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Torture in Games 249

Posted by Soulskill
from the ok-torture's-bad-but-killing's-fine-right dept.
Recent comments from Richard Bartle, one of the developers for the first Multi-User Dungeon (MUD), stirred up discussion about whether virtual torture is acceptable as part of modern games. Bartle was referring to a quest in the latest World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, in which players are instructed to extract information from an NPC. He drew criticism for his view from a variety of sources, but Wired is now running a piece provocatively titled, "Why We Need More Torture in Games." The author makes the case that the failure of most media to properly portray how horrible torture actually is (for example, on the TV show 24), and the increased focus on real-world topics like Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and waterboarding, could make games the perfect venue for demonstrating the "devastating repercussions" of torture.
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Torture in Games

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  • The object is to get what you want from the victim. Tools such as the La Susana and the Iron Maiden make it much more interesting.
    • While somewhat more trap-based than torture based, Tecmo's Deception [wikipedia.org] mostly fits what you describe.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jonadab (583620)
      > Tools such as the La Susana and the Iron Maiden make it much more interesting.

      You can also use car dealership commercials. After about eighty hours of nonstop back-to-back car dealership commercials, the subject begins to lose mental control. That's when you send in the whining children...
      • by MBGMorden (803437)

        Personally I think a mixture of Sham-wow! and various Billie Mays commercials would be more effective.

        Can't you just imagine the 9323rd "Sham-wow - you'll be saying WOW every time!"?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sparton (1358159)

        80 hours of nonstop anything can be torture for most people, regardless of what you're doing.

        Especially since if it's 80 straight hours, you're already causing multiple days of sleep deprivation.

  • by bryll (854882) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @02:44AM (#26129723) Homepage
    An old live-action video game from the mid '90s titled Spycraft: The Great Game had a torture sequence. You had to interrogate someone and had control over how much voltage to use. It was quite easy to inadvertently kill her - and I will say that the first time I hit a switch and saw an actor screaming in pain actually was very jarring. Even knowing damn well it was an actor in a video game.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by penguinchris (1020961)

      I had that game too (still have the CDs on my shelf) and though I'm sure we'd think it was cheesy now, at the time, compared to the very simple graphics in most games it was pretty engrossing to interact with "real" people. As you described, some sequences were very effective - some were plain silly as well :)

      I have the one where you're a submarine captain, too, forgot what it's called... That one was engrossing as well, except it seemed much more scripted and linear than Spycraft did. I still remember clea

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        That's funny, I had a similar reaction to another videgame from that era (Wing Commander IV). The reactions of the commander (played by the late Jason Bernard) to failures in your missions was so emotionally harsh that I actually stopped playing the game shortly after I got it (as part of a Creative DVD-ROM drive bundle in 1997). It's funny how seeing an actual actor in a role in a game can have such an effect. Somehow it's a lot easier to disappoint an animated character than a real actor.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Onymous Coward (97719)

      Which is great for those of us with adequately working prosocial wiring in our heads, which most of us have. I think it's a great way to help make the horrible actuality a little more real than the glossed-over, glamorous version we get programmed into us from Hollywood.

      But there are those of us who have our wiring messed up [go.com]. I don't know what the frequency is, and in net forums the tendency to mouth off creates a disproportionate appearance, but I imagine there are enough out there that it deserves soci

      • by unlametheweak (1102159) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @10:28AM (#26132209)

        The failure of most media to properly portray how horrible torture actually is (for example, on the TV show 24), and the increased focus on real-world topics like Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and waterboarding, could make games the perfect venue for demonstrating the "devastating repercussions" of torture.

        Unfortunately the authors premise is wrong. There is certainly no evidence that the more graphic news scenes that came out of the Vietnam War influenced anybody to stop going to war or killing, and neither did the images out of Abu Ghraib prison seem to influence people (who think torture is acceptable) to change their minds.

        As a person who was in the military before, there were instructors (who illegally) imposed their own (relatively mild) forms of torture on their recruits during war games when they captured people (actually these instructors consisted largely of Special Forces people who had a history of abusing their power). Even in this more controlled and sanctioned scenario the psychological trauma caused in many people will never compare to what anybody can merely see in a video game.

        If you want realism then you have to experience it for yourself. I'd rather have something more akin to what police departments do, and that is actually have volunteer officers experience the effects of tasers and pepper spray for themselves, or in the military where they have soldiers take off their gas masks in a small room with tear gas. Other than that it's all fun and games.

        As for the nut-jobs, they will always be around no matter what technology they may get their rocks off with. They need more help than just keeping them away from video games.

  • by Kandenshi (832555) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @02:54AM (#26129763)

    I don't play WoW or the MUD mentioned in the article, but I'm curious if the use of torture in these games does/would invariably produce honest factual information from the person/monster being tortured?

    Torture has a somewhat speckled history when it comes to getting at what's actually really going on. Torture someone enough and they'll tell you whatever they think will get you to stop the torture, regardless of if it's true or not.

    It'd be a bit more interesting I'd think if the torture sometimes works, and sometimes leads you off in directions that aren't at all productive(and might actually weaken you).

    • by Qzukk (229616)

      and sometimes leads you off in directions that aren't at all productive

      It would be amusing to have the player run off in search of random football players [blogspot.com] ;)

      • by 1u3hr (530656)
        It would be amusing to have the player run off in search of random football players ;)

        Very interesting... I hadn't heard that story. I recently saw the movie Rendition, and the prisoner in that gives the name of an Egyptian World Cup football team as his "terrorist accomplices". Most of the events in that are based on real cases, I hadn't realised they were referencing McCain though.

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      True, you only have to shock his naughty bits three or four times to get what you want out of him. Moreover, if you keep doing it after he spills the beans the guy keeps asking you to stop it but you don't, for example, get shock or horror from the guy who handed you the naughty-bit-shocker but didn't have the guts to do the deed himself. Nothing else comes of in in game.

      Such a deed would be pretty in-character for a Rogue and would be light amusement at best for a Warlock, but if word of a Paladin doing

      • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:26AM (#26129897)

        That's basically what it is. If the quest was to eat human babies (or orc babies on the other side) and there's gold, experience and prestige in it, people will do it. Not because they're not sensitive to the feelings of others, but because it's a friggin' game. I mean, we're already at slaughtering animals, people, undead, ghosts and giants, by the dozen, hundreds, thousands. Eating babies and shocking someone's nuts? We're already at virtual mass murder, who cares about the virtual rest?

        • Also (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @04:04AM (#26130109)

          In the WoW universe, little is permanent. Death is a minor inconvenience, not something that is forever. If a player dies, they spawn as a spirit at a nearby graveyard and walk back to their body and resurrect. NPCs (computer controlled characters) simply respawn in the same spot after a certain amount of time.

          If the real world worked like that, well we'd probably have a rather different value system. If killing someone meant they had to walk back for a couple minutes and caused them no permanent harm at all, I imagine it wouldn't be such a big deal.

          The rules of a game world are vastly different than our own so even if you want to ignore the fact that this is just entertainment, you can't try and apply the same morals to it.

          • Re:Also (Score:4, Informative)

            by andi75 (84413) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @07:52AM (#26131077) Homepage

            > In the WoW universe, little is permanent. ... NPCs (computer controlled characters) simply respawn in the same spot after a certain amount of time.

            Not so true anymore. With Blizzard's "phasing" technology, there are some really world changing quests now (in the world you see, not what other players see). For example, in my version of Undercity, Varimathras is gone for good (I killed him).

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Jim_Maryland (718224)
              Until they add a reason that you should have let him live, you still have no consequences for killing Varimathras. If WoW offered a bit more moral consequences for your actions (maybe an achievement for "protect the innocent" or "nice guy"), maybe we'd see people thinking a little more about their actions. Then again, realizing it is a game, how many would care?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Any game that would be at all realistic would be a game that nobody would want to play.
            Spending 80 dollars for a game where you got killed and then could never revive yourself certainly wouldn't be much fun.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Hognoxious (631665)

          I mean, we're already at slaughtering animals, people, undead, ghosts

          Strictly speaking, is it possible to slaughter undead and ghosts?

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:11AM (#26129837)

      Torture produces what you want to hear. Nothing else. More precisely, what the subject tortured thinks that you want to hear so, as you pointed out, you stop torturing it.

      In short, it usually just "confirms" whatever assumption you had in the first place.

      It is utterly useless for getting information because whatever the tortured subject tells you can either be true (if your assumption was correct) or false (if it wasn't and he is making up some story to make you think that he is giving you information to make you stop the torture). And if he's really dedicated, the chance to get a fabrication increases (because making up a story is not dependent on knowing the truth, only on his motivation to end the torture).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gordo3000 (785698)

        do you have any evidence to back these assumptions? I'm not talking about another talking head saying the same thing, but I mean evidence pointing to several instances where a prisoner gave details that were expected and they turned out to be false.

        I Personally doubt these methods are as ineffective as everyone likes to portray them.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Opportunist (166417)

          Umm.... how about pretty much inquisition trial that included torture?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by johnsonav (1098915)

            Umm.... how about pretty much inquisition trial that included torture?

            I don't think he's talking about torture to obtain a confession, but rather torture to obtain actionable information. I would imagine an interrogation could be set up so that the subject is asked questions with only concrete and verifiable answers. The subject could be threatened with even more torture for non-compliance or misinformation. It would then be in his best interest to tell the truth as soon as possible.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Opportunist (166417)

              If he knows it. If he's in the unfortunate position to know nothing of interest for his torturer, he's basically dead (or worse) if he does not lie and try to find out what his torturer wants to hear.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by johnsonav (1098915)

                Very true. If he doesn't know, he's pretty much screwed. I'm not saying that torture is the end-all-be-all of interrogation techniques, but the common misconception that torture is useless, is harmful to the debate. There are so many better arguments against torture.

                Most individuals could think of a situation where they would make the decision to torture, even if the results may possibly be false. The strongest arguments against torture do not deny that fact. They rest on the dangers of legitimizing and ins

                • by Nursie (632944) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:39AM (#26131285)

                  Some people only understand the utilitarian aspect.

                  Some folks would gladly have the government torture a "goddamn terr'st" because they are not people. And of course these same folks are usually more than happy with the idea of suspending due process because they're "terr'sts".

                  This seems to come about due to a mix of racism, fear, faith in the government, a desire for some sort of revenge and a genuine lack of understanding of modern justice systems. What's more disturbing is that a lot of folk are willing to put up with a few innocent individuals being imprisoned, tortured and killed (in good faith, of course!) if it the government says it's doing it to keep them safe.

                  The worst aspect of this (for me) is that I occasionally hear these opinions espoused by my own mother. Then I feel compelled to remind her that since Dad married an Iranian woman, that wrongly accused suspect could be me next.

                  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @12:33PM (#26133645)

                    What people fail to see is that a system like this can easily be abused against them, too, just like the inquisition was. What if, say, the government decides that the 2nd has to fall and whoever wants to keep his guns is a bloody terr'ist because only them would want to keep weapons. The whole constitution (the old piece of paper that is here to defend you, not against the terrorists, but against a much bigger threat: An overreaching government) becomes very toothless when it gets an unspoken amendment reading "only valid if government doesn't give you a label that makes all these things void".

                    Because that is what the civil rights amendments are about: Limiting the governments power over you. The government must not silence you, they must not take away your guns, they must not put soldiers in your homes, they must not simply pick you up and haul you away, they must not browbeat you into confessing and so on. If they can strip these rights from you at will, the whole constitution becomes pointless, because they will of course only apply those labels to those that disagree with them, which in turn means that these amendments become void for all. You HAVE to conform with the government doctrine or your rights are gone. What kind of rights are those, then, if they cease to exist when you need them?

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by ultranova (717540)

              I don't think he's talking about torture to obtain a confession, but rather torture to obtain actionable information.

              Such as the names of your fellow witches ?

              I would imagine an interrogation could be set up so that the subject is asked questions with only concrete and verifiable answers.

              That would require that you have some way of obtaining the answers independent of torture, which makes the torture pointless.

              I suppose you could try to set up a scenario where you'd "train" the victim to tell the truth wi

        • do you have any evidence to back these assumptions? I'm not talking about another talking head saying the same thing, but I mean evidence pointing to several instances where a prisoner gave details that were expected and they turned out to be false.

          I Personally doubt these methods are as ineffective as everyone likes to portray them.

          The witch trials in Europe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch_trials [wikipedia.org] Unless you believe in witches I guess.

          • by gordo3000 (785698)

            not germane. this is not actionable evidence. this is torture committed with the purpose of making someone say "xyz". that is completely different than torturing for actionable information.

            inevitably, the only data people can point to is similar situations where a confession was garnered. That is what torture is about wehn a police officer is trying to get a confession (hence it's uselessness) but isn't what torture is about when dealing with Al Qaeda. We don't torture to find out if the person is a me

            • by Phyrexicaid (1176935) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @06:12AM (#26130665)
              They were torturing for actionable evidence. They had people complaining of "spells" and "curses" being placed on them. They needed to find out who was doing these horrible things. They tortured innocent people until they confessed to being the ones responsible.

              Now you have people complaining about terrorists. You need to find out where these terrorists are. You torture innocent people until they confess that they are terrorists, and tell you where their secret base is. How many people in Gitmo are innocent? How many have been released after spending a year or more there?
        • by Anonymous Coward

          There is a documented case during the Vietnam war: Nguyen Van Tai was interrogated by the CIA and its allies.
          Years of isolation, torture of both the subtle and not so subtle kind.
          The guy managed to give false information for years, with occasional bits of truth that was not useful anymore by the time he gave it.

          The CIA decided at the time he was proof torture was not useful. Not even a matter or ethics: it just doesn't work.

          Just Google for "Nguyen Van Tai" CIA "Frank Snepp"

        • I Personally doubt these methods are as ineffective as everyone likes to portray them.

          Oh! Well, if "gordo3000" doubts that torture is ineffective, let's torture away!

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Reapy (688651)

          I recall a random tv show, one of those things that reports weird cases.

          I am going to badly m aul the details of it, but here is a somewhat summary:

          The case was something like murder/rape of a young girl. I believe there were 4 friends who were tried for it. What happened was the police kept the kids in the questioning room for like 20+ hours non stop. At the end I think some of them signed confessions to the murder and admitted guilt.

          Only, several days later, they found the real killer, had evidence, prett

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by localman (111171)

          Of course you doubt it, because you want so bad for there to be some way in which our power allows us to get what we want.

          My grandfather and his brother were captured by the Polish secret police in 1949. They had helped Eastern European refugees escape to the west from the Nazis during the war, but when those refugees returned to eastern Europe, Stalin suspected they were western spies. To find out who they were, and get evidence against them, my grandfather and his brother were held and tortured over a p

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Boronx (228853)

          There was a guy a couple of years ago who got FBI agents running willy nilly all over the country breaking up imaginary terrorist attacks because he was just making up shit for his torturers. I couldn't find a link though in two minutes of Googling, so I'll just point out that the Nazis and the Japanese weren't able to torture themselves to victory, nor were the Soviets, past masters of the art, able to torture their way out of the Cold War. George Bush and Dick Cheney have looked at the Soviet's stunning

      • by dangitman (862676)

        Torture produces what you want to hear. Nothing else. More precisely, what the subject tortured thinks that you want to hear so, as you pointed out, you stop torturing it

        But the topic is torture in a specific videogame. Based on my experience with such games, I'm thinking that the likelihood of the torture victim (NPC) giving false information because of the torture is low. i think it's more likely that in a typical game world, the application of torture will yield the answers the player needs to complete the quest. Therefore, the game is not giving a true impression of torture and its effects - which often backfires on the torturer and leads them to waste time and resource

        • It could well be part of the quest that the tortured victim lies and leads you into a trap, then part of the quest is to overcome the trap and kill the ones setting it for you (or at least escape them).

          As a counter example, Tabula Rasa (another MMO) actually had a few quests where you could choose between cooperation and confrontation. I remember at least two quests where you interacted with a prisoner. In one case you faced the choice between giving the alien prisoner his special food before the special ag

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Sobrique (543255)
        You misunderstand torture. Hurting someone to get an answer to a question does this - the subject will do whatever is necessary to end the pain, and that includes telling you what they think you want to hear. However the point of torture isn't to do that - it's to 'break' them mentally, and force them to disconnect from reality and previous motivations and emotions. It's using torment (physical or psychological) to ... essentially drive them insane, and distort their trust relationship towards their torture
    • this [wowhead.com] is the quest in question. While there's a similar one in the death knight starting zone, the NPC's there are armed, and are not strapped to a chair begging you to stop.

      If you look at the response column the player base was squeamish enough to create forum threads in objection. As someone who browses the forum on occasion, the first couple weeks after the wrath of the lich king launch saw an explosion of similar threads.

      I think it would be better to have you torture the npc in question multiple times,

  • by unitron (5733) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:00AM (#26129795) Homepage Journal

    From the article...

    It's quite possible Blizzard has a much larger, slow-moving point to make about torture.

    So, I would argue, might the TV show 24. Look how often the torture on that show doesn't work out as planned.

    • by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:31AM (#26129927)
      So, I would argue, might the TV show 24. Look how often the torture on that show doesn't work out as planned.

      Seems to work just about all the time -- unless it's Jack being tortured. And the creators of the show exhibit no such agenda.

      See this Slate article [slate.com], for example:

      Jack Bauer--played by Kiefer Sutherland--was an inspiration at early "brainstorming meetings" of military officials at Guantanamo in September of 2002. Diane Beaver, the staff judge advocate general who gave legal approval to 18 controversial new interrogation techniques including water-boarding, sexual humiliation, and terrorizing prisoners with dogs, told Sands that Bauer "gave people lots of ideas." Michael Chertoff, the homeland-security chief, once gushed in a panel discussion on 24 organized by the Heritage Foundation that the show "reflects real life."

      Amnd teh New Yorker [newyorker.com]:

      This past November, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind 24. Finnegan, who was accompanied by three of the most experienced military and F.B.I. interrogators in the country, arrived on the set as the crew was filming.... Finnegan and the others had come to voice their concern that the show's central political premise--that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country's securitywas having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. "I'd like them to stop," Finnegan said of the show's producers. "They should do a show where torture backfires."

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by unitron (5733)

        They tortured the son of the Sec Def, but didn't get the info they were looking for. They either tortured, or were about to (I disremember) the Sec Def's daughter, but since she didn't have the info they wanted, that wouldn't have done any good either. They tortured the CTU-running woman of Arabic or Persian descent, but since she didn't have the info they wanted, that didn't do any good either.

        In other words, the vibe I get from the show is that torture doesn't work out nearly as often as its cheerleader

        • by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @05:37AM (#26130525)
          I note that all the times you cite when torture didn't work, the victim was innocent or at least ignorant. The point is when Jack tortures someone he always gets results. This all underlies the idea that torture works, that it reveals truth. All of which those who actually have experience of it (not myself, fortunately) will tell you is complete bullshit.
        • And in all those cases they go: "Oh, well, no permanent harm done, move on. Have a pay rise."
          In those cases they may show that torture doesn't always work, but their reaction to having screwed up is so apathetic that they give the impession that while torture may not always work, you have nothing to lose by giving it a go.

    • So, I would argue, might the TV show 24. Look how often the torture on that show doesn't work out as planned.

      That's because they never give Jack enough time! He asked for *five* minutes alone with the suspect, dammit!

      The best was when he was interrogating a guy, and shot the guy's *wife* in the leg. BAD ASS! :-)

  • I like Bartle (Score:4, Interesting)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:06AM (#26129809) Homepage Journal

    After reading Designing Virtual Worlds I happened to log onto his MUD2 [mud.co.uk] server and look around. Ahh.. memories. And so many missing features! The MUD descendants truly were fertile lands of innovation. Anyway, after about 10 minutes of wandering around in MUD2 I got sufficiently bored and tried to kill something. Bartle kindly informed me that I was a guest and guests should act more polite than that. If I wanted to create an account I could do some killing, but only in the appropriate area, etc, etc. All very British and proper. Of course, the next command I just had to try was 'rape'. Bartle hates that command, so the result was predictably hilarious. I was immediately disconnected and my IP address was banned. Beautiful.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:21AM (#26129885)

    I mean, let's be sensible here. Torture. In other words, making someone feel pain (physical, emotional, pick your poison) to get something from him.

    Anyone here that does NOT know that this is something you don't really want to be subjected to? Well? I see no hands, so either people know or people know about it enough that they don't want to hear the logical followup to that question.

    If we get desensitized to torture, to people being hurt and mutilated for fun and profit, I think something's wrong with the shows that picture it as something "mildly unpleasant" instead of what it is: Physically and even more so emotionally crippling. When we do the same in games, what does it change?

    I mean, besides games having a weaker lobby and getting the thinkofthechildren crowd up in arms about people playing torture.

    Is there a difference between watching torture on TV and executing it yourself in a game? In both cases you watch a character do it. In one case, you get to see it because you issue a command. In the other case you do because you don't issue one, i.e. don't change the channel. Where is the huge difference?

    • by Artifakt (700173)

      Your mention of 'physically' and 'emotionally crippling' effects is significant. One reason societies torture is it often messes the victim up permanently. The theory goes, leave a person barely able to walk, starting or even fainting at every loud noise, and trained in submission, and you have a person who won't make an effective enemy. He or she may hate your guts, but won't actually be functional enough to pose a threat. That's actually the most frequent goal, rather than to get information. And the goal

  • by Davemania (580154) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:28AM (#26129905) Journal
    My impression of WoW is that it is a fairly shallow game in terms of narrative with the quests. Most of these quests are simple grinding with very little aspect to rewards or consequences to the players actions. If the idea is to incoporate consequences or rewards to such things as torture, part of the gaming mechanism would've to be changed such that something valuable to a WoW player would be affected. I don't think WoW has ever presented the concept of good or bad in the gameplay, either faction can do pretty much whatever they want regardless. WoW isn't designed to disucss morality in terms of gameplay.
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:32AM (#26129929)

      Not to mention the whining. Imagine that you could decide and somewhere in the future it turns out that the item you could have gotten if you ate the baby had a bonus of +1240 instead of the measly +1230 that you got because you brought him a teddy bear. Not to mention that getting that teddy bear took much, much longer than just eating the little screamer.

      What? No, nobody will discuss whether eating the baby would be wrong or bad, why're you asking?

    • by Gravatron (716477)
      Litch King actually improved on this, with several very long, lore filled quests with permanent effects on the gameworld.
      For example, during the dragonblight line, you'll discover several things, such as the fact that the Azure dragonflight is forcing several mages to preform tasks after threatening their families with death, one such encounter leads to a heart felt letter from her father thanking you. At the end, after a major battle, you'll see a fire bakes landscape and the screams of the injured and
    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      certainly the after-effects of torture are not part of the gameplay. Once you've tortured the NPC to "extract" the information, what then? You go on your merry way, never looking back, and don't consider or even remember the NPC again.

      Its not as if there's a sub section where the NPC goes back home to the wife and kids.

      Now, if the NPC went back to the family/tribe/whatever and they took one look at him, decided that the player was an evil, warmongering SOB that deserved to be given a bloody nose, and thus r

  • by shoor (33382) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:33AM (#26129931)

    A lot depends on how it's done of course. The point would be to learn something and not just reinforcement attitudes and habits.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Milgram_Experiment [wikipedia.org]

  • by Antony-Kyre (807195) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @04:00AM (#26130089)

    It's virtually painless!

  • One of the best parts of Shivering Isles was walking around town and interrogating citizens with the help of the royal torturer and his shock spell. There's another part where you, dungeon master-like, subject treasure hunters to various obstacles that either kill them or drive them mad.

    Good times. :-)

    • by setagllib (753300)

      Yeah, that was a riot, unlike the vanilla Oblivion where the main quest requires you to do good deeds regardless of your character, the Shivering Isles quest requires evil. Then Knights of the Nine is absurdly over-pious to the point of being downright tedious, such as having to not do anything evil just to use the equipment you earned from 5-10 hours of questing!

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      ah yes, Dungeon Keeper 2 [wikipedia.org]... where you built a torture chamber and shiny-black demon ladies would come to serve you. You'd drop captured opponents in the chamber and they'd appear tied to wheels and chairs while the dark mistress whipped them. If there were no opponents to play with, the mistresses would tie themselves to the devices. The sounds were quite fun too.

      It should be noted it was all a bit tongue-in-cheek.

  • How realistic are they going to make the torture?
    Will the NPC say, do or admit to *anything* to make it stop?
    Will the information obtained be inaccurate?

    Will the player eventually find out that the character he's spent 4 game hours torturing, was actually the wrong guy all along?

    • by djh101010 (656795)

      How realistic are they going to make the torture?

      Well, let's see. The quest giver gives you the wand of zapping or whatever it's called. You go to the guy with the yellow question mark on his head, target the dude, click 4 times, and get the quest finished signal, then go back to quest giver for the next quest. So, yeah, not so realistic.

      It's a game.

      • by VShael (62735)

        Considering games like Manhunt 2 are possible in this day and age, it's not an unreasonable question.

  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @05:39AM (#26130535) Homepage
    I hear everyone jumping on the bandwaggon..."torure does not work".

    You keep basing it off what the victim says. It's un-reliable, etc...

    Torture can be useful to get what ISN'T said. What you already know the victim knows...but you'd like to fill in gaps or corroborate gaps in other theories.

    In the medical field, the "pertinent negative" information....what the patient ISN'T saying is often more important than what he or she IS.

    A better argument is that we can win wars without it. It is beneath us. It is wasteful and can lose your Hearts and Minds battle.

  • That "whole world in your hands" song is a textbook study; I'm sure Sony will update the next version of Home to include the necessary virtual waterboard and beatings so we can enjoy it as its composer intended.

  • by ghmh (73679) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @07:47AM (#26131049)

    the Dungeon Keeper games. You built torture chambers in your dungeon so you could attract Dark Mistresses who helped torture your creatures to make them work harder, or your enemies creatures to make them reveal information, join your side or die and return as ghosts. Your own Dark Mistresses actually liked you more after you personally tortured them. The related torture animations and sounds were pretty cool, especially for back then. This was back before Bullfrog was acquired by EA, and Peter Molyneux was closer to delivering his promises.

  • two words: (Score:2, Offtopic)

    SHIRE!!!

    BAGGINS!!!

    hang your head in shame, "nerds", that no one has posted this yet

  • They were just antagonizing me up I had to kill 15 extra mobs for the last random drop for a quest item. I think a little torture of an npc is more than fair.

  • Yes it is unfair in games especially when being spawn camped and instantly getting blown to pieces over and over and over each time I spawn, its torture!

    Oh, you're talking about a different kind of torture.

  • WTF? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hobbit (5915)

    The author makes the case that the failure of most media to properly portray how horrible torture actually is (for example, on the TV show 24), and the increased focus on real-world topics like Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and waterboarding, could make games the perfect venue for demonstrating the "devastating repercussions" of torture.

    Yep, just like everyone who's ever played a FPS knows exactly how terrible the horrors of war are.

    And I've played enough Tetris in my life to know exactly what it's like to be a bricklayer.

  • I wonder how far they will go in the upcoming 24 pinball game and how much will have to taken out when the game is set to adult mode moderate and / or family vs full.

  • by zarthrag (650912) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @12:26PM (#26133565)
    Metal Gear Solid - it had an actual torture section of the game that actually changes the ending. If you give-in to the torture, you get to save your girlfriend, Merryl. If you don't, you keep the secrets - but Merryl is killed (and, though the game doesn't show it, it is implied that she'll be raped first.) Disturbing, now that I think back on it.
  • Effectiveness (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thebheffect (1409105) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @01:30PM (#26134365)
    The whole 'torture doesn't work' argument is valid, but only if you use the process being described. Relying on a single person's confession is bad practice. It's comparable to performing one test in an experiment and using that as your findings. One would think you would have multiple interrogations and be able sort out the differences and inconsistencies to piece together pretty accurate intel. Like other have said though, the 'accuracy' of torture shouldn't be the deciding factor. If that's where we are as a society, then maybe it's too late.

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