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Mainly a videogame trope due to Gameplay and Story Segregation. This is where one specific death/murder is treated as far more dire than the others, despite the circumstances meaning there should be little difference from others considering the countless people whom you brutally killed before, especially as you probably enjoyed torturing them, too.

Many examples of If You Kill Him You Will Be Just Like Him fall under this, and it tends to be even more obnoxious for video games as the number of people you killed before that moment is likely to be exponentially higher. Guess all those minor enemies you sliced through on the way over don't count, at least as far as the Cutscene is concerned.

Occasionally a Justified Trope if the character surrenders or is at the characters mercy, as opposed to self-defense. If jail or some non-lethal alternative is not available, though, one wonders just what the character was supposed to do.

This trope is related to Moral Dissonance. Compare Big Damn Villains, where the character is conveniently spared from having to make such a decision because a different villain kills the person. Also compare A Million Is a Statistic.

Characters who do this may have Wrongful Accusation Insurance.

Examples of Selective Condemnation include:
  • In the Xbox beat-um-up game Minority Report, (loosely) based on the movie with Tom Cruise, your character is trying to prove himself innocent of the "future-murder" of someone that the police psychics foresaw him killing. Most of the gameplay is your guy trying to escape the police, by violently beating the shit out of them, smashing them through tables/chairs, throwing them off of skyscrapers, throwing them into huge vats of luminous green shit in a robot factory, etc. And yet, despite the HUNDREDS of murders of police you committed over the course of the game while you were violently resisting arrest and running from the law, you are welcomed back onto the force after it turns out that you didn't kill that one guy.
    • Also, even before you were wanted, your guy was pretty much the most horrifically brutal cop the world has ever seen. In the first mission, you are trying to arrest a guy who runs a catering company. Apparently, the best way to do this was to beat dozens of his employees to death with your bare hands, continue to sadistically beat them and break all the furniture in the board room with their heads after they have gone limp and stopped resisting, force their faces onto lit stoves, and throw them out of skyscraper windows to their deaths. He doesn't even arrest them. And afterwards, he gets complimented for fine police work.
  • In Galerians, Rion, the main character, seems upset and remorseful after killing Birdman, when the player could and most likely DID kill several scientists, security guards, insane people, guards in mechanical armor that initially appear to be robots, artificially created but intelligent monsters, and fellow psychics, and also destroyed an android that the player and character thought was human until he was severely injured before reaching this point in the game.
    • Slightly subverted in the fact that it is entirely possible to run from and not even have to ATTACK a single enemy in the game up to that point with the exception of the first boss, who is actually just an android, though this is somewhat difficult and due to the fact that Rion's powers can 'short' and cause him to automatically kill any normal enemy in the area until calmed down, a player has to practically go considerably out of their way to avoid killing anyone.
  • Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness: Lara is framed for Von Croy's murder and chased by the Paris police force; never mind the many, many people she actually does kill in the game and in the earlier games; including innocent museum guards in the middle of London, most of the staff of Area 51 (surely the USA must have some cameras at one of its most important facilities?) and a gang massacre in broad daylight on the streets of Venice.
  • The Grand Theft Auto series does this several times:
    • The protagonist of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is said to have spent 15 years in prison before the beginning of the game on account of 11 counts of murder. The player can kill far more than that in a rampage, be arrested by the police and reappear immediately afterward outside a police station, having lost only his weapons and some cash. (There's a small Lampshade Hanging here, as an audio clip is played of the character's lawyer making vague threats to the cops, but one would think it'd take a little more than that...)
      • One Vice City mission requires the protagonist to shoot cars/kill people ... because apparently Vietnam really, really sucked. So, yeah.
    • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas contains a central plot point involving the protagonist being forced to do the bidding of a crooked cop, who has in his possession a gun used in the murder of a police officer. He threatens to use it to frame CJ, and it's implied that this gun alone is evidence enough for a murder conviction and life imprisonment sentence. However, in-game, the player can freely murder police officers in broad daylight (often dozens at a time), and subsequently actually be arrested, with no dire consequences.
      • Not to mention the time CJ and Ryder stole a ton of guns from a National Guard depot, shooting dozens of soldiers in the process. You know, treason.
      • An optional side-quest requires CJ, the protagonist, to murder about twenty police officers. Why are they gunning for him? He took pictures of blueprints for a casino.
    • Oh, yes, in all three GTA games, if you are skilled you can escape punishment for murder of cops by -bribing- them.
    • Grand Theft Auto IV introduces "morality choices," points in the story at which the player is given the option to kill certain characters, or let them go. The story treats murder as a very serious subject, and Niko often expresses regret if the player opts for the "kill" route. This is all despite the fact that the player is encouraged, and indeed sometimes must, kill hundreds of (sometimes innocent) people in-game, something the player can do with near-impunity.
  • In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, there is a quest to find Sunry, a Republic spy charged with murdering Sith spy Elassa Huros, innocent in court. The player can only free him if they convince the judges that Sunry was not the murderer (in a twist, he actually is). Yet the player can (and, in fact, has to) infiltrate the Sith base, slaughter its entire personnel, and then convince the judges to let them go. In fact, the game lampshades this when Sunry says to Jolee Bindo, one of the player's party members: "All I did was kill a Sith! How many have you killed? Hundreds? Thousands?" Of course, there is a slight difference between killing armed enemies who are shooting at you, and murdering a defenseless woman in her sleep. After having sex with her. Which Jolee himself will point out.
    • Better than the other way around.
    • Same game: Let an innocent old man be smacked around by a mobster's henchmen? You lose vital stats in the 'Light Side' category. Rob house after house after house and terrorize those within? Apparently not a bad thing at all. Your Republic soldier ally says nothing on this.
  • And of course there's the last two Jedi Knight games, both of which end with an If You Kill Him You Will Be Just Like Him situation after you've just butchered your way through countless soldiers and technicians you're supposedly at peace with.
    • Granted, in Jedi Academy at least, the guy you need to kill or spare is just an unfortunate kid who was intimidated into joining the enemy, has already regretted his defection, and is on his knees, begging for his life. Killing armed terrorists (which is what the Remnant are), criminals, and lightsaber-wielding psychopaths hell-bent on killing you, is a whole different matter.
  • In World of Warcraft, attempting to loot a corpse that was killed by another player prompts your character to say "That would be stealing" - never mind the questionable ethics of scavenging the corpses of thousands of NPCs the player has himself killed.
    • Made particularly entertaining by the fact that this message only comes up when the server lags badly enough to interrupt the loot process - NPCs killed by other players don't even appear as lootable in the retail version. This is probably an artifact from the alpha/beta versions.
      • Especially entertaining because your character gets involved in murder, assassination, arson, kidnapping (of infants in some cases), slavery, genocide, chemical/biological warfare, killing refugees, ripping people's hearts out to summon demons, killing prisoners, killing allies, backstabbing and a whole host of other fun morally reprehensible actions.
    • Also, in Northrend, a certain faction gets very upset for a while when you kill animals in the zone... but killing animals anywhere else is fair game.
      • Especially since they're clearly investigating you very closely to determine whether the blood on you from the thing you killed three or less minutes ago came from a humanoid or beast. Killing people is okay, but not the wildlife. Probably intentional. Those wacky druids!
  • At the end of the movie Equilibrium, the Big Bad argues that the hero cannot kill him, as doing so would be murder, something that should be reprehensible to the hero now that he can feel emotions. The Big Bad seems to be conveniently forgetting the 60 or so Mooks the hero just slaughtered to get to him, a dozen or so of whom are laying dead right at his feet.
    • Given his statement of "I live, I breathe, I feel" he might have been differentiating between himself and the people on Prozium, who aren't "alive" in the same way as the Big Bad and Preston. Of course, he took a fraction of a second to think it over, so still not very effective.
      • If anything, the speech just motivated Preston, because the Big Bad is demonstrating how much he needs to go by marginalizing the soldiers who are on Prozium while he himself is being the consummate hypocrite dictator.
  • In Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, you're often given a Light Side or Dark Side choice after defeating each boss. The Dark Side choice typically results in you beating the crap out of (but not killing) the boss (who's still in fighting condition, by the way). Somehow this is considered an "evil" act, despite the incredible pummeling you'd inflicted on the boss during the boss fight itself.
    • Except that there is a slight difference between doing what you must in order to stop a dangerous man from harming innocent people and using excessive force in order to turn someone into pudding For the Evulz. That's the whole point of morality; it's not what you do, it's the way that you do it and why.
      • Of course this issue is subverted... averted...? It does a triple axel backflip before hitting the ground at mach three, at least. One of the particularly bizarre morale "quandries" is thus; Dark Side - Rough up Electro and call him a loser for dying. He -gets up- out of pure rage and survives to help with the symbiote invasion. Light Side - Handle Electro with kids gloves, he dies peacefully in your arms. DIES. What's the moral of this story exactly??
  • In Condemned: Criminal Origins, the player character must bludgeon dozens of homeless people to death in order to hopefully prove his innocence in the murder of two police officers. It must be said, however, that the bluedgeonings were pretty much done in self-defense. Then again, they are homeless people. Truth in Television and all that.
  • Your Voice with an Internet Connection in Metal Gear Solid gets very upset if you massacre animals (even attack dogs). Nobody bats an eye if you kill guards, even if you do something horrible to them. Except in MGS3, where The Sorrow will punish you quite frighteningly.
    • Well, the people you run into in Metal Gear games typically are either enemy soldiers or Ax Crazy supervillains; you're an agent sent to stop their plans (in effect: Kill them before they nuke something), so killing them is precisely the goal that your supervisors want done. Meanwhile, gunning down rats does nothing except waste ammo and demonstrate sadism.
    • Actually, Liquid speculates that Snake does enjoy the killing, and calls him out for this at the end of Metal Gear Solid. Snake claims that Liquid's plot to catapult the world into a chaotic, war-torn state is insane; Liquid argues that it was their father's dream to create a world where soldiers are respected. Snake claims he doesn't want that world, and Liquid counters by pointing out most of FoxHound and many mooks were killed by Snake; this is presumably intended to make the player think about their actions.
    • It goes further in MGS4, where offing too many people causes Snake to have a flashback to Liquid's "you like the killing" speech, after which he loses a healthy chunk of Morale.
  • Runescape, like many other MMORPGs, is particularly heavy offender thus making your main character extremely hypocritical. That is Lampshaded quite often in this game.
  • Averted in Tales of Symphonia. Main character Lloyd does not consider any one life to be more important than another, from the lowliest Mooks to the Big Bad himself, and his biggest goal in the game is to avoid deaths on both sides of the war. Mind you, he'll still kill endless hordes of enemies if the player is so inclined, but he'll at least feel bad about it later.
    • Furthermore, it's Lampshaded by Genis, who says he has no right to condemn Regal for being a self-admitted murderer when he's had to kill several dozens, if not hundreds, of people to get to this point in the story.
    • That said, that skit about bearing the responsibility for Magnius's life seems a bit awkward, as you've fought quite a few humans by that point. Also, Lloyd doesn't seem to care about having taken out the Desians that saw his face at the Human Ranch very early in the game.
    • Also, Tales of Vesperia in spades, where an important subplot is the Knight in Shining Armor Flynn, who believes that justice is something that needs to be worked through its own rules, and Yuri, who is a vigilante. Especially comical when Flynn, then Yuri's party, call him out on the murders of two corrupt nobles. Because all the knights crawling the capitol and all the bandits you meet on the road don't count as much. And the everyone else helped with those.
      • Those knights and thieves were actively trying to kill the party. Ragou and Cumore were defenseless and could have been caught and brought in to the (horribly flawed) justice system.
    • Tales of the Abyss also plays a bit with this trope: There are no Random Encounters with human enemies until Luke kills a human in a cutscene and suffers a Heroic BSOD for it: Barring cheating, it is virtually impossible for Luke to have killed a human in a battle up until that point.
  • The World Ends With You: Neku and Beat must kill at least a dozen Red Shirts in the third week. ALL the Reapers are brainwashed by O-pins, except one lucky bastard who missed the memo requiring him to wear his. Yet Beat and Neku only spare the three that are identified NPCs, 777, Usuki, and Kariya. When Neku suggests that they erase the latter two he says something along the lines of, we can't kill them because they're Brainwashed and Crazy. Especially egregious because Uzuki and Kariya were the only Non-Game Master Reapers actively trying to erase them at any point in the game, while the rest just made you buy stuff or fight Noise. Even if it took them till Day 6 to realise that the Reapers were brainwashed on day seven he goes back to erasing hapless Red Shirts. Of course... The Red Shirts in question were all of the Harrier (player-erasing) variety rather than Support (fetch-quest-assigning) variety, and Kariya had been erratically nice to Neku. Of course, Uzuki was still pretty violent for pretty much the whole game.
    • 777 doesn't even have that excuse, this was back when the reapers were attacking you for promotions. 777's way of saying "thank you" for running around Shibuya for him, apparently.
  • In Arcanum one can streak through town all they like and get no real lasting penalties from it, but when you do it for a quest everyone reacts and you get a bad reputation out of it.
  • In Fable you can slice, magic, and shoot through hordes of NPC enemies, villagers, town guards, and the like. You can kill your best friend in the arena, defeat her brother for the hand of an evil woman and kill an ex-hero. You can steal from shops, break into homes, cheat at bar games, and sacrifice villagers for better weapons and still be able to repent for all that. Murder your sister for the ultimate power? Its implied that you are a heartless bastard and go on to be a tyrant.
    • Used in a ridiculous way in the original Fable. Generally, you get good Karma Points for killing bandits and monsters, the explanation obviously being that you rid society of evil and that they can't do any more harm. However you get Evil Karma Points for killing the Bandit Chief Twinblade. Sure, he has surrendered, but it's not like you redeemed or anything, leaving him alive would just lead to him eventually doing more evil. It should be the other way round, really.
      • Especially since one the quests you DO get good alignment for, revolves around you helping the Bowerstone guards drag a bandit prisoner up the hill to be beheaded as he cries and screams and begs for mercy (once you are within sight of the bloodstained chopping block in a cutscene).
  • Vampire: The Masquerade -- Redemption consists mainly of the ever-pious Christof cutting a swath of violence through one dungeon after another. He invariably says something along the lines of "can't we work this out peacefully?" upon reaching the boss. Y'know, because we're all God's children... except for those of us whose names happen to be "Setite".]
  • Hitman: Blood Money - The newspaper articles quite clearly say that dead guards just aren't that important; logical when you off a drug baron, not so much at the Paris Opera.
    • It actually serves a more pragmatic reason; the police simply assume that any guards that were killed were murdered so the assassin could get to his real target. As such, it just makes sense to try to solve who killed the main target; it's not like the guard was specifically targeted for death, he was just in the way.
  • Scarface the World Is Yours: Tony's whole 'morality' is built on not screwing anyone who didn't give him grief. However, optional side missions with hired guns encourage the murders of civilians. No mention of anything is made if the driver goes on a decapitation rampage in a bank.
  • At the end of Fallout 3, you have to option of sparing the life of Colonel Autumn, The Dragon whose only shown redeeming feature is that he doesn't want to use the modified FEV, who shot a defenseless female scientist just to encourage the rest of the team, and who willfully ordered the soldiers at Raven's Rock to attack you even after his superior had ordered them to stand down so he could talk to you. Meanwhile you don't spare a single thought for every drugged-up raider, every feral ghoul, every supermutant and every Enclave soldier following his Colonel's order that you've shot, burned, stabbed and vaporised over the course of the game. Even at the start of the game you're condemned by Amata if you kill the Overseer, but not a single word is said about all his guards you killed on the way out. People you've known all your life.
    • Justified in that the guards really want you dead (they actively look for you and attack on sight with one exception) while the Overseer does not show such bloodthirsty tendencies and can be reasoned with.
      • Debatable, they actively look for you and attack on sight because the Overseer ordered them to (after having them kill your dad's friend). Just because he's too cowardly or "civilized" to get his hands dirty with the actual violence, should he really be spared him from reprisal?
      • The overseer also asks you to surrender and hand over your weapon. If you do so, he starts shooting you with the weapon.
  • In Advance Wars: Dual Strike, the Big Bad Von Bolt dares you to shoot him in order to stop his evil scheme, claiming it would make you as bad as he is. This in spite of the hundreds, possibly thousands, of enemy units you've killed and allied units destroyed under your command to get this far. Not to mention the deaths that would be caused if he did succeed. Bear in mind that you can say "Yes", in which case Jake basically points out the above and shoots him.
  • Kingdom of Loathing gives you a chance to bet on a cockfight. If you choose to walk away, it mentions how disgusted you are by the concept, and that you should go slaughter some more Yetis for their meat.
  • Rainbow Six Vegas 2 has an odd version. Shoot teammates or civilians too much and you get a Nonstandard Game Over and lose experience points. Toss a block of C4 into the room with the captured NSA agent from the second level and blow him up along with the terrorists guarding him, though... Granted, he is scripted to die no matter what you do, but still.
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