Saturday 20 January, 2018
The next three log entries will be about Shadow of Mordor. I previously played this game soon a after release, and did not think much about the experience at the time. The only thing that I previously noted was how much I enjoyed the mechanics of the Nemesis System. I did, however, notice quite a few ethical issues on this most recent play through. Today, I would like to discuss one specific topic: The way the game encourages the use of fear to obtain goals. Most people call this tactic terrorism.
The Merriam-Webster definition of terrorism is "the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion". In the case of Mordor, I find this definition is accurate. My character has quite a few unlocks due to previous play. One specific ability allows the player to kill an enemy and immediately viciously stab and hack the defeated NPC in order to send nearby enemy Orcs into a panic. This is the Tolkienesque equivalent of a car bomb going off at a military checkpoint. The only thing that kept me from seeing this earlier was the wrapper. These actions are used repeatedly to get information from enemies so that you can track down bigger baddies in order to get revenge for the loss of your family.
I enjoyed a number of Tolkien's works, in a funny coincidence, while deployed. Does this mean that I think the game is immoral and a promotion of extremist tactics? No, I do not. I do however think it is important to recognize themes at work in fiction. I do not like taking away choice in games, and I think there is a line. I just do not think this is that line. It feels more like a choice that you have to think about and possibly justify. How far are you willing to go? Where is the line that you are not willing to cross? Also, I have to admit that If this were a game that involved performing similar actions in a modern military setting, I would probably find it completely unplayable.
All this and I still have not discussed the Nemesis System. More on that tomorrow.