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Spec Ops: The Line - Excuses, Self-Deception, Ignorant [Spoiler]

If I ask you, what is the most controversial scene in a video game you’ve played, You’d probably think of some very famous scenes, like “No Russian” mission in COD: Modern Warfare 2, or the GTA V torture scene. But for me, the most horrendous, dark and provocative scene is one of the missions of “Spec Ops: The Line”. Released in 2012, Spec Ops: The Line is a commercial disaster and socially ignored video game. Most likely, One of the reasons behind this was the marketing campaign of the game. This game is trying to demonstrate how far one would go to lie to themself and ignore the consequences of their action. On the other hand, it was marketed as just another 3rd-Person war-themed game.

A Little Background

The reason this game came to my attention after 8 years is because of recent tragic events in my, … country. A plane was targeted by not one, but two missiles. I personally knew some of the passengers of this flight and it is very hard for me to believe this heart-wrenching tragedy. The government continuously lied for 3 days about the crashed and after pressure from the foreign countries, they admitted they’ve done this horrible thing. One thing that made me very angry is, literally, every person in the government blames another country for their mistake and they keep saying, “We will avenge the victims”! Yes! they first killed innocent people now they want to avenge them! (from who?! the other country!!). These events reminded me of the game, Spec Ops: The Line and its horrific “White Phosphorus”.

Death of a mother and her child by White Phosphorus.
Death of a mother and her child by White Phosphorus.

In the game, you are controlling Martin Walker, a US Captain whose mission is helping the rescue of people of Dubai. As you progress the game, your action causes the death of many people, Including other US soldiers, and of course, the horrific death of civilians by White Phosphorus. This is one of the most intense scenes in video game history for sure! Not only it is scary, sad and dark, but it was also caused by you, the player!

When I played Spec Ops: The Line, I wasn’t blind to these events, and It didn’t shock me that much, but it was still disturbing. Spec Ops: The Line is such a brilliant masterpiece that was subject to some game studies conducted by game researchers. Kristine Jørgensen wrote did a very detailed user study and reported people’s feelings and thoughts when they played this game. You can find her paper here. There are also some youtube’s who played the game live, and the events of the game made them very discomfort able. For example, see the reaction of this player, when she goes through this mission. (Not sure how much her reactions are authentic, but this is an example of what people experience after seeing they’ve done a bad mistake in-game).

The Art of Self-Deception

What actually hit me in the face was the Waller’s dialog after killing all those innocent people, he said: “I’m gonna make these bastards pay for what they’ve done”. This is very in the same direction as things our government keep saying for the last two weeks.

"I'm gonna make these bastards pay for what they've done." - Walker's dialog after killing innocent people
"I'm gonna make these bastards pay for what they've done." - Walker's dialog after killing innocent people

When you such scenes in the video game, you usually tell yourself this is not real, this is a video game. In my life, I heard things such as “This is not real, it is a game, “It just a game”, “This can’t happen”, or such absurd calimes about video games. But the bitter truth is, this can happen in real life too. I am not talking about the exact events in real life, I am talking about people’s behaviors and reactions. The amount of self-lie and excused one can make to ignore such a tragic accident is infinite! Yet alone blaming someone else for your actions and incompetence.

Full Game Review

At the end of this sad post, I am gonna leave you with a lengthy in-depth review of Spec Ops: The Line made by Raycevick. You can watch his review below:

  1. The Positive Discomfort of Spec Ops: The Line
  2. Spec Ops The Line… 5 Years Later - An In-Depth Review
  3. Spec Ops Part 8 - Walkthrough by TheGirlFromAus
  4. “Do You Feel Like a Hero Yet?” Spec Ops: The Line and Ludonarrative Dissonance


  1. Spec Ops: The Line” is a property of 2K Games.