Morality in The Saboteur's Storytelling: Killing for a Priest

Posted by Kierkegaard (579 posts) -

The Saboteur creates a somewhat contradictory tone. As the foul-mouthed, balls to the wall Irishman Sean Devlin, you kill Nazis with a smile, terrorize Parisians with the sloppy car physics, and generally create mayhem. Sure, you're doing it for some ill-conceived revenge because Sean didn't care a like about the Nazis until they tortured and killed his friend, but, mostly, the actual gameplay is an adrenaline-fueled romp.  
 
And that gameplay is remarkably enjoyable. Explosions are easy to pull off yet satisfying in their execution. On normal, killing hundreds of Nazis is easy, yet its arcadey feel makes that just fine. Even the stealth, something that could have been messy and awkward, is built upon elegant representational systems of suspicion that never feel realistic, but are fun.  
 
So, when you walk up to a priest sitting in one of the booths of the Moulin Rouge-esque club full of scantily clad (or nude if you bought the game unlike me who rented it) women, you expect to continue in this tonal vein. Then he spins his tale: 
 
Sean, he says, I have a man who confesses to me each week. He confesses that he is a Nazi informant, that his words have killed many people. "He asks for my forgiveness, but I  am afraid do not have any more to give." 
  
Sean pledges to kill the cocksucker, or something to that extent. At the priest's behest, he climbs up a church, grabs a sniper rifle, and waits for the priests signal as sinners come to repent. As a man approaches with an umbrella, a man who looks much like any other, the priest screams out something about the sword of God striking down the wicked, Sean shoots the penitent, and then has the easy task of escaping a small red circle of Nazi alarm.  
 
I wonder at the meaning of all of this. Questions it raises for me include: 
 
1. If the priest is a man of peace, a man who is ordained not only not to judge, but to relieve men of God's judgment if they openly confess their sins, is this act a rejection of his religion, his station, and his responsibility? 
 
2. The man clearly feels guilty for his betrayals. He confesses them. He knows they are wrong. Is this worse than a man who kills out ignorance or hatred? Or is it proof that, rather than a swift bullet to the head, he is truly deserving of a second chance in the resistance itself where he will be protected against the Nazi influence that seems to have driven him to such evils.  
 
3. This mission seems like a story someone would tell in a Spielberg film, a moral dilemma indeed. What the hell is it doing in The Saboteur? I love that a game is making me ponder so deeply, but this all feels somehow worse since it's located in this jocular game and since Sean doesn't ponder it for a second.  
 
The Saboteur is not about choices. But I do wish I could have chosen to do something different in this mission. 

#1 Posted by Kierkegaard (579 posts) -

The Saboteur creates a somewhat contradictory tone. As the foul-mouthed, balls to the wall Irishman Sean Devlin, you kill Nazis with a smile, terrorize Parisians with the sloppy car physics, and generally create mayhem. Sure, you're doing it for some ill-conceived revenge because Sean didn't care a like about the Nazis until they tortured and killed his friend, but, mostly, the actual gameplay is an adrenaline-fueled romp.  
 
And that gameplay is remarkably enjoyable. Explosions are easy to pull off yet satisfying in their execution. On normal, killing hundreds of Nazis is easy, yet its arcadey feel makes that just fine. Even the stealth, something that could have been messy and awkward, is built upon elegant representational systems of suspicion that never feel realistic, but are fun.  
 
So, when you walk up to a priest sitting in one of the booths of the Moulin Rouge-esque club full of scantily clad (or nude if you bought the game unlike me who rented it) women, you expect to continue in this tonal vein. Then he spins his tale: 
 
Sean, he says, I have a man who confesses to me each week. He confesses that he is a Nazi informant, that his words have killed many people. "He asks for my forgiveness, but I  am afraid do not have any more to give." 
  
Sean pledges to kill the cocksucker, or something to that extent. At the priest's behest, he climbs up a church, grabs a sniper rifle, and waits for the priests signal as sinners come to repent. As a man approaches with an umbrella, a man who looks much like any other, the priest screams out something about the sword of God striking down the wicked, Sean shoots the penitent, and then has the easy task of escaping a small red circle of Nazi alarm.  
 
I wonder at the meaning of all of this. Questions it raises for me include: 
 
1. If the priest is a man of peace, a man who is ordained not only not to judge, but to relieve men of God's judgment if they openly confess their sins, is this act a rejection of his religion, his station, and his responsibility? 
 
2. The man clearly feels guilty for his betrayals. He confesses them. He knows they are wrong. Is this worse than a man who kills out ignorance or hatred? Or is it proof that, rather than a swift bullet to the head, he is truly deserving of a second chance in the resistance itself where he will be protected against the Nazi influence that seems to have driven him to such evils.  
 
3. This mission seems like a story someone would tell in a Spielberg film, a moral dilemma indeed. What the hell is it doing in The Saboteur? I love that a game is making me ponder so deeply, but this all feels somehow worse since it's located in this jocular game and since Sean doesn't ponder it for a second.  
 
The Saboteur is not about choices. But I do wish I could have chosen to do something different in this mission. 

#2 Posted by Bones8677 (3210 posts) -

Every open world game has these kinds of missions. Where they don't make a lot of sense nor do they give you complete freedom. It's really just a contrivance, to have the game present some type of variety.

#3 Posted by K9 (621 posts) -

Well, the real Kierkegaard would have interpreted the priest's actions to be perfectly ok, at least from a theological perspective. For Kierkegaard, all it meant to be a good christian was one's emotional relationship with God. To believe in a Christian God meant having to take a leap of faith, and it didn't really matter what the social manifestation of Christianity was like. All the churches and their dogmas, all the religious rules and regulations were irrelevant. A lot of existentialist philosophy is about taking personal responsibility so I am not really sure if Kierkegaard would have taken the priest's behavior to be immoral, but it is definitely possible for Kierkegaard to to still have considered the priest a good Christian. 
 
Killing the Nazi informant was more of a product of game structure than a true moral dilemma. Because if I had a choice, I would have recruited the informant to work for the resistance. The informant probably had access to lot more nazi plans and secrets than average Joe and based on his apparent guilt, he would have accepted the position of becoming a double agent as well. But since there was no choice, there was no moral dilemma. It was just another killing mission for me to go on.

#4 Posted by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -
@K9: Well, you also have the option of turning off the game. I'm not kidding, I consider that to be a valid response to situations where a game asks you to do something that you consider to be completely unacceptable.
#5 Posted by kingzetta (4307 posts) -

Nazis are bad

#6 Posted by McGhee (6094 posts) -

If you can't kill a Nazi, then who can you kill? They're history's punching bags.

#7 Posted by President_Barackbar (3434 posts) -

The story is supposed to be pulpy, like an exploitation movie. That kind of stuff is done for comedic effect., it really wasn't meant to inspire this much thought.

#8 Posted by jorbear (2517 posts) -
@kingzetta said:
" Nazis are bad "
QFT
#9 Posted by Kierkegaard (579 posts) -
@K9 said:
" Well, the real Kierkegaard would have interpreted the priest's actions to be perfectly ok, at least from a theological perspective. For Kierkegaard, all it meant to be a good christian was one's emotional relationship with God. To believe in a Christian God meant having to take a leap of faith, and it didn't really matter what the social manifestation of Christianity was like. All the churches and their dogmas, all the religious rules and regulations were irrelevant. A lot of existentialist philosophy is about taking personal responsibility so I am not really sure if Kierkegaard would have taken the priest's behavior to be immoral, but it is definitely possible for Kierkegaard to to still have considered the priest a good Christian.   Killing the Nazi informant was more of a product of game structure than a true moral dilemma. Because if I had a choice, I would have recruited the informant to work for the resistance. The informant probably had access to lot more nazi plans and secrets than average Joe and based on his apparent guilt, he would have accepted the position of becoming a double agent as well. But since there was no choice, there was no moral dilemma. It was just another killing mission for me to go on. "
Nice summary of Kierkegaard. Course, he would consider this more an ethical issue than a Christian one, as do I. Kierkegaard always talked about the Knight of Faith, this sort of paragon of a human being that would walk through the streets like any other person but be a centralization of good action. I think he'd see Sean's position, contrived as it may be, as a huge opportunity to act in that fashion. The priest likely has the same opportunity. In this case, I think they both failed to live by something better than vengeance.  
 
@McGhee_the_Insomniac:
 A person who is a part of or supports the National Socialists is a Nazi, but he is still a person. Indiana Jones, Call of Duty, and too many representations to count have gone the "these guys are evil, inconsolable, inhuman monsters. They deserve only death" route. That's actually a pretty questionable position. A person doing terrible things is still a person. Downfall, the film from which Hitler's reaction to a bunch of internet debates comes, does a good job of humanizing yet not glorifying the Nazis. It's not surprising that Saboteur does the easy characterization. Who would you shoot otherwise?  But, in this specific case, where grey areas are abundant, I'd like to have seen a little more thought.   
  
@President_Barackbar:
Pulpy story or not, a priest ordering a hit and saying something as thought-provoking as "I have no more forgiveness to give" crosses a line into seriousness. 
#10 Posted by McGhee (6094 posts) -
@Kierkegaard said:
" @K9 said:
" Well, the real Kierkegaard would have interpreted the priest's actions to be perfectly ok, at least from a theological perspective. For Kierkegaard, all it meant to be a good christian was one's emotional relationship with God. To believe in a Christian God meant having to take a leap of faith, and it didn't really matter what the social manifestation of Christianity was like. All the churches and their dogmas, all the religious rules and regulations were irrelevant. A lot of existentialist philosophy is about taking personal responsibility so I am not really sure if Kierkegaard would have taken the priest's behavior to be immoral, but it is definitely possible for Kierkegaard to to still have considered the priest a good Christian.   Killing the Nazi informant was more of a product of game structure than a true moral dilemma. Because if I had a choice, I would have recruited the informant to work for the resistance. The informant probably had access to lot more nazi plans and secrets than average Joe and based on his apparent guilt, he would have accepted the position of becoming a double agent as well. But since there was no choice, there was no moral dilemma. It was just another killing mission for me to go on. "
Nice summary of Kierkegaard. Course, he would consider this more an ethical issue than a Christian one, as do I. Kierkegaard always talked about the Knight of Faith, this sort of paragon of a human being that would walk through the streets like any other person but be a centralization of good action. I think he'd see Sean's position, contrived as it may be, as a huge opportunity to act in that fashion. The priest likely has the same opportunity. In this case, I think they both failed to live by something better than vengeance.  
 
@McGhee_the_Insomniac:
 A person who is a part of or supports the National Socialists is a Nazi, but he is still a person. Indiana Jones, Call of Duty, and too many representations to count have gone the "these guys are evil, inconsolable, inhuman monsters. They deserve only death" route. That's actually a pretty questionable position. A person doing terrible things is still a person. Downfall, the film from which Hitler's reaction to a bunch of internet debates comes, does a good job of humanizing yet not glorifying the Nazis. It's not surprising that Saboteur does the easy characterization. Who would you shoot otherwise?  But, in this specific case, where grey areas are abundant, I'd like to have seen a little more thought.   
  
@President_Barackbar: Pulpy story or not, a priest ordering a hit and saying something as thought-provoking as "I have no more forgiveness to give" crosses a line into seriousness.  "
You're taking my comment a little too seriously, bro. I approach everything on a case by case basis. 
 
While I'm not Catholic, I use to be Christian and I graduated from a Christian college. I have taken classes on "Christian counseling". If someone tells you they are actively committing crimes, priest or not, your are legally bound to call the police. If it comes out that you knew about such criminal activities yet did nothing, you can be charged as well.
 
So in this case my questions would be has this Nazi informant actually changed his ways or is he continuing with the activity. To me, just being sorry, but continuing along the same path does not cut it. If the informant wanted to actually change and start working to rectify what he has done, then I would give him that chance. 
 
But the other question: is the priest right in having the guy killed? If you are in a Nazi occupied city during a war, where you can't find justice from the normal judicial systems set in place, I would have no problem having a Nazi informant killed. As I've said, this depends on what the informant will be doing in the future, if he will still be helping the Nazis.
#11 Posted by Kierkegaard (579 posts) -
@McGhee_the_Insomniac: Haha, not trying to be over-serious, just like thinking about things like this.  
 
If we consider the Nazi state to be lawless, and we also consider the priest in this case is only allowed to remain safe because he pretends to support the regime, then certainly he cannot reach out to any police force as a priest must do if someone confesses a crime.  
 
The force he does reach out to is the resistance. That is where justice lies in this system, or, at least, some chaotic form of justice. I would question whether the response of killing though, the response of treating this man as undeserving of forgiveness when, really, all deserve forgiveness; it's how healing begins, is perhaps an act just as vengeful as the enemy they are fighting.  
 
I like to give Pandemic the benefit of the doubt that they did think a little bit about what this all means. If so, maybe they are trying to create ambiguity and doubt of Sean's morality. Maybe he's a Nico character. I don't know. I haven't finished the game yet. Doesn't seem likely. 
#12 Posted by McGhee (6094 posts) -
@Kierkegaard said:
" @McGhee_the_Insomniac: Haha, not trying to be over-serious, just like thinking about things like this.   If we consider the Nazi state to be lawless, and we also consider the priest in this case is only allowed to remain safe because he pretends to support the regime, then certainly he cannot reach out to any police force as a priest must do if someone confesses a crime.   The force he does reach out to is the resistance. That is where justice lies in this system, or, at least, some chaotic form of justice. I would question whether the response of killing though, the response of treating this man as undeserving of forgiveness when, really, all deserve forgiveness; it's how healing begins, is perhaps an act just as vengeful as the enemy they are fighting.   I like to give Pandemic the benefit of the doubt that they did think a little bit about what this all means. If so, maybe they are trying to create ambiguity and doubt of Sean's morality. Maybe he's a Nico character. I don't know. I haven't finished the game yet. Doesn't seem likely.  "
I can't agree on one point. All do not deserve forgiveness. If someone murdered someone in my family I would have no forgiveness for them, ever. I would be happy in whatever terrible fate befell them as a result of their actions. In time I would move on, but I would not forgive.
#13 Posted by President_Barackbar (3434 posts) -

Do you guys hear yourselves? You're arguing morality in a game where you jump out of a Nazi attack zeppelin into the ocean and survive. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar man...

#14 Posted by Kierkegaard (579 posts) -
@McGhee_the_Insomniac: Yeah, not gonna try to convince you on that one. I've never faced such a situation, though I'd like to think I would look for resolution rather than harbor hatred. Still, totally hypothetical.  
 
@President_Barackbar: Games are artistic creations made by humans for other humans. There's meaning there. Analysis can be done. Misslie Command is ultimately, according to its creator, a parable of the horrors of nuclear war, the choice between sacrificing a village to maintain humanity or trying to keep everyone alive, even if, in the end, you will always lose. The Saboteur is not about a nameless, unidentified man killing other nameless people in an unknown place at an unknown time. It's about a Irish expatriate joining the french resistance in 1940s Paris. It has a context. Thinking about it isn't wrong; it's something I and others enjoy doing, that we think is worthwhile. I'd compare the game to Inglourious Basterds or other Tarentino fare--bombastic, bloody, but trying to say something. Here, I wanted to look at what it's saying. 
#15 Posted by President_Barackbar (3434 posts) -
@Kierkegaard:  Fair enough.
#16 Posted by Teran (877 posts) -

I just recently picked up Saboteur and am playing through for the first time.  I played that mission and it felt "wrong" in a way I can't really explain.  That said, I liked that mission for exactly that reason.  Up until that point in the game I've killed hundreds of nazis and civilians (collateral damage),  I wasn't expecting the next kill to be any different.

To address your specific points:

1.  Father Denis wasn't really a priest, he had been defrocked for speaking out against the Nazis.  He's not exactly a stickler for the rules under the circumstances.  He didn't reject his responsibility and station, they were stripped from him.  I do not think he turned his back on his religion (God) so much as turning his back to the church (human beings).  I don't think he ever really tried to justify any of the killing he was involved with.

2.  You are right, the informant does feel guilty enough for his betrayals, but not guilty enough to stop spying.  Part of the expectation of confessing and forgiving sins is that he will go and sin no more.  Denis saw that this man wouldn't stop his informing and decided to take matters into his own hands for the greater good.

3.  I think the contrast to the rest of the game makes the mission one of the best.

#17 Posted by Skald (4367 posts) -
@Teran said:
" Father Denis wasn't really a priest, he had been defrocked for speaking out against the Nazis.  He's not exactly a stickler for the rules under the circumstances.  He didn't reject his responsibility and station, they were stripped from him.  I do not think he turned his back on his religion (God) so much as turning his back to the church (human beings). "
I like that, I think it's worded quite well.
#18 Posted by Kierkegaard (579 posts) -
@Teran said:
" I just recently picked up Saboteur and am playing through for the first time.  I played that mission and it felt "wrong" in a way I can't really explain.  That said, I liked that mission for exactly that reason.  Up until that point in the game I've killed hundreds of nazis and civilians (collateral damage),  I wasn't expecting the next kill to be any different.To address your specific points:1.  Father Denis wasn't really a priest, he had been defrocked for speaking out against the Nazis.  He's not exactly a stickler for the rules under the circumstances.  He didn't reject his responsibility and station, they were stripped from him.  I do not think he turned his back on his religion (God) so much as turning his back to the church (human beings).  I don't think he ever really tried to justify any of the killing he was involved with.2.  You are right, the informant does feel guilty enough for his betrayals, but not guilty enough to stop spying.  Part of the expectation of confessing and forgiving sins is that he will go and sin no more.  Denis saw that this man wouldn't stop his informing and decided to take matters into his own hands for the greater good.3.  I think the contrast to the rest of the game makes the mission one of the best. "
Good to hear this mission caught someone else up. Despite my issues with its forcing me to do something I wouldn't do, and that I feel was immoral, I did think it was strong storytelling.

#19 Posted by Teran (877 posts) -
@Kierkegaard:   I haven't yet finished the game, been focusing on blowing all the optional objectives up.

I don't mind spoilers though so I peeked in on the spoiler box.  It's good to hear they let you make that decision.

I thought the architecture was pretty good all around.  I've enjoyed running around Paris more than any other free roam game.  I especially loved the numerous Nazi strongholds for the gothic look you mentioned.  The vehicles and sound track also did a lot of enhance the experience though I'm a huge sucker for jazz.
#20 Posted by TheDudeOfGaming (6078 posts) -

There are many things a Catholic priest can forgive, murder, stealing, rape, pedophilia...but snitching for the nazis is not among the forgivable things.

#21 Posted by xyzygy (9895 posts) -

This is the second time in the past little bit where I play through an older game and for some reason an old blog about said game is brought back up to the top of the forum. Weird.

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