Crime in Video Games and Why Even Kirby Commits It

Why is crime okay in video games?  And no, I’m not talking about “Grand Theft Auto”.  I’m talking about games like “The Legend of Zelda” and “Kirby”.  Yep, even in games like those, things that would be considered wrong in real life are deemed perfectly acceptable.  What am I talking about?  Well, have you ever thought twice about walking into a stranger’s house in “Zelda”?  And if there is an item, do you not take it?  The answer to these questions is a no and a yes, respectively.  In the video game universe, any item in a treasure chest is up for grabs, whether it be in some deep, dark woods or someone’s home.  Stealing is okay.  Because that’s exactly what it is.  Stealing.  If someone walks into my house, even if I leave the door unlocked, and takes items out of my treasure chest (okay, I don’t own a treasure chest, nor would it be wise to put items in it, as it would suggest they are, well, treasure), I would come after you.  Don’t you rob me, you scoundrel!  But, Link does it all the time, and it’s fine.  Walking into people’s houses is an even more common practice, but you certainly wouldn’t like it if I did it to you, now would you?  (“Rayman 3” even involves our hero trespassing into someone’s house, then proceeding to assault the owner, and somehow the owner is portrayed as a villain because he fights back.)

And then, have you ever played a “Kirby” game and decided to attack those poor, little Waddle Dees just for the sake of it?  Of course, you have.  But, most of the time, are they really doing anything but taking a stroll or gently drifting down from the heavens with an umbrella to slow their descent?  Why do we not only feel the need to maul these poor creatures, but feel justified in doing so?  Again, if you attacked me while I was simply minding my own business, taking a walk (while trying to find a place to hide my treasure chest so people stop helping themselves to its contents) or participating in my own drift down from the heavens with a bumbershoot of my own, I would be quite peeved, to say the least.  It would be uncalled for, sir!  But, in a video game, it’s perfectly fine to attack those who are doing nothing or wild animals simply defending themselves.

I noticed myself engaging in this behavior in other games, as well.  Last time I played “Halo 4”, for example, I would hunt down every last alien in the area, whether I had to or not.  Yes, they are bad, but you get no experience from it, and they were out of the way and not causing me any trouble.  I could have simply continued on my way, but no.  I stick around until I wipe out every last one of them.  Why, though?  Evil aliens or no, isn’t that a little odd?  I also felt rather guilty killing those pheasants and boars in “Muramasa”.  Until they attacked me, but even then, is it wrong that animals are trying to protect their lives?  Well, if you’ve paid any attention up until this point, you should know the answer to that.

And then take “Jak II”.  In this game, you can actually steal vehicles from people.  You just knock them out of their hovering, little zoomer, and off you go.  There are vehicles here and there throughout the city that you can take that no one is using (though, they are still likely owned by someone), but it is by far more entertaining to take one someone else is in the middle of using.  If you’re feeling really naughty, you can steal vehicles from the Krimzon Guards, as well, though this will result in them hunting you down.  Then, I can’t tell you the number of times I was on the run from the guards and crashed into people.  And yet, I don’t feel guilty over the fact that, not only did I commit vehicle theft, but I also committed a good number of hit-and-runs.  This is not something I would ever do in real life, and yet I can do it here without wondering if I just made my soul a little darker or inched a bit closer to the dark side.

So is it weird that we do such things in video games without a second thought that would be illegal, or at least, icky, in real life?  There is plenty of controversy over games like the “GTA” series, which makes sense (though, I still disagree with any claims that the game is responsible for crime; if you can’t handle playing a video game without acting out the events of said video game, then maybe you shouldn’t be playing these games…or watching violent TV shows…or reading violent books…or viewing violent interpretive dances even…).  Ahem, but why has there never been anyone, to my knowledge, that has claimed they began to rob houses because such behavior was acceptable in “The Legend of Zelda”?

Where is the line drawn, hmm?  While I have never played any “GTA” game, I can easily surmise from the title that stealing must be involved at some point in the games, and yet what we all do in “Zelda” is clearly stealing, as well.  Plain and simple.  Yes, we are not doing anything wrong for real because it is a game and nothing real is being taken and no real person is being affected.  But, why does it not even register as stealing, I wonder?  Why, even after we realize defeating all the Waddle Dees is not necessary do we still do it anyway?  We “steal” from people’s houses in “Zelda” (after shameless trespassing) for personal gain (yes, I stole their entire stash of 10 rupees, and now they can’t afford food!), but what do we even gain from slaughtering Waddle Dees (and Doos)?  Is it wrong that we gain pleasure from such senseless killing?  Because we must or we wouldn’t do it.  Is it wrong when people toss their chao in “Sonic Adventure 2: Battle” or hit animals with shovels in “Animal Crossing” (though, these things do make me feel very guilty, especially hurting my darling chao, though I did have to take matters into my own hands when that weird, blue duck in “City Folk” kept giving me sass)?  Is it okay just because we get away with it in video games, that we do things that would be wrong in real life?

Okay, obviously this is just a silly rant.  I don’t know whether or not enjoying crime and violence in video games is completely fine or not.  Some games are particularly disturbing, and I just don’t know what to think of such things, but I’m not getting into that.  But, obviously, there is nothing truly immoral whatsoever from a person defeating Waddle Dees (notice how I don’t use the word “kill” now) or taking items from someone’s house in “Zelda”.  It’s a game, and we know it.

But, it’s funny.  It’s just funny that it doesn’t even register as crime, that you just caused Link to rob a house.  You can do things in video games you shouldn’t do in real life, but why are these games even made to be this way?  Does Link really need to take items from people’s houses?  Not really.  Does the salvation of the world depend on the hero robbing the houses of the people they are trying to protect?  Not at all.  It really all just stems from the developers wanting to leave items for the player to collect, and these items just happen to be placed in people’s houses sometimes.  But, it is silly.  Once you really think into it, you can never deny the fact that you just directed your character to sin/break the law or some other such thing.  And even after you read this post, you will all continue to do it, won’t you?  As will I.  Like stealing 10 rupees from someone’s house really has a large impact on whether or not I defeat Ganondorf hours down the road.

The Duck Who Has Committed Game-Crime

Image from Flickr User: Fumi Atari


  1. renxkyoko says:

    I thought about that too. Oblivion is also like that. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I thought I was the only one.


    1. duckofindeed says:

      Nope, you’re not the only one. I often think I’m the only person who thinks over a certain bizarre aspect of a game, only to find out lots of people wonder these things. Us gamers are a curious bunch.


  2. Hatm0nster says:

    It is interesting and I believe I have an explanation. It’s a combination of the gaming mindset and the rules of the games we play. First when playing a game, we don’t perceive its world in the same way we perceive the real one. It’s not just that we’re aware that it’s a game, it’s also that the games rules define how we normally look at it, whether we’re aware of it or not. If the game says that all items are up for grabs, regardless of location, then in our minds we aren’t stealing, we’re simply collecting the item there. According to the game, the item never belonged to the occupant, it was just waiting there for us to pick it up. Games like Zelda reinforce that rule in the reactions you receive too. There’s no consequence for smashing pots or taking rupees. None. The NPCs act like it wasn’t even there.

    Then there’s killing enemies, even passive ones. It’s not that we’re bloodthirsty killers in the context of the world; it’s that the enemies have been defined as exactly that: enemies. Their on-screen presence and actions don’t affect their enemy status. They are simply the enemy and must be destroyed according to the rules of the game world.

    We typically perceive every game we play according to its rules. Games like GTA are no exception either. The only difference is that in GTA crime is treated like crime. The game tells you that it’s considered wrong, and causes you to think about your actions.

    …wow that ran longer than I thought it would. Great post Duck, you made a really thought provoking observation! Keep it up! 😀


    1. duckofindeed says:

      Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yeah, I guess it is simply the context of the game. In the real world, doing these things would be wrong, but in the game world, there are simply different rules. I will keep on robbing, I mean, retrieving items from people in “Zelda”, then, without guilt.


  3. Vitosal says:

    damn now i feel bad for collecting that rupee and throwing that pot at the owner. Is there any way to apologize in these games?


    1. duckofindeed says:

      I feel bad attacking the chickens in “Zelda”. But, it was funny making them go beserk…even if I’m a bit of a bad person now.


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