Videogamers Embark on Nonkilling Spree

Extracted 31JAN2012 from

Videogames have long been assailed for their violent themes and gruesome imagery. But a small slice of players has embraced a new strategy: not killing. They are imparting real-world morals on their virtual-world characters and completing entire games on a "pacifist run"—the term for beating a blood-and-guts adventure without drawing any blood.

The cool restraint of pacifism can bring bragging rights and even a taste of online fame. Videogame enthusiasts routinely post videos of their accomplishments on YouTube...

Stephen Totilo, Kotaku's editor in chief, says videogame pacifism isn't usually a moral decision but rather "an urge to break the rules"—and dial up the difficulty of the game. "One of the most interesting challenges is to get through the game without killing," he says.

Virtual pacifism can be a squishy concept. Ian Jones, a 21-year-old college student in Charlotte, N.C., has also been playing Skyrim as a "pacifist." But his method is hardly nonviolent: He uses spells to possess the game's computer-generated bystanders, and they do the killing.

Today, many videogames involve complex fictional worlds and give players free rein to create and shape characters—including the chance to mold their moral compass.