I very recently played through Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and I killed a man. It took him a long time to die.
It was an accident. It was a mistake.
In the beginning I tried to play Ground Zeroes like I play most Metal Gears: stealthily, with CQC, sneaking, crawling every goddamn inch of the map. But then there was this guard. It wasn’t his fault he spotted me, it was mine. Unfortunately for him he now had to die.
So I shot him. I shot him with a silenced assault rifle and after a few frenzied bullets to the gut he crumpled to the ground. A noble video game death, or so I thought.
It was only as I inched closer, wary of being spotted by other guards, that I heard the groans. Guttural, stifled grunts of pain, occasional squeals.
In video game terms, this soldier was out of commission. His alert (‘!’) didn’t go off as I stood over him. He wasn’t going anywhere. His moans weren’t loud enough to alert other guards in the vicinity, but I could hear them. I watched him writhe in pain; what a strange sensation to be feeling in a video game…
Death in video games is like death in any other entertainment medium. Quick, relatively painless. A Wilhelm Scream and the immediate cool embrace of a transient death. A lifeless, inconsequential character model fades to dust. Victory achieved. At this precise moment, standing over my still alive victim I was being shown the direct consequences of my actions. I fucked up a stealth mission and this young man, clearly in an incredible amount of pain, was a direct victim of my incompetence. This was my fault. I fucked up. This man was inching closer to death on my account. He didn’t have to die. Now he was going to die.
“Put him out of his misery.” My internal monologue started chattering. What was the right thing to do in these circumstances? The damage was clearly done. This soldier was about to die. This time I had no choice.
I aimed directly at his head and I pulled the trigger.