Right, before I start I must say you need to play Execution before reading on. The entire experience is derived from not knowing anything about the game. DO NOT READ ON UNTIL YOU HAVE PLAYED THE GAME TWICE! (which you can do so here)
Ok, played it? Good
Now, it’s not an entirely original idea. Far Cry 2 sort of did it by having your Buddies die permanently if you somehow managed to mess things up on a mission, and their services are no longer available to you thus detracting from the experience. Hideo Kojima took the whole “face your actions” route in Metal Gear Solid 4 later in the game (you’ll have to play and discover it for yourself). But Execution takes the idea of making you face your actions and see the consequences to a whole new level.
The game can take as long as you want to finish. You can complete it in a matter of seconds or over a few hours depending on how you look at the situation. So what did you do? Did you shoot the person straight away? Wait a while, then kill him? or look for a way to not kill him? Whatever path you took is a sort of look into your inner gaming psyche, and it reveals quite a lot about how you game. I shot the person after a few seconds of deliberation, but saw no way out of shooting the person so I just shot them. That could mean, I like to look for alternatives to killing (which is true in the case of Mirror’s Edge where I ran more than I fought) or I just got bored and shot him.
This whole experience didn’t come to fruition until I booted the game up a second time….and the person was still dead. Even the third and fourth time….they were still dead.
Seeing this grim image of the person you just shot still tied to the pole, dead, sort of hits. Why did I kill them? I had no idea who they were. They could’ve been a father who was kidnapped by terrorists and I was the executioner or it could’ve been a traitor to the country who was due for execution for passing on important details to another country intent on starting war. You aren’t told any of this information and yet most people will have probably shot the person, rather than thought about it. Why? Because that’s what video games, specifically shooters, have taught us to do. Hand over the game to someone without gaming experience and see how they react and perhaps, just perhaps, they may first look for an alternative to killing them.
The difference between Execution and other games which involve choice is that the choices you make in Execution are permanent. Full stop. In games such as, say, Fallout 3, you can always quite easily load up a quicksave and play from before a major decision again and again to see how each way would pan out. Here, once the person is dead, they’re dead. For good. And as such it resonates more.
It’s an interesting social experiment which hopefully doesn’t show us all to be psychopathic killers. What did you end up doing? Leave a comment with how it panned out for you below.