Some Anvils Need To Be Dropped: Video Games
- Alice: Madness Returns: Children forced into being sex workers. This is a massive problem, especially in third world countries, that doesn't get much attention. This is the biggest form of slavery that's still around. And not every victim recieves as much help as the others.
- The Call of Duty games in general love smacking the player in the face with an anvil labeled "War Is Hell."
- Modern Warfare: The part where you play as a soldier crawling around just before dying from the aftereffects of a nuclear explosion. The worst part of that one scene hits so much harder because of the level before, and the reason you're not at a safe distance. You stick around to rescue a downed pilot, because "No One Gets Left Behind", and it seems like things will turn out well. And then NUKE, ruining any hopes of a happy ending. Despair hits so much harder when it has hope to contrast with.
- The Modern Warfare series is absolutely rife with war-related anvils, some of which are provided word-for-word by characters in-game, and it's scary how true most of them are:
"You have to trust someone to be betrayed.""To know you're close to the end is a kind of freedom.""History is written by the victor.""History is filled with liars.""It doesn't take the most powerful nations on Earth to create the next global conflict. Just the will of a single man.""The bigger the lie, the more likely people will believe it, and when a nation cries for vengeance, the lie spreads like a wildfire. The fire builds, devouring everything in its path.""All warfare is based on deception.""Revenge is like a ghost. It takes over every man it touches. Its thirst cannot be quenched... until the last man standing has fallen.""All you need to change the world is one good lie and a river of blood.""Every man has his weakness.""They say truth is the first casualty of war. But who defines what's true? Truth is just a matter of perspective. The duty of every soldier is to protect the innocent, and sometimes that means preserving the lie of good and evil, that war isn't just natural selection played out on a grand scale. The only truth I found is that the world we live in is a giant tinderbox. All it takes...is someone to light the match.""There's a simplicity to war. Attacking is the only secret, but dare... and the world yields. How quickly they forget that all it takes to change the course of history... is the will of a single man."
- Unfortunately, regardless of the plot, any given Call of Duty game is still all about the player experiencing a (very stylized) simulation of war for fun, so the message tends to come across as lip service.
- Final Fantasy IV drops the anvil that ultimately, the true worth of a man or woman will shine through any outward appearances, and that ultimately, all humans have the capacity for both good and evil; it's all about what you do with it.
- Final Fantasy VI drops the 'Love is Good' anvil fair and square on every player's head, explicitly stating the Power of Love, how it was the meaning of life, and showing an example of a life without love: Kefka.
- Final Fantasy VII drops a clearly environmentalist anvil by literally showing a company sucking out the life out of the planet to use as a fuel source. All the over-the-top additions, such as a corrupt president, the repetition of the phrase "the planet is dying", and even a botched public execution to try to throw off the blame only add to the message.
- Tying with this theme, however, is a acknowledging that being an eco-terrorist that is fighting against something killing the planet doesn't mean your actions won't hurt people besides the evil corporation.
- A subtler aesop is "Be yourself and not who you think you should be".
- Final Fantasy VIII drops an anvil that not all love, even between a (heterosexual) unrelated man and woman, is romantic.
- You don't have to do everything alone. It's ok to rely on others for help.
- Final Fantasy IX drops the anvil that one shouldn't look at romantic love as the solution to all one's problems, nor is obnoxiously and relentlessly pursuing someone a good way to win them over.
- Cherish and make the most of your time while you are alive.
- The Aesop of the entire Metal Gear series basically boils down to "people need to fix their problems today instead of handing them down to the next generation", An Aesop strengthened by the number of former Child Soldiers among the characters in the series.
- Nuclear weapons are bad.
- Everywhere, even in the subtleties. Look at RAY when you fight it using REX in Guns of the Patriots. See a tail on it? Interesting that the original Metal Gear RAY, the only non-nuclear Metal Gear, the Metal Gear designed not to launch nuclear weapons from any point on the globe, not to defend bigger nuclear-launch platforms like its production-model knockoffs, but to destroy those weapons of mass destruction, is unaccounted for and spared the fate of every other Metal Gear ever seen; destruction.
- On the same vein, it is worth noting that REX, after being stripped of its railgun (which makes it capable of firing nukes), is now fighting RAY, who in this case is protecting a nuke launching. So, REX now takes the same stance as RAY originally did; stopping nukes launching. AND IT WINS. So... yeah. It also has the message that, even after doing horrible things, you can still atone for your sins.
- The sheer, sheer weight of the anvil is a large part of why this works, too. The message of the series isn't just about people fixing their problems, it's about the individual, each person in the group of people, taking personal responsibility instead of sloughing blame off onto anything convenient.
Sons of Liberty is particularly genius in this, where Solidus Snake spends a good ten minutes monologuing in dramatic fashion about his plans to throw off the yoke of the Patriots, questionably making him seem sympathetic even though he was just a few minutes ago waxing nostalgia about being responsible for many of those child soldiers, the player's character included. He dies soon thereafter, and what's one of the things Solid Snake tells Raiden in the end? "The Patriots are a kind of ongoing fiction too, come to think of it."
Explored further in Guns of the Patriots, where an individual's sense of self is an important theme; the B&B Corps receive no sympathy from Snake, and he even expresses annoyance that Drebin insists on telling him their backstories and how they were mentally broken. Life can be horrible, but after a certain point, this stops being an excuse for your actions, and you will never truly have absolution unless you confront your own problems instead of blaming them on others. Contrast with Otacon, who was sexually abused by his stepmother, among other things, but has turned out as Snake's best friend. They're close in a way that Snake, as a soldier, has probably only ever known with other soldiers. It's no coincidence they first meet because Snake's old best friend — a soldier with a dark past who turned traitor out of blind loyalty — was trying to kill Otacon at the time.
- Notice that Snake seems to believe in some sort of existentialism in the end of Metal Gear Solid 2. Great way to summarize some common existentialist beliefs: A person can do anything and is ultimately responsible for everything in life, including its purpose, so you have nobody or no circumstance to blame your flaws on.
- "War is bad", especially in MGS3. War turns two of the series's biggest heroes into villains mostly because of petty politics. Not to mention the part where every human being and animal you killed comes back from the dead to haunt you.
The biggest anvil is dropped right at the beginning, when The Boss gives a ten minute speech about how "there is no such thing as an enemy in absolute terms." The first time most players hear it, they want to yell at her to Get On With It Already, because they want to get to the part where they sneak past communists in the jungle. But as they experience the story, her story, it becomes clear how her entire life is contained in those words, and when the whole thing is repeated at the end, it carries a much bigger emotional impact. It's one of the most powerful moments in the entire series, and it would not have been nearly as effective if Kojima had been subtle about it.
The game's entire storyline might be one of the biggest aversions of Do Not Do This Cool Thing in video games. It also takes Naked Snake, who was originally a goofy and almost nerdy soldier, and killed him inside. In all of the games he appeared in afterwards, he was never the same.
The fact that, as opposed to most bosses who are killed in a cutscene, the game switches you back to gameplay to shoot her yourself, while she's lying on the ground and dying. There is nothing you can do, except push the trigger button.
- Homeless and impoverished children and their exploitation are a major problem in the world today, and Rising makes no effort to mask this.
- There are some people and organizations in the world that blatantly violate the laws and moral standards of society, and if they do operate within the law, they will use the law as a shield to protect their immoral activities and interests. Such people can't be negotiated with and need to be dealt with. Harshly and permanently. The story goes to great lengths to show Raiden as operating outside of the law in order to do the right thing; that operating within the law is not always the same as being moral, and it's important that we try to recognize the difference.
- Midway's The Suffering brings up the biggest issue with capital punishment, the very real chance of killing an innocent person. This wouldn't be nearly as effective without its over the top elements.
- Persona 3: knowing you will one day die and accepting it doesn't mean you should rush towards it. It means you should make your life into something you feel is worth living.
- Persona 4's theme is about how finding the truth is never easy or simple. At first, it starts off with lots of misunderstandings, loose threads, and possibly a hasty and disastrous decision on your part, but crosses into Anvilicious toward the end when the whole population of Inaba seems obsessed with looking to TV to feed them all the answers. Considering how much of their conversation resembles exchanges of empty, baseless ideas on too many internet message boards, this is a pretty relevant Aesop. Likewise, if you went through the game without finding the true ending, perhaps the anvil didn't get dropped on you hard enough.
- Another heavy-handed anvil that plummets from the sky is "Be honest to yourself, your true friends won't care if you're not perfect, or a All-Loving Hero." This comes in all flavors. From the Shadows representing a twisted version of their persona, with exaggerated negative characteristics. Continually rejecting the feelings cause them to go berserk and attack, and the only way to obtain a Persona and fight is to accept all your feelings and traits — the good and the bad.
- Aside from the plot-important characters, nearly every last Social Link involves someone who is running away from his/her own reality in order to hide in complacency. From the girl in the Drama Club who only got into acting as a way to escape from her family life, to the young stepmother who doesn't know how to relate to her new husband's son so she keeps him in daycare and tries to buy his affection with trinkets, to the man who buries himself in work to find his wife's killer and neglects his daughter because she reminds him of his late wife. In the end, although the Protagonist gently prods them in the right direction, it is each Social Link character who must realize his or her own issues on their own and solve them personally. Providing the double Aesop that you must face yourself and stop running from reality on your own, but you can (and should) also depend on your friends' support should you falter along the way.
- Also, a side-anvil: Don't allow technology, media, and fantasy to get in the way of yourself.
- It's strange that Psychonauts isn't a children's game, because it has the perfect Aesop for one: "Parents are people too. And you know what? Sometimes the stuff they say is 'for your own good' really is for your own good, and they do make mistakes, but you know what? They still love you."
- Also, "don't try to force your kid to grow up to the way you would like him to grow up. It'll only create negative feelings to both sides, and after all, being different is a good thing."
- Also, it's outright stated that it's not the size of your mind that matters, it's the size of your heart.
- Katawa Shoujo: People with disabilities are just that - people. Nothing more, nothing less. And never ever forget that "You are not alone, and you are not strange. You are you, and everyone has damage. Be the better person."
- Kingdom Hearts could not hammer home its message that as long as you stay loyal to your friends, you'll always be okay any harder, and although it does become Narm on occasion, it can still be touching, and that anvil should probably be dropped as often as humanly possible, because, yes, good friends do make it possible to survive anything.
- Final Fantasy XII runs on Grey and Gray Morality, and as such it demonstrates that in a war the people on the other side are people just like the heroes. With the exception of several minor villains, the Archadians are normal humans beings with dignity, honor, and perfectly understandable reasons for why they do what they do. Even Vayne is a Necessarily Evil Anti-Villain — he's fully aware that he is doing evil things but considers them needed to achieve the ends he desires.
- The World Ends with You has CAT's "Do what you want, wherever you want, whenever you want."
- By the end, the anvil that keeps getting dropped is "trusting in people is a really, really good thing." Mr. Hanekoma even tells Neku that his world will only extend as far as he wants it to, and if he stays a shut-in his whole life, he'll always be miserable.
- Ōkami has a big one: don't be selfish with your prayers. There is also a corollary to that, which is demonstrated with each NPC encountered. While most games are content to ignore the tendency of NPCs to just give you fetch quests and not do anything themselves (or at least lampshade it), Okami turns it into part of the game's message, which is that you shouldn't wait around on mystical forces to solve all your problems. You need to take responsibility for your own life and do things yourself. Amaterasu avoids taking credit for everything not out of any sort of modesty, but to give these people the confidence it takes to start doing things on their own, so that they won't need her around to fix everything. It's a very important life lesson that, while never actually stated, is anything but subtle in its presentation.
- The BioShock games are very unsubtle about their aesop: Utopianism Is unrealistic. People will inevitably fail to live up to their own ideals, especially when the reins of power are given to those who would exploit it.
- Also, from the audio diaries from Minerva's Den:
Charles Milton Porter: Sure, you hear it in Rapture. One of the business types asked me, "Why don't you splice white? Get ahead!" Well, that's some idiocy! I told him, "First of all, I AM ahead. Second, in Rapture, it's your work that's supposed to matter, not your skin!" Too bad for some folks you can't splice in common sense.
- Another anvil dropped in the first game is that a society of people completely dedicated to self-interest is short-lived. Rapture was filled with brilliant scientists, artists, and businessmen, but very few willing blue-collar workers (as Frank Fontaine said, "Someone has to scrub the toilets"), which resulted in a top-heavy class system that led to Rapture's social, economical, and literal collapse.
- Also, from the audio diaries from Minerva's Den:
- Chrono Trigger. The Zeal story arc is as Anvilicious as they come, but it offers an important metaphor for nuclear warfare.
- Heck, every time period had some form of racism: 65,000,000 BC had Reptites oppressing the primitive humans. 12,000 BC had the Enlightened Ones oppressing the Earthbound ones. 600 had the war between the humans and the Fiends. And 2300 AD had the robots oppressing what was left of humanity After the End.
- The main messages of the game are also completely unsubtle: first, all living things have value. That even includes people who don't look like you, or act like you. In fact, that especially includes them. Secondly, nothing is decided by fate. One small change could be all it takes to change the future for the better, because nothing is predetermined.
- Sonic Battle hits us with an anti-war message in a very personal way. The player and characters spend the game bonding to a new character, a robot named Emerl. Emerl was created to be a weapon of war, but for the most part, Sonic and friends put it out of their minds. He's more than a weapon; he's their friend, and like Shadow, he has heart and couldn't willingly kill anyone. When it is acknowledged, Rouge finds codewords that will supposedly free Emerl's mind, disengaging the destructive programming. Then Dr. Eggman unleashes a weapon to overload Emerl with power, making him go crazy and attempt to destroy the Earth. Sonic is able to stop him, but it's too late for Emerl... his final programming was set so if the weapon ever went out of control, it would terminate itself.
- Tails hammers the point home:
Someday... If this world finally knows true peace... If this world no longer needs weapons or wars... If we can make this world a truly peaceful place when we're older... If we can make a world where there's only laughter... Do you think we'll be able to play with Emerl again?
- Tails hammers the point home:
- Mega Man ZX finally drops that anvil, in a good way: (spoiler alert)
- Giro: Don't tell me you forgot your promise already. You did mean it, right?
Aile: Giro!? But, the blood that flows in me...
Giro: Is just blood. Are you going to let some man you don't even know decide your destiny for you? Destiny is not something that is given to us by others. Destiny comes from the concept of "destine," or directing something towards a given end. Be the one doing the directing. Only you can decide your destiny.
Aile: Only I can decide my destiny...
Giro: Yes. Forget the past. It means nothing. The power you contain within is the key to creating your future.
Model Z: Face your destiny and carve out a new future for yourself. That's the struggle that you and every living thing on the planet must cope with.
- There is also this:
- Advent stays true and faithful to the Aesop:
Aile: I decided to become a Mega Man because I wanted to help people. You're fighting because you're trying to find out who you are, but don't forget. Only you can decide your own destiny. No matter what anyone says you are. The power you contain within is the key to creating your future. That's what a special person said to me.
Grey: My destiny... My future.
- There's also this. Not even an insanely-powerful madman could decide your own destiny: (spoiler alert)
Grey: Yeah, you're right, I am Defective. I'm just a person named Grey. You couldn't even change the destiny of a regular boy like me. This is the destiny that I've chosen... To live together with the people of this world!
Albert: Is that what the "other me" would have said...? Goodbye, ultimate Defective! You can have your gentle peace... and leisurely rot in it!
- Mega Man Battle Network repeatedly hammers in the need for constant care and vigilence in keeping your computers and networks safe from blackhat hackers.
- In particular, Battle Network 3's Hero of ACDC story arc hits a homerun telling about the dangers of peer pressure and social engineering, as Mr. Match successfully deceives and pressures Lan into assisting him in his plan to cause a fire in a research lab while he steals vital data.
- Fire Emblem:
- Fire Emblem Tellius:
- If you destroy a country and abuse the people, you are going to find yourself with resistance on your minds. Today's saviors may be tomorrow's tyrants. Also, justifying everything you do as patriotism leads to horror.
- Every country has its own political problems and social squabbing, but abuse, hatred, slavery, and genocide of people from other nations is never, never right. And trying to stop it can, and should, be a powerful unifying force between these differing nations.
- Fire Emblem Awakening:
- Perhaps the most tearjerking thing in the game. Sometimes one person's life at the cost of millions is alright. It isn't pleasant, it sucks, but, to stop even greater tragedy, sacrifices must be made.
- Fire Emblem Tellius:
- Yume Miru Kusuri: A Drug That Makes You Dream: Bullying may be bad, but complacency is equally bad. Your loved ones and friends are more reliable than your "conventional" social circle. Ostracizing people who are different through no fault of their own is screwed up. Don't be afraid of love, either to love someone or be loved in return. Compared to those, the game's drug aesop ("the fruits of escapism are fleeting and dangerous") is surprisingly subtle.
- Mother 3
- Has a very constant, and quite often rather soul-shakingly terrifying representations of the corruption of nature by technology (not so much "technology is bad" as it is that misuse of technology with no restraint is bad) as well as rather earthly and relevant destruction, sacrifice, reunion, and all around painful examination of familial bonds. And it wouldn't be half the game it is without these things.
- Living in the past can be harmful, to both those around you, and yourself, as demonstrated by Porky.
- EarthBound, while it does have a lot of subtlety to pick apart, its main lesson is neither subtle nor would it be any better if it was: There is no evil of or beyond this world that can stand a chance against an earth bound by good people sharing real friendship.
- Live A Live: Anyone can become evil if they have enough hatred inside of them. And boy, does Oersted embody this message a hundredfold.
- Pokémon, especially Pokémon Gold and Silver, can get pretty Anvilicious about taking care of your Pokémon and treating them like friends, rather than tools, but it's a message that people need to learn, whether you are talking about people or animals.
- There's also some subtext that no one, no matter how cruel or mean they are, is beyond redemption if they truly do mean it — Silver, Maxie and Archie, and especially N are all primary villains that reform when they realize the error of their ways. And of course, Pokémon too are individuals, and many are probably just Punch Clock Villains that are simply following the orders of their trainers. The aesop gets a bit broken in later Generations, where the leaders of Team Galactic and Team Plasma don't reform, and we find out Giovanni, who since the very first games was implied to go off and try to live a peaceful life after being defeated, never learned his lesson either.
- There's another Aesop in that there are some people out there who won't accept a second chance or a chance for redemption. It doesn't mean that offering them a second chance is pointless but it's naive to expect that all people will automatically renounce their ways if you give them a second chance.
- There's some environmental/animal rights messages too, with many people preaching that truly good trainers live in peace and harmony with Pokémon, while the evil teams are universally said to exploit and abuse Pokémon for their own ends. Some things (Legendary Pokémon) are best left to nature to govern, and trying to control them will only lead to disaster. This message was actually the focus of Black and White — Team Plasma believes that humans and Pokémon cannot co-exist and wish to create separate worlds for them, and leader N was influenced by being raised among abused and abandoned Pokémon.
- Pokémon Black and White mentions that you should try to get along with people who have different views from yourself. Take one look at any political debate, especially those around major political parties and those on the internet, and you'd know how much that anvil really needed to be dropped.
- The Mass Effect series drops this one: There comes a time where you have to acknowledge that you can't save everyone and you won't be able to make it through unscarred. You can't win them all. Doing so will come at great sacrifice.
- The series as a whole goes to a lot of trouble to point out that old saw about how it is the destiny of every generation to overthrow their parents. Basically, you should be good to your children if you don't want them to kill you. This comes out in various ways, but the primary examples are the Geth pogrom that left the Quarians without a home and Shepard's option to kill off the Reapers.
- Another running theme in the series that becomes incredibly prominent in Mass Effect 3 is a depiction of The Chains of Commanding. It Sucks to Be the Chosen One for Shepard and his/her job is not at all portrayed as glamorous or fun in any way. This comes to a head in 3 when Shepard is nearing his/her limit, physically and emotionally and by the end, s/he's almost completely broken by everything that's happened.
- The underrated SEGA game Feel the Magic: XY/XX does not seem like the kind of game that would have an Aesop. But the final level kicks the Love Martyr concept in the tenders, wherein the hero saves the life of his beloved and delivers the message that "Love doesn't mean dying for the one you love, but living life to the fullest for them!"
- L.A. Noire drops a pretty solid anvil that some people seem to have forgotten: Honesty Is the Best Policy. Crime doesn't pay, and personal integrity will always be worth more than money or prestige. This cannot be more clear than when Cole sticks his gun in Roy's face for badmouthing Courtney Sheldon, a war hero with whom Phelps served in the Pacific.
- All of the Oddworld games focus on horrifying effects of people putting personal gain, capitalism, and social status before morality, as all the Player Characters are on the losing end of that compromise. They typically have a Green Aesop complimenting this theme, as well.
- The backstory also teaches that you should never answer hate with hate - the Mudokons got to where they were because of their magic powers, and the fact that the moon has a Mudokon handprint on it, leading them to bully and oppress "lesser" races... Lesser races such as Glukkons. And their desire for freedom, and later revenge, then outright sheer greed put Oddworld on a destructive spiral that'll even kill them eventually.
- The Fallout: New Vegas add-ons all revolve around moving on and accepting the past.
- Dead Money takes this from the point of view of fortune-seekers. Dean and Elijah's greed for the Sierra Madre's vault (Dean's having ripened for more than 200 years), Christine's thirst for revenge on Elijah, and God/Dog's desire to lead and be led all threaten to destroy them — only by letting go can any of them survive the DLC.
- Honest Hearts takes this from the point of view of well-intentioned meddlers trying to influence a new civilization based on their past experiences. Joshua Graham, an ex-Legion soldier looking to atone for his past by protecting an innocent group of literate tribals, Daniel, a preacher trying to preserve his culture by peacefully converting those innocents to his faith, and Randall Clark, a long-dead soldier who founded the tribe in order to replace his lost family. Aiding Graham fully turns the tribe into a vicious warband, aiding Daniel fully drives the tribe from their fertile home into the harsh wastes. The best solution is to aid Graham in defeating the bloodthirsty usurpers, then persuade him to show mercy to the defeated leader — this leads the tribe to understand how justice must be tempered with mercy, creating a new civilization.
- Old World Blues does this from a society's point of view. The titular expression is explained by a talking jukebox to be a state where one is so focused on the glories of the past that he can't concentrate on the present — or the future.
- The add-on "Lonesome Road" is a guided tour through a series of Old World military installations, frozen in the act of setting off the apocalypse, and culminating in a chance to destroy the New California Republic and/or Caesar's Legion with a nuclear weapon. The best ending is to abandon the WMD insanity of the past and solve the problems of the wasteland yourself. While this makes sense in a post-Apocalyptic world, it's still true in Real Life.
- The other main points of Lonesome Road are that (despite the name) you are never, ever alone (even when ED-E is not there, Ulysses is still watching you from afar), and that regardless of your intentions, all actions have consequences, consequences that will always exist, and shape the world, even if you are forgiven and try to make amends.
- Tales of Symphonia has about a million messages that aren't subtle at all, but need to be told:
- Bigotry and discrimination is evil and never, ever justifiable. Even if you're a victim of discrimination, returning the favor to the people who mistreated you is just as bad.
- Every life is worth something; designating certain people as sacrificial lambs makes you a horrible person.
- Blindly following one course of action without thought of alternatives or how many people you'll need to step on to get there is detrimental to your psyche, and will probably hurt a lot of people too.
- The demons in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey will make you think quite hard about exactly what is it that you really believe about Humanity and its role on Earth. The demon lords' Hannibal Lectures very likely will hammer in the point in ways Churchill would be proud of.
- If there's one thing you should take away from the EX mission with Kanbari, it's this: Learn some bathroom etiquette!
- Grandia II places a lot of emphasis on the importance of making one's own decisions. Throughout the game, Roan learns that following authority is not a way of living, Mareg teaches Tio to learn to be her own master instead of following orders, and Ryudo hammers it into Elena that even though they were playing into Pope Zera's hand the whole second half of the quest, she is not a servant to anyone, not even the dead God of Light Granas or the returning Valmar. And since that game was made in a country where the interests of the group is emphasized over those of the individual, this is one anvil that especially needed to be dropped there.
- Spec Ops: The Line has the Aesop of war is horrible, as do a lot of First-Person Shooter games, but it goes deeper than just that. The game goes on length about how everyone suffers in war and there are no true heroes in war, there is only death, destruction, and trauma awaiting for anyone who engages in war or is a witness to war. This game goes the extra mile and says there is no justifiable part of war, even if you're on the so-called good side, and we should not cross the proverbial line regardless of intentions.
- The other major aesop that the game tries to get across is that of personal choice. You should never try to blame others for your own actions, you always have the option of stopping what you're doing and walking away from the situation. Short of someone pointing a gun at you and forcing you to do something, you always have a choice to do the right thing. It goes even further than that by reminding us that even if we have made a mistake, we still have the right to go home and do better next time; even in your failures, you have the choice to keep on living and face up to the consequences of your actions.
- The game is equally unsubtle as a self-reflexive critique of the military-themed shooter genre itself. It argues that the genre more or less forces the player to become a Sociopathic Soldier with Black and White Insanity. Through its protagonist Cpt. Martin Walker, it demonstrates that acting like the protagonist of a shooter game in real life results not in victory but tragedy, and that such an individual would not emerge from the situation a dedicated, stoic hero, but rather an unhinged, maniacal, PTSD-ridden psychopath. All of this is demonstrated without an ounce of restraint.
- It also makes a point about what happens to the people and objects around a shooter protagnist. Walker's desperate drive to be the hero ends up being the reason that everyone in Dubai will die of dehydration.
- It also makes a fairly severe point about how the use of white phosphorous is horrific and devastating with several accurately depicted scenes of people being killed by it and the bodies left behind by it.
- And that's not even getting started on how the game attacks the U.S. "foreign policy" of military intervention.
- Actually, lets - the military brass explicitly ordered Konrad to get the hell out of Dubai before the storm hit, but Konrad (and the Damned 33rd) opted to stay to act both as a stabilizing element and in the hopes of organizing a mass evacuation for those that hadn't already gotten out of the city. Konrad himself was a Well-Intentioned Extremist at worst (as even the draconian water-rationing had a purpose), and his initial attitude was Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right when told not to intercede. However, this also reinforces the point that, regardless of how noble your intentions going in might be, things are not guaranteed to work out well in the end.
- The biggest (and most subtle) aesop is an old one — "A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing." All of Walker's decisions were based on only partial information (a situation that can easily happen while in a war zone) - from who he should side with (Enemy Mine isn't always a good option) to what he should do. He never made attempts to fully assess the situation, or simply drop his weapons and approach unarmed to explain the situation (though, granted, the latter would likely have gotten him killed).
- And on the other side of the aisle, the entire mess starts because those embroiled in Dubai's civil war believed that the trio of newcomers were members of those they were fighting, shooting on-sight rather than making any effort to assess their intentions.
- Writer Walt Williams is not terribly keen on the game being described as an "anti-war" video game: he has stated that his primary intention was to create a narrative which asked players to question why they play shooters in the first place, and the War Is Hell aspect of the game came about largely as a necessary consequence of this rather than out of any special desire to attack war in its own right.
- Another thing the game brutally deconstructs is the very purpose of the Big Bad itself. Throughout the game, Walker uses Konrad to justify his actions, since he needs to liberate Dubai from his martial law. However, finding out that Konrad was just a figment of his imagination Walker created to deny his actions not only deals a potentially Driven to Suicide reaction from Walker, but also is the straw that breaks the player's morale as well. Really, the deconstruction of a villain as a justification for the protagonist's actions applies all forms of narrative fiction.
- One critique of Analogue: A Hate Story is that it trends toward a preachy tone despite the liberal use of Deliberate Values Dissonance. However, it's impossible to play the game through to the end without thinking deeply about the human rights abuses that have occurred throughout history.
- Fate Of The World isn't the least bit subtle about its Green Aesop. The sheer difficulty of the game hammers home the point about how hard it is to tackle global warming.
- Early Civilization games and especially Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri are focused on Green Aesop and dangers of science. The games show in full extent that of course, pollution and rampart exploitation of resources is bad and uncontrolled, unethical scientific development leads to more harm than good things, but advanced industry and technology allows us create things our ancestors didn't even dream about and secure better futures for our children.
- The main message of the Super Robot Wars franchise can essentially be summed up as thus: The philosophies of people participating in a war aren't always compatible, but if we can set our differences aside and work together, we will be able to protect our loved ones and make the world a better place.
- Asura's Wrath: Always keep your familial bonds in mind first, and never let vengeance truly cloud your judgement. It's somewhat subtle, but after Asura turns into his completely berserk Wrath Form, he's not a completely mindless force, leaving those that are truly deserving of his anger as his main targets and never attacking innocent bystanders.
- Somewhat less subtle is that worshipping Jerkass Gods blindly, as well as treating this as a good thing, is a bad, bad idea.
- Dragon Age II comes with a number of brilliant anvils tied to the personal quests of the True Companions, but mostly concentrated in Merill's arc. Merrill's a blood mage who willingly accepts a demon's assistance to complete her mission of purifying a corrupted mirror. Accepting this aid puts her at odds with Anders, who berates her because the demon only wants to possess her and turn her into an abomination. At first, Merrill points out that Anders, who hosts a spirit of Justice, is hardly one to criticize. In Act II, after Anders kills or almost kills Ella, Merrill points out how mistaken he was about himself, and herself. Strip away the fantasy elements, and the brilliant truth is that concepts of unyielding justice are just as dangerous as reckless pride, and there are no "good" or "evil" concepts.
- At the culmination of Merrill's arc, another truth is realized to her by Hawke and Keeper Marethari. Even if one is willing to put their life on the line for their cause, other people who love them can get hurt in the crossfire. To ignore this brings great misery.
- The second game also drops an anvil about self-reflection and responsibility. In the entire game, every single side is blaming each other and urging them to better themselves. While they are all justified, none of the groups ever take a second to look at themselves to see how flawed they are and that they are just as responsible for the mess as all of the other sides in the conflict.
- Throughout the Dragon Age franchise, there is an underlying theme that oppression and hatred of others, whether racial, social, or fantastical, for whatever reason, is never an ideal situation and destroys the oppressors as well, examples being the Tevinter Imperium, the Orlesians and their occupation of Ferelden, the dwarves and their rigid social classes, the elves and humanity, and especially the mages and the Templars, which finally comes to a head in the second game.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition has quite a few Aesops about extremism and its effects on average people, religious conviction, and existentialism, but it also tackles the issue of LGBT rights rather than simply portraying gay characters like in previous Bioware games. Dorian's personal quest addresses the character's homosexuality head on and the pressure placed on him to be straight or at least ''act straight'' within the ruthless nobility of Tevinter (without giving anything away). While some fans find his quest to be simply Anvilicious, others applaud the game for having little nuance about the character's sexuality.
- Similarly, in The Witcher series, moral ambiguity reigns supreme. There is no grand "Good vs. Evil" to be found (save for the Salamandra gang in the first game), just people against people. Elves and dwarves want to be free of human oppression, but use extremist, guerilla actions to accomplish their goal. Humans want to maintain the peace, but at the expense of non-human citizens' rights.
- Tokimeki Memorial 4 has Elisa Doolittle Naruse. Elisa's story is unusually political for a Tokimeki, as it brushes with the topics of bigotry and racism: matters the ethnically homogeneous Japan tends to outright ignore... especially in a video game. Elisa is not treated as Japanese, because she does not look Japanese, when in fact she is Japanese due to having lived her whole life there.
- Final Fantasy X: One of the game's main aesops is the importance of free-thinking and not following things blindly. Best demonstrated by the scene where Wakka discovers Rikku is an Al Bhed, and the subsequent cutscene consists of Rikku protesting the way people of Spira follow Yevon, demolishing the Religion of Evil with such points as thinking for yourself instead of following blindly, and asking for proof that Yevon's teachings are the right way. Given that the church in question is a Corrupt Church, this anvil had to be dropped sooner or later. Because of this, Wakka gets some serious Character Development and come the next game, he fathers a child whom he proudly names after the Al Bhed word for "future".