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Player Punch

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"It's a shock, you know? I mean, I knew the Sith were evil and all, but the reality of it kind of slaps you in the face."
Mission Vao, Knights of the Old Republic

There's some times when playing a Video Game can be a little dehumanizing. After all, if your character is The Faceless, then there's no cinematic depiction of his grief that his Doomed Hometown was wiped off the map. And to the player who doesn't see it except if they possibly read the instruction manual, it's not that motivating.

Enter the Player Punch. The script gives our hero a sidekick or supporting character who is given a good degree of characterization or is just plain adorable. Over time, the player begins to take a liking to them when suddenly — BAM! The villain displays a startling Kick the Dog moment in killing them off (usually in a non-resurrectable Plotline Death), or worse, forcing the player to kill them by kidnapping them and turning them into a Tragic Monster. It isn't just personal now for the character. The player has been drawn into the situation because they liked Skippy the Adorable Airedale, and now that villain is going down HARD.

Alternatively, the developer can do this by forcing to the player to kill a sympathetic Anti-Villain (usually a type 4 such as a Noble Top Enforcer), which causing the player to question why did it have to end like this?

Can also be utilized by making the villain into such a smug jerk that the player wants to rearrange his face, or by suddenly having a former ally commit a Face–Heel Turn.

In unusually cruel and dark instances, the player is simply punched without the presence of a villain, or anybody else, to blame and take revenge on... Or even any other kind of positive resolution.

See also Death by Newbery Medal, Dropped a Bridge on Him, Gut Punch, Stuffed into the Fridge. Macguffin Delivery Service is one way of doing this. Contrast Moral Myopia. Related to The Computer Shall Taunt You.

Naturally, as a death trope, UNMARKED SPOILERS are below.


Non-video game examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • During the virtual reality filler arc in Yu-Gi-Oh!, the heroes are fighting their way through a horde of Duel Monsters when the Fairy Companion throws herself into the path of an oncoming attack on Yugi. He can only hold her and watch as she smiles weakly and dies, driving him to tears and a frustrated cry of "I've had enough!" before Yami steps in and starts getting dangerous.
  • For Issei in High School DXD, it's losing Asia in Volume 6 when she got teleported to the void though Ise didn't know it at that time. He then ate Shalba with the use of his Juggernaut Drive and was howling in despair at the sky.
  • In the end of Volume 1 of Barefoot Gen, after growing to know and love the Nakaoka family, the Atom Bomb drops on their hometown of Hiroshima and Gen and his mom Kimie watch in horror as they are unable to save the rest of their family who are pinned down under the rubble of their burning house. After they are rescued Kimie gives birth to a baby girl and as Gen holds her up in the air [[Tearjerker he breaks down crying knowing his father and sibling will never know her]]
  • Rei Ayanami's death. Made all the more horrible by the fact that she finally realized she cared about someone about three seconds before it happened.
    • The scene where Shinji is forced to kill Kaworu.
  • The Eclipse in Berserk. The abridged series put it quite nicely when it said, "but it's like the only time in the history of anime that the demons win. Every other show ends with the Ancient Hero of Bullshit showing up at the last minute, wielding the legendary Sword of Deus ex Machina and slicing the hell out of us. Well not this time! This time, WE WIN! Griffith turns evil. Everyone gets raped or eaten or killed. Fuck you. THE END!"
  • Zekkyou Gakkyuu has, because of its premise, at least one punch for the reader every chapter. And Yomi's background is bascially nothing but one player punch, after another.
  • In Dangan Ronpa 3 Future Arc, a LOT of watchers were in complete distraught at the end of Episode 2, when Aoi Asahina, one of the survivors of the first game and having built up a sizable fanbase beforehand, was out and out murdered. This was to the point a lot of watchers decided to quit, citing Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy. Enough that turns out in the next episode, it turns out that Aoi didn't die, she just got stabbed by a toy knife and the blood was made of tomato ketchup. As a result, the relief of her survival eclipsed what would've become the next Player Punch: the one who actually died was an Ensemble Dark Horse: Great Gozu.
    • Afterwords, the writers seems to kill off more fan favorite characters with as of Episode 5, Miaya being the robotic avatar of Monaca Towa, Tengan being murdered by Munakuta, and Seiko ended up becoming the third murder victim of the attacker.
  • The Koihime Musou anime has a cross-media version. It is a more light hearted rendition than the original Visual Novel although it hints that these are events that occur before the outbreak of war following the fall of the Han Dynasty. Plenty of lines in the show can trigger a Player Punch in the people who played the games since they know what is coming. Kayuu keeps saying that she will live a long life? Nope! She dies in every scenario. Shuyuu and Sonsaku's loving relationship? the latter will be murdered and the former will go mad, starting a civil war that almost undoes all that they have accomplished as lord and vassal.
  • In ''Giant Robo: The Animation'' after growing to love the Experts of Justice nearly all of them are killed by the end of the series. The absolute heartbreaker of the casualties is Ginrei whose death is absolutely one of the biggest Tearjerkers in the OVA

  • In Mockingjay, Prim's death most likely qualifies as the saddest moment in the series.
  • In the final Harry Potter book, Deathly Hallows, Dobby's Heroic Sacrifice/ Taking the Bullet kicked many readers right in the stomach due to how unexpected it was. Hell, many, if not all, of the deaths were metaphorical punches or kicks.
    • Here Lies Dobby, A Free Elf
  • For readers who came to The Riftwar Cycle by Raymond E. Feist via Betrayal at Krondor, Locklear's senseless death can be this after spending so much time with the character in the video game.
  • Ender's Game has an in-universe example: Ender finds out that his "final exam" was a real battle, and thus, not only did he kill hundreds - possibly even thousands - of his fellow troops, he's also committed outright genocide against the Formics. He doesn't take it well.

    Live Action TV 
  • In the Direct-to-Video movie Kamen Rider W Returns: Kamen Rider Eternal, the main villain is a scientist who kidnapped multiple people and imprisoned them inside his special prison camp, called 'The Village', in order to create telekinetic super soldiers. Katsumi, the main character, spends the entire movie trying to free those prisoners, only for them to die after leaving the prison camp, due to having implants in their heads. After the villain starts to gloat about this, you just know it's time for ass kicking.
  • In GARO The One Who Shines In The Darkness, once the completely human Big Bad gives the command to murder his entire family, including young children, it feels like this.
  • Game of Thrones is infamous for doing this sort of thing (as is its source material, A Song of Ice and Fire). The most infamous example is probably the Red Wedding, in which Robb Stark, his pregnant wife Talisa, and his mother Catelyn were betrayed and murdered in cold blood, although killing off its Decoy Protagonist got the show quite a bit of attention too.
  • Orphan Black gets into the action with the episode "The Scandal of Altruism", a major case of The Bad Guy Wins and Downer Ending. Kendall Malone, from whom both the Leda and Castor clones were cloned (due to Bizarre Human Biology), is shot and immolated, apparently destroying all traces of her genetic material. This leaves the clones, several of whom possess severe genetic illnesses, with a major recourse to unlocking the cause of these illnesses now closed to them. Additionally, Cosima's research on her illness and genetic code is seemingly destroyed, rendering her last several months' worth of work futile. As icing on the cake, we are told that Delphine is dead and learn that Beth Childs was blackmailed into committing suicide, as she was threatened that if she did not do so, the other clones would be killed. Of course, the faction responsible for this turns out to be the same faction responsible for Kendall's murder and the destruction of Cosima's research. The show has had Wham Episodes before, but nothing approaching how devastating this episode was. It's almost a Game of Thrones-level gut punch.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is an effective means of breaking the "Psychopath" and "Murderhobo" playstyles of Munchkins: by illustrating the consequences of their actions, they come to see that the game they're playing isn't just a "game" with one-dimensional NPCs, but an interactive story with fleshed-out characters, whom would realistically respond with grief and anger should a Munchkin player kill their loved ones in cold blood. This doesn't always mean punishing the player directly: a convincing Tear Jerker can make a Munchkin reflect on their character's actions, and abandon their former playstyles as they become more immersed in the story.

  • Played for laughs in this Penny Arcade strip.
  • Captain SNES: The Game Masta: In a flashback to the 8-bit days, Mother Brain has taken almost all of Captain N's power, called Omega Energy, and used it to make a pit which can defy the inherent innocence of Videoland and kill someone permanently. She initially planned to drop Lana into it, but Captain N uses the last of his power to pause time and save her. He explains that his power can't be taken so simply, as it comes from his friendship with the other characters, including his best friend Duke (a dog)...
    Mother Brain: Omega energy is greater than your idiotic friendships! And I'll prove it!
    Captain N: Um, we already won, Mother Brain.
    Lana: Yeah, I think it's already been-
    [Mother Brain knocks Duke into the pit]
  • Goblins gives us this, after undoing the comic's biggest Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
  • Homestuck's Gamzee in killing the two biggest Ensemble Dark Horse characters in the comic and later on going on to raise the Big Bad, and then mentally abusing Terezi. It's hard to find someone who doesn't want him gone.
  • Kind of a meta-example, but you'll never look at Team Fortress 2 in quite the same way again once you've read Cuanta Vida.

    Web Original 
  • Non-game example (albeit in a series about video games): In Life in a Game, it's bad enough that the various Jackals have been harassing and attacking Guy since he came to the Game, but when one of them murders Subplott, that's when he finally loses it.
  • In Kickassia, when The Nostalgia Critic kills Santa Christ. Santa Christ, he who reads to sick orphans, fights monsters for fun, will mend your curtains for free, and makes really good fondue. And even though the Clap Your Hands If You Believe sequence is played for laughs, Critic's broken look as he realizes what he just did will stay with you for a while.
    • Suburban Knights does it again with the death of Ma-Ti. He was little more than a living Running Gag, appearing throughout multiple videos to shout "Heart!", got his butt kicked by everyone in the Brawl, and his first appearance established that he wasn't even the real Ma-Ti. But SK portrays him as The Woobie who just wants to be involved with the rest of the group, but is treated like dirt. His Heroic Sacrifice is genuinely tragic, and the Critic is crushed.
    • And then in To Boldly Flee Ma-Ti has become bitter and jaded, manipulating events so that the Critic will escape the Plot Hole and leave his friends. When he wakes up in his house, he finds out that he's just a character and meets up with Doug Walker, his creator. This is when things get bad.
  • Ben Croshaw calls this "The Token Shocking Moment" and complains about its overuse in modern military-themed shooters (most especially Modern Warfare) in several Zero Punctuation episodes.
    • He later dedicated an entire Extra Punctuation column to examining the Player Punch in Spec Ops: The Line and what made it so effective and shocking.
  • When Lets Player Nate From the Sunshine State gets to point in his playthrough of Halo 3 where Miranda Keyes is killed from behind by the Brutes, you can hear him loudly inhale in shock... and then he growls in authentic rage, "I don't care what I have to do, I will exterminate your entire f*cking species! I swear to f*cking God!" And for the rest of the Let's Play, every Brute he kills gets a "F*ck you! That's for Miranda!" send-off.
  • Soap's elimination on Inanimate Insanity. Fans voted her off due to her jerkish behavior the previous episode or two, however in her final episode, she received some much-needed development and hints of a Heel–Face Turn, making her sendoff (and likely a few fans who voted for her) rather sad.