Warning: The following will be completely laced with spoilers from Gearbox’s Borderlands 2. I’m not talking minor plot points, I mean full-blown end of the game story details and the complete shebang. This is in no way a review of the game, but a small analysis of my favorite plot point in the game. I’ve been sitting on this piece for almost a month now waiting for a good chunk of players to finish the game, so if you haven’t by now, go do that.
Like I said, here we go with the spoilers.
We’re tasked with many immoral things in video games these days; kill this guy, shoot this lady, rob this man, blow up ALL the stuffs, but very rarely do we feel like we ourselves are in the wrong for our choices. As Master Chief we blow through hundreds of thousands of Covenant troops without batting an eye, Nico Bellic kills countless Liberty City Police officers simply because he wanted to drive his car onto an island he wasn’t allowed on, and we see Agent 47 killing plenty of nuns simply because they didn’t like his choice of hotel. What I’m getting at is this: we do a lot of bad, bad things in video games without a care, and rarely do we ever feel bad about doing it. In all my years of video games I’ve become invested in hundred – hell, maybe thousands of games and never have I been as drawn in as I was with Gearbox’s Borderlands 2.
Near the end of Borderlands 2, we discover that the woman we once though to be a Pandora controlled artificial intelligence, Angel, is actually a living breathing Siren who has been placed in control of the vault key and used as a pawn to Handsome Jack’s not-so-handsome scheme. We’re told the only way we can stop the vault key is to kill Angel, our AI turned evil companion. “No big deal,” I thought to myself as I entered the room containing her and the vault key. We’re told that we need to destroy the eridium pumps that are keeping her alive. As we begin to destroy one, our nemesis Handsome Jack comes over the ECHO with some very surprising lines. “Keep your hands off of my daughter!”
This is what made me truly take a step back from the game and realize what I was doing. Nevertheless, I continued my struggle. As your fighting through the waves of Hyperion robots, Jack continues to spurt out blubbery dialog, one main piece that stuck out at me. “If you hurt my baby girl I vow to kill every person you’ve ever cared about or loved.” At this point I really began to think about what I was doing; this man, this man who had tried to kill me, destroy me, who had been my enemy for all forty hours of this campaign – was about to lose his daughter.
Sure, he was a bad guy – but this was his daughter – his little girl, his offspring. I continued to fight all the way through this half hour battle, all the while I felt like a complete bad guy. I was kicking myself for having to kill this girl, this “innocent sweet little girl” as Jack phrased it, all just because she stood between the end of a video game and I.
I did it. I killed Angel, Jack’s defenseless little girl acting only as her father had told her to – I felt terrible.
And I liked it.
Very rarely do we find ourselves this invested in games, where not only do we form a large connection to the characters and the universe, but so much so that we feel our own sadness when a character is removed or killed – but never in all my years of gaming has a game gone so far as to actually make me question what this story was making me do. Never has a game actually put me in a position and forced me to do something so extreme that I felt more like the enemy I was facing then the hero of the universe, and never has a story actually made me justify to myself why I had to kill a character. Sure, games have tried to make me feel terrible about an action I’ve done, but never has a game reached out and grabbed me so greatly like this one. Never until Borderlands 2 have I had to actually sit back and take a break from playing because what had just occurred was so gripping that I needed a break to recapture my thoughts!
Even at the very final seconds of the game when I was tasked with killing Handsome Jack – the man who destroyed me so many times, who killed Roland, Bloodwing, and so many others – I felt bad about it. Sure, I had every right to kill him, but he had every right to kill me too, because I killed his poor little baby girl. Maybe it really is like they say, that there ain’t no rest for the wicked.
Was I the only one who felt this way? Sound off in the comments. Did you feel this way when playing through Borderlands 2? Has any game ever made you feel this way?