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This is the potential a video game has for the player to do awful, horrible things to enemies or even friendly and neutral NPCs.

It can be knee shots causing screaming, telekinesis to literally play catch with guards, punching out scientists, or many, many other things. Something Awful has dubbed two specific variations of video game cruelty as Asshole Physics and Asshole AI.

Some games specifically cater to this; these often skip out on a Karma Meter. This can also be the carrot along the path to The Dark Side for players in a game with a Karma Meter.

The severity of this trope varies. Some games only let you be cruel to your enemies and give harmless NPCs immunity. (Harmless enemies will still be fair game.) Other games let you torment random NPCs you meet along the way. Still other games give you absolute, unchecked control over your subjects.

This trope is often used for laughs. Remember, though: Just because a game lets you do something doesn't necessarily mean you should do it.

Contrast Video Game Caring Potentialthough sometimes helping your little drones means doing horrible things to their enemies... See also What the Hell, Player? and Video Game Perversity Potential.

One of the Acceptable Breaks From Reality. You may laugh at video games, but if someone did this in Real Life? You probably wouldn't be laughing. And if you are, then you're a sick freak.

Sub-Tropes to Video Game Cruelty include:

If an example fits in one of the subtropes, it doesn't need to be listed on this page.

For examples where someone takes joy in being a dick to other players, see Griefer.

Examples of Video Game Cruelty Potential are listed on these subpages:
Examples In Fiction

Anime & Manga

  • Digimon Adventure 02 has a villain who takes this to the extreme; it's quite clearly implied that he treats Digimon absolutely horribly... however, we then learn that he was under the impression that the Digital World was a video game all along.
  • This happened again in Digimon Xros Wars. This time, Yuu Amano was manipulated by the villains into thinking the digital world was just a game world where he could play however he wished. All he wanted was a way to play to the best of his abilities without the risk of anyone getting hurt, and when he finds out this isn't the case- and that a lot of death and destruction has come from it- he also has a major breakdown. Fortunately, the heroes, one of whom is his loving sister, are more than willing to forgive him and help him come to terms with things.

Comic Books

  • Kid Paddle when he plays SimCity. He put barbed wire around the city so noone can leave it, and raised taxes to 100% to pay for the police he needs to oppress the population. Not surprisingly, when asked what the biggest problem is, 100% of the people say "The mayor!"


  • In WarGames, David and Jennifer definitely get into the spirit of this trope when they start playing the "Global Thermonuclear War" and gleefully discuss which U.S. cities they should bomb first.


  • In Animorphs, the Ketrans had a god game called Alien Civilizations. The Capasins wiped the Ketrans out because they caught their transmissions and thought it was real.
  • In Ender's Game the battle school students are basically forced to use this to its furthest extent in order to beat the game on their electronic desks.
    • Hell, this is essentially how the plot is resolved: Ender is tired of playing games for the military, and does what he thinks is the most despicable and cruel thing he can possibly do in order to get out of it - slams the device into the alien planet and destroys the whole thing, including all of the ships in orbit from both sides. Turns out that's exactly the response they wanted.
      • It was also his only choice for victory when faced with overwhelming odds. "The enemy gate is down" indeed.
    • And this also comes into play even earlier with "The Fantasy Game", the recreational computer game that the students play. Ender not only discovers he can kill the Giant that commands the unbeatable "Giant's Drink" minigame, but also has to kill the "wolf-children" that he finds, and then repeatedly kills the snake he finds in the tower. However, it's inverted in that final level. The way around the snake in the tower challenge is not to kill the snake, but to love it.
  • In Daemon, Loki sees humans who are not part of the Darknet as NPCs. The Daemon does not allow him to outright kill them for no reason, but he can torment them in various ways (like destroying their bank accounts). When he is able to kill them (as part of a mission or in self-defense), he does so happily and in the most gruesome way available to him.
  • The mid-80s collection of computer articles Digital Deli includes the "Crunchy Computer" comics. When hippie Crunchy tries to steer his son away from violent video game fair by giving him the "Save the Whales" game, Crunchy Jr. finds it far more fun to shoot the whales.

Live Action TV

  • Spaced mentioned this in an episode where Tim is playing Tomb Raider. When Brian notes that Lara Croft is drowning and asks if that's the point, Tim replies that it "Depends what kind of mood you're in."
  • The Star Trek holodeck gives the characters to plenty of chances to do horrible things to their in-universe fictional worlds.
    • One Star Trek: Voyager episode features Tuvok strangling a hologram of Neelix to death.
    • In an episode of Deep Space Nine, Nog invites Jake Sisko to spend their day looting and pillaging a city in the holodeck.
    • Another episode centered around a Holodeck Malfunction with a James Bond theme. In order to buy time so they could rescue the crew, Bashir pushes the "submerge the world" button, drowning all but the highest mountaintops. Everyone is just shocked at this, including the villain who was planning on doing it.
    • In The Next Generation, after Data inexplicably experiences anger during a fight with a Borg drone, he creates a Holodeck program where he kills the drone repeatedly in an attempt to replicate the emotion.
    • In a very intentional case, Seska sabotaged the Holodeck into a death trap that reprogrammed itself to torture its occupants.
  • Community features an episode with Troy and Abed playing a war game that turns out to award points for killing innocent civilians, as they learn when they start playing with a guy who is unbeknownst to them an actual war criminal.
    • Another has a Legend of Zelda-esque shopping trip turn into the brutal murder of the shopkeep and his wife, the shop being burned down, and their daughter now forced to marry or live in the woods.

Tabletop Games

  • Related to this trope, Exalted has an inherent metaphysical bond between two player character types. While it was meant by the divinities who put it in place to be the stuff of eternal romances and battle-forged friendships, the nature of the bond between the Solar and the Lunar Exalted has the potential for great abuse, both within the world and with certain magical abilities the Solars possess that can subjugate their Lunar Mate even more. There is a reason, after all, one Solar charm was dubbed the Lunar-taming Leash.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • In an episode of X-Men: Evolution, a teenage (but not evil) version of Arcade hacks into Cerebro and commands it to attack all the X-Men who show up in the Danger Room, believing it is simply an advanced computer game.
    • For some reason he doesn't recognize any of the "characters" as his schoolmates.
      • Well, obviously, he thinks everyone except Kurt created a "character" who looked just like them.
  • Averted in The Venture Brothers where 21 and 24 are discussing Tomb Raider and how Lara could drown, which a horrified 21 described as grisly.
  • In The Simpsons episode "The Regina Monologues", Bart and Milhouse are playing a video game called Hockey Dad, which, as the name implies, is a fighting game that involves two dads at their kids hockey match. Bart manages to win essentially by ignoring the child of his character pleading for him to stop, as he didn't want the dad to resort to murdering Milhouse's character (note that when the kid was begging him not to, the dad in question was literally stomping the snot out of his opponent's face [well, blood, but still], and his final blow involved strangling his opponent with the opponent's own tie). The winning screen has the winning dad doing a victorious pose and is implied to be arrested by the police, although whether this was supposed to be Video Game Cruelty Punishment was debatable, given the fact that there was a winner sign, the dad smiling while being carted away by the police, and the announcer saying "You're a big man! BIG MAN!!"