How much is the life of a virtual being worth? How about 10 lives? Or 50?
You see, I just recently finished writing my review for Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, and after finishing it, I began to question some of my actions. Near the end of the game, I acquired a nuclear bomb as part of the story, and after using it to infiltrate the final boss’s fortress, I bought a “few” extras just in case. But I think we all know where this is going.
As would anyone who’s given nearly infinite power, I began buying and using as many nukes as I could afford. It was so easy. Because I had already completed the game, I already had the cash I needed, and I would just reload my save every time I ran out of the nukes. First I was just using them on buildings. After all, no one would miss one abandoned (or possibly inhabited) building, right? Next, I began using them on enemy soldiers, because they’re leader was evil, so they must be evil too, right? Then, I just stopped caring. Why should I care who I use this weapon on? I’m untouchable; there are no consequences strong enough to stop me from doing what I want. Even if I were to nuke every faction’s HQ, all their armies combined couldn’t stop me.
Then I began to notice a pattern in other people’s play styles. Everyone would begin the game, travel to the nearest city, nuke a few buildings, then nuke the soldiers who would retaliate, and finally nuke anyone caught in the crossfire. The exact same thing I did.
At first, it seemed like a natural thing. It’s fun to cause chaos, and it’s just a videogame. Why should I care about virtual people? But the more I thought about it, I began to realize just how sinister my thoughts were becoming.
The first time I used the nuke, I had a (somewhat) justifiable reason: revenge. The second time, I just wanted to see what it would do to a building. I picked what I hoped was an abandoned building far away from anyone who might be hurt by the bomb. After that, I was hooked. It was such a gradual progression that I didn’t notice I had gone too far until I had already jumped off the cliff.
It was only after nuking a neutral oilrig that I realized how far I had fallen. Without any particular reason, I decided to destroy fully operational oilrig, complete with workers and security guards. Since apparently no one in Venezuela can swim, everyone died. The entire oilrig, and all its workers…all of the innocent workers, gone.
It may seem like such a trivial thing to anyone else, but for me, it was a lesson on how consuming power is. The old saying, “power consumes, and absolute power consumes absolutely” has never seemed so true to me.
Power first appeared to me as a friend, offering to make everything easier. Then it turned into a toy, which I could use and abuse as I saw fit. And when people tried to stop me, it became an excuse to abuse that power. “Why should you tell me what to do? I’m bigger than you, I’m stronger than you, I’m better than you.”
Maybe it is just a videogame, maybe it doesn’t matter, and maybe I’m just over thinking this. But that day I encountered a side of me I was unaware of, one that could not be satisfied, bargained with, or made to see reason. A side without compassion or feeling, only chaos and destruction. Feeding off of pain and suffering, addicted to the rush of adrenalin, and willing to do anything to get another dose.