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Zero Tolerance November 5, 2007

Posted by jmoran21 in Comics, Games, Morality.
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I just finished reading Watchmen, and the ending is heavy. Spoilers ahead: it basically boils down to the heroes choosing whether to pardon a great evil for the greater good of humanity. I found myself siding with the heroes who were in favor of allowing this evil to go unpunished, because the alternative was certain Armageddon in a war between the United States and the Soviet Union. I was disappointed, then, when Rorschach couldn’t lay down his absolute version of justice for once in his life for the sake of the world.

In Half-Life 2, which I also just finished, Gordon Freeman is your silent alter ego who has a lot in common with Rorschach. While many humans become complacent with an alien empire that could (possibly?) wipe out humanity by proving themselves a valuable resource, the cost is too high for the freedom fighters that the player leads. Why, then, when faced with (basically) the same dilemma from Watchmen do I make the opposite choice for myself? Why do I sympathize with the Black Mesa guerrillas whose actions may jeopardize the survival of the species?

I think that it’s as simple as this: I know, despite the odds, there’s a very good chance that at the conclusion of Half-Life’s story, humanity will triumph. In other words, with the advantage of knowing there is a fourth wall there in front of me and that the events of the game are orchestrated by writers who want you to succeed, I am able to make the correct choice without having to contemplate the ramifications.

Maybe if I were Gordon Freeman I would surrender myself to the Combine to prevent further atrocities. But maybe if I were playing a game I would have followed Rorschach outside and joined him as a martyr for truth. In this way, contrary to my previous statements, playing a game can bring out the best in people, their heroic side, just as often as it does their worst.

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