Killing Children to Spark Controversy
Our children are our babies, our most cherished love, and our legacy. Sure they can make us angry at times – but ultimately, we would give our lives to protect them. Kids are always noncombatants. Sadly, terrorism does not follow the moral rules of engagement. The death of a single child, our sacred kin, is more than enough for people to get up-in-arms and take action.
This ingrained protective instinct spreads to even the death of children in video games. Recently, the Dead Island trailer, with the family being torn apart by zombies, raised backlash for the death of the little girl in the family. The combination of the sadness of the music; the Pulp Fiction-esque editing; the happiness the family had in the video camera footage; the slaughtering of the family; and ultimately, the zombification of the little girl affected us in some way. I remember watching that for the first time and not being able to believe just how sad it was. With that said, I can also say it was one of the most compelling video game trailers I’ve ever seen. The trailer is below:
The Dead Island trailer spawned controversy, though. Any time a little girl is killed there will be retaliation. Hell, it might just be me, but even in the Bioshock games I could never bring myself to absorb / kill a little sister. Now, I’m not saying the Dead Island trailer should make you burst into uncontrollable tears, but it should have affected you in some melancholy way.
Now today – a leaked Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 clip has once again raised a similar spark of controversy. ***Spoiler Alert*** In this short clip, an act of terrorism leaves a mother and daughter tourists dead in the streets of London by means of a toxin-filled exploding van. While this is no trailer, it is still leaving many breathless. What is more frightening about this clip is that Modern Warfare 3 is – well, modern. Seeing terrorism in present-day London, with Big Ben in the background, strikes a more disturbing image than an unrealistic zombie outbreak. Zombies are currently nowhere in the world, while terrorism frightens people worldwide.
So if game designers are using the murder of children to raise shock value – I say success! A kid dying is not something I can ever see myself becoming desensitized too. In both games, this technique is used to show how unrelenting the situations are. Both in a zombie outbreak or a terrorist attack – targets don’t matter. Will a zombie care if it eats a child? No. Do exploding bombs take mercy and go around children? No. The MW3 clip makes the scenario ‘real,’ trying to convey the true horror of terrorism.
It has come down to the point where children aren’t even safe in games anymore. We can shoot a million soldiers in a game, but as soon as the crosshair lowers to a child there is hesitation (F.E.A.R.’s Alma excluded). While there can be reluctance in killing a zombie that was your former lover, there is even more delay if that zombie is a child (Dead Space fetus necromorphs excluded). When it all boils down, killing a child in a video game creates a memorable moment. To these games’ credit, you don’t kill the children yourself – they did in cut scene / trailers. That takes the burden somewhat off of you. Even when the act isn’t in your own hands, you are affected in some way – controversy reigns.