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Torture in Games

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the ok-torture's-bad-but-killing's-fine-right dept.

Games 249

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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Fr1st Pr0stes !!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26129667)

Fr1st Pr0st

Re:Fr1st Pr0stes !!!! (0, Offtopic)

Pax00 (266436) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130017)

in soviet russia the games torture you

Re:Fr1st Pr0stes !!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130423)

in soviet russia the games torture you

TETRIS DESTROYED MY LIFE!

Japan called.... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26129671)

they'd like everyone to know they make games too. That is all.

Asheron's Call already had this quest... (0, Offtopic)

Hubbell (850646) | more than 5 years ago | (#26129677)

Back in like 2002 or 2003. Nuhmidira's Bestowment which required you to choose between killing good ol Nuhmie or letting her live, your choice determined what kind of imbuement your item got.

Re:Asheron's Call already had this quest... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26129699)

Killing someone isn't torture in itself. Nearly every game out there involves killing. That's not the same as torture.

Re:Asheron's Call already had this quest... (1)

Hubbell (850646) | more than 5 years ago | (#26129711)

The idea was for the player's to choose whether a major storyline character lived or died, which is pretty close to it compared to other games that have come out.

Re:Asheron's Call already had this quest... (3, Insightful)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130217)

I like how we get to perform some kind of moral calculus with torture vs. killing in a game, and we're able to debate which is 'more acceptable'. I mean, it's a bit like GTA3 - a game based on assault, murder and large scale theft - and the uproar about a sex scene in it.

Either morality is relevant in a game context or it isn't - if it is, then we should be disapproving of _anything_ in the game which is immoral (and in most cases that's anything that's actually illegal - killing 'bad guys' just because they're there isn't particularly moral). If it isn't, who cares about a spot of torture within the context of World of Warcraft, which lets not forget has a fundamental underlying premise of genocide - exterminating entire races based on their species.

Not exactly the height of morality there.

Re:Asheron's Call already had this quest... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130605)

I wasn't saying one was better or worse. Rather that they were two different things. Deciding if someone lives or dies isn't the same thing as torture. They have different definitions.

Death != Torture

Re:Asheron's Call already had this quest... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26131125)

Nearly every game out there involves killing.

Not noticed it in Tetris - is it in some hidden level or something?

Re:Asheron's Call already had this quest... (3, Informative)

drik00 (526104) | more than 5 years ago | (#26129779)

Yeah, don't forget the entire PREMISE of Knights of the Old Republic (and sequel) were predicated on how you decided to act in-game. In order to go dark side (evil), you had to do some pretty rotten things.

We play games the same reason that bear cubs play-fight, just like every other animal in the world, we teach ourselves through playing. I have a COMMUNCATIONS degree and I figured this out... you'd think the PhD's could put it together without making such a big deal of it.

J

Re:Asheron's Call already had this quest... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26129933)

I have a COMMUNCATIONS degree

oh the irony

Re:Asheron's Call already had this quest... (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130227)

Would you like fries with that?

Re:Asheron's Call already had this quest... (2, Informative)

Walpurgiss (723989) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130209)

I wouldn't really call the evil actions 'rotten', rather more like pointlessly evil. They weren't often actions with evil intent, or ways to do things with evil motives, but instead they were just completely retarded and random evil things.

You can be evil, and still do 'good' things to achieve evil ends, but in that game, you are evil by doing stupid things like randomly kill people all the time, or pick fights for no apparent reason or benefit.

The evil in KOTOR was pretty stupid most of the time, and pointless other than to make your character 'evil' through random acts of violence rather than cold, calculated evil.

I guess in D&D terms, you could be lawful good, neutral, or chaotic evil. Not really any choice to be both evil and sane.

Re:Asheron's Call already had this quest... (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130299)

Well, in D&D you get almost the same thing, because not many people actually understand that 'Evil' (in D&D terms at least) is probably about where the average person starts - motivated by self interest, and prepared to work within the constraints of the law unless there's definite advantage to circumvention, but otherwise ... well, go where the pay is.

Re:Asheron's Call already had this quest... (1)

Qetu (732155) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130347)

You just described Neutral.

"What makes a man turn neutral? Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?" - Zapp Brannigan

Re:Asheron's Call already had this quest... (3, Informative)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130479)

That's Neutral. It has several subtypes.

Neutral: The one you specified. Somebody who doesn't specifically care much about these things. Most normal people go here, who don't spend a whole lot of time thinking about whether they're being completely moral or whether they follow the law exactly.
Amoral: Animals. No understanding of moral issues.
True Neutral: Dedication to Neutrality as a concept. Mostly applied to Druids. In my understanding a Druid's point of view is that things must persist. The kobolds must not exterminate the humans, nor the humans the kobolds. The druid will actively try to maintain balance between forces.

D&D Evil:
Lawful: Think lawyer type trying to screw people out of their money by using every legal resource to their advantage. This kind of person would argue that "Law == Morality", and that since it's legal for them to screw somebody out of all their money, there's nothing wrong with it.
Neutral: Selfish. No honor or tradition. Driven by self-interest. Will adhere to law or ignore it, whichever brings the greatest advantage.
Chaotic: What most games assume "evil" to be. Pointlessly sadistic, kills random people, backstabs associates even when against their own self-interest, because you see, they're EVIL and can't get along with anybody for any length of time. In the real world these would be insane.

Torture IS a game (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#26129695)

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.

You must mean Deception (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 5 years ago | (#26129919)

While somewhat more trap-based than torture based, Tecmo's Deception [wikipedia.org] mostly fits what you describe.

Re:Torture IS a game (3, Funny)

jonadab (583620) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130403)

> 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...

Re:Torture IS a game (0, Flamebait)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131037)

The best tool is Celine Dion.

Spycraft: The Great Game (5, Interesting)

bryll (854882) | more than 5 years ago | (#26129723)

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:Spycraft: The Great Game (2, Insightful)

penguinchris (1020961) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130067)

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 clearly what the XO says to you, and the look of despair on his face as he says it, when you make a bad decision and end up sinking the submarine (probably because I sank it dozens of times...)

But anyway... the main thing I was going to say is, can you imagine anyone releasing a game now with live-action torture sequences? What publisher would allow that? It would be a very effective statement against torture, but I can't see it happening, despite the amount of violence and debauchery available to you in other games. Spycraft was an effective statement as well, but not timely.

Re:Spycraft: The Great Game (1)

bryll (854882) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130249)

I'm trying to imagine a sequence in a GTA-esque game where you have to torture someone for information, and I don't think it'd work. The game is too farcical - you'd need the sequence to be in a more 'dramatic' game. And I think you're right. The odds of a gaming company, even a "controversial" one like Rockstar or Running With Scissors, is very slim. Even Rockstar's Manhunt games stopped shy of torture.

Re:Spycraft: The Great Game (2, Informative)

Petrushka (815171) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130645)

A relatively non-controversial company, Bethesda, has in fact released a game -- Oblivion -- that featured the player torturing an NPC for information [uesp.net] .

(Un)fortunately, the torture isn't remotely realistic and consists of beating someone who never bleeds, with hands that never get sore. The NPC commits suicide afterwards too, but even that's a bit of a non-event.

Re:Spycraft: The Great Game (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131043)

Also games would probably just have a "torture bar" that you have to fill, then the guy tells you the truth rather than just having him say different things every time you hit him and you have to try to figure out when he actually says the truth.

Re:Spycraft: The Great Game (2, Interesting)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131061)

Spoilers Ahoy.

One of the main mission sequences in Saint's Row 2 is a progression against a gang that starts out with slipping nuclear waste into the tattoo ink of a guy that pissed you off, and later progresses to 'rescuing' (then delivering the Emperor's Mercy) to one of your lieutenant's who's been chained to a truck and dragged around town, to kidnapping the guy's girlfriend, putting her in the trunk of a car, then sticking that car on a monster truck course that the guy is going through.

Some of it is played for laughs, and some of it (like the character's reaction to his lieutenant's bloody, broken, road-rashed body) is played disturbingly straight.

Re:Spycraft: The Great Game (2, Interesting)

Onymous Coward (97719) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130111)

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 societal effort to rectify. If you've ever been bullied by a real (chronic) bully, you know that that kind of behavior needs fixing for the whole of society to be healthier. This kind of wiring responds positively to the suffering of others, so the stark horror of torture wouldn't necessarily be the ethically edifying experience one would hope for.

But I'm not contradicting myself — I say put torture in video games, have the majority of us get a better grip on the awfulness. Giving bullies virtual persons to antagonize might settle them a little further into their ruts, but they should be addressed more from a causal perspective — how'd they get that way in the first place? The benefit of enlightening the greater majority I think outweighs the harm in further solidifying already durable bullying tendencies.

Does it always produce true responses? (3, Insightful)

Kandenshi (832555) | more than 5 years ago | (#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).

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 5 years ago | (#26129785)

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] ;)

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 5 years ago | (#26129985)

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.

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 5 years ago | (#26129819)

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 such a deed got back to the Paladin's union the punishment should be pretty severe. At the very least the guy with the thingy-shocker should say something along the lines of "Are you REALLY a Paladin?" I realize that Blizzard probably doesn't want to be TOO realistic with the torture scenes, but I think they risk trivializing it, too. I don't think that particular quest really goes far enough to make the player feel uncomfortable about what he's doing. It's just another quest for just some more gold.

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130719)

The parent is really insightful and I cannot agree more.

However, this raises the question if some of the players might be affected and if there is a chance that these morals slowly "carry over" into the real world (not to the point that people start torturing each other, but that people are numbed down)? Even if this is hard to prove it is often a point for anti-games advocates. (I think most people have no trouble discerning between a game/fictive settings and real world situation, but critics have often expressed other opinions).

Re:Also (3, Informative)

andi75 (84413) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131077)

> 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:Does it always produce true responses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130671)

I strongly disagree. In dwarf fortress, managing cat population by butchering kittens en masse is almost mandatory to avoid lag. Yet quite a lot of people seem to feel too much for these poor red c. Go figure.

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130855)

Probably because this country was a shining example to world. The one place that did not routinely torture and kill people. Some people miss that, even if it often fell short of that ideal. It is interesting that otherwise useless things like 24 and WOW get caught up in the discussion. Perhaps a sign of the times that people feel if they protest a TV show or a video game things might change, but that our government is immune to sanity.

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (2, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130961)

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

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

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:Does it always produce true responses? (2, Insightful)

gordo3000 (785698) | more than 5 years ago | (#26129891)

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:Does it always produce true responses? (1, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26129943)

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

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (2, Insightful)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130055)

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:Does it always produce true responses? (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130093)

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:Does it always produce true responses? (2, Insightful)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130181)

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 institutionalizing an action so repugnant to the civilized character.

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131095)

You can try that but then there's no point in torturing them while you're asking, if you hit them for what you think is a wrong answer then they'll simply tell you what they think you'll accept. Also depending on how critical that information is you might not be alive to come back and execute the prisoner. Also if you have a reputation of killing prisoners you won't take many because they can just as well take their chance and fight to death or commit suicide before getting captured.

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130053)

I don't doubt that they are effective at times. It has more to do with the fact that I don't want my government torturing anyone, because eventually that anyone could trickle down to be me or someone I care about.

The world won't end even if the terrorists get off a nuke, but we'd all be stuck with torturers governing us. The level of oppression that the government can leverage at us vs a bunch of guys in caves doesn't compare - hundreds of millions vs (maybe?) hundreds of thousands.

CAPTCHA: usurped

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (2, Interesting)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130451)

I would be inclined to agree. Regardless of how 'effective' torture is, are we - as citizens responsible for electing the government - prepared to accept that done in our name?

Are we prepared to accept the atrocities at Guantanamo bay (and I have no doubt similar/worse things elsewhere that haven't been 'noticed') as a price for 'more security'? Are we prepared to accept the possiblity of global nuclear war as the price for maintaining our 'deterrence'?

Torture is ugly. War is ugly. And the most 'effective' is also the ugliest. Being the biggest and the nastiest and the scariest comes at the price of having to back it up occasionally. At what point do we say 'too much'?

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (1)

Phyrexicaid (1176935) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130343)

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.

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (1)

gordo3000 (785698) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130409)

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 member of Al Qaeda or if he likes Bin Laden (as useless as someone saying they are a witch)

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (3, Insightful)

Phyrexicaid (1176935) | more than 5 years ago | (#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?

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130425)

The torture in the witch trials worked perfectly. It elicited public confessions from innocents, justifying the reign of terror that the witch finders represented. Oh sure, the intel was crap, but witch trials were nothing to do with finding witches, and everything to do with maintaining an iron grip of terror over the populace.

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130683)

The witch trials in Europe

Were the witch trials in North America much fairer?

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (1)

Phyrexicaid (1176935) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130851)

The witch trials in Europe

Were the witch trials in North America much fairer?

Less deaths in North America. Tens of thousands lost their lives in Europe, so it's a better example purely because some people choose the argument, "Well only a few people died". (e.g. the awful apologist, Lee Strobel).

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26131229)

Tens of thousands lost their lives in Europe

Any reliable figures to that effect?

Google for "Nguyen Van Tai" CIA "Frank Snepp" (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130775)

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"

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 5 years ago | (#26129989)

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 resources on false leads (assuming the torturer was after actual information and not just sadistic).

I guess the real-world question I have is - how many torturers in real-life are actually seeking information, as opposed to simply getting off on seeing the "enemy" suffer?

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130063)

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 agent could "treat" it, or hand it to the agent (with the implied consequence that the alien will suffer), in the other case you actually had the choice between asking the prisoner nicely or beating the snot out of him 'til he talks.

In both cases, both choices had consequences. In the first, the agent was pretty pissed when you gave the prisoner some "free" food (and you had troubles later to get the Agency to trust you) but you got information for "free" that you otherwise had to puzzle together (i.e. run to more NPCs and kill more aliens). In the torture scene, you were sent to a trap if you tortured him, if you didn't, you got information about a bomb and needed to disarm it in time. Arguably, the latter was easier (it just involved some running).

So yes, there are games that portray torture as a means that might not produce the wanted results. But you have to have the choice, most games don't give you that choice. You can only do what is asked from you. The results torture produce are entirely up to the programmers, but like I pointed out in the first paragraph, they can be quite negative for you and give you the impression that torture produces an unwanted result. Unfortunately, most games don't give you the choice of NOT doing it (without abandoning the quest), so you can't see what could have happened if you refused.

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (3, Interesting)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130369)

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 torturer.

A bit like stockholm syndrome, really. As you say reliability is suspect, as you've ... more or less literally made someone insane ... but it's far from 'utterly useless'. There's a shortage of 'proof' on the matter for the very simple reason that the people who do it are already confident that it works, and those that don't... well, can you really see an independant scientific study of torture? It doesn't even work, as constraining and consenting to it by definition removes it's effectiveness - the torturer has to push his victim past the point at which they can no longer cope with the abuse.

Ugly business, but it _does_ work.

Re:Does it always produce true responses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130773)

Torture is also used for one other thing:

Propaganda. If done right, it can keep a population in check. This is how most of the dukedoms and duchies kept their nobles in power for most of the last millennium in Europe. Peasants will think twice about breaking a law when approaching a city's gates that have people mutilated, impaled, and their bones smashed on the wheel and held up for all to see.

Torture does have blowback, especially these days where people are not illiterate and unarmed like how most of the serfs were in the Middle Ages. This isn't the middle ages, and people know that guerrilla warfare is something that even the biggest nations on earth are vulnerable to. Someone who gets returned to their families permanently scarred mentally and physically will cause everyone around them to forever hate the people who did the action.

Torture? Is that fun? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26129781)

How about making games that don't suck.

In defense of 24 (but not torture) (2, Interesting)

unitron (5733) | more than 5 years ago | (#26129795)

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.

Re:In defense of 24 (but not torture) (3, Interesting)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:In defense of 24 (but not torture) (2, Interesting)

unitron (5733) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130275)

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 cheerleaders would like to think. I guess Chertoff, et al, are too busy getting a hard on at the thought of being able to get away with shredding The Constitution to notice. Just because the right-wing lunatics think the show supports their way of thinking doesn't necessarily mean that it actually does.

Re:In defense of 24 (but not torture) (3, Informative)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:In defense of 24 (but not torture) (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130861)

Every single time a good guy tortures someone, they get results... and we're the good guys, right?

Re:In defense of 24 (but not torture) (1)

N1AK (864906) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130401)

I agree with the GPs point, torture in 24 very often does not benefit 24. Richard Heller did not break when his Dad ordered him tortured, Michelle Dessler is tortured while innocent and Jack's brother held out. I certainly think the show is quite critical of the American intelligence community (with Bauer being about the only character it defends).

However, torture has never been shown in 24 to have a negative outcome. This combined with Jack's straight forward dedication to country regardless of ethics probably gives a strong message to viewers that the ends justify the means.

Re:In defense of 24 (but not torture) (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130643)

the show is quite critical of the American intelligence community (with Bauer being about the only character it defends).

The thing is that people in the government and military identify with Jack (see the articles I cited), they think that those pure in heart (like Jack, and themselves, because everyone like to think they are) can torture and get truthful results.

Re:In defense of 24 (but not torture) (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130429)

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! :-)

Re:In defense of 24 (but not torture) (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130485)

Interrogating someone with physical abuse is relatively quick and about as effective as you might expect - you'll tell 'em whatever to get them to stop hitting you.

Torturing someone on the other hand, is nothing like that - it's a sustained progression of psychological and physical abuse that takes time, but isn't working to elicit an answer as much as it's trying to break the victim's mind. It seeks to remove existing trust and loyalties, and replace them. And _then_ information can be extracted, because the victim no longer has a reason to lie to the torturer and every reason to 'trust' them. The reason it gets unreliable is because you have driven the victim insane as part of the process and disconnected them from reality, so they're no longer sure what's 'true' or not either.

I like Bartle (3, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26129809)

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.

Depends on your definition/methodology of torture (1)

BobSixtyFour (967533) | more than 5 years ago | (#26129871)

How about tying someone up and tickling em with a feather?

Re:Depends on your definition/methodology of tortu (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26129911)

As usual, it's a matter of degree. It's kinky if you use a feather for sexual pleasure. It's pervy if you use the whole chicken.

Does anyone need to learn that torture hurts? (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#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?

Re:Does anyone need to learn that torture hurts? (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130041)

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 includes the phrase "... for life."
      It can be based on the person being a known enemy, but just as often it's a case of making that reporter who asked the embarrassing questions go away, or those people who were picketing the convention, or that kid who just may be related to somebody the government already had trouble with. The more nations get used to torture, the more often it's focused on their own internal problems.
      Try this. the US's law supports locking up captured enemies only for the duration of the conflict. It supports locking up criminals only for sentences supposedly in proportion to their proven crimes. This is why the whole argument for classifying people as 'unlawful combatants' led to torture. The government made the new classification so they could impose penalties 'for life", and once they did, they took steps that have ruined these people for life. Punishment, not information gathering. Our government decided to impose a fate worse than death on some people, to make their supposed allies think they would rather die than risk the same treatment.

     

Re:Does anyone need to learn that torture hurts? (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130105)

So what the US try to tell a potential enemy is that it's better for him to fight to death than face capture?

Dunno, am I the only one who thinks there's an inherent flaw in that logic?

Re:Does anyone need to learn that torture hurts? (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130625)

'enemy' there's that word again. i hate that word. it's being used a lot to stop you thinking for yourself.

Because its not part of the game play (3, Insightful)

Davemania (580154) | more than 5 years ago | (#26129905)

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.

Re:Because its not part of the game play (3, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#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?

Re:Because its not part of the game play (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130189)

You read 'Looking For Group' too huh? :D

Re:Because its not part of the game play (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130239)

No, but I know MMO players.

Re:Because its not part of the game play (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130911)

I don't like WoW. That being said, I think it has to be said that WoW's narrative is precisely as shallow as the players make it.

The folks at Blizzard spent a lot of time writing quest text for a whole lot of NPCs, not to mention many interactive objects, and blending hundreds (thousands?) of hours of unique quests into one big story. Every single quest has at least two pages of explanation (intro and completion), and usually more than that. All of these things link into one moderately cohesive fantasy world.

So, what's the first thing players generally do when they start playing? They speed up the quest text so they can click through without reading. When they get lost because they didn't listen to the directions that the quest givers suggested, they install mods that tell them precisely where every touchpoint in the quest is, and exactly how to complete them, complete with floating directional arrows, maps, and ETAs. Then, when that isn't good enough, they comb through online databases to find exactly what quests will give them the very best gear and where to gain the most experience as quickly as possible. So, the player doesn't see a wily necromancer in a castle as a plague upon the smallfolk; the player sees a pinata (and already knows what will eventually fall out). Power-gaming scorches all the flavor out of a fantasy world, just as speed reading and cramming make great literature tedious.

In any case, if someone wanted to explore torture and the treatment of human beings in WoW, I really think they'd have to get several concessions from Blizzard, such as upping the ante in PVP or adding some old-fashioned non-instanced raid territory. Some griefers I've met in MUDs and on old EQ's PVP servers could give Philip Zimbardo lessons on human depravity -- and that's what needs to be looked at: a human's willingness to inflict injury (even virtual) on another human.

Call me when there's a quest that involves locking another PC's avatar down, stealing/destroying their gear, calling them racial slurs, cooking their remains for consumption, pushing them into an inescapable (or massively inconvenient) hole, or deleveling them. Of course, I don't think it's coincidental that the most successful MMO of them all has gone to great pains to ensure that none of these activities are possible to any great degree.

Oh, and get off my lawn, or my buddies will corpse-camp you until Wednesday. Because we can.

Re:Because its not part of the game play (1)

rujholla (823296) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131079)

cooking their remains for consumption

Well if you are the playable undead race you don't have to cook thier remains you just eat their remains for a quick health boost.

If they haven't released its a pretty effective way to communicate your utter disregard for them.

Has anybody mentioned the Milgram Expriment yet? (3, Interesting)

shoor (33382) | more than 5 years ago | (#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]

In defence of torture (0)

Pushpabon (1351749) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130059)

How can you disagree with torture if you can accept war and the inevitable human (civilian and military) losses that occur? Here's a good article about torture: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harris/in-defense-of-torture_b_8993.html [huffingtonpost.com]

Re:In defence of torture (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130977)

How can you disagree with torture if you can accept war and the inevitable human (civilian and military) losses that occur?

Wild guess: because they're different things?

Torture in games? (4, Funny)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130089)

It's virtually painless!

Real torture in WoW... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130315)

If you want to know what real torture is in WoW, play a warlock in PvP at 80. It is just mind boggling that the devs in charge of class balance haven't been handed their pink slips. However, like the spoof Clichequest (www.thenoobcomic.com), the devs have their favorite classes, the rest are fluff or free HK, and that is how the game will be.

Torture rocks! (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130405)

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. :-)

Re:Torture rocks! (1)

setagllib (753300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130937)

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!

How realistic? IRL torture doesn't yield info (1)

VShael (62735) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130455)

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?

How about surrender? (1)

Varmint01 (415694) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130491)

Something which has bothered me about games, particularly those in the realistic war genre (aka every WWII game made in the last 10 years... thanks Saving Private Ryan), is that the enemy always fights absolutely to the death. Even in games where enemies slow down after a few hits, they'll still hold onto their weapon and try to kill you as they crawl along the floor. If they're going for realism, then these guys should drop their weapon after a hit to leg, put their hands up, and you then lose points for killing them.

Has been around forever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130533)

I remember playing Wolfenstein 3D back in 1992, back then cages hung from the ceiling with skeletons (remains) from the people that obviously died in there. Blood and gore everywhere, all over 128x128 pixel.

False positive and double blind negatives... (2, Interesting)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130535)

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.

Re:False positive and double blind negatives... (3, Insightful)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130611)

Indeed. Assertions that 'torture doesn't work' muddies the waters on the debate. It mostly does within it's own constraints - you don't get to punch someone a couple of times and get detailed intel out of them, but you can certainly extract a lot of leads given enough time. You can also definitely elict confessions which are relevant from a propganda point of view.

But that's not why we condemn it:

  • We reject torture because it's calculated harm to another human and we consider that against human rights
  • We reject torture because it is self defeating - the harm caused guarantees the war will continue.
  • We reject torture because of the diplomatic effect - if decent folk won't talk to you because of what you do, diplomacy is hurt.

The effectiveness or not is a moot point - however effective it is, the price is too high.

Playstation Home (1)

mattbee (17533) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130583)

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.

Torture and point of view... (1)

cre_slash (744044) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131029)

If a game contains torture, and you only get to watch from the sideline, i believe it would just pushed the boundaries for what we think is ok. But if your character is being tortured, and leaves you in a vulnerable state, it might cause you to better understand the severity of it. However avoiding it all together might be best. Just a thought...

Fatality (1)

PirateBlis (1208936) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131033)

And for a fatal blow to end the torture, choose either The Mother In Law, or the PMSing, Nagging Wife

Torture was an important part of (4, Informative)

ghmh (73679) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

I knew this would be about WoW (1)

Zerelli (579376) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131133)

When I think of games and torture I almost always think of WoW. Sheer torture to sit through that snore fest of a game. Yeah, that is grade A prime troll bait.
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