By forcing a player to do unpleasant things, a video game can encourage a player to reflect critically on those actions. As I’ve written about on Geek Studies and elsewhere—and as others have put quite well too—”forced failure” scenarios in games allow for new avenues of meaning, new emotional responses from media that pure spectatorship can’t easily provide. In my paper “Seeking Truth in Video Game Ratings,” I offered this technique as evidence that the mere presence of violence in a game isn’t enough to qualify the content as inherently immoral (or even amoral). I stand by that perspective.
As this technique becomes more commonly understood as part of the vocabulary of game design, however, it’s worth noting that recent games appear to be showing how heavy handed and poorly conceived the application of “violent gameplay to discourage violence” can potentially be.