ games like Fallout, do a disservice to those who consume them when they phone-in a black-and-white violence spectrum.