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Discussion > Video GamesOct 23, 2023 8:00 am CT

Which moments in gaming have made your stomach churn?

Games can sometimes affect us and mess with our emotions, in both positive and negative ways — and among the latter, there are some moments that make us question what we’re witnessing, or even doing ourselves. This could be because we morally object what we’re seeing, and perhaps even face some of our innermost demons.

Speaking of World of Warcraft, I would mention the infamous torture quest in Borean Tundra, The Art of Persuasion, where you’re asked to interrogate a prisoner by using the Neural Needler, a Dalaran-made device that “inflicts incredible pain to the target, but does no permanent damage.” WoW has other examples like that — especially during the original Death Knight introductory experience, also from Wrath of the Lich King. You murder innocent villagers, you torture, burn, and pillage, and eventually, you must kill an old friend. That is all part of the point — the friend-killing, in particular, is supposed to be the moment when your Death Knight character finally snaps, saying “that’s enough, this is too much,” and is set on the path towards breaking free from the dominion of the Lich King and rejoining the Alliance or Horde.

In other words, all the pain you’re inflicting has a strong narrative purpose. You’re not supposed to like it; quite the opposite. You’re supposed to feel disgusted, alongside the character you’re playing. Which is quite unlike the Borean Tundra quest, where torture is presented as “just a thing you do to obtain information,” without a proper moment of reflection or introspection — and that’s what makes a lot of people feel deeply disturbed by it.

In my case, my big stomach-churning moment came when I was playing Sid Meier’s Civilization V, one of my favorite games of all time. But despite it being a game I love, the first time I dropped a nuke on an enemy city was memorable — in the worst way possible. The way the game delivered it — the presentation, the horrific spectacle of light and sound, and the fallout left afterwards — made me feel awful. Absolutely awful. I nearly stopped playing the game right then. That was just a fictional city in a video game, no real people were being harmed, sure — but my immersion was definitely there. At that moment, I felt like the leader ordering the murder of so many innocent people in such a horrific way. It made me reflect about the horrors of war — of how a decision that might be simply a power move to win a battle might have such terrible repercussions on the lives of so many people who have nothing to do with it.

What about you? Did any gaming moment ever affect you in such a way? What made you question what you were doing, reflect about your actions, and maybe even want to stop playing a game?

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Filed Under: Civilization V

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