Killing in Games

Killing in games. Can it stop? Should it stop? Yes and no. As games are usually an attempt to recreate the universe, albeit sometimes with large or small changes, they should probably then do as it does. Which would be, sure, you can kill. Of course, in life, the object is not to kill things. So then, maybe we should discard that reality and throw out killing altogether?

From a neutral point of view, that type of game would be no worse than a game bent on killing. From a popular point of view, that game doesnít stand a chance. A game with killing not based on killing would really be the perfect game. There is only one problem. There are no perfect gamers. And as of such, there cannot really be a total agreement on a level of killing, at least not anytime soon. Change, which is likely to come regardless of how resolute either side is, comes at its own pace in its own stride.

But still, lets not get metaphysical here, isnít there another reason why killing is so rampant in games today? Is it really just because its fun, and no killing isnít? I think not. Personally, I think killing is a much, much easier design decision than any other. When bloke #00F1A comes onscreen, if all the player needs to do is kill him, why, he doesnít even need a name! Just an AI subroutine, a 3d model, and a gun in his hands, and the game designers are set.

Thatís not to say programmers are lazy or anything. In fact, if they had a clear idea of what they were going for, there wouldnít be much stopping them. The problem is game designers, in fact just about everyone, doesnít know what that goal really is. The minute you give Mr. 00F1A a name, an identity, youíve just entered a much, much deeper realm of design and intricacy. This is because you canít just stop there, a single entity in fact would be nothing, if it didnít not have other entity around it which to derive itself from. A cat solitarily could just as easily be a mouse, a couch, or a planet. Itís not the individual entities that have identities because they cannot support it. Rather, itís the mouse and the house and the dog and the owner and the food dish and the kitty litter that make a cat what it is.

The problem is, what I am driving at here is still as blunt as a basketball when we really need a needle. Killing games donít need identity, because it is just a bunch of ends. Ends are exactly what you get when you isolate identities, because again, they derive their very existence from the things around them. When everything is a separate piece, it all ends. So going from a killing game, to a ďnormalĒ one, you have to make a very difficult transition. Itís an impossible balancing act with a bunch of top heavy dominoes.

In fact, thatís an awesome way of looking at it. One person, is a very top heavy domino. Without an intricate world at his fingertips, he falls over. His identity cannot support itself and thus he devolves into something more pathetic. This is something that many people have seen in games, even in the best of those that donít choose to kill everything. An NPC who runs over the same pathetic lines, in the same pathetic town, in front of the same pathetic house for hours and hours. Your guide repeats the same useless help while you sit frustrated at the unsolved puzzle. The butcher who does not change a bit after you kill his son for the hell of it. The king who is still the same pain in the ass even after you saved the princess and slayed the dragon.

Youíve run into these and you know it. Sure, RPGís do not necessarily aim to be anything special, but they still run into these problems more than other games. Most likely this is because they arenít always totally about killing. So maybe then, making a game without killing at its center, is about playing dominoes. Perhaps start with smaller, less top-heavy dominoes. That is, donít make a world that goes with a complex social structure. That doesnít mean modern day with a bunch of hermits, it means make a structure that is naturally simple. Such things as packs and tiny communities fit this bill. The other advantage of these notably smaller units is that they will be easier to set up, just like setting up a smaller amount of dominoes. The last thing you can do is to make your system simple. Sure, even with small, bottom-heavy dominos you could still set up two figure eights with several tri layer bridges, but if you just wanted to make a self supporting structure, you wouldnít.

Likewise, your game system ought to be simple. With a human society, this translates almost directly to a simple social system. Have a handful of jobs or functions, then write out the rules governing interactions. Once this is done, write out the rules of how each individual unit will act on its own. Give it some basic needs, and set up rules to determine when it will be self-satisfying, or when it will depend on the structure and interaction rules that you have set up. Such a system, with much design, tweaking and work, could be made self-reliant. Also, with the proper placement of a player, could be a gold mine for an open RPG. It could also provide an interesting dynamic for a sim. Of course, with a slightly larger system, it could also provide fair ground for a shoot-em-up, and would probably provide some interesting dynamics, though it could get boring once all the NPCís are wiped out.

What I suggest is of course nothing but my speculation on what is necessarily to get PC games off of killing.

-First, you must realize that killing should not be forbidden, it just shouldnít be given the spotlight.

-Second, just taking killing out of its place does not make a good game, in fact it makes a crappy one.

-Third, the game must be designed to be self-supporting and self-balancing, which is probably the hardest part. Balancing all the elements and providing the necessary identity for the entities is a challenge, even at a very simple level.

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you have anything thoughts on the subject, you can mail me at deleter8 _at_gmail.com.