DICE and Battlefield 3 Executive Producer Patrick Bach recently went on record saying that the team is avoiding including civilians in Battlefield 3 in an attempt to remove the potential, if disagreeable, choice that players might make if presented with the opportunity to kill an innocent bystander. It's a decision that's not only mature, but also respectful of the subject matter at hand. We as gamers can certainly respect DICE for making this decision. Given the choice, I daresay a large majority would certainly choose to shoot a civilian just to see what happens. That's not to say there will be those that don't and kudos to them for making the morally right choice. However, the feedback to this announcement hasn't quite been as mature as one might expect. Comments range largely from trolling to anger, with only a few supporting DICE's decision.
So what in the world is going on? How is it that a developer can choose to do what's morally right, regardless of their motivations, and still be criticized for not allowing gamers to game "as they wish," which in doing so would allow for the mindless slaughter of virtual innocents. Modern Warfare 2's No Russian level received plenty of criticism and certainly a lot of media coverage, there's no doubt it played a hand in boosting sales at retail either; however, is that the kind of coverage and exposure that the gaming industry needs? No, ignorant fools already slam our community enough as it is. We don't need to leave the impression that games are all about senseless violence. We don't need another game that gives players the choice to shoot a child in the face. Something as gratuitous as that isn't necessary in games. What does it add to the experience? Nothing.
DICE aren't the only developers that are removing this moral choice from their games, gamers won't be given the choice or the opportunity in Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim either. Todd Howard jokingly scolded the press for even asking. What good reason is there? More importantly, why would anyone even want to? While games like Grand Theft Auto, and even more recently Deus Ex: Human Revolution allows players to wail on innocent bystanders, similar titles like Mass Effect do not, and yet the experience doesn't suffer. Lest we forget, even the Bad Company spinoffs, which are more parodies than anything, don't allow for the killing of innocents. There aren't even any in the game and there weren't any complaints then. So why now?
What is it about our nature to even suggest such a thing? Surely as gamers we can find enjoyment out of the games developers create without having to blow a hole through some kid's cranium. Some argue it's the principle of leaving the choice up to the player, but by the same token, it's by principle that DICE doesn't give players the opportunity to shoot a civilian in the first place. Not to mention it'll be a PR nightmare. FOX and other such right wing crazies will jump on it like a monkey on a cupcake. Anyone recall the Mortal Kombat clip Jon Stewart decided to harp on? It'll just feed critics of our community even more ammo with which to shoot us back. I like to believe that given the choice, gamers will make the right one, but when people start to criticize developers to the point of boycotting their games for this one reason alone, those beliefs are terribly shaken.
Battlefield 3 is undoubtedly going to rock the industry, with or without the option of killing civilians. If you feel that the game is instantly terrible because you no longer have that option, then you really need to grow up. DICE are being mature and respectful about this and there's no reason why gamers shouldn't have their backs on the matter. It's great to see developers stick to their guns and I for one salute them for it.