Super Columbine Massacre RPG!


"A child is born with no state of mind
Blind to the ways of mankind
God is smilin' on you but he's frownin' too
Because only God knows what you'll go through."
-- The Message, GrandMaster Flash

It's 2AM on Friday night. It's dark. There is no dark like a moonless night in the country. My wife has draped her shirt over the clock's grey blinking. I have earplugs in, a habit learned of sleeping with infants in the room. I'm painfully sober and irrevocably awake. Each time I close my eyes, I start thinking. And the more I think, the more I think about my kids. And about death. And about fear.

About Columbine.

Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, self-published by Danny Ledonne in 2005 (but only recently mainstreamed), is a bizarre and brutal attempt at a documentary told through a game engine. Like most machinima, it uses antique game tools to tell a story. Unlike most machinima, rather than present a film as the final product, Ledonne left the game as an actual RPG, forcing the viewer-cum-player to participate in order to advance the plot. As the name implies, it puts you in the shoes of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold on April 20th, 1999, as they walk into Columbine High School in Colorado and kill twelve students, a teacher, and themselves.

The game draws heavily from historical accounts, fictionalizing surprisingly little along the way. I will admit to not being a student of the event. I remember being horrified, saying prayers for a few nights, having a few long and wine-soaked discussions among friends, and then trying to forget as quickly as possible. I didn't read the Time Magazine stories or watch the morning talk show interviews. I was thirty minutes into the game when I realized I simply had to know how much of the game was real, and how much was fabricated. Four hours of link-chasing wikipedia later, I was more disturbed than ever. Thousands of pages, pictures, videos and audiotapes surround the shootings, much of it written and recorded by the two themselves.

The premise of this fact-as-fiction construction -- that you must do something horrifying in order to advance the story -- is no more original than Grand Theft Auto. The difference is that when you shoot someone in the face with a sawed-off shotgun in GTA, it's pretend. When you do it in Columbine, you're reenacting. Of course, I have no problem playing Defcon in the face of Hiroshima, or playing the Germans in a game of Battlefield 1942. But this pixelated and pixilated nebbish of a game crosses some internal line where it's not OK. This juxtaposition is in and of itself disturbing. Many gamers, if not most, will launch SCMRPG!, play through the first 10 minutes, face that first act of violence and promptly delete the game. This should be considered ample evidence of being human.

I played through most of it. I don't recommend that you do so. Instead, go watch the video walk-through. The meat of the game ends 37 minutes in -- that's the close of the four minute slide show, depicting the families, friends and survivors, funerals and vigils. And that's where you should stop, because after that, the game goes too far.

I don't mean it crosses a moral line in the sand, I just mean that it tries too hard. The second half of the game takes our anti-heroes directly to hell, where they wander randomly, deliver books to Nietzsche, negotiate with the devil, engage in vague anti-Christian diatribes and exchange witty one-liners with various icons of history from Mario to Nixon. Hell is rife with inside game-industry jokes and pointless, rarely-funny jabs at celebrities. It's as if Ledonne, weary from the weight of his project, decides to work on his Trey Parker and Matt Stone impressions.

But even forgetting the game's bizarre second act, I'm still uncertain how seriously to take the author. The words of his "artist's statement" (a suspect title to start with) are heavy, and certainly imply that he takes his game very, very seriously -- more seriously than the second act would suggest; and the game is far from an endless and insensitive South Park sketch. Moments of it are deeply touching, more are deeply disturbing. It sets an oddly laconic tone leveraging everything from KMFDM song lyrics, T.S. Elliot, music evocative of both 1999 and King's Quest, what-if flashbacks, to crime-scene photographs. It repeatedly lulls you into identifying with the villains, and then slams you against the wall for doing so.

Super Columbine Massacre RPG! isn't a great game. It's not really even a game. Nevertheless, it was considered for the Slamdance Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition game festival, won a finalist slot from the jury, and then got the boot because it was too controversial. It got kicked not because it's bloody and features acts of violence -- the other finalists boast such selling features as "full dismemberment and decapitation." No, the imagined threat of legal action trumped all:

"Slamdance does not have the resources to defend any drawn out civil action that our legal council has stated can easily arise from publicly showing it."

Which is funny (both the "ha ha" funny and the eyebrow-raised sad-clown "weird" funny) in light of these comments from Ledonne's "artist's atatement":

"Somewhere between April 20th, 1999 and September 11th, 2001, America entered into a new, terrifying, and desperate era. Citizens can no longer afford to believe the necessary illusions of modern society. In an age when hastily-formed scapegoats and false dichotomies of 'good' and 'evil' run rampant, SCMRPG dares us into a realm of grey morality with nuanced perspectives of suffering, vengeance, horror, and reflection."

Personally, I don't need more evidence of a "new, terrifying and desperate era" than this kind of fear-induced self-censorship inside the cardboard-walled and desperate-to-be-hallowed halls of our industry.

I'm glad Ledonne made the game.

And I'm sure I'll sleep better in a week or two.


"Dont push me, cause I'm close to the edge.
I'm trying not to lose my head.
It's like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder
How I keep from going under."


Thank you for playing the game and writing the perspective for us, Rabbit. This sort of introspection and speculation is exactly what I'd hoped Perspectives would become. Great piece.

It sounds as if the end of the game is the half-hearted joke told after a really gruesome story to lighten the mood. It's not that the joke has to be funny, it's just there to provide distance from the mindset you were in before.

I don't really have anything else to add, but thanks for making me think.

As always Rabbit, an interesting read. Whether one agrees or disagrees, you always make for good reading. I must say that I am drawn in and scared at the same time. The concept of the moral high ground in the gaming world is an interesting one, and one that could have pages written about it. It is especially interesting when you consider that it is, after all, a game and you can turn it off and go back to your life (cue in your entire article on eVe online and the morality or should I say immorality that occurs there and was perpetrated by your subject).

What bothers me the most though is that I am drawn in by your article to actually play or at least see the game. Even though I can take it at face value that it is not a good game, and would, were I to play consider myself to be expanding my world view as well as opening myself up to view the world from the viewpoint of those two boys. I find that I am still bothered possibly by my moral compass. Further, seeing what actually happened within the structure and reality in the game really may have the effect of putting oneself in that building. I repeat that I am really taken aback that I actually want to participate in the game. At a visceral level I am drawn to it.

An interesting side note however is as I write this comment I want to play less and less. Let sleeping dogs lie as it were and not dive off the deep end into the internal emotional morass that the game may or may not bring out in me. That last sentence being written my internal self has said enough. So I will close my little comment here. I will walk away knowing I could have played, but chose not to in the end. At the same time I will hope and pray that an event so tragic does not touch my life personally today, tomorrow or ever in the future.

Thanks Rabbit - something I actually want to know about, but have no desire to experience for myself. Cheers for the vicarious insight.

Great piece. I have such faith in you, rabbit, that my opinion of SCMRPG is now based heavily on your own. I'll never play it, to be sure.

Given my recent comments regarding RP, I'm sure it's not a huge surprise that I'll want to play this, at least until the South Park stuff starts.

Like I said in the "Generate This!" comments, I know that this plays into Jack Thompson's hand, but I think that if the case is ever going to be made that video games can qualify as art, then this move should be made. Beyond that, I feel that it will really help me more fully understand a few very primal parts of the human condition, such learning being something of a fetish I have. I think it's that kind of ruthless examination that really helps elevate craftsmanship to the level of art, or stories to the level of literature. Sure, he's probably no James Joyce of the burgeoning computer literature scene, but I intend to play and support this venture.

In fact, I fully expect to be disgusted with myself while playing. I then intend to sit down and think for a good long time afterward, as I would after reading Dostoevsky or Goethe. I do not, however, expect that I will allow myself to be angry at the game or its designer for the way it makes me feel, bad design of cheap humor aside.

Full disclosure: I was these kids' age when it happened. My high school was called out on national radio as being perhaps the most like pre-tragedy Columbine in the nation. I was on the school administration's watch list after this. These facts do add to my desire to go through this. Part of me even feels like I need to do this, and not playing would be the easy way out.

Great article Rabbit.

I actually (if it is even possible) have less desire than ever to give this game a look. I see no need to try to "understand" evil.

Evil is evil, sick is sick, simple as that. I see no need to try to comprehend it, empathize with it, or try to learn anything from it. I would feel as if I was validating it if I did. It might even serve to further numb me towards such violence. I'd rather keep my sense of outrage, sadness, and horror regarding the Columbine events intact. I suppose my enjoyment of violence in games is based upon the game being a fantasy, not real life. Real life hits too close to home.

I've got no problem with someone releasing a 'game' like this in a free society, with free exchange of ideas and all that. It's just that this sort of 'examination' holds no real possibility of moving me or educating me. I know how I feel and I know what I think about what happened, and I can't see an RPG about Columbine changing that.

This well-written Perspectives is as close as I need to come.

Thanks for writing it.

You really think there is nothing to learn from Evil? Evil is cold and calculating and if we never attempt to learn from it it will just continue to outwit us in the same ways over and over to our detriment.

If you want to talk about it PM me, I don't want to derail rabbit's article.

Good perspective, rabbit. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about this game that, until now, had gone completely under my radar.

Someone want to start a seperate P&C thread about this, too?

Wow, incredibly well-said, Uberstein.

I don't think, Chiggie, that he's trying to say that we shouldn't try to understand how to head evil off at the pass, so to speak, but if he is, then that's where his thoughts and mine part ways. Otherwise I agree with his post so completely that I might have written it. If I was cooler.

I think the whole issue of examining evil is important. To ignore evil is to pretend it doesn't have genesis, cannot be changed, stopped, or altered. My investigation of Columbine, spurred by this game, has made me rething 100 preconceptions I have, not just about the shooting itself, but about how I, my peers, society, et. al. interact with our children, and how they interact with media. I say this not because I believe some attempt to link causality to these things is appropriate for this shooting, but because so much of our societal reaction focussed on finding something to blame.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and for the comments.

Thanks Rabbit. We've been having a spirited discussion about this one over in my neck of the woods, too. I don't want to derail you either, so I'll take this outside.

Perhaps you'd care to share these revised preconceptions with your reading public, rabbit? I have little interest in looking into this because I assume that good parenting is the answer to this kind of thing for the most part. In some cases, good parenting still doesn't avert really bad/criminal/murderous behavior, but in those cases I'm not sure anything would have.

I say all this as one who is pretty ignorant of the background of the Columbine killers, whose names I find that I still have etched into my memory, but don't want to contribute to their immortality by invoking them.

Fedaykin98 wrote:

Wow, incredibly well-said, Uberstein.

I don't think, Chiggie, that he's trying to say that we shouldn't try to understand how to head evil off at the pass, so to speak, but if he is, then that's where his thoughts and mine part ways. Otherwise I agree with his post so completely that I might have written it. If I was cooler.

I'm going to post what I said to Uber in private about the understanding of evil, if rabbit doesn't want this kind of discussion in his article comments then I'll move it on over to P&C.

Chiggie wrote:

"Understanding can lead to acceptance, and I certainly don't want to go there" seems like a phenominally contradictory statement. I think that if you immerse yourself in something enough to totally understand it and then find yourself accepting part of or even all of that event(not to say Columbine would apply) then you have further educated yourself on the inner workings of the world. If you truly try to understand Evil and you are not an evil person, you'll never accept it. We shouldn't be afraid to explore for fear our morals will be compromised. We can never be taken anywhere we don't believe we should be. I truly believe that.

It's like how Han didn't want to cut into his Ton Ton to immerse Luke in it's intestines to save his life on Hoth, but he knew that was the only way to truly do the right thing.

I mean, he thought they smelled bad, on the outside. He needed to dig below the surface into the disgusting part of his situation to find the best way to help his friend.

Anything, including this game, that lets us stand in those evil shoes and show us that we are still disgusted is a good thing.

Rabbit - I have to echo Chiggie here. Should we take this one outside? Because you guys just hit me right in the soapbox and I need to know if it's okay here.

This thread is exempt from normal P&C rules, I think, because the disucssion is relevant to the nature of the piece. It doesn't, however, give anyone rules not normally acceptable in P&C, which as always means be respectful and thoughtful.

Fedaykin98 wrote:

I don't think, Chiggie, that he's trying to say that we shouldn't try to understand how to head evil off at the pass, so to speak, but if he is, then that's where his thoughts and mine part ways.

Nope, you got it correctly the first time. I hope Chiggie doesn't mind my posting my response to his PM. I apologise if you do, Chig.

Uberstein wrote:
Chiggie wrote:

> "Understanding can lead to acceptance, and I certainly don't want to go there" is a phenominally contradictory statement.

To me, understanding breeds acceptance and tolerance. It's almost axiomatic. I don't think that I would become evil by trying to understand its causes, but I might come to excuse it. I have no wish to accept, tolerate, or excuse evil, therefore I don't seek to understand it.

Prevent it? Sure. Understand it? No thanks.

Chiggie wrote:

>We can never be taken anywhere we don't believe we should be.

I don't know. I've taken myself to some places in my youth that I knew deep down I shouldn't have been. Not because of what we're talking about here, but all the same, it is possible to lose one's perspective and through poor judgement end up where one does not want to be. It happens to people all the time. I suppose what I mean is 'getting lost,' and it can happen literally, emotionally or spiritually.

I guess I look at evil as just that. To me, it is to be abhorred, but not understood. Not to belabor the point, but true understanding generally leads to tolerance and acceptance. There's certainly room for more of it in our society.

Just not towards evil.

So, I'm oddly uninterested in the personal nature of this. I guess what I mean is that I don't particularly want to suggest I have a 'correct' opinion on the broad, sweeping topics of "why did they do it," "should someone have known," "why didn't someone notice," and so on. I think that's well trodden and salted ground, and I'm simply not interested in the debate. Sure, I have opinions, but they're surprisingly wishy washy and it would frankly depend on when you asked.

The more interesting discussion (to me, I ain't slammin' no one), and where I ended up after this exercise, is about how this particular medium can expose us to these very issues. How a game can prompt us into exploration and introspection. That such a crappy effort succeeds in this regard, simply by choice of subject matter and a modicum of editorial talent, suggests that this is an area ripe for development.

Chiggie Von Richthofen wrote:

We can never be taken anywhere we don't believe we should be. I truly believe that.

Are you sure about that? You don't think that someone can get themselves onto a slippery slope that leads them somewhere they never intended to go in the first place? I'm addressing this out of the context of this thread, since it seems like you're making a universal statement.

I'm not saying that by studying these guys that one will somehow be transformed into a murderer. Like I said, it is useful to study evil inasmuch as it helps to head it off at the past. For instance, one may wish to study Nazi Germany for this reason.

My thoughts (and perhaps Uber's, but I don't want to speak for him) on Columbine are different. I feel that by seriously studying and trying to understand these guys, we're somehow legitimizing them. By trying to understand the thought process, it's like we're admitting that there was some kind of rational and understandable thought process. It's sort of like how you sometimes say "I won't dignify that with a response" - in some ways, anything other than "Couple of evil whackos" is attributing them too much dignity.

On the other hand, I totally resonated with Uber's bit about "free exchange of ideas and all that". I'm all over that. I'm not against someone studying this; I just think it dignifies it, albeit unintentionally. Ultimately, I feel like one should preface any "understanding" of these scum with "Obviously, pathetic, cowardly SOBs" and THEN "Apparently, they were motivated by ________."

Fedaykin98 wrote:
Chiggie Von Richthofen wrote:

We can never be taken anywhere we don't believe we should be. I truly believe that.

Are you sure about that? You don't think that someone can get themselves onto a slippery slope that leads them somewhere they never intended to go in the first place? I'm addressing this out of the context of this thread, since it seems like you're making a universal statement.

I'm afraid that the statement is incomplete. I mean to say that no one is ever going to do something that conflicts with their immediate sense of right and wrong. I think killing is wrong, but I would not hesitate to kill a person attempting to harm my wife. Evil comes about when the moral compass of an individual is pointing the wrong way, but I think they still truly believe what they are doing is the right thing to do at that moment.

As far as not wanting to immortalize these two boys through playing a game about them, or even mentioning their names, I'm afraid the damage has already been done, my friend. Better to air out that old tomb of knowledge and start cataloging its contents in the wake of the tragedy. People that partake in these particular atrocities will always be immortalized, but if we never talk about it, explore possibilities, and collect evidence then we run the risk of letting them be immortalized as something other than cowards and bastards. If people don't step up and attempt to explain heinous acts and why they are heinous we allow immortalization to become romanticizing.

Chiggie, it looks like at the end of the second paragraph that you are suggesting that people never do something that they believe to be wrong. Are you? I'm pretty sure I've done things I knew were wrong. You know, as a teenager.

I'm not saying people can't say the names of the Columbine people, I'm just not going to. I suppose by doing that one may lend them a certain air of power, like people not wanting to say the bad guy's name in Harry Potter. But when I start to think about typing out their names, it's as if I'm referring to human beings or something. And I'm not.

Ultimately, there's probably total agreement that these guys were scum. I'm not sure what the proper reaction is: try to understand the incomprehensible and reprehensible, as if it can be understood, or write it off as inhuman monstrosity that cannot be related to. At the moment, I'm erring on the side of the latter. It's a hard thing, imho.

By trying to understand the thought process, it's like we're admitting that there was some kind of rational and understandable thought process.

Hrmmm.... I have a hard time with this one. Based on this, do we simply not try and understand the thought process of anyone we happen to disagree with? Let's posit (and hey, it ain't no stretch) that these guys were simply batsh*t crazy (on top of whatever definition of 'evil' we toss on top). Isn't there value in understanding the nature of insanity, if only to recognize it when we see it in less obvious forms.

Does it legitimize car theives to put alarms in your car? To analyze how they steal cars to make them harder to steal? A horrible and trivializing analogy, but my point is that you don't need to sympathize or legitimize simply by understanding.

That said, I'm not trying to suggest anyone has any kind of obligation to do this, I just don't see it in and of itself being an excercise simply in voyeurism.

When i played the game back when it came out, I was equally disturbed and enlightened. Yes, the subject matter is horrible, but so are WW2 games. I thought it did a good job, if crude, of getting into the minds of the kids, and seeing just how sad it was. Big thumbs up.

rabbit wrote:
By trying to understand the thought process, it's like we're admitting that there was some kind of rational and understandable thought process.

Hrmmm.... I have a hard time with this one. Based on this, do we simply not try and understand the thought process of anyone we happen to disagree with?

Dude, rabbit, you know I love you, but I don't see how you get that. I'm not talking about people I disagree with; I'm talking about these guys, whose actions were monstrous, hence I consider them monsters (as do many). I mean, I'm disagreeing over minutiae with Chiggie (and now you), but I'm not suggesting that there's no rational or understandable thought process going on with the two of you.

Fedaykin98 wrote:

Chiggie, it looks like at the end of the second paragraph that you are suggesting that people never do something that they believe to be wrong. Are you? I'm pretty sure I've done things I knew were wrong. You know, as a teenager. :wink:

I was saying just that. I think that you think you did bad things as a teenager because your sense of right and wrong between then and now has changed. Not to say you used to be a bad person, but to say that your sense of what is right is now more refined and larger in volume. Most teenagers do stupid or wrong things because they don't have a complete understanding of what they are doing, they just don't have a frame of reference to compare to. You do the stupid thing and now, as an adult, you do have a frame of reference: your previous act.

Now, I take it you didn't kill a dozen classmates or set a church on fire. I'm saying that people don't do things that conflict with their beliefs, and that's why they are called beliefs, but to remain ignorant of the motives of those whose beliefs differe 180 degrees from our own is to leave ourselves open to tragedy. That's why this game is a good thing, because it's an excersize in role reversal in a contained and safe environment.

Thanks Elysium.

I have a lot of argument about the "understanding evil" thing, but the discussion of this game doesn't even get to that point for me. You're not getting some sort of direct line into the shooter's heads. It's an interpretation, from the outside, of some events that occurred. There is already enough falsehood out there about this event. Everyone has had their opinions on the line here. And despite everything the game developer may or may not have drug out of wikipedia or the news archives, it's still his own interpretation of the events.

I had this same conversation with someone else about Nabokov's "Lolita". That is not some way of looking into the mind of a pedophile. It's a way of looking into the mind of a man who tried to come up with how he thought a pedophile thought. That makes this weak sauce if you're looking for true insight into them.

If you want to look at those boys, wade through their real writings yourself. At least then you're cutting out one layer of Babelfishing through the facts and their thoughts on the matter. This game gives you four - the boys', the "sources", the developers, and then yours. And we all know what that many runs through there does to even the most reasonable text.

Wait. The boy's!? That's right. If you honestly believe that what they wrote there is how they "really thought", you don't have a lot of experience with the mind of troubled teens. Those books and videotapes are a performance. This isn't how they really thought or felt. It's how they wanted to feel. The world didn't put them front and center and didn't give them grand enough events to make them feel okay, so they do it themselves. Read the writings of Kazinski, Bundy, de Sade, Hitler, Stalin and many others. Or heck, just take a quick run through the more emo sections of MySpace.

Now, I agree that "someone's interpretation" is as good a definition of art as we're going to get. Should this have been removed from a competition about games as art? I don't know. I personally am not fond of art for art's sake, as many self-titled artists and their art seems to be an attempt to chocolate-coat irresponsible and bad things so they will slide down the common gullet a little easier. His comments Rabbit quoted bring his motivations into large question for me.

Watch that video and see for yourself. It's not gray or nuanced. It's pure schlock drawn in primary colors right on the walls. That April day did not start a "new" era - school violence is a very old story. And it damned skippy sure didn't end on that September day six years ago, either. I love how he tried to bring both this and 9/11 into the same line as if there was some sort of relationship to the events. It's as bold an attempt to pander to people's fear and sense of outrage as "Bowling for Columbine". He's just used a different sort of candy coating around it, and it's just as sick-making to me.

Rabbit's mention of it changing how he looks at his kids worries me even more. If that's the outcome of playing this game then I'm doubly against it. I have a large, highly polished soapbox on this one. There is an entire industry out there today whose entire job is to make you afraid of kids, or to worry more about your kids. Especially teenagers. This is how they make their money, and they have the mainstream media dancing on their little pin heads. This sort of thing just helps feed that.

We are raising the least violent generation in the last 40 years, according to the FBI. Are they talking about that? No, instead they are using events like Columbine and working harder and harder to make even the most normal of childhood activities seem harmful or even deadly. Adults everywhere are firmly convinced that kids are all just timebombs waiting to go off and they're watching every move like a hawk. I've got some stories that would drop your jaw about some of the things I've seen people do.

I don't think people have the consistent morality that you do, Chig. To give an example, I once shoplifted a cassette tape when I was a teenager. I didn't think it was right. I knew it was wrong, and stupid as well. And there are plenty of times now when I'm impatient with my fiancee (or anyone), and I KNOW I'm doing the wrong thing, but I indulge my desire to be a [email protected]$$ or whatever instead of what I know is the course of greater character.

Hey Fed,

I don't think we really disagree.


You're perhaps my favorite writer when it comes to these issues, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for how well you've thought through a lot of this. I'll think hard about what you've written here, and there. The "thinking about my kids" comment hits home. I constantly wrestle with the issues of parental fear. I moved to the country because I couldn't imagine my kids running loose in the city, but then question my own judgment that the woods behind my house are somehow safer.

There are no right or wrong answers to those questions -- it's being a parent.

As for the game and the author -- I'm a big fan of removing intention from analysis. In college, it drove me crazy in Poetry classes when someone would start with 'I think the author is trying ...' because I don't see the point. Let's talk about what is in front of us, not intent, 'cause he's not a politician, he's supposed to be an artist.

So in looking at this -- whatever it is -- I really just thought of it, as much as possible, in a vacuum. And as such, it made me think. It's really rare that anything in the gaming world makes me think.

Anyway, I'm not actually sure whether I disagree with you or not. I mean it. But I really, really appreciate your thinking on this.

Yeah, man. I think I got a little preachy. I was really talking about the difference between good and evil, like adopting a puppy or setting it on fire.

I didn't mean the choices on a daily basis to take a shortcut or be an ass. Believe me, I usually take the low road on those situations. Any discussion where someone points out my "higher morality" is a discussion that has gotten way out of hand.

I'll preface this by saying that I took a lot away from a class back in college where we went through Mein Kampf. I wasn't about to sign up for any newsletters, but I do think I'm a better person for it.

I'd also like to say that before I'd label these two as monsters, I'd label them as children. I certainly feel sadness and regret in looking back more than I feel fear or anger.

As for the idea that we should avoid trying to understand these guys and what they did, I can see the point. After all, as Nietzsche said, "Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the Abyss, the Abyss gazes also into you." I'm not sure many of us are worried about the first half (though perhaps we should be), but the latter half there is famous for a reason. There's a reason that people looking into the eyes of a Jeffrey Dahmer feel fundamentally changed. To look at these people and their souls inherently (and there's a whole school of literary analysis here) involves looking into yourself and seeing similarities and differences (both, if you're honest).

I can't say that everyone should be peering into the abyss, even in spite of Socrates' notion that "the unexamined life is not worth living." It's been said, for example, that a nun in a convent, completely sheltered from temptation, is not a moral person, because she has never been forced to face temptation to do evil. That may or may not be true, but I certainly won't force her from the convent in order to give her a crack at it. In fact, I'd be doing evil myself if the woman wasn't somehow already prepared for the difficulties of temptation and ethical ambiguity.

I will say that seeing the abyss looking back, and knowing that, aside from the twisted pathways that these two boys went down, they felt the same kinds of emotions that I've felt: be that embarrassment, anger, pride, sadness, or anything else. I am willing to accept that I have perhaps more things in common with those boys than I'd like to admit, but I'd also like to explore how they were different and how I might be able to see things like this coming. After all, those of us living outside the convent must learn from history in order to avoid repeating it.

Interestingly, both Neitsche and Socrates show up in hell uttering both quotes. (In the game).