The controversy continues over a torture quest found in the recent Wrath of the Lich King expansion for World of Warcraft.
As GamePolitics reported last week, the "Art of Persuasion" quest gained notoriety when MUD co-creator Richard Bartle wrote about his discomfort with for the mission’s requirement that the player torture information out of a prisoner.
Some were appalled by the quest while others excused it as just a game. However, in a thought-provoking column, Wired’s Clive Thompson looks deeper and argues for even more instances of virtual torture in games:
Torture has devastating repercussions. It permanently erodes the character of the torturer and, worse, of the public that condones the torture… From my perspective, Americans aren’t thinking very seriously about those consequences…
Why? Partly because U.S. officials refuse to describe or admit clearly what they’re doing. But equally important, I think, is that our mass culture is filled with wildly misleading ideas about how torture works… Which is why we need more torture in videogames.
Games are excellent vehicles for helping people inhabit complex, difficult situations… What’s more, gamers love this stuff. Several of the biggest recent games were praised precisely because the moral acts inside them had long-term consequences. In BioShock, you could either save or exploit the Little Sisters… In Fable, decisions made in the first 15 minutes of play… change the moral tenor of your home town 15 years later…
I’d like to see games that had more torture — and better torture — in them. In this alarming chapter of American history, they might wind up fueling the best public debate yet.