Kirby Helps Me Measure The Distance Between Video Game Pacifism And SlaughterS

Kirby's Epic Yarn is an adorable game about a pink puffball made of yarn. But we've covered that already. Today's topic: Why does Kirby kill? ... or... Why do I make Kirby kill?

This is the latest in our day-long series of impressions of holiday-scheduled WIi and DS games that I played with some Nintendo representatives at a Times Square Hotel yesterday.

It's been established in coverage of Kirby's Epic Yarn that the game is as cute as it is easy.

See that trailer? It is cute. It is easy. Kirby can run and jump, lash out with some yarn, but his only troubles in the levels Nintendo shows in the Kirby Epic Yarn demo are some platforms he has to jump to reach and some bad guys who are in the way.

Well, I thought they were bad guys. That's why the Nintendo rep and I who were playing the game lashed our yarn attacks at them, right? That's why I grabbed the Nintendo guy's character and tossed him at them. That's why we each would leap our yarn heroes in the air and then press a down button in order to become yarn anvils and crush those enemy guys out of existence. Because they were bad?

No, the horrible truth may be that we killed and crushed these guys — killed and crushed them in cute ways, mind you — is because they were simply... there.

I discovered what an awful ball of yarn I had turned Kirby into when I accidentally had him walk into an orange "enemy," a little waddling knot of yarn with feet and eyes and... nothing happened. Kirby wasn't hurt, no more than I am when I bump into a person on the sidewalk.

In New York City, where I do most of my own running and jumping, most people on the sidewalk don't deserve a yarn anvil on the head for being on the same sidewalk as me. Why did the characters in Kirby? I guess, because they were walking in my direction, I thought they were evil. And some of the guys that looked like them had spears, which did hurt Kirby. Great reasoning, I know.

I began to realize that there was little threat to Kirby's life in Kirby's Epic Yarn. Perhaps that is because this demo of the game I played was tuned for E3 show attendees when it was first made. Perhaps it is because early levels in the game will be a cinch. Perhaps it is because the whole game is easy. I can't say. But I can say that I tried to play the rest of game peacefully. That made it harder. And, hey, what did those guys ever do to us?

I cajoled my Nintendo co-op partner to try the non-violent approach.

Then we found the big yarn tank. It had missiles for me to fire (and headlights to turn on!). It had a big flying glove for my partner to fire. Something bumped into our tank. I was worried we were taking damage. I fired a fusillade of missiles. We slaughtered the bad guys. Pacifism no more.

After we rolled on some more, we faced a dragon and slew it. It had been breathing fire. At some point in the battle we discovered it couldn't kill us. To make things easier for E3 demo players? Who knows. We slew it. It was in our way.

Kirby's Epic Yarn is not training me to hurt anything in the real world. It's an adorable game. But why do we step on a bad guy rather than jump past him? Why do we assume everyone who rushes at us in a video game is bad? Because we've known the hurt of a lost life and we don't trust them. The world is full of enemies; it's hard not to see them that way.

Up next in my day-long tour of Nintendo games... the one WiiWare game I played.