Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Eeeeeevil

I'm a short ways into Star Wars: The Old Republic now, and gosh, is there ever a lot of evil on the Sith side. And I don't mean the "we have an alternative but valid viewpoint" evil, or the "we're a misunderstood but honorable people" evil, like we get in some video games. SW:TOR has you torturing prisoners and purging the impure as newbie quests.

It struck me that if (in some alternate reality) I had kids, I would absolutely not want them playing a Sith character. You aren't just told to torture someone in SW:TOR - you are told to question someone, and you have the option of torturing them. It's a Star Wars form of torture - zapping someone with lightning bolts from your hands - but torture nonetheless, and it's a valid story choice. You get "dark side" points for the action, which is technically a reward in this game.

Somehow it feels to me as if giving you the option to do something horrible in a game is worse than just presenting it as an objective. Many, many games have you slaughtering your way through an endless series of living beings, but here in this game, based on a largely child-friendly franchise, you are put in front of a prisoner who is strapped to a table and asked whether or not you want to torture him.

The game is labeled "T for Teen"; is this a valid label? Is it worse to show naked breasts or red blood than it is to allow the player to practice torture (even cartoon torture)?