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Video Game Cruelty Potential

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We're the hero in this game?

Brian: What are you playing?
Tim: Tomb Raider III.
Brian: ... She's drowning.
Tim: Yeah.
Brian: Is that the point of the game?
Tim: It depends what mood you're in, really.

This is the potential a video game has for the player to do awful, horrible things to enemies or even friendly and neutral NPCs.

It can be knee shots causing screaming, telekinesis to literally play catch with guards, punching out scientists, flat-out torture, or many, many other things. Something Awful has dubbed two specific variations of video game cruelty as Asshole Physics and Asshole AI.

Some games specifically cater to this; these often skip out on a Karma Meter. This can also be the carrot along the path to The Dark Side for players in a game with a Karma Meter.

The severity of this trope varies. Some games only let you be cruel to your enemies and give harmless Non Player Characters immunity. (Harmless enemies will still be fair game.) Other games let you torment random NPCs you meet along the way. Still other games give you absolute, unchecked control over your subjects.

In games where there is a level editor or allows a sense of creativity, the trope allows those with less constructive intentions to target those of a player character nature just for fun. This can also happen outside of creative games/sandboxes through the medium of joke weapons or modifications/hacking.

This trope is often used for laughs. Remember, though: Just because a game lets you do something doesn't necessarily mean you should do it.

Contrast Video Game Caring Potential — though sometimes helping your little drones means doing horrible things to their enemies... See also What the Hell, Player? and Video Game Perversity Potential. If the game or genre usually does not permit cruelty even though there's no particular in-game reason for that, but this time they do, you have Surprisingly Realistic Outcome.

One of the Acceptable Breaks from Reality. You may laugh at video games, but if someone did this in Real Life? You probably wouldn't be laughing. And if you are, then you're a sick bastard.

This trope is a Super-Trope to the following tropes: (Please make sure that the examples you add do not fit better in one of these.)

For examples where someone takes joy in being a dick to other players, see Griefer.

Note that, since such actions are not mandatory in the story, these actions cannot be considered a Moral Event Horizon or qualify a player character for Complete Monster status.

Please only list aversions and non-Video Game-related examples here. This page had to be split because of its length. For Video Game-related examples, go to the links below.

Non-averted example subpages:


    open/close all folders 

    Adventure Game 
  • The Insane Children in American McGee's Alice can't harm Alice (except maybe to get in the way) and she cannot hurt them even if the player wants to; if she tries, it just doesn't work.
  • In the brief set of scenes where you get to play as Joker in Batman: Arkham Knight, you can murder anyone and everyone. Except Harley Quinn. The targeting reticle will not stay on her and the trigger will not work. There is one line the developers would not let even the Joker cross.
  • The society in Below the Root is so peaceful that you can't even be a Kleptomaniac Hero — unless it's out in the open, you have to find the owner and ask nicely. Better is if you find the Wand of Befal (machete). Use it on a living creature, and you've just made the game Unwinnable.
  • One part of the Nancy Drew game Danger on Deception Island has your friend Katie ask you to make a sandwich to eat. You can then make the most volatile sandwich ever (Peanut butter, tomatoes, Koko Kringles ice cream, expired mayonnaise, jellyfish, and baking soda) and then either feed it to Katie or eat it yourself, and get food poisoning, causing a Second Chance screen.
    • Watching Nancy kill herself with food poisoning, cliff jumping, and burning to death should not be as funny as it is. The most recent games have stopped all pretense of dying not being hilarious by adding a screen of text full of Black Comedy.
  • In the original Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel, during the scene where Sgt Dooley finds a human-sized chicken in his chair, the dialogue box will respond, "What a cruel thought.", if the player commands Sonny to draw his gun.
  • Subnautica:
    • In part because of the creator's distress at a recent school shooting, the player character has no weapons of any sort, other than the distinctly non-lethal Propulsion & Repulsion Cannonsnote  and Stasis Riflenote . The playerbase was notably split on this issue, pointing out that this leaves the player character with no defense other than escape against the abundance of very aggressive predatory creatures in the game.
    • In later editions of the game, the Propulsion & Repulsion Cannons became capable of killing things with "crash" damage, either by using the Propulsion Cannon to lob objects at other creatures (or bash smaller creatures against walls) or by using the Repulsion Cannon to smash creatures against the environment until they die. The Drill Arm became a powerful melee attack weapon capable of repulsing even Reaper Leviathans. Prawn Suits were upgraded with the ability to punch enemies in melee. And, finally, Torpedoes became an unlockable weapon for certain submersibles. The result was that players could now more aggressively defend themselves — or brutally stalk down and massacre aggressive creatures.
  • In Tomb Raider III it's impossible to shoot Lara's butler, as he always shields himself with the dinner tray. (However, you can lock him up in the walk-in fridge.)

    Beat Em Up 
  • In The Incredibles, the first few levels have Mr. Incredible fighting jewel thieves on the rooftops of the city. It's quite possible to grab the jewel thieves and throw them off the roof to fall to a horrible death. Keep in mind that this is a Pixar movie.
  • In Ninety-Nine Nights, you can kill unarmed civilians when playing as Inphyy or Dwingvatt.

    Driving Game 
  • The same applies to the Grand Canyon track in Gran Turismo 4, which features tourists standing in the middle of the road to take photographs and jumping out of the way just before you'd end up hitting them. If you actually do, you'll just clip through them.
  • In Midnight Club Los Angeles, you cannot run over the pedestrians however hard you try. They always jump out of the way when your car comes down on them. Always.
    • Ditto the Driver series.
    • Crazy Taxi also does this. Pedestrians run out of the way while customers leap or roll away.
  • Scarface: The World Is Yours:
    • The game doesn't let you shoot or run over civilians. They jump out of the way of your car, and if you point your weapon at them, you can't fire it. While Tony is a ruthless killer, he won't murder innocents. However, you do have a couple weapons like the bazooka and the missile launcher that do splash damage, so it is possible to get around this.
    • It is possible to kill cops, but it's a bad idea because it immediately earns you heat, and if you don't hightail it out of there (while dodging blockades and tire shredders), a helicopter will show up to turn you into a fine red mist.
  • In The Simpsons Hit & Run, you can run over civilians (including actual characters of the show) however many times you want. Nothing happens to them, however, but the sarcastic retaliation comments are hilarious.
    Thanks a lot, Mr. Break-My-Leg.
    I regret nothing!
    I'm not afraid to die!
    Takes more than that to kill me.
    Spines don't bend that way!
    • There's a hilarious story connected to this: when the ability to actually pummel characters hand-to-hand was implemented, developers and testers started off by having Homer beat up Marge. They made a rule, though, to not let Matt Groening see anyone do that. That was quickly tossed out the window when they found out that the very first thing Matt did when he first tested out the game was to literally kick her from the house to the Kwik-E-Mart.

    First Person Shooter 
  • In GoldenEye (1997), killing scientists or civilians will result in mission failue.
  • In all three of the Marathon games, you are not only capable, but encouraged by Bungie to kill BOBs, which, in the first game, are unarmed civilians who have no hope of survival without the Player's help. In Marathon 2: Durandal, they are volunteers risking their lives and listening to the batshit Durandal to help the player; however, like in Halo, killing two of them will cause them to shoot at you. In Marathon Infinity, it's actually the player character's mission to kill them in more levels than they help him in, and for some reason, they're a lot better at killing you than they are at killing aliens. The aliens that so easily killed them before, while working at your side, get mercilessly mowed down by the BOBs.
    • The BOBs are actually beefed up in the game physics for most of the levels where you're fighting them. Notably, unlike aliens, they do not generally scale in difficulty when you are fighting them, which means that if you are playing on levels below Normal, the levels where you fight humans will generally be more difficult than the levels where you do not, and if you are playing on levels above Normal, the levels where you fight humans will generally be less difficult than the surrounding levels.
  • In Soldier of Fortune II, killing any NPCs results in an instant game over.

    Hack And Slash 
  • The Crystal of Kings starts it's first levels where hostile orcs and goblins are in the middle of a Rape, Pillage, and Burn on Estorea, and you're assigned to fight off the forces of chaos. However, you can cut down fleeing civilians or finish off wounded soldiers on your side, and suffer zero penalties for your actions. A later stage in a forest allows you to kill harmless wildlife like deers, while there are areas in which you can desecrate the graves of fallen heroes and gain points in the process.

  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, in Coruscant, there is a child quest giver that is inordinately higher level (maxed at 50) than all the other quest-related NPCs in the area. Almost as if the devs are protecting her in case PVP ever makes its way to that area.
  • In World of Warcraft, the schoolchildren in Stormwind that travel in a group are not hostile to Horde players, so cruel mages cannot use AoE spells on them. Children can't be targeted at all, although you can pointlessly give them buffs.

    Platform Game 

    Rhythm Games 
  • HarmoKnight lets you hit Tappy, the Rabbit who gives you advice on the best path to take, with your staff if you have good enough timing, knocking the sign he's holding out of his hands and making him lose his balance. This serves absolutely no purpose apart from being funny.

    Shoot Em Ups 
  • Boogie Wings have your trusty default biplane granted a grappling hook attached to it's underbelly, called the Skyhook. Which you can use to grab onscreen mooks and fling them on each other. What's even more fun is using the skyhook to grab and impale flesh and blood foes like soldiers, have them squirm about while dangling by the hook, and swing them in circles before throwing them halfway across the screen with a splat. Or alternatively, grab an enemy tank or heavy structure with the skyhook and drop them on a group of fleeing soldiers, while cackling at the Mook Horror Show you just induced.
  • Made worse in Crime Cities, which has the same thing going except the traffic is even more intense. Coupled with the tendency of civilian vehicles to die if looked at sternly, this makes it virtually impossible to complete the game without shooting down a fair number of innocents.
  • The old PC/PS1 flight game G-Police has an unlimited number of civilians flying or driving cluelessly about, an unlimited magazine of machine gun ammo, and no such thing as police brutality.
  • When the Walker does enough damage to an enemy helicopter, he may choose to stop firing and watch the pilot desperately struggle with his crippled machine. Eventually, the helicopter will come down and explode, sending the screaming pilot in the air.

    Sports Game 
  • In some Madden NFL games, if you make a dive at a CPU player who's crossing the endzone, the CPU player turns invincible and your player just bounces off of him, the intent being to stop people from invoking this trope by trying to hit players as revenge for the touchdown. The issue is that they give human players no such invincibility from CPU players. They'll fall to the ground from hits while in the endzone as though they're still in the field of play.

    Simulation Game 
  • The Sims is well-known for the cruelty which players may inflict on their little computer people. MySims, on the other hand, avoids all that. Eating and drinking is merely recreational, the toilet is a place to read the newspaper, there's nowhere to drown in, and if you could so generously give them an item that separates them from the door, they'd just teleport through it. The cruelest thing you can do is Be Mean, which chooses from a random set of mean actions (yell at, stomp on foot, throw water balloon at, breathe bad breath at, start a fight, pop an inflated paper bag...), and that doesn't even reduce your relationship below "Acquaintance," like repeatedly being nice raises it up to "Best Friend."

    Turn Based Strategy 
  • The Fire Emblem example above is averted in the ninth and tenth games. If Jill Talks to her father (which is something her father will be happy to initiate, even if you are not), she will opt to side with him instead, fighting you — and unless you came prepared with an A Support with Mist or a B Support with Lethe, you won't be getting her back. In the tenth game, you have playable units on both sides, often also related in some way. Some of them simply will not have the Attack command appear if you put them next to that enemy. Of course, Brom would never raise his weapon against his own daughter and so on...
  • Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem had a chapter where you fight four previously recruited characters from a previous arc. You can kill three of them, leaving a specific unit to survive and be recruited later in the Remake, where killing them won't give you anything, as they are recruitable.
    • Bonus points that two of the three are Game Breakers from the Prequel's Second remake.

In-Universe examples:

    Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon Adventure 02 has Ken Ichijouji, the Digimon Emperor/Kaiser, who takes this to the extreme; it's quite clearly implied that he treats Digimon absolutely horribly... however, we then learn that he was under the impression that the Digital World was a video game all along. When confronted with the fact that it's real with no more possibility of escape or denial, he completely breaks down after Wormmon dies in his arms and later joins the good guys, after which he's revealed to have been the ninth Digidestined, who couldn't join the original 8 because his brother Osamu tried to usurp him.
  • This happened again in Digimon Fusion. This time, Yuu Amano was manipulated by the villains into thinking the digital world was just a game world where he could play however he wished. All he wanted was a way to play to the best of his abilities without the risk of anyone getting hurt, and when he finds out this isn't the case — and that a lot of death and destruction has come from it — he also has a major breakdown. Fortunately, the heroes, one of whom is his loving sister, are more than willing to forgive him and help him come to terms with things.
  • Invoked in Chapter 8 of Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, where the Dating Sim they're playing gives options to be cruel to others, like insulting them or attacking them. Mangaka Nozaki, who was role-playing as his manga's male protagonist Suzuki, picks the cruel option every time, his reason being that Suzuki already has eyes for Mamiko, the female protagonist of his manga.

    Comic Books 
  • Kid Paddle: Kid when he plays SimCity. He put barbed wire around the city so no-one can leave it, and raised taxes to 100% to pay for the police he needs to oppress the population. Not surprisingly, when asked what the biggest problem is, 100% of the people say "the mayor!"
  • In the first issue of 'Loki: Agent Of Asgard', Hawkeye chose to play a fishing video game. Somehow he ended up in a malfunctioning helicopter, pursued by the American army. What's worse is that this kind of nonsense is common when he plays video games. Hawkeye is just that terrible.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Free Guy is set in a video game called Free City, where players are encouraged to be violent sociopaths and commit crimes to gain experience, with the film often showing the players in the real world to be regular people and some being children. NPCs are friendly people who are unaware they are in a game and accept everything that happens as if it was normal, with the protagonist Guy working in a bank and simply going through the motions when the bank is robbed every day (if a person dies they come back to life the next day). However when Guy breaks his programming and starts being a good guy by gaining experience through stopping other players, while at first annoying, he soon wins over the players who admire him for doing the opposite of what the game intends players to do and causes many to question how cruelly they treat NPCs. The ending shows that despite the idea of him being sentient is treated as a conspiracy theory by most, practically the entire world is invested in what happens to him and admire him for his kindness. Also, when Free City is turned into the much more friendly Free Life, it turns out that people would want to play a game where they don't kill NPCs.
  • In Toys, General Le Land Zevo visits an arcade and plays a game where you drive a tank and shoot enemies. He takes offense at the fact you lose points for hitting the defenseless Red Cross trucks that show up and starts going after them exclusively, even taking care not to hit the real enemies.
  • In TRON and TRON: Legacy (and the TV series TRON: Uprising), there is a gladiatorial arena called "The Games" where programs fight to the death at the crowd's encouragement, in a parody of ancient Rome. Many sentient lifeforms are regularly murdered in a way utterly contrary to anything else Disney has created in the modern era (approached only by Motor City), which they get away with since they are mere computer programs and not real people. Ignoring that unlike a setting such as ReBoot, real people have entered the Grid on multiple occasions and a program has exited it and been able to exist in the real world.
  • In WarGames, David and Jennifer definitely get into the spirit of this trope when they start playing the "Global Thermonuclear War" and gleefully discuss which U.S. cities they should bomb first.
    • They then decide to nuke Las Vegas. A bit later, a person who learnt what they did applauded their decision, saying it was very biblical in nature.

  • In Animorphs, the Ketrans had a god game called Alien Civilizations. The Capasins wiped the Ketrans out because they caught their transmissions and thought it was real.
    • Crayak's Howlers gleefully wipe out entire species for their master because they are children who believe that their victims are game constructs and not real people. Jake compares their playfulness to that of dolphins' after morphing one. The Howlers become useless to Crayak after Jake infects their Hive Mind with the memory of a kiss (and with it the realization that their "victims" are as real as them).
  • In Daemon, Loki sees humans who are not part of the Darknet as Non Player Characters. The Daemon does not allow him to outright kill them for no reason, but he can torment them in various ways (like destroying their bank accounts). When he is able to kill them (as part of a mission or in self-defense), he does so happily and in the most gruesome way available to him.
  • Digital Deli, a mid-80s collection of computer articles, includes the "Crunchy Computer" comics. When hippie Crunchy tries to steer his son away from violent video game fare by giving him the "Save the Whales" game, Crunchy Jr. finds it far more fun to shoot the whales.
  • In Ender's Game, the battle school students are basically forced to use this to its furthest extent in order to beat the game on their electronic desks.
    • Hell, this is essentially how the plot is resolved: Ender is tired of playing games for the military, and does what he thinks is the most despicable and cruel thing he can possibly do in order to get out of it — slams the device into the alien planet and destroys the whole thing, including all of the ships in orbit from both sides. Turns out that's exactly the response they wanted. It's also his only choice for victory when faced with overwhelming odds. "The enemy's gate is down" indeed.
    • The also comes into play even earlier with the fantasy game, the recreational computer game that the students play. Ender not only discovers he can kill the Giant that commands the unbeatable "Giant's Drink" minigame, but also has to kill the "wolf-children" that he finds, and then repeatedly kills the snake he finds in the tower. However, it's inverted in that final level. The way around the snake in the tower challenge is not to kill the snake, but to love it.
  • In Chapter 4 of Goblin Slayer, Goblin Slayer demonstrates that a protective barrier can also be used to trap goblins inside of a burning fortress.
  • Played for Laughs in Chapter 4 of Haganai. While playing Tokimeite Memorial Days (a fictional game clearly based on Tokimeki Memorial), Yozora and Sena agree — for once — to court shy Yukiko Nagata, while they keep shooting down overtures by Akari Fujibayashi, whom they deem a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing just because she's proactive, with the most cruel options. Kodaka is none too amused. Their choices come back to bite them in the ass when Video Game Cruelty Punishment kicks in and rumors that their protagonist, "Semoponume Kashiwazaki", was a He-Man Woman Hater became so widespread — whose spread Yozora and Sena directly attribute to Akari — Yukiko eventually shot him down. They ultimately got a Downer Ending so depressing Sena breaks down crying, while Yozora storms out of the clubroom threatening to kill Akari.
  • Story Thieves: In the fourth book, where you can do numerous things to screw Owen over and you're not penalized at all (though, Nobody does mildly scold you about it you can do it anyways, over and over).
  • Sword Art Online:
    • The Laughing Coffin guild build up a reputation as Player Killers. Despite full knowledge that killing players in the game also kills them in real life, they do so anyway, and revel in it.
    • Sugou Nobuyuki is even worse. He sees being in the virtual world of ALO as the perfect excuse to be a sadistic bastard, conducting inhumane Mind Control experiments on players and making numerous attempts to sexually assault Asuna, before going for full-on Attempted Rape. All in all, Sugou is every bit a Card-Carrying Villain, and revels in being able to do all the things in ALO that would see him ostracized in real life.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Black Mirror: "USS Callister" is an epic deconstruction of the trope. If the game characters are sentient and being tortured every day by an omnipotent player, then they are for all intents and purposes living in a Cosmic Horror Story.
  • Community:
    • One episode includes Troy and Abed playing a war game that turns out to award points for killing innocent civilians, as they learn when they start playing with a guy who is (unbeknownst to them) an actual war criminal.
    • Another has a Legend of Zelda-esque shopping trip turn into the brutal murder of the shopkeep and his wife, the shop being burned down, and their daughter now forced to marry or live in the woods.
      Troy: ...What kind of game is this?
  • Invoked and deconstructed in the Video Game Violence episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit!. In particular, at one point in the episode, viewers are asked to imagine a world where videogames are the sport of choice, and then people try to introduce American Football — a sport that involves real violent physical contact and where people actually get broken bones, cuts, bruises, concussions, and even have been known to die.
  • Spaced mentioned this in an episode where Tim is playing Tomb Raider III. When Brian notes that Lara Croft is drowning and asks if that's the point, Tim replies that it "depends what kind of mood you're in."
  • Stargate Atlantis: The concept is explored in "The Game", where Sheppard and McKay discover and play what they think is a Civilizations-type strategy game, and they engage in some friendly and not-so-friendly competition with each other. Only to learn later that what they thought was just a game was really a Lantean social engineering experiment, and that there are real people on the other end. People who'd been getting along with each other just fine for centuries, before their long-absent "Oracles" returned and showed them the error of their peaceful, tolerant ways. Oops.
  • Star Trek: The holodeck gives the characters to plenty of chances to do horrible things to their in-universe fictional worlds.
  • Westworld is set in a meticulous recreation of the wild west using "Hosts", Ridiculously Human Robots programmed to essentially be non-player characters in a real-life sandbox for rich people to mess around with as they please. Naturally, some guests take this to its logical extreme, forcing themselves on the hosts who are programmed to hate it as much as any human would, if not outright murdering them just because they can (two guests in particular talk about using a friendly host for firing practice if they get bored). One showrunner, Jonathan Nolan, specifically mentioned video games such as Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto V as inspiration.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • FoxTrot:
    • This happens a lot when Jason plays games. For example, he giggles excitedly when he plays one that sounds a lot like Carmageddon. And in another strip, Paige complains to her dad that Jason and Marcus are playing a bloody and violent fighting game called Primal Instinct, and is upset because they won't let her play too.
    • In one arc, Peter plays a Moral Substitute to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and complains that he can't complete a Timed Mission that has him help a number of old ladies cross the street. Jason muses that he's probably not supposed to beat and rob them first. Why the otherwise G-rated game lets him do that in the first place is unexplained (beyond Rule of Funny).
  • In the Canadian comic strip Betty, there is an arc in which Betty buys a new life simulation game called "The Mods" which is obviously inspired by The Sims and/or SimCity. Betty's son, who also knows about the game, sees her playing and comments that the funny thing about such games is to make your characters stupid and ugly, to tear down hospitals and build casinos instead, and to build highways to nowhere. Betty dryly comments that she would rather make her Mods world different than the real world.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Related to this trope, Exalted has an inherent metaphysical bond between two player character types. While it was meant by the divinities who put it in place to be the stuff of eternal romances and battle-forged friendships, the nature of the bond between the Solar and the Lunar Exalted has the potential for great abuse, both within the world and with certain magical abilities the Solars possess that can subjugate their Lunar Mate even more. There is a reason, after all, one Solar charm was dubbed the Lunar-taming Leash.

  • Brawl in the Family points out just how cruel standard gameplay is to the hordes of hapless Mooks you cut down, explode, burn, and stomp underfoot in any given playthrough in its "Ode to Minions".
  • Darwin Carmichael Is Going to Hell has a strip where Skittles the manticore is upset when Patrick shows him how to play Grand Theft Auto.
  • El Goonish Shive:
    • Tedd can be quite cruel when playing Black & White, though apparently not to the extent suggested above. He mostly seems to turn people into girls. So it's more or less like his usual behavior, but more.
    • Surprisingly enough, it's Grace who will unleash seven kinds of overly violent hell on video game enemies, despite being a Friend to All Living Things and one of the nicest people you would ever meet in the real world, to the point that Tedd once described her as "possibly a hippie". Susan does argue with the game's mentor figure that the rules of what the game Parable considers to be evil behavior are highly subjective, vaguely explained, and completely arbitrary.
  • Ever So Slightly: Eliana Harrison enjoys letting her "asshole-ery'' shine while playing games with multiple endings, implying that she invokes this trope by seeking out the bad endings.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: In a bonus comic for, Kat introduces Annie to Grand Theft Auto. Annie, who apparently hasn't played computer games before, has trouble sleeping that night...
  • Homestuck's Sburb has a lot of potential for this. Case in point. The entire reason why that situation exists is because of their version of live action role-playing — Vriska (the girl he's talking to) used her powers as a Killer DM to force Tavros (the guy in the wheelchair) to jump off a cliff when he was indecisive about fighting two powerful enemies.
  • Tower of God: The "Hidden Floor" story parodies this with Chung, although it's not very light-hearted about it. And then again, it's downplayed compared to many actual game examples. Basically, it's a parody but Played for Drama and more realistically so the story's tone doesn't become too silly, unlike much of the rest of the video game parody in this story. Chung has been contracted to manage a part of the virtual world of the Hidden Floor; he can't even leave his apartment in his real body, but he can use a VR headset to enter the Hidden Floor as an all-powerful avatar and ruler.note  There, he might have the virtual humans beaten up by his soldiers before wiping their memories and making them literally sing his praises again, or device a sadistic punishment for someone gaining enough self-awareness to stand up to him. After all, as he almost says in the comic, they're just Non Player Characters.
  • Leo, of VG Cats, is a Cruel Player-Character God, as seen here.
    Leo: Do you think Sims feel pain?
    Aeris: You’re a monster and you’re going straight to Hell.

    Web Original 
  • Deconstructively parodied by CollegeHumor in "The Sims Horror Movie" trailer. The characters are plagued the same way as is possible in the game: drowning them by removing the pool ladder, keeping the police out with a waist-high fence, blocking the exits with furniture, and keeping them deprived of food and sleep.
  • The YouTuber GrayStillPlays practically thrives on this trope, no matter what game he's playing. His Once an Episode intro says it all:
    "Alright, so we're checking out the only game where you get to (insert morally dubious act here)'s (name of the game)."
  • John Wolfe gets a lot of mileage out of this while replaying Alien: Isolation once he tries shooting Marshal Waits just to see what would happen and realizes there are literally no consequences outside of just getting kicked back to the last checkpoint. From then on, quite literally every time he gets his hands on a new means of killing, he immediately uses it on Waits and then anyone else, laughing like a child every step of the way.
    John Ahh hahaha oh damn that was just so worth it... Thanks for giving me a flamethrower, jackass!
  • Josh from Let's Game It Out loves to indulge in video game cruelty. No game, however innocuous or lighthearted, is safe from him. The methods he comes up with to torture the NPCs in the games he plays are as inventive as they are cruel. Some highlights include: forcing his character to work at being the number one YouTuber and not allowing him to eat or sleep for six years; creating so much nuclear waste that he essentially destroyed the world and automatically died upon respawn; making a prison system that would put the worst gulag to shame; and burned down his own city to make money. The real kicker is that he often gets rewarded exponentially more than if he tried to play the games correctly. He also has a thing for tormenting characters named Grace. Woe to any NPC with that name.
  • Matthew McCleskey's video "Giving Harvey too many coffees in Stardew Valley" features Matthew intentionally giving Harvey caffeine poisoning for his own amusement.
  • Petscop: Paul does some morally ambiguous actions with the pets:
    • Paul deceives Amber to catch her.
    • He plucks a sapient daisy, under which NLM Care rests on a separate floor. When the daisy no longer has petals, Care as a result has a disfigured face. Also this action is All for Nothing; he's unable to catch NLM Care.
    • Later on he is able to catch NLM Care, and the text box specifies that if he loves her she can become Care A, even if the love is a lie. He abandons her at the children's library, only to recatch her.
  • A major Berserk Button for PksparxxDathotneSS is having to leave Yoshi behind in any installment of Super Mario Bros., especially if you need to use him as a springboard for a Double Jump by throwing him away (which has become Memetic Mutation in of itself). He has gone as far as to start a campaign called "No Yoshi Left Behind" protesting this injustice and even designed and sold a t-shirt over it. And one thing that is sure to get PK pissed in Super Mario Maker is to force him to abandon a Yoshi with a level you present him with just to get his goat. He will actually abort the level if it comes to that. And the one time he didn't, he lived to regret it... because winning the level by abandoning a Yoshi led to him finishing the level in a manner that forced a Yoshi to be dropped into LAVA. Take a gander. Mario Maker sadism at its worst!
  • Skawo bashes annoying NPCs with Mario’s hammer in Paper Mario: Color Splash and Paper Mario: The Origami King.
  • Joe's character in Statless and Tactless loves this. He'll viciously attack innocent people and kill non-innocent people in excessive ways purely because he can.
  • This Twitter account, which keeps tabs on whether or not you can break the Geneva Conventions in a video game, has a healthy compilation of examples.
  • Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation is a big fan of this, and believes firmly that it's a normal part of gaming to take the most damaging possible action. He credits it simply to subversiveness — if a game is trying to make the character out to be an All-Loving Hero or Reluctant Hero, then having them instead shoot their friends and run over old women is inherently hilarious. Examples he's given include drowning The Sims, shoving physics objects into faces during scripted cutscenes in Half-Life, and eating people's spouses before murdering them in [PROTOTYPE]. Ironically, he's usually bored by games that try to encourage this, such as Overlord, simply because it's not fun to do it when the game demands you do it.
    • However, interestingly, he refused to do a genocide run of Undertale.

    Western Animation 
  • The Hollow: Deconstructed. Vanessa knowing that it was all a game made her nasty, manipulative, and backstabbing towards the other team because she knew they wouldn't suffer physical injuries for real. Hurting Kai was the worst part of it, since he saved her from being a permanent block of ice. Unfortunately, you're more likely to get an edge in the edge if you're kind; Adam gets healed by the mutant spider when Kai repairs the king's legs, and the Benjamin brothers help Kai discover his powers when they stay to have fun rather than rushing through the theme park. It's implied that the real Adam, Mira, and Kai are scarred from the experience and Vanessa's duplicate regrets her past behavior when she realizes her cheating created digital clones of the teams.
  • In The Simpsons episode "The Regina Monologues", Bart and Milhouse are playing a video game called Hockey Dad, which, as the name implies, is a fighting game that involves two dads at their kids' hockey match. Bart manages to win essentially by ignoring the child of his character pleading for him to stop, as he didn't want the dad to resort to murdering Milhouse's character (note that when the kid was begging him not to, the dad in question was literally stomping the snot out of his opponent's face [well, blood, but still], and his final blow involved strangling his opponent with the opponent's own tie). The winning screen has the winning dad doing a victorious pose and is implied to be arrested by the police, although whether this was supposed to be Video Game Cruelty Punishment was debatable, given the fact that there was a winner sign, the dad smiling while being carted away by the police, and the announcer saying "You're a big man! BIG MAN!!"
  • Mentioned in The Venture Bros. where 21 and 24 are discussing Tomb Raider and how Lara could drown, which a horrified 21 described as grisly.
  • In an episode of X-Men: Evolution, a teenage (but not evil) version of Arcade hacks into Cerebro and commands it to attack all the X-Men who show up in the Danger Room, believing it is simply an advanced computer game. For some reason he doesn't recognize any of the "characters" as his schoolmates.


Alternative Title(s): Player Cruelty Potential


Snake shoots Meryl

After Meryl is shot by Sniper Wolf, Snake freely continues to wound her further, spawning outrage from Campbell and Naomi.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / VideoGameCrueltyPotential

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