One of the biggest games of the year—Tom Clancy's new Splinter Cell: Blacklist—takes players right into Guantanamo Bay prison camp to torture an inmate—and then lets them "decide to spare or kill their interrogated target."
In the game you play Sam Fisher, a "U.S. government super-spy and needed savior of the free world." In this level, Fisher "slips in disguised as a prisoner [as part of a covert operation] walking past barking dogs and guards possibly roughing up a prisoner." Then, continues Kotaku's editor in chief Stephen Totilo, "he gets himself into a cell with a bona fide Blacklist terrorist and tortures the guy."
While the new Splinter Cell shows the prison with unsettling detail and realism, it limits the player moves so they can't get into politically incorrect situations—apart from torturing and killing a prisoner, that is. But that's something that the player's character does in a pre-recorded segment. In fact, Totilo was disappointed because the game doesn't really allow you to explore the other prison cells and barracks with complete freedom.
Trivializing death, torture and crime
This isn't the first time that realistic torture and crime has been portrayed in a video game. Many titles, like the Call of Duty series, offer users the possibility of participating in all kinds of military operations. Usually you're one of the "good guys" only killing not to be killed, or take your enemy's position.
The multi-billion dollar game series Grand Theft Auto, however, allows players to steal cars, kill bystanders and rivals, traffic with drugs, and participate in every imaginable crime. The latest installment will be more realistic than ever.
But this is the first time that a game hits a controversial subject like Guantanamo, putting your character in the role of torturer. Even while it doesn't offer a full waterboarding simulation—not yet—should we trivialize these very real matters making them "fun" with games?