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Valuable Life Lessons: What Video Games Can Teach Us About Betrayal in the Real World

by on April 7, 2014 12:15 PM 1

It’ll hurt more than any physical pain imaginable. It’ll make you question your very existence. An onslaught of thoughts and emotions will overcome your body. Why couldn’t I figure it out? What were the signs I missed? How stupid of a person can I be?

When your heart is ripped out of your chest because of someone else’s lie you become more aware. As the pain rips through your body your senses heighten and you’ll become suspicious of everything. Everyone seems to have a motive and you’ll discover the only person who truly has your back is You. Yet you’ll start to wonder if you can even trust yourself since in a way you allowed this to happen. After all, you didn’t listen to your gut.

This is the feeling of betrayal: and while you may experience this pain seated on your comfy couch playing a video game and the person who betrayed you is an AI, the pain will feel just as real.

There are many forms of betrayal: some do it for the greater good, some for love, some do it for country, some for more selfish reasons; and then there are those who simply just don’t give a damn.

I’m going to breakdown the many ways one can be betrayed and how it relates to the lessons about real life.

Warning: Major SPOILERS ahead.

BioShock: The Always By Your Side Mastermind

Imagine your first day in a new environment. You’ve moved all the way from a small town to live in the big city. You’re lost, confused, overwhelmed and you need a hug. You feel like you’ve been walking around in circles for days and all you want to do is cry. Then all of a sudden a guardian angel appears at your feet offering a helping hand and a comforting smile.

They not only give you directions but take time out of their busy day to take you to your destination. They offer their friendship to you in this lonely world. You trust them, you hang onto their every word, and they mean something to you. Before you know it they’ve gotten under your skin; there is no amount of time or money that can thank them for their generosity.

Behind the veiled curtain you’ll discover something sinister. If you pull it back even more you’ll see that behind every smile, every helpful hand and tip, even the conversations were a lie. You were a puppet and they the master. Pulling your strings as you merrily skipped along with joy in your heart.

This is what happens in Bioshock. Let’s be honest, without the help of Atlas you’re pretty much screwed.  He is your own personal tour guide throughout the game while explaining the history of Rapture. The knowledge you obtain from him keeps you from wandering the lands completely aimlessly. You trust what he says is true because, after all, what would he gain from lying to you?

He gains your trust and respect so much you don’t even flinch when he asks you to help rescue his wife and son, and help him find Andrew Ryan. You understand and justify his reasons for seeking revenge. You willingly become a participant, forming that bond, even though it’s an AI character, he’s starting to grow on you, even when he continues to ask for your help. Atlas never seemed pushy or showed an ounce of arrogance when he asked “Would you kindly…” How can you turn him down?

Then it happens, the slap in the face, the sudden pain in your back. You finally locate Ryan, the man responsible for the deaths of two innocent people. However, instead of receiving the sweet victory of killing him, he reveals a gut-wrenching fact; Atlas, the man who has been by your side every time, the man who taught you so much, that you blindly trusted is actually Frank Fontaine. Not only does he not care about you, he has been controlling you the entire time. Atlas used you to kill Andrew, he used you to kill your own father and the man responsible for the downfall of the Rapture was Atlas/Frank Fontaine the entire time.

Just like life you will find people who will use you as a pawn to personally payback someone; whether it’s through cheating with someone or killing the child of someone because they killed your father. The pain will hurt, but you have to realize that they only want someone acknowledge that what they are feeling is important and it matters. They may think it’s a way out but in the end what does it accomplish? The pain will always be there, yes they succeeded in hurting someone else but it’s not the cure-all. 

Red Dead Redemption: Friends and Enemies Are One In the Same

There are moments in life that truly make no sense, people change for no given reason and while you may search for answers, the best thing is just to accept what happened and over time learn to move on. The hurt is more about not knowing why than the betrayal itself.

Red Dead Redemption is a deadly unforgiveable game, much like the real Old West depicted. Despite the ruthlessness of John Marston, he was still human and had forgivable qualities. He did wrong in life but was willing to admit his problems and tried to redeem himself and right his wrongs.

After murdering his gang for the government, Edger Ross grants John his deserved freedom, allowing him to return home to be a father and husband to his son and wife. However, not everything is as it seems. Happiness fades away and is replaced by a darkening cloud called “paid in full.”

Remember, the government wanted every member of John’s gang murdered which included one final member, John himself. The massive blow is felt even more when we learn that it’s Edgar who wants to finish John off. In one of the most heartbreaking moments in the game, we witness Edgar and his soldiers slaughter John in a hail of bullets just after he helped his wife and son escape.

What makes this scene extremely hard to watch is not that Edgar kills John, but John’s reaction to the situation. In the mist of gunfire, Edgar casually lights a cigar as if John didn’t mean a single thing to him.

While this betrayal is heartbreaking as it is, the gut-punch comes when we see Jack, John’s son. As a result of his father’s death, Jack grows up to be just like his father; an outlaw. This was something John did not want to happen. In fact it was the polar opposite. John wanted his son to be studious and successful. Instead, Jack is trapped in the same sort of hell as his father, and doomed to have the same fate. Edger not only betrayed John by killing him, but as a consequence destroys Jack’s life.

Even when he is tracked down years later by Marston’s son, he is still indifferent to the killing of John and states that he’ll gladly kill Jack as well. “Everyone will eventually pay for what they’ve done.”

Ever hear the phrase, you reap what you sow? Sometimes life is just like that quote and the sins of our past are unwillingly transferred to the ones we love the most. Like life, we think that only our actions affect us but it can carry down for generations. Should the lives of innocent children pay for our sins? No, but sometimes betrayal is so blinding that we’re unable to see this. This should teach us to be mindful of what we really do and realize that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater: Nothing is Straight-Forward

There are times in life when everything makes sense because you follow the rules. There are heroes and there are villains: everyone plays their part accordingly. Then there are those times in life when your world literally stops making sense. Enemies become friends, friends become enemies, and you’re just left there asking yourself “what the hell just happened?”

Metal Gear Solid 3 teaches us that not only are people not straightforward, but neither are their betrayals. It wouldn’t be life without some complications.

It’s the 1960’s in the Soviet Union and you’re Naked Snake. Your objective is simple; retrieve The Philosopher’s Legacy to kill The Boss, an American soldier who defected to the Soviet Union, thus betraying her country. The rules are simple you know who the bad guy…err…girl is and you’re ready to seek justice for her betrayal.

The reason why The Boss needed to be killed is not just for her betrayal but because the Soviet Union accused the United States of issuing a U.S. missile into a Soviet research facility; her death will prove the innocence of the United States.

Now here comes the major complication; The Boss happens to be Snake’s mentor and long-time friend. One could even argue that they had more than just a friendship. Either way through some form or another, their relationship was strong. The Boss knew Snake like the back of her hand, and could even tell he lost weight by simply listening to his voice over the radio.

Snake is only able to track down The Boss by using the tricks and techniques The Boss taught him. It was clear that Snake cared about her, which could be seen through each of their physical encounters in which Snake attempts to attack her, but hesitates because of their bond.

When the final battle does occur, The Boss is overpowered and collapses onto the ground and it is The Boss who orders Snake to put an end to her life by shooting her with her own gun, named of all things, “The Patriot”

The ending of Metal Gear Solid 3 is not as simple as it seem, for The Boss did not betray her country after all. Her mission was to join the Soviet Union only to retrieve the Philosopher’s Legacy. The firing of a U.S. nuclear bomb on Soviet territory was not planned nor even expected, as it was fired by a malicious Soviet general. Sadly, the launch happened when The Boss defected, so it made sense that the leader of the Soviet Union would suspect the U.S.

However, in order to prove the country’s innocence, The Boss had to sacrifice herself, spinning webs of lies. She happily accepted her mission for her country. In the end she was a true American hero.

People are not simple and they mask their feelings and how they go about things to not only protect themselves, but to protect others. It may feel like a betrayal — and in a way it is — but what they did was out of love. If they truly didn’t care, do you think they would go through all that trouble masking all the good they were trying to do? It’s a tricky subject and a grey area but not all heartbreak is for naught.

Portal 2: Your Actions Can Create A Monster

Power is a funny thing: it can be used to help people or hurt them. It has the power to control minds; change people, make them act out of character.

Power can come in the form of anything from money to a promotion to sex; but in the case of Wheatley, power is science.

Let’s be honest: it was hard not to love Wheatley from Portal 2; he was funny, happy, charming, silly and a wee bit “off,” but in an adorable way. When he knocked on the door that fateful day, he forever changed our lives. He snuck into our hearts and made a home there becoming an irreplaceable and sympathetic companion. He made us laugh, constantly and fulfilled ally duties.

While it was scarce the advice, the advice he gave was beyond useful. Without his help Chell would have never thought to disable the GLaDOS’ trump cards of turrets and neurotoxins. It really didn’t seem like a big deal when replacing GLaDOS’ core with Wheatley’s…or did it?

Things started to change once this switch was made; there was a light, a switch that went off behind Wheatley’s eyes that you only see in the deranged. It was as if his very core was racked with schizophrenia. His sweet adorableness was filled with suspicious thoughts, paranoia and vindictiveness. He seeped with rage, obsession and even started to attack.

It was like watching your very best friend who was the captain of the football team, who dated the head cheerleader, whom was beloved by everyone, who received straight A’s and was accepted into Duke University. He had life in the palm of his hands… until he’s introduced to drugs. Even though you offer support, there’s really nothing you can do. Instead your role has been reduced from trusted friend to just someone who can just watch the destruction unfold as your friend loses everything and everyone. But here’s the kicker, you was the one who gave your friend his very first drug. You started it all.

While Wheatley was addicted to science, it was you who caused his greed, you who changed him. Had you not have switched the mainframe GLaDOS would have never changed and been so corrupted. Yes, it was ultimately the mainframe; but you were the one solely responsible for what happened. You betrayed GLaDOS who ended up betraying you.

Sometimes we don’t set out to do bad things, not everyone acts in ill-will; things just happen that we couldn’t really see having a negative effect. This is to teach us that everyone does have an effect on someone, whether it’s from a greeting to a negative compliment. You really much watch what you say and how you handle people. Everyone possesses the power to change people with just their words and actions even when it’s a fleeting moment. A simple comment can make someone become another person either to make you like them more or to make them more driven. Try not changing people because if you really cared about them, you would like them just as they are.

While these are a few examples of betrayal, each of them delivers an impact that reminds us that even though it’s a video game, each of these scenarios have happened to someone in one form of another. While betrayal hurts, eventually one day, just like these characters we can move on and start to heal. Take Portal 2′s Wheatley: he was the one who apologized profusely even after the credits rolled. He took what happened to him in stride which is a reflection in life. When life deals us betrayal (and trust me it will) we have to break out of the pain and discover that it only makes us stronger and wise. I was just betrayed by a person who I thought was my friend and it hurt. The characters in these games show that despite this, the hero is able to stand on their own two (metaphoric) feet, dust themselves off and walk away. You have to do the same too.

Join the Discussion

  • Delsin Row

    man , i can swear that this is one of the best aricle that ever post on websites. finally , someone undrestood the video games. they are not just games , but they teach us the lessons of the life. thanks dana , your idea for this article was awesome. but i have a request for you. could you add one picture for the red dead redemption section ? it doesnt have any pictures :D

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