Why Civillians Can’t Be Killed In Battlefield 3

It’s no secret that the tremendous advances in computer tech have vastly increased the potential to use a video game to tell a story. Naturally, this has led to some highly complex takes on crime, police corruption and most ubiquitously, war. But even as crime genres have become increasingly bleak, war games remain somewhat where they were 10 years ago, albeit with fantastically improved graphics: you can shoot the enemy, you can even shoot buildings, but there’s no way to shoot the noncombatants.

So why is it that despite the ability to do so, war games are always built with restrictions of this type? The answer is what you’d expect: In a deliberately over the top crime game where the entire point is a sort of parody of modern urban living, rampant violence of this sort is kind of the point. But in a game with far more apparent real-world relevance, like war games, it could create problems for developers, and not just because of complaints from parents’ groups.

Rock Paper Shotgun was able to confirm those concerns when they spent some time at EA Dice HQ for a hands on with Battlefield 3 and had the chance to talk to BF3 executive producer Patrick Bach about this issue. Bach’s answers confirm what we already know – people can be pretty nasty when the rules are turned off:

Games are where movies were in the 30s or 40s, when it went from a technical spectacle to ‘hey, wait a minute we can actually use this to tell something, be political’ and things like that. I think we are on the verge of seeing things like that.

[However] if you put the player in front of a choice where they can do good things or bad things, they will do bad things, go dark side – because people think it’s cool to be naughty, they won’t be caught…

In a game where it’s more authentic, when you have a gun in your hand and a child in front of you what would happen? Well the player would probably shoot that child.

This makes sense to us. Anyone who’s watched other people playing a Grand Theft Auto game can attest that you can quickly find out what your friends would be like with the rules turned off. Some people will still opt to avoid truly monstrous behavior. Others will get on top of cars and blow civillians away without hesitation. In a war game, it would be beyond disturbing to see which players delight in indulging their inner war criminal. A serious war-is-hell game will have to wait until such a story can be successfully told while retaining the no-war-crimes restriction.

The whole thing’s definitely worth a read. But what do you think? Is it possible to take away all the rules, save the ones players impose on themselves, and not have a war game descend into the worst bits of WWII? And either way, how would you go about telling the perfect, serious war story in a game?

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8 Comments on Why Civillians Can’t Be Killed In Battlefield 3


On August 30, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I think the real issue is to prevent sudden “MISSION FAILED” messages during a game.

COD for example, if you kill a civilian or a team mate during a crossfire (lol not about aiming) it kinda breaks the flow of SP.

My thoughts anyhow.


On August 30, 2011 at 3:48 pm

It is fun to kill, regardless of the target.

But killing innocents doesn’t need to be an integral part of a game, but having the option is nice.

It’s like Postal 2. You can play most of the game without killing people, other than forced battle scenes. But those guys (Running with Scissors, I believe) wanted the innocents to piss you off so bad, that you wanted to kill them.

Killing innocents is fun just because they are there, at least for me. Many times in GTA games, i find myself having problems doing missions, because I’d rather murder as many people as I can.

What is unfortunate, is that they don’t ever give you the option to kill children. All these games are populated with cities of adults, where no children are present. It’s like Brave New World or something. I want to kill kids, too. Why not? If I can’t kill kids in game, then I have to kill kids somewhere. And the only other place to do it is reality.

Heh, but seriously, the only time I can really recall kids in games getting killed and then having to fight kids, was Prey. When girl gets possessed and throws her brother/playmate onto a spike. Brutal, but I never forgot that moment.

Red Menace

On August 30, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Can I get your name and address? I know some people that would like to talk to you.


On August 30, 2011 at 4:29 pm


Ross Lincoln

On August 30, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Hey guys, a request: Play nice, OK?


On August 30, 2011 at 10:48 pm

With troops in another nations territory be it USA, Russia or Other fighting to take or defend a small or great piece of landmass leads to what you would see in those video games, soldiers end up killing children, pregnant woman or the gruesome aftermath of none hostiles being caught in the center of a fight. Some times its by mistake with a RPG shot at a hostile and missing and hitting another innocent building or in my case I know a person that was in Vietnam who set aflame a random vietnamese by mistake cause he was goofing off with a flame thrower and the guy walked right into it by mistake, or all the ear’s he had confiscated when he got back home in the US.

The things is its exactly like a video game, those soldiers come back and those deaths are wright en off as casualties of war and thats it.

I think people are just not ready to accept or believe what really happens in the real world, who knows it might open peoples eye’s a little if they did add the ability to shoot civilians.


On August 31, 2011 at 4:06 am

Who cares

Video games are not supposed to be uber realistic, they’re suppose to be fun. Designers can force you to open every door and every container to find something valuable but they don’t cause that won’t be fun. A balance always have to be drawn between realism and fun gameplay.

I mean in Bioshock, I couldn’t even harvest the little girl, not even once. I just couldn’t do it lol The little girl is so cute and adorable the thought of harming her even if it was just a game turned my guts.

The bottom line is if killing kids brings you pleasure and fun even if its just virtual you’ve got serious issues.

Ali K

On August 31, 2011 at 5:54 am

That’s not the problem. The problem is, should the developer indulge the fantasies of the person with serious issues
Anyways I agree with the fact that games should be fun and not 100% realistic otherwise they shouldn’t be called video games, but video simulators