This post serves as a correction to a factual error I make towards the end of Killing is Harmless. The book will soon be updated with a footnote that links to this article (along with a couple dozen fixed typos thanks to the amazing support of some of my readers!). This post contains spoilers for Spec Ops: The Line and, if it is possible for a piece of criticism to have spoilers, for Killing is Harmless. I recommend reading Killing is Harmless before you read this post, if you are going to read it at all.
So I made a simple error as to how one of the endings plays out. Interestingly, what I have written in Killing is Harmless is exactly what I thought happened, and in my memory it is still exactly how I remember it happening. It's as though my memory has pushed out the real events and inserted something more palatable—not unlike Walker does throughout the game, really.
I have written in the book that the first time I played, I let Konrad count to five, and he shot before I made any choice. After this, I said that, somehow, Konrad still died. This, it has been pointed out to me, is not what happens. What actually happens if you don't make a choice before Konrad gets to five, is that he does indeed shoot and kill Walker, playing out the same ending as if the player makes Walker shoot himself.
So what did I do that made me misunderstand it so? As I write in the book, I was not ready to make a choice. Konrad was counting so fast. He was up to "THREE" before I was even starting to think about what to do. So, what must have happened was that I just freaked out and pulled the trigger, scared as I was of what would happen if he got to "FIVE". So I shot Konrad, I refused to acknowledge what I did, and the game continued.
In the book—in my memory—what I have said is that at this point I was still refusing to make a choice; I was still denying my own responsibility. This is still what I was doing when I shot him and then suppressed the memory, to be sure, but more than this, I was also being a coward. Clearly, I was denying my own denial by not accepting what I had done. Like, I truly believed that I had not shot Konrad. Even after a couple of readers emailed me to tell me I was wrong, I had to go back and play this chapter again before I believed them. In my head, my memory is still that I didn't fire.
So I don't believe this changes my interpretation of the game at all. Rather, I think it is fascinating that my memory warped the events of the game much as Walker's mind warps the events he went through.
Perhaps the only insight I missed making was that some players, when Konrad started talking, just put the controller down and wait for Konrad to make the shot. It's not so much a continued refusal to make any more choices, as I read it, but a refusal to continue playing. Just as killing yourself at this point is accepting responsibility for your own choices, allowing Konrad to kill you is making the choice to no longer play the game. Each option includes the player accepting something about themselves, and each in its own way ends with Walker's death.
So that is a factual mistake I made in Killing is Harmless. My description of my experience is still accurate, but I think it is important to note that that is not how that choice actually plays out. But how fascinating is it that, as a narrator of this book, I have become as unreliable in the retelling of some experiences as Walker himself? I think that is incredible.
Thank you again, everyone, for your support of the book. It has been an incredible success and I can never repay such kindness.