I Feel Awful About Killing Her

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Last night, I killed a woman. It wasn’t quite murder, honestly – more like involuntary manslaughter – but I actually had problems getting to sleep, because I kept seeing her mutilated face just before her body plummeted into the mineshaft.
My crime?
I didn’t hit the button fast enough.
And it’s weird, because if we’re counting pixellated bodies, I’ve perpetrated genocide several times over, starting with accidentally dropping dudes to their death in Defender back in 1981 and ramping all the way up to a full-fledged eating of Manhattan crowds as the Blacklight Virus in Prototype.
Yet this one girl?  She bothers me.  And the next morning, I’m still filled with regret that I didn’t act fast enough.
The game is Until Dawn, and it’s an interactive storytelling game in the style of Walking Dead.  You’re watching a narrative – in this case, a horror narrative, where eight dumb teens gather up in an isolated mountaintop lodge and are killed by a supernatural killer out for revenge.  As the story goes on, you make choices – do you show the infatuated boyfriend how his girlfriend is making out with her ex? As a girl, do you try to make out with your boyfriend or tell him you’re just friends?  Do you hide in closets and scare your friends in this creepy-ass lodge, or do you try to get them to work together?
If you search you can find totems, which give you maddeningly incomplete flashes of future events – that maybe you can use to change the awful destinies in store for you.
The game does not allow reloading.  You play it through like a movie, with no rewinding.  And the murders don’t come for a while, so… you get attached.  It’s a little soap opera, where you want Shy Nerd and Shyer Nerdette to fall in love, where you like the snarky way that Rude Jock talks.
Then the killings happen, and you’re responsible.
I’d been trying to get this couple together because she was unabashedly slutty and he was witty. They got out into the cabin alone, where she revealed that she wasn’t quite as sexual as she portrayed herself as – and I chose to be compassionate, telling her we were all fronting, and it was okay who she was.  And they started to make out, and that’s when the killer abducted her.
I chased after them.  I had a choice: take the shortcut, or go down the long way?  And I took the shortcut, which had three mini-Quicktime events, and…
I missed the third event.
I fell in the river.
And ten minutes later, when I finally caught up with the killer, and found her body, they flashed back so I knew exactly what button-press I had missed that had taken this young girl’s life, and I still feel bad.
I have never felt this horrible about “missing the square button” in all my life.
And I can’t get her back.  Getting to that stage in the plot took three hours, and there’s still several hours of story to go, and even if I could restart, I doubt I could remember the exact sequence of decisions I made to make the dead girl the dead girl that I was rooting for.  I know from reviews that the decisions you make change their personalities, and it wouldn’t be quite the same.
I was invested in a way that videogame fiction doesn’t normally do.  Yeah, there’s Sephiroth moments where shocking things happen in the narrative, but those are hard-coded – she’s going to die no matter what you do, and it makes the tears flow but you could play through Final Fantasy a hundred times and she’s going to die, she’s always going to die.
Until Dawn, however, a human being died because of my lack of skill.
And as I drifted uneasily off to sleep, I wondered: What if I’d made that square button press?  What if I’d taken the long way?  Would the long way have still been too long?  What if I had been less compassionate, would she have been safe if we hadn’t tried to have sex in a genre where sex == death?
This is an unsettling game. The temptation is to put it down and not be responsible for killing any of my other favorite characters – and the game knows which characters you like, because it asks you, tailoring the game to your terrors.  When I play, I’ll be putting them in danger again, and yet I have to know what happens.
Until Dawn is making me complicit in murders.  I could just turn off the game, return it for Gamestop credit, look at FAQs and YouTube videos to find out what happens in the “butterfly effect” branches of the game.
But I’m going to play.  I have to do better.
I hope I can do right by the survivors.

1 Comment

  1. Milady
    Nov 4, 2015

    I just contacted my local Gamestop to reserve a copy of this game. Thank you for the recommendation! One of my favorite games is Heavy Rain because of how the gameplay affects the narrative, and I’m also a sucker for quick prompt type games. This sounds like it may be similar.
    Side-note: It took me years to stop getting teary-eyed everytime I heard Aeris’ theme song.

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