December 27, 2007

The Best Moment in Gaming

At least, my favorite moment. It came from Warren Spector's masterpiece, Deus Ex.

My character, JC Denton, was charged with finding and killing known terrorist leader Juan Lebedev. As I charged into the airplane hanger in which he was hiding, I was intercepted by my trusted brother Paul. He had switched sides and was now working with the terrorists. "Join us, JC. Talk to Lebedev. He can convince you."

When I approached Lebedev, he immediately surrendered. "Easy now, Agent. UNATCO has a policy against killing unarmed prisoners. We have much to learn from each other." He started to tell me that the conspiracy freaks were right; the government and my cohorts, he alleged, were the bad guys.

Just then, my partner Anne Navarre barged in. She had been a little aggressive in the past, demanding that we kill enemy terrorists instead of using non-lethal weapons. And now she was demanding that I complete the mission. "Terminate the prisoner, Agent. If you are too afraid, you are ordered to return to base, on Manderley's authority. There is a helicopter waiting."

I began to ask more questions from Lebedev, and he started to elaborate on the crimes of the UN anti-terrorist coalition that employed me. Navarre interjected, ordering me to kill him. "Leave us, Agent. Now.... You have disobeyed a direct order." She had made clear her intention to kill Lebedev.

The choice was clear: shoot Lebedev and be rewarded for a job well done, or disobey and let Navarre do it for me. Neither choice was satisfying. The man was a terrorist leader, and his people had been trying to kill me throughout the game, but he was convincing, and it was against our policies to kill him.

I got pissed.

So I shot agent Anna Navarre in the head.

It was brash, an act of anger, murder in the second degree. I had not taken any of the choices that had been offered. It seemed inevitable that Lebedev would die, but he did not, so I fully expected the game to break. Instead...

"I guess Paul must have convinced you."

Lebedev lived and kept talking. I learned the big secret and we both got out. I made up a story for my employers about hearing shooting on the plane in which he had been hiding.

It was an incredible feeling. I truly acted spontaneously and out of frustration. For the first time, a game let me take the "third option". I just hope that more games in the future offer the same.

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