Posted on August 30, 2011, Ross Lincoln 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?