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Selective Condemnation

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Mainly a video game trope due to Gameplay and Story Segregation. This is where one specific death/murder is treated as far more dire than the others, despite the circumstances meaning there should be little difference from others considering the countless people whom you brutally killed before, especially as you probably enjoyed torturing them, too.

Many examples of If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him! fall under this, and it tends to be even more obnoxious for video games as the number of people you killed before that moment is likely to be exponentially higher. Guess all those minor enemies you sliced through on the way over don't count, at least as far as the Cutscene is concerned.

Occasionally a Justified Trope if the character surrenders or is at the character's mercy; there is a big difference between killing armed attackers in self-defense, and killing just because they can. If jail or some non-lethal alternative is not available, though, one wonders just what the character was supposed to do.

This trope is related to What Measure Is a Mook?. See also Villains Do The Dirty Work, where the character is conveniently spared from having to make such a decision because a different villain kills the person. Also compare A Million Is a Statistic.

Characters who do this may have Wrongful Accusation Insurance.


Comic Books
  • Wonder Woman Vol 2 & Vol 3: A couple of writers used the fact that heroes like Batman and Superman were condemning Wondy for killing Max Lord, who was mind controlling Superman as a weapon at the time, while having previously said nothing when she killed Medusa on international television to point out hypocrisy in the superhero community, but most played it straight by treating Max's death as some kind of horrific entirely unjustified murder while ignoring what happened to Medusa.


  • At the end of the movie Equilibrium, the Big Bad (Vice-Counsel DuPont) argues that protagonist John Preston cannot kill him, as doing so would be murder, something that should be reprehensible to the hero now that he can feel emotions. DuPont seems to be conveniently forgetting the 60 or so men Preston just slaughtered to get to him, a dozen or so of whom are laying dead right at his feet. Unfortunately for him, the argument doesn't work — partly because he only brings it up the instant Preston disarms him in a one-on-one duel.

Video Games

  • In Baldur's Gate, in the Thieves' Maze, the player encounters Winski Perorate, Lawful Evil mage and mentor of the Big Bad Sarevok, who the mage had helped to escape. Because Winski is injured and non-hostile, killing him will dock enough alignment points to turn the player evil, without giving the option to justify a Mercy Kill to prevent further evil.
  • Averted in the dumbest way possible in the TekWar game. Your mission control (played by William Shatner) will complain at you for your body count before and after missions if you kill anybody. So far, so good. That is, until you find out that the game's kill counter includes every enemy killed, regardless of type, so you can wind up getting a reprimand for all the blood you've shed when you, among other things, kill rats in the Sewer Level or blow up remote operated gun turrets. It does not at all help that police in civilian areas are programmed to react to your drawing a gun, but not anybody else, meaning it's fairly likely to be on a subway with half a dozen criminals shooting bullets at you while the police stand by and ignore it, then they sudden fire on you and call for backup because you pulled out your taser in self-defense.
  • In the Xbox beat-um-up game Minority Report: Everybody Runs, your character is trying to prove himself innocent of the "future-murder" of someone that the precogs foresaw him killing. Most of the gameplay is your guy trying to escape the police, by violently beating the shit out of them, smashing them through tables/chairs, throwing them off of skyscrapers, throwing them into huge vats of luminous green shit in a robot factory, etc. And yet, despite the hundreds of murders of police you committed over the course of the game while you were violently resisting arrest and running from the law, you are welcomed back onto the force after it turns out that you didn't kill that one guy. Also, even before you were wanted, you were pretty much the most horrifically brutal cop the world has ever seen. In the first mission, for instance, you are trying to arrest a guy who runs a catering company. Apparently, the best way to do this was to beat dozens of his employees to death with your bare hands, continue to sadistically beat them and break all the furniture in the board room with their heads after they have gone limp and stopped resisting, force their faces onto lit stoves, and throw them out of skyscraper windows to their deaths. You don't even arrest them. And afterwards, you get complimented for fine police work.
  • In Galerians, Rion, the main character, seems upset and remorseful after killing Birdman, when the player could and most likely did kill several scientists, security guards, insane people, guards in mechanical armor that initially appear to be robots, artificially created but intelligent monsters, and fellow psychics, and also destroyed an android that the player and character thought was human until he was severely injured before reaching this point in the game. It is possible, albeit highly difficult and impractical, to run from and not even have to attack a single enemy in the game up to that point (with the exception of the first boss, who is the aforementioned android), though due to how Rion's powers can 'short' and cause him to automatically kill any normal enemy in the area until calmed down a player has to go considerably out of their way to avoid killing anyone.
  • Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness: Lara is framed for Von Croy's murder and chased by the Paris police force; never mind the many, many people she actually does kill in the game and in the earlier games; including innocent museum guards in the middle of London, most of the staff of Area 51 (surely the USA must have some cameras at one of its most important facilities?) and a gang massacre in broad daylight on the streets of Venice.
  • The Grand Theft Auto series does this several times:
    • The protagonist of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is said to have spent 15 years in prison before the beginning of the game on account of 11 counts of murder. The player can kill far more than that in a rampage, be arrested by the police and reappear immediately afterward outside a police station, having lost only his weapons and some cash. There's a small Lampshade Hanging here, as an audio clip is played of the character's lawyer making vague threats to the cops, but one would think it'd take a little more than that.
      • One Vice City mission requires the protagonist to shoot cars/kill people ... because apparently Vietnam really, really sucked. So, yeah.
    • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas contains a central plot point involving the protagonist being forced to do the bidding of a crooked cop, who has in his possession a gun used in the murder of a police officer. He threatens to use it to frame CJ, and it's implied that this gun alone is evidence enough for a murder conviction and life imprisonment sentence. However, in-game, the player can freely murder police officers in broad daylight (often dozens at a time), and subsequently actually be arrested, with no dire consequences.
      • Not to mention the time CJ and Ryder stole a ton of guns from a National Guard depot, shooting dozens of soldiers in the process. You know, treason.
      • An optional side-quest requires CJ, the protagonist, to murder about twenty police officers. Why are they gunning for him? He took pictures of blueprints for a casino.
    • Oh, yes, in all three GTA games, if you are skilled you can escape punishment for murder of cops by bribing them.
    • Grand Theft Auto IV introduces "morality choices," points in the story at which the player is given the option to kill certain characters, or let them go. The story treats murder as a very serious subject, and Niko often expresses regret if the player opts for the "kill" route. This is all despite the fact that the player is encouraged, and indeed sometimes must, kill hundreds of (sometimes innocent) people in-game, something the player can do with near-impunity.
  • In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic there is a quest to find Sunry, a Republic spy charged with murdering Sith spy Elassa Huros, innocent in court. The player can only free him if they convince the judges that Sunry was not the murderer (in a twist, he actually is). Yet the player can (and, in fact, has to) infiltrate the Sith base, slaughter its entire personnel, and then convince the judges to let them go. The game lampshades this when Sunry says to Jolee Bindo, one of the player's party members: "All I did was kill a Sith! How many have you killed? Hundreds? Thousands?" Though as noted there is a slight difference between killing armed enemies who are shooting at you, and murdering a defenseless woman in her sleep. After having sex with her. Which Jolee himself will point out.
    • Same game: Let an innocent old man be smacked around by a mobster's henchmen? You lose vital stats in the 'Light Side' category. Rob house after house after house and terrorize those within? Apparently not a bad thing at all. Your Republic soldier ally says nothing on this.
  • The last two Jedi Knight games, both of which end with an If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him! situation after you've just butchered your way through countless soldiers and technicians you're supposedly at peace with. In Jedi Academy at least, the guy you need to kill or spare is just an unfortunate kid who was intimidated into joining the enemy, has already regretted his defection, and is on his knees, begging for his life.
  • In World of Warcraft, attempting to loot a corpse that was killed by another player prompts your character to say "That would be stealing". The same character that can get involved in murder, assassination, arson, kidnapping (of infants in some cases), slavery, genocide, chemical/biological warfare, killing refugees, ripping people's hearts out to summon demons, killing prisoners, killing allies, backstabbing and a whole host of other morally reprehensible actions. Never mind that NPCs the player has themselves killed are fair game for looting.
    • Made particularly entertaining by how this message only comes up when the server lags badly enough to interrupt the loot process - NPCs killed by other players don't even appear as lootable in the retail version. This is probably an artifact from the alpha/beta versions.
    • In Northrend, a certain faction gets very upset for a while when you kill animals in the zone... but killing people, or even killing animals anywhere else, is fair game. Definitely intentional, since the group in question is an Animal Wrongs Group.
  • Iji is a notable aversion. All biological enemies contribute equally to your kill count and killing anyone - be it a plot-relevant high-rank Komato or a Tasen Scout - prevents you from getting the 'Full' pacifist-run storyline.
  • In Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, the player is often given a Light Side or Dark Side choice after defeating each boss. The Dark Side choice typically results in beating the crap out of (but not killing) the boss (who's still in fighting condition, by the way). Somehow this is considered an "evil" act, despite the incredible pummeling inflicted on the boss during the boss fight itself. While, again, there's a difference between using force to stop someone dangerous and using force For the Evulz, the game itself makes little distinction between the actions.
    • Two important distinctions are made throughout the game that even out to be this trope: After fighting Black Cat, you have the option of taking her to an ambulance, the red suit choice, or absorbing her symbiote, the black suit choice. It's considered evil because the choice entails picking Felicia over Mary Jane as love interest. The same situation happens with Wolverine, except absorbing the symbiote is the red suit choice, and the black suit choice is to rip him in half.
  • In Condemned: Criminal Origins, the player character must bludgeon dozens of homeless people to death in order to hopefully prove his innocence in the murder of two police officers. It must be said, however, that the bludgeonings were pretty much done in self-defense. Then again, they are homeless people. Truth in Television and all that.
  • Your Voice with an Internet Connection in Metal Gear Solid gets very upset if you massacre animals (even attack dogs that are attacking you), but none of them bats an eye if you kill guards, even if you do something horrible to them. The Big Bad however doesn't ignore it, Liquid claiming that Snake enjoys the killing, and calls him out for this near the end of the game. Snake claims that Liquid's plot to catapult the world into a chaotic, war-torn state is insane; Liquid argues that it was their father's dream to create a world where soldiers are respected. Snake claims he doesn't want that world, and Liquid counters by pointing out most of both FOXHOUND and the Genome Army were killed by Snake, presumably intended to make the player think about their actions.
    • Similarly, in Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake's support team will barely comment if he slaughters and tortures hundreds of soldiers, but The Sorrow will punish you quite frighteningly.
    • Goes full circle in Metal Gear Solid 4, where offing too many people in a short time-span causes Snake to have a flashback to Liquid's "you enjoy all the killing" speech, after which he actually vomits in disgust and loses a healthy chunk of Psyche.
  • RuneScape, like many other MMORPGs, is particularly heavy offender thus making your main character extremely hypocritical. This is lampshaded quite often in this game.
  • Slightly averted in Tales of Symphonia, in which main character Lloyd does not consider any one life to be more important than another, from the lowliest Mooks to the Big Bad himself, and his biggest goal in the game is to avoid deaths on both sides of the war. He can still kill endless hordes of enemies if the player is so inclined though, but he'll at least feel bad about it later.
    • Genis takes it further, saying he has no right to condemn Regal for being a self-admitted murderer when he's had to kill several dozens, if not hundreds, of people to get to this point in the story.
    • That said, that skit about bearing the responsibility for Magnius's life seems a bit awkward, as you've fought quite a few humans by that point. Also, Lloyd doesn't seem to care about having taken out the Desians that saw his face at the Human Ranch very early in the game. (Though the Church of Martel depicts the Desians as The Devil.)
    • Tales of Vesperia in spades, where an important subplot is the Knight in Shining Armor Flynn, who believes that justice is something that needs to be worked through its own rules, and Yuri, who is a vigilante. Especially comical when Flynn, then Yuri's party, call him out on the murders of two corrupt nobles, because all the knights crawling the capitol and all the bandits you meet on the road don't count as much. (Again, killing defenceless people is different to killing armed attackers, but it isn't even mentioned.)
    • Tales of the Abyss also plays a bit with this trope: There are no Random Encounters with human enemies until Luke kills a human in a cutscene and suffers a Heroic BSoD for it: Barring cheating, it is virtually impossible for Luke to have killed a human in a battle up until that point.
  • The World Ends with You: Neku and Beat must kill at least a dozen Red Shirts in the third week. ALL the Reapers are brainwashed by O-pins, except one lucky bastard who missed the memo requiring him to wear his. Yet Beat and Neku only spare the three that are identified NPCs, 777, Usuki, and Kariya. When Neku suggests that they erase the latter two he says something along the lines of 'we can't kill them because they're Brainwashed and Crazy'. Especially egregious because Uzuki and Kariya were the only Non-Game Master Reapers actively trying to erase them at any point in the game, while the rest just made you buy stuff or fight Noise. Even if it took them till Day 6 to realise that the Reapers were brainwashed, on Day 7, they go back to erasing hapless Red Shirts (though the Red Shirts in question were all of the Harrier (player-erasing) variety rather than Support (fetch-quest-assigning) variety).
  • In Arcanum one can streak through town all they like and get no real lasting penalties from it, but when you do it for a quest everyone reacts and you get a bad reputation out of it.
  • In Fable you can slice, magic, and shoot through hordes of NPC enemies, villagers, town guards, and the like. You can kill your best friend in the arena, defeat her brother for the hand of an evil woman and kill an ex-hero. You can steal from shops, break into homes, cheat at bar games, and sacrifice villagers for better weapons and still be able to repent for all that. Murder your sister for the ultimate power? Its implied that you are a heartless bastard and go on to be a tyrant.
    • Used in a ridiculous way in the original Fable. Generally, you get good Karma Points for killing bandits and monsters, the explanation obviously being that you rid society of evil and that they can't do any more harm. However, you get Evil Karma Points for killing the Bandit Chief Twinblade. Sure, he surrendered, but it's not like you redeemed him or anything, and leaving him alive would just lead to him eventually doing more evil. Even worse when remembering one of the quests you DO get good alignment for revolves around helping the Bowerstone guards drag a bandit prisoner up the hill to be beheaded as he cries and screams and begs for mercy (once you are within sight of the bloodstained chopping block in a cutscene).
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption consists mainly of the ever-pious Christof cutting a swath of violence through one dungeon after another. He invariably says something along the lines of "can't we work this out peacefully?" upon reaching the boss. Y'know, because we're all God's children... except for those of us whose names happen to be "Setite".
  • Hitman: Blood Money - The newspaper articles quite clearly say that dead guards just aren't that important; logical when you off a drug baron, not so much at the Paris Opera. This could be explained by the police simply assuming that any guards that were killed were murdered so the assassin could get to their real target, and thus it just makes sense to try to solve who killed the main target.
  • Scarface: The World Is Yours: Tony's whole 'morality' is built on not screwing anyone who didn't give him grief. However, optional side missions with hired guns encourage the murders of civilians. No mention of anything is made if the driver goes on a decapitation rampage in a bank.
  • At the end of Fallout 3, you have the option of sparing the life of Colonel Autumn, The Dragon whose only shown redeeming feature is that he doesn't want to use the modified FEV, who shot a defenseless female scientist just to encourage the rest of the team, and who willfully ordered the soldiers at Raven's Rock to attack you even after his superior had ordered them to stand down so he could talk to you. Meanwhile you don't spare a single thought for every drugged-up raider, every feral ghoul, every supermutant and every Enclave soldier following his Colonel's order that you've shot, burned, stabbed and vaporised over the course of the game.
    • At the start of the game, just before you leave the Vault, you are condemned by Amata if you kill the Overseer. This is justified because the Overseer is her father. However, in the process of getting from your room to him, you are likely to have killed multiple armed guards — you know, people both of you have known just as long as you have the Overseer.
  • Fallout: New Vegas has an example of this, in its Honest Hearts DLC. In the game, it's generally considered "good" to kill particularly evil characters. However, when Joshua Graham is about to execute the very evil Salt-Upon-Wounds, he's considered very close to Jumping Off the Slippery Slope. This would be downplayed (as Salt-Upon-Wounds is basically defenseless in that moment), but ultimately played straight because of how the game's karma-system works. Sniping a raider who hasn't even seen you yet is hardly self-defense, and you may even get moments where the enemy is unarmed and simply tries to run from you (or worse, crouch down in terror and beg for their lives). It's still considered acceptable to kill them, turning this into a Broken Aesop.
  • Advance Wars: Dual Strike: The Big Bad Von Bolt dares you to shoot him in order to stop his evil scheme, claiming it would make you as bad as he is. This in spite of the hundreds, possibly thousands, of enemy units you've killed and allied units destroyed under your command to get this far. Not to mention the deaths that would be caused if he did succeed. Bear in mind that you can say "Yes", in which case Jake basically points out the above and shoots his life-support device.
  • Lampshaded in Kingdom of Loathing, which gives you a chance to bet on a cockfight. If you choose to walk away, it mentions how disgusted you are by such senseless animal cruelty, and that you should go slaughter some more Yetis for their meat.
  • Rainbow Six Vegas 2 has an odd version. Shoot teammates or civilians too much and you get a Nonstandard Game Over and lose experience points. Toss a block of C4 into the room with the captured NSA agent from the second level and blow him up along with the terrorists guarding him, though... Granted, he is scripted to die no matter what you do, but still.
  • PAYDAY: The Heist has this in a weird way. You can gleefully murder hundreds of cops and SWAT units because they stand in your way of your heist, but you are given a big scolding from your Voice with an Internet Connection if you so much as kill one innocent civilian (which is also reflect by you having a longer respawn timer should you get arrested and a monetary penalty at the end of the mission). You're also told that if you go around killing civilians and the cops nab you, they will never let you go, and yet no one has a problem with bodies of cops you killed being piled up.
  • Saints Row: The Third has the game show Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax, a show where the contestants have to go through a labyrinth full of traps and kill as many people in mascot suits as possible to get CASH IN POCKET! There's also wooden targets that you shoot to get more time/extra health/money bonus... but don't you shoot the ones with pandas in them or you lose some money. It's UNETHICAL!
  • Many Skyrim players bear a grudge against The Empire for trying to behead them at the start of the game, on the basis that they were merely suspected to be a Stormcloak soldier. Should you actually join the Stormcloaks, you can then become a high-ranking officer and waltz into Solitude wearing your Stormcloak officer armor with nobody batting an eye over it. Though you'll still get in trouble should you brag about it in front of the guard's captain...
  • Sunset Riders, after you defeat Chief Scalpem, his sister begs you not to shoot him as "He was only following orders". "You" agree not to shoot him, ignoring the hundreds of other mooks you killed and will continue to kill - who are surely only following orders themselves!
  • In Ultima VI, several items in Lord British's castle are free for the castle's guest, the Avatar. This is mentioned by NPCs in the castle who have no problem with the Avatar rummaging through their stuff in front of them. But when seated at Lord British's banquet, which, in dialogue, the king is quite enthusiastic of you participating in, taking any of the items on the banquet table will count as thievery, and everyone in attendance of the banquet will assault the Avatar mercilessly with no remorse, and no forgiveness. Among players, this created the meme of Lord British having a Fork of Doom.
  • Characters in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines lose Humanity when they kill people, representing the Sanity Slippage and slow Loss of Identity that come with denying their better nature and listening to the Beast within them — unless they're in a combat zone, then they can murder as many people as they want with no consequences. Jack lampshades it by saying that "Self-preservation is a vital part of humanity after all. My favorite part in fact."
  • Averted in Undertale. You can't get the True Pacifist Ending just from sparing plot-important monsters while still killing any of the generic ones, and they will do their best to remind you that all those other monsters had families and friends too.
  • A recurring issue in Bioshock Infinite; in cutscenes, Booker and Elizabeth react to violence and death like you would realistically expect them to (Elizabeth is horrified by it, while Booker only uses it as a last resort), and both of them are disgusted by Comstock’s murderous actions. In gameplay on the other hand, they not only show barely any reaction to the carnage but will slaughter hundreds upon hundreds of cops and rebels alike. By the end, they’ve arguably killed far more people than Comstock ever managed to, yet in-story they never seem to get used to it like you’d expect.
  • Averted in Spec Ops: The Line; when the Big Bad lays out Walker's sins at the end, moments like shooting out a window to bury over a dozen nameless soldiers beneath a wave of sand are given just as much weight as Walker shooting Riggs or letting him burn to death. And while the white phosphorus incident is presented as horrific mostly for the civilians caught in the crossfire, the terrible injuries inflicted on the soldiers also cause it to be depicted as morally wrong.
  • The Last of Us Part II can't make up its mind about this. Ellie murders her way through dozens of people to get to Joel's killer Abby, but while they have names, their deaths don't influence the story at all. Ellie killing Mel and Owen, on the other hand, is given the dramatic weight of her turning into a monster, even though it was done in self-defense, unlike every other time.
  • Subverted in Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War. It starts out like any other Fire Emblem game, where the slaughter of opposing armies and outright invasion of neighboring kingdoms is justified by the evilness of the heads of those kingdoms. However, when Sigurd invades Agustria with the intent of saving a friend from the clutches of a callous king, it soon becomes clear that Sigurd's warmongering is having a devastating effect on the common people of Agustria, and that his one-eyed focus on his own personal relationships over those who are genuinely in need makes him hardly much better than the selfish nobles he's deposing.