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Twitter: @TheDustinThomas

Greetings and salutations.

TheDustinThomas here, you probably don't know me, but I write things here on Destructoid from time to time. Occasionally I get on the front page:

The Most Inexplicably-Often Rented Games At Blockbuster

The Top 10 Videogame Pro Wrestlers

A Retrospective of Pro Wrestling Videogames from the Perspective of a Pro Wrestler

I'm also the host of a pretty sexy gaming podcast that I do with a couple buddies of mine. You can download and subscribe to it here. You should totally do that.

All of my games writing you can find on DToid, but I also write about other things on my personal blog. Here's my top 5 most read blogs:

Let Me Tell You About My $250 T-Shirts

Tempting of the Doon

5 Ways Getting in Shape Has Messed with my Head

Tim Lambesis: A Fan's Struggle to Understand

Why I Already Dislike Planet Fitness

You may notice that most of those blogs are somehow related to pro wrestling. Why? Because I spent 10 years as a professional wrestler before retiring in October 2013 due to back injuries. I actually wasn't too bad.

A bit about me? Well, obviously I love to write. It's not a paying gig yet, but I'm certainly trying to make that happen.

I'm a happily married man, and my wife is smokin' hot.

I have a huge, manly beard.

God comes first in my life above all else. I'm a leader at my church, as well as the head of our media department.

I've been a metalhead pretty much my entire life.

I'm also a die hard fan of The Simpsons.

Other miscellaneous fact.

Player Profile
Xbox LIVE:TheDust34
PSN ID:TheDust34
Follow me:
Following (3)  

Apparently, some people actually do like Stryker. I'm still not convinced that they're not lying, but I'll let it be.

Guys, this list was really hard to make. I'm going to have an honorable mention before I get to the main list, but I could put 10-12 characters in that honorable mention spot. It's safe to assume you already know who the top two on the list are, so really I was narrowing the list down to three, and that was no small task because for every bad MK character there are two good ones.

Honorable Mention:
Pretty much every character that appeared in MK 1, 2, and 3.

Also, Ermac. Ermac is awesome

Now that I've covered all bases, let's get on to the list!

5. Noob Saibot
First Appearance - Mortal Kombat II

Noob Saibot didn't become cool until Mortal Kombat: Deception, where he was teamed with Smoke and collectively known as Noob-Smoke...very original. I think what made him so great was when he was finally shown in his ninja form and used the Monkey fighting style. I'm not sure why it took them so long to introduce a ninja that wears black since they've done pretty much every other color in the spectrum, but I'll take it. I always thought Noob Saibot was incredibly boring before this game because he was nothing more than just an all black shadowy figure.

But what really made me love him was when you beat the game's story mode with Noob-Smoke, and it's revealed that Noob Saibot is actually the original Sub-Zero that was killed by Scorpion, and the older brother to the current Sub-Zero (spoilers, I guess). This was such an awesome revelation forMK fans. When it was revealed that it was actually Quan Chi that murdered Scorpion's family, it kind of bummed me out because it meant that he didn't have to kill the original Sub-Zero, but then we get this little twist and it made it all worth it.

4. Liu Kang
First Appearance - Mortal Kombat

Liu Kang was my least favorite character in the original Mortal Kombat, he was painfully generic. He was just an Asian guy who wore plain black pants, and his fatality was just a super uppercut with a little flip beforehand, which was kind of cool, I guess. He was basically just Bruce Lee. But over time, Mr. Kang grew on me, mainly because he did those awesome screams when doing the the bicycle kick and he wore a sweet headband.

Liu Kang is considered by Ed Boon to be the face of the franchise--though fans don't necessarily agree. When I played Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance for the first time, I was shocked to find that Liu Kang was killed by Shang Tsung and Quan Chi in the opening cinematic and didn't appear in the game. How do you kill off the so-called "face of the franchise"? But they made up for it by including zombie Liu Kang in Deception before zombies were entirely overplayed, plus his alternate costume was regular Liu Kang.

My favorite appearance from Liu Kang is actually in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks. If you haven't played it, I highly suggest it, it's certainly a hidden gem and one of the best brawlers in recent memory. And story wise, it's a bridge between MK and MK2, so you'll see all of your favorite old school characters.

3. Kabal
First Appearance - Mortal Kombat 3

Mortal Kombat 3 was released in 1995, and at that time, a 10 year old Dustin was trying desperately to make everyone think he was edgy because he wore his brother's Korn t-shirts to school--Korn used to be cool, guys, I promise. This was when I was first starting to get into metal music, and Kabal looked like something you'd see on stage at a White Zombie concert, therefore, I thought he was awesome. Sub-Zero had always been my favorite up to that point, but I wasn't in love with the MK3rendition that features suspenders, slicked-back hair, and a "scar" that was obviously just red face paint. I had to find a new favorite, and Kabal was the one I gravitated towards.

I didn't know much about the MK lore back then, so I just thought Kabal was this weird dude with a mask and hookswords. I didn't realize at the time it's actually a breathing machine and that he had been horribly disfigured. He had a fatality where he takes off his mask and literally scares the soul out of people, which caused me to think that Kabal was an actual monster under the mask, kind of like how Scorpion just has the skull under his.

Kabal was supremely powerful in his initial appearance and is typically well received by fans, which is why it was hard to understand why he didn't become playable again until MK: Deception.

2. Scorpion
First Appearance - Mortal Kombat

Remember when they didn't include Scorpion in Mortal Kombat 3? What was up with that? Netherrealm will never make that mistake again, I can guarantee that. Liu Kang may be the "hero" ofMortal Kombat, but it's the combo of Scorpion and Sub-Zero that are synonymous with the franchise. When they reboot the franchise with MK9, who do they put on the cover? Scorpion and Sub-Zero. When they released the trailer for MKX, who were the combatants? Scorpion and Sub-Zero.

The original Mortal Kombat ninja combo were the standouts of the original game and only rose in popularity as the series gained momentum. And they actually brought my brother and I closer together. Mortal Kombat was the first game that we would play together, and where my brother always chose Scorpion, I wanted to be similar but different, and went for his frozen counterpart. I would always lose because my brother had three years of gaming experience on me, but I didn't care, I was just happy to be hanging out with my big bro.

Scorpion's harpoon is perhaps the most recognizable move in the series. It's the "hadouken" of Mortal Kombat, every fan knows how to do it, and it's always awesome hearing Ed Boon's voice booming out the demand "Get over here!"

1. Sub-Zero
First Appearance - Mortal Kombat

You've perhaps already stopped reading, because after Scorpion was #2, who else could possibly have been #1? Raiden? Shut up with Raiden. I'm kidding, I really like Raiden, I always have, but he's no Sub-Zero. He's the one character that has been playable in every game, whether in his original pre Noob Saibot form or otherwise. His design is always similar to his previous one but features slight changes and variations, they weren't always home runs (like MK3 and Deadly Alliance), but then sometimes you get Shredder-Zero and it's incredible.

I mentioned how I always chose Sub-Zero so I could stand a chance against my brother, but maybe it was more because he had such a brutal fatality that they had to create an entire videogames ratings board because of it. I remember the night that my brother's friend came over with a list of all the fatalities that he had copied out of a magazine. We had only seen a couple of them before that night, so we rushed upstairs to our bedroom and went through the select screen one-by-one, refusing to switch to a different character until we had input the button combinations successfully. It was like Pandora's Box had just been opened up to us.

First, Johnny Cage's decapitation. "Awesome!" We had already seen Kano's heart rip, so we skipped over him and pushed down to highlight Raiden on the screen. His electricity decapitation made us shout in amazement even more than Cage's. Then Liu Kang's stupid, stupid, stupid super uppercut. Seriously, so stupid. We had seen Scorpion's, so we went right to Sub-Zero.

Then, this...

I remember us looking around the room at each other with our mouths agape. We were in stunned silence. We had never seen anything like this in a videogame before. I could almost hear "Ode to Joy" playing in my head, with visions of fireworks exploding as a single tear rolled down my eye and I saluted the American flag. Okay, none of that happened, I'm just trying my best to convey how awesome this moment was.

From that moment, I claimed Sub-Zero as my favorite character, which meant that my brother couldn't, because you have weird rules as kids.

Thanks so much for reading, don't forget you can follow me on Twitter @TheDustinThomas and to listen to my podcast on iTunes.


You can download this episode here.

You can subscribe to the show on iTunes here.

What a wonderful day for a podcast. The whole crew is here and they're bringing you all the excitement. They discuss things like the Monday Night War series on the WWE Network, Luke watches a bad movie based on a good book, and Chris' nose exploded and killed a guy. Not really, maybe.

We also speak a little bit about the new 3DS XL bundles and our first impressions of the Super Smash Bros. 3DS demo.

Games of the Week:

Dustin - Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright

Heather - Alice vs. Wonderland

Luke - Splatterhouse & Mighty Gunvolt

Chris - DuckTales Remastered & Super Mario RPG

Then after the break, we discuss the different variations of consoles in our topic discussion. Things like the top-loading NES, the different designs of the PS2, and the ridiculous amounts of Nintendo handhelds.

We get into all of this, as well as listener questions.

If you'd like to donate to our Extra Life charity, you can do so here.

I always wrestle with myself when it comes to my podcast. I always feel like I shouldn't post it on here because no one cares. But then I remember "Hey, my fellow DToiders don't care, and maybe some of them will like it." So here it is. I'll try to be more dedicated to post them in the future.

Anyway, you can download the latest episode here.

If you want to be a pal, you can subscribe on iTunes here.

And before I go any further, we're recording a new episode tonight, and every week we have a topic discussion and try to keep it relevant to things going on in the industry today. Due to the recently announce "New 3DS", we're going to be discussing console iterations. We'll discuss things like the top-loading NES, the Game Boy/Game Boy Color, the GBA/GBA SP, and so on. Feel free to leave a question for us in the comments. It doesn't have to be relevant to the topic, or even about videogames at all, we just like questions.

On this week's episode, Dustin, Heather, and Luke discuss important social issues, like:

the new RoboCop film

Heather rediscovers her love of Swedish Fish

Jungle Jim's International Food Market.

Games of the week:

Dustin - Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

Heather - SteamWorld Dig

Luke - Azure Striker Gunvolt

In this week's topic, we count down our top 5 gaming shames. We talk about games that are widely considered to be great classics, but we either haven't played or haven't finished. Which one of us has never played a Castlevania game? Which one never completed a Mega Man game? Who has a scathing hate for R-Type? You'll find out in this very episode.

We're participating in the Extra-Life.org 24-hour gaming marathon for the Children's Miracle Network on October 25th. We're only $75 from reaching our goal. If you're interested in donating to this awesome cause. click this link. http://www.extra-life.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=92599

Follow us on Twitter @TheDustinThomas @HeathaSonYo @BygJuce @FakeChrisCramer

Thanks for reading/listening.


Photo Photo Photo

Every fighting game series has those certain characters that no one likes. Let's take the top dog of fighting games, Street Fighter, for example. Everyone hates Akuma, and in the interest of not being torn to shreds, I'll clarify now that that was just a joke. Outside of Mortal Kombat, I've never been much of a fighting game fan, and after MK: Armageddon wound up being spectacularly dreadful, I swore them off for good. But Mortal Kombat was instrumental in growing me as a gamer in the early and mid-90s. I spent more nights in 1995 playing MK2 and 3 with my friends than not, and I've written before about why the series as a whole has a very sentimental place in my heart. So for the next two weeks, the Weekly Top 5 will be Mortal Kombat related, this week being the worst characters, and next week being the best. And no, I will not be that guy who spells everything with a 'K' in case you were wondering.

Dishonorable Mention

Jax - Mortal Kombat 2 version

Jax has never been a favorite of mine. With every MK, I feel the need to beat the game with everyone so I can see their endings, and in every new entry in the franchise, Jax is always one of the last ones I pick. The one thing that stands out about Jax are his cybernetic arm enhancements, but if you're new to the franchise, or started playing at or past MK3, you may have forgotten that when he was introduced in MK2, he didn't have them. He was just a generic black guy with a mustache and a muscle-gut. His one redeeming quality is that he does have the sweet "arm rip" fatality.

Once Jax got the arm enhancements and they started making him look more like the U.S. Special Forces that he was meant to be, he became incredibly less boring. He's still not one of my favorites, though.

5. Drahmin

First Appearance - Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance

Apparently Drahmin's magic power is that he doesn't bathe? I mean, that's how it seems when you consider that one of his major attacks is that he shoots a giant ball of houseflies at you. The sad part, though, is that Drahmin actually has an interesting backstory: He wears the mask to control his murderous insanity, as he at one point was a cruel warlord in Outworld. He was later exiled to Netherrealm to be punished for his atrocities. He was then hired by Shang Tsung and Quan Chi, along with his fellow Oni, Moloch, as bodyguards. Without going into greater details, Drahmin is one more or less responsible for the plot of Deadly Alliance.

Here's the problem with Drahmin: he's uninteresting and no fun to play. With Deadly Alliance, every character was given two fighting styles and a weapon. Drahmin's weapon is the metal club that acts as his right arm. I mean, I guess it is technically a weapon, but when it's attached to you, and you use it during your other fighting styles, what's the point of still having the option to use a weapon like every other character does? Seems rather pointless to me.

4. Stryker

First Appearance - Mortal Kombat 3

If you're the type of person who says things like "Actually, I like Stryker" then you're saying it to be confrontational and I hate you for it. That was mean. I'm sorry, I don't hate you. But seriously, stop it. No one likes Styker, not even in an ironic way. I was told that he is actually pretty powerful, but I never found out if that were true or not, because again, no one likes Stryker.

In a game full of awesome new characters like Sektor, Cyrax, Sindel, and Kabal, it's a shame that Stryker was introduced alongside them. So we get matching robot Predators, the resurrected queen of Edenia, a dude with a weird breathing machine and awesome hookswords, a female Shokan (Sheeva), and then we get a human cop with no powers. Let's play a game, it's called "One of these things is not like the others." The only interesting fact about him is that the name "Kurtis Stryker" was originally the name they were going to give Jax in MK2, and then they sat on it and gave it to this loser.

3. Dairou

First Appearance - Mortal Kombat: Deception

The one big negative that the Mortal Kombat franchise has working against it is that they've created very few good new characters since Mortal Kombat 3. It seems that when the series made the jump from 2D to 3D that they lost their creativity, and their roster is the thing that suffered the most. WithMK:D, they jam-packed the game with all kinds of diversions from the main fighting game. There was a Puzzle Fighter clone, there was Chess Kombat, and the new Konquest Mode (which I actually found to be the funnest part of the entire game) was more or less an open-world adventure game. With all of those things going on during development, it's no wonder the new characters suffered.

The only new character in Deception worthy of being a Mortal Kombat character is Havik. Here, let me show you all the new playable characters:

Havik: the least worst.

Ashrah: boring.

Darrius: aka Shaft.

Hotaru: He has flags.

Kira: MK needed a redhead.

Kobra: better in Street Fighter.

Shujinko: main character of this game's story, also, old.

and finally...


Yup, that sure is Dairou. I know I haven't spoken much about the character himself, but that's because there really isn't a whole lot to say about him. He's a mercenary, his parents were killed by Darrius, Dairou has no idea, and then Darrius hired Dairou to kill Hotaru. Got that?

However, much like MK2 Jax, Dairou's single high point is his rib-ripping fatality.

2. Taven

First Appearance - Mortal Kombat: Armageddon

If you're looking at that picture and thinking "Who?", you're probably not the only one. Taven is the most bland character in MK history, only Stryker even comes close, I think he uses fire as his main element of attack, so that should be another indicator of his uselessness. The only notable thing about Taven is that he's the one you control in MK: Armageddon's "Konquest" mode, which isn't saying much, because the Konquest mode in Armageddon is far inferior to the one in MK: Deception. They basically took the premise of Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, which is an absolutely fantastic game, dumbed it down, tacked it on, and pooped it out.

Perhaps the reason he doesn't stand out is because he was introduced in the worst MK fighting game, or maybe it's because he was introduced in an entry that featured literally every other Mortal Kombat character ever. How do you expect to be noticed on a character select when everyone is specifically looking for characters that don't suck?

1. Hsu Hao

First Appearance - Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance

Hsu Hao is so bad that even the creators of Mortal Kombat hate his guts, which makes you wonder why they even bothered to include him in the first place. There's literally nothing positive to say about him. He was introduced in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, and in a game that was littered with lackluster new additions, he was without a doubt the runt of that litter. I'm not kidding, either, I could have made this entire list be nothing but characters introduced in MK:DA.

Hsu Hao (pronounced Soo-How) is basically just a pawn for the Red Dragon crime syndicate under the orders of Mavado, another dumb DA character. Hsu Hao was actually acting as a secret agent for the Red Dragon and infiltrated the ranks of the Chinese sect of the Special Forces (Jax's organization). Then he was ordered by Mavado, who was being ordered by Quan Chi, to kill Shang Tsung. On his way to do so, Jax catches up with him to get revenge and rips his cybernetic heart out.

He has a terrible design, is no fun to play, and is universally despised by the MK community. Most characters in the franchise have at least one redeeming quality, but with Hsu Hao, he could have been taken out of the game in the 11th hour and literally nothing would have been affected by it. Hsu Hao is the worst of the worst.

Cue the sweet Mortal Kombat theme song here, because that's the end of this week's top 5. This list was hard, because there are a surprising number of bad characters in the MK franchise, but I have a feeling it's not going to be nearly as hard as trying to rank the top 5 best. See you next week.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @TheDustinThomas, and to listen to the Error Machine Podcaston iTunes.

Thanks for reading.


I know, I know. You young bucks are probably sitting there thinking "Dustin, of course Super Mario World is your favorite game. I can tell from the gray hair in your beard that it was probably the only game that existed when you were a kid."

First of all. Rude.

Second, I'm only twenty-nine.

Third, I'll have you know the gray in my beard makes me look wise...

...and metal as EFF!

All joking aside, it is kind of cliche to say that your favorite game is an early Mario title. Ask my dad what his favorite videogame is and he'll probably tell you King's Quest VI because it was the last videogame he played and was the best thing he had played up to that point. My dad stopped gaming shortly after King's Quest VI, but I, on the other hand, didn't follow in his footsteps in this regard and continued gaming up to the current day, and nothing has come close to comparing to the feeling I get every time I play Super Mario World.

One of the oldest (and silliest) arguments in the gaming community is whether Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World is the superior game. While SMB3 is without question an all-time classic, to me, there's no debate--Super Mario World wins the battle, hands down. The reason I think so is because it took everything that was great about SMB3, cranked it to 11, and made it bigger and better.

 The only way to play Super Mario World is cranked to 11.

Bigger and better enemies (I nearly pooped my jeans the first time I encountered Banzai Bill), bigger levels, more secrets, better level variety, a greater challenge, and even though they scaled back the amount of new suits, I prefer the cape to the raccoon tail/Tanooki suit. Lastly, let us not forget the greatest addition to the game: Yoshi.

That bipedal dinosaur companion became one of the most cherished characters in the franchise. Between Yoshi and the cape, I felt like I could literally go anywhere and do anything, no challenge was too great. With Yoshi next to me--or rather, under me--I no longer feared treading into uncharted territory. I now laughed at the Valley of Bowser; no amount of lightning crashes could deter me from seeing my mission of saving the princess to the very end.


I have a handful of games that I wind up replaying every year. Games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Resident Evil 4, and Metal Gear Solid, but there's never a time in my life where I don't have an active game going on my SMW cartridge. I'm basically in a constant state of playing Super Mario World.

There's no such thing as a perfect game. Gaming is a subjective medium, and everyone is going to have their own opinions on every game they play. It's the reason I don't consider Devil May Cry 2 to be a bad game, despite constant community outcry to the contrary. A lot of it is circumstantial, too. I received DMC2 as a Christmas gift from my brother, and it was the first DMC game I played. So, considering I had no history with the series, and that it didn't cost me any money, it's somewhat easier to understand my feelings toward the game. So where am I going with this? Well, I'm basically just trying to say that there's no such thing as a perfect game, but to me, Super Mario World is as close as we're ever going to get, and I don't think it's because of circumstances or a case where it was the right game at the right time.

A few paragraphs ago I rattled off reasons why I preferred SMW to its predecessor, and now I'd like to take a few moments just to break them down a little bit.

I mentioned Banzai Bill when talking about enemies, which is what happens when you take a Bullet Bill and crank it up to 11 (see what I'm saying), and then you have enemies like Torpedo Ted that only appear in one level--a level you can only access by discovering a secret and committing an act of betrayal. You have the varying colors of Koopa Troopas which give Yoshi different powers and attacks depending on which one he swallows. And let's not forget just how great the final battle was with Bowser riding in his clown-face copter...stomper...thing. Whatever it is, it's awesome. Also, Blargg.

 I repeat, Blargg.

The levels were much larger than anything we had seen in a Mario game up to this point, which is why this game threw in the addition of mid-level checkpoints. Not only did these checkpoints save your progress should you happen to die, but they also gave you a much needed boost from Mario to Super Mario if you needed it. Gone was the hoarding inventory system of SMB3, and in was the ability to carry an additional item into the level with you.

There are 96 exits in this game. Not 96 levels, but 96 exits. Any time you came upon a new level and it was colored red instead of yellow, that was your signal that there was a secret exit. And some levels didn't even give you that luxury, like the ghost house in Donut Plains, or the secret exit you needed to discover to find your way out of the Forest of Illusion, or to find Star Road.

 I know what you did to find that secret. You're worse than 1,000 Hitlers.

Speaking of the levels, let's talk about the variety within each world. Unlike SMB3, where you had 6-10 similar levels in a row, here you may have an underground level, followed by a ghost house, followed by an ice world, you never knew what was coming next, but you knew it would be different and exciting. Instead of navigating your way across an airship, here you went after the Koopa Kids in traditional castles, but each castle was unique and added a different challenge, whereas each airship was similarly laid out.

Did I say challenge? Yes, I would say that this game is challenging, but what I really mean is screw the Star Road Special World. While there were definitely other levels in the game that offered a great deal of trouble to a six year old Dustin Thomas, Star Road Special was where Nintendo took off the kiddie gloves and started punching me in the face with their bare fists.

 Screw this level, in particular.

But then, when it's all said and done, after you've left Yoshi's Island, made your way past the Donut Plains, traversed the Vanilla Dome, crossed the Butter Bridge, solved the Forest of Illusion, chomped your way through Chocolate Island, braved your way out of the Sunken Ghost Ship, brute forced your way through the Valley of Bowser, you hit your mortal enemy with that final Mechakoopa, and you see the very person who made all of your struggles worth the prices you've paid, worth the sacrificing of friends, worth the struggles of Star Road. You lay your eyes on your fair maiden, Princess Toadstool.

She kisses you, and you blush both in the game and in real life (because you're six year old Dustin, remember). Time to sit back and reflect on your journey. But wait, there's no time for that, the final treat is still to come!

Without question, this game has the greatest ending credit sequence in history. You get to meet all the enemies you've encountered, as well as listening to one of the greatest pieces of gaming music ever made. I love the ending theme song of Super Mario World so much that when I got married, I kissed my lovely bride, and we left the sanctuary while this song played. Let us enjoy it together.

Is it boring to say Super Mario World is my all-time favorite game? Maybe a little, at least according to some people. It's not that I didn't branch out, I've been playing videogames for a quarter of a century now, and I've run the gamut of genres, but Super Mario World is where my heart lies. I'm completely open to a new game coming out and just completely blowing my mind and usurping the throne away from the portly plumber, it just hasn't happened yet.

Don't forget that can follow me on Twitter @TheDustinThomas, and you can also listen to my podcast on iTunes.

Thanks for reading.


(Hey, you get a bonus blog this week outside of my regular Weekly Top 5, but before you begin reading, be aware that there are spoilers for Walking Dead: Season Two and Spec Ops: The Line ahead. I will warn you when spoilers begin for each game, and also when the spoilers end.)

The reason I've always enjoyed gaming more than movies, television, or music is because it's interactive, I'm actually doing something. But with that comes a certain drawback--the ability to make you feel bad. Yes, a movie can do the same thing, but in a completely different way.

Let's take a movie like Full Metal Jacket, a fantastic movie by all accounts. It shows the gritty, dark reality and horror of the Vietnam War. The last section of the movie is the entire platoon (or company, or regiment, I'm not sure when one it is) trying to find a way to take down an enemy sniper. Some marines get killed in the process, and when they finally do kill the sniper, they discover that it was a teenage girl. The girl winds up mortally wounded, and there's a debate among the marines whether they should mercy kill the girl or not.

You watch this scene and feel bad because not only is it heartbreaking that a teenage girl was put into a situation where she had to fight in a war, but also that she winds up dying because of it. But with a videogame, sometimes you're forced to be the one that has to make these kinds of decisions. Since we're already talking about war, let's begin with Spec Ops: The Line.


Maybe this is just me, but throughout the game you're given several choices in tough situations, and I was completely unaware that certain choices even existed. One situation involves you having to decide who to kill: a man who was caught stealing water for his family, or the soldier that was sent to arrest the man and wound up killing the man's family. My decision was to kill the soldier. I would have preferred to kill no one, but between these two, I felt the soldier was the obvious choice. Everyone would steal water to provide for their family, and the soldier disobeyed orders and murdered five people.

You're surrounded by snipers during this scene, so choosing not to kill one of them is not an option...or so I thought. After completing the game I looked back at an achievement guide and discovered that there was a car nearby for me to take cover and take out the snipers. I also later discovered that none of it was real (play the game, it'll make sense).

Another big decision was near the end of the game, and one of your fellow soldiers, who has been with you through the entire game, dies at the hands of some angry civilians. You're completely surrounded, and they attack you if you try to walk by. I sat there and thought "Are they really asking me to murder civilians? I don't want to do this, but I guess I have to." Then, upon further reading after I finished the game, I found that I could have shot my gun into the air and it would have scared them off. I hadn't even thought about that while in the moment, and I felt genuine remorse when I realized that those people didn't have to die.

This is also a particularly horrific scene.

Yes, I know that they weren't real people. I can discern the difference between fantasy and reality, but I felt like my soul had taken a hit. Even though shooting my gun into the air wasn't readily apparent as an option, why didn't I--as a person--think to try that first? And this comes from a guy who is a youth leader at his church. I consider myself to be a good human being, and then I let this happen. How could I?

I'm being a bit hyperbolic here. I didn't really have an existential spiritual breakdown, but I did genuinely feel bad about my decision before I came to my sense and realized "Oh yeah, it's just a videogame. No one actually died."

If you haven't played the game and decided to read the spoilers anyway, I still suggest playing the game. It's probably the best story I've ever experienced in a military shooter, and what I've talked about is only a fraction of what the game brings to the table. Also, Nolan North.


I adore the Walking Dead series from Telltale Games. I had a spurt where I enjoyed the show, but then I stopped watching due to disinterest, and I've never been a comic reader. But the games still enthrall me. That's what I was talking about earlier when I was explaining why I enjoy gaming more than any other medium.

The first season of The Walking Dead is surely a contender for the finest piece of storytelling in game history. There's a reason it won several "Game of the Year" awards from major publications, websites, and even the Video Game Awards, and it wasn't for its great controls or cutting-edge graphics.

That being said, I was super excited for the second season, but after the first four episodes, I was underwhelmed. That's not to say that it was bad, by no means is that true, I still enjoyed them very much, just not on the same level. That is, until Episode 5: No Going Back.

Just so I don't have to give you all of the details leading up to the final scenes, I'll make a long story short. You play as Clementine, who you were tasked with protecting in Season One. At the end of the of Episode 5, you're given the choice of either killing Kenny, who is someone that you've known since the very beginning of the series and have been through a lot with, or killing Jane, who has become somewhat of a big sister to Clementine.

During Episode 4, one of your party members, Rebecca, has a baby and winds up dying of exposure. Within 24 hours, this child is an orphan (his father having been killed before his birth), and Kenny has taken it upon himself to protect the baby at all costs as a way to make up for the fact that he wasn't able to protect his son, Duck, in Season One.

Up until I was given the decision on who to kill, I had been siding with Jane on everything. She's tough, and seems to genuinely care for Clem. Not to mention that Kenny had been going through a slow descent into madness since Episode 3, and by this time he had become completely unhinged. Kenny and Jane hated each other, and when the three of you wind up separated in a snowstorm, Jane hides the baby in an abandoned car. When the three reunite, it's insinuated that Jane killed the baby (you're given scenes earlier in the game showing that Jane doesn't have a particular affinity for infants), and Kenny attempts to kill her.

When Kenny and Jane's fates are put in your hands, you're given a much longer amount of time to decide than you do with normal actions. I debated internally until the final moments, where I decided to shoot Kenny. The ensuing dialogue between Clem and a dying Kenny was heart-wrenching; I had been through so much with him. Then you discover that the baby wasn't dead, and that Jane had merely hid the child. Plenty of games have twist endings where someone you've been working with turns out to be a villain ("Would you kindly..."), but never before had I felt as betrayed as I did when Jane revealed the truth.

When I play The Walking Dead, I play it one time, because that's my story. That's how it happened tome. Those are the decisions I made. And if I regret a decision, I deal with it and move on. But I just couldn't do that here. I restarted the checkpoint and changed my decision, that's how bad I felt. Kenny later goes on to redeem himself for all the crazy, and I felt better with that decision. The game actually made me break my own unwritten rules because I felt so bad about a fake decision I made about a fake person in a fictionalized universe. On one hand, that's fantastic, on the other hand, it really bothered me. It maybe didn't help that I played these games back-to-back.


Games like Mass Effect or Skyrim or any other game where you're given choices about the morality of your character never leave me regretting my decisions. Most of them are cut-and-dry. That's not to say there aren't tough decisions in other games, I just haven't experienced any that made me go back and question them after my decisions were made. Maybe it's the fact that in Skyrim I play a wood elf who looks like he should play bass for Amon Amarth and slays dragons with his trusty arrows, and in The Walking Dead and Spec Ops I play a pre-teen girl who I don't want to turn into a monster and an American soldier trying to save some folks, respectively.

All I'm saying is that sometimes I just need to step back from all this seriousness. Sometimes, I just want want to control a round, pink blob with a smile on his face who makes adorable sounds and occasionally cooks stuff.

Ahh, much better.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @TheDustinThomas, and to listen to the Error Machine Podcast on iTunes.

Thanks for reading,