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Great moments in PC gaming: Sneaking into the wrong bathroom in Deus Ex

Great moments in PC gaming are short, bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.  

Deus Ex

Developer: Ion Storm
Year: 2000

Sometimes, it's the little things. Yes, Deus Ex is a sprawling, complex conspiracy thriller that rode high in lists of the greatest games ever, but mention it, and it's rarely long before someone brings up being shouted at for going into the ladies' toilets. One of the few times a toilet has been considered a major game feature, if you don't count Infocom's text-adventure Leather Goddesses of Phobos tying your choice of toilet to in-game gender.

Of course, it’s more than just an angry bark from an NPC. It's proof that the game is watching, and taking notes on what you do, with the unspoken element of "If we’ve flagged this, what else are we flagging?" It's a demonstration that rules really are there to be broken, either through ignoring social mores, or handling a hostage situation with a shrug and some heavy explosives. Or just running away from a boss instead of fighting them, in clear violation of Shooter Character Rule 73B (no relation to 74C, which we all know is "respect the chest-high walls at all times").

It's not the first time that a game reacted to something like this, not even close. Ultima Underworld 2, for instance, would let you start attacking people in its central castle until you got thrown in jail, then let you out, and if you did it again, just put you back in there to rot. Deus Ex was part of the first wave of shooters really looking to marry action and simulation, to create the illusion of being part of a world rather than simply presenting one as target practice. Something as simple as going into the wrong toilet was a way of showing that even non-violent actions could have consequences, and that the simulation was complex enough to be able to sweat those little details as well as the big stuff. In practice, it never really does anything like that again, and many of the bigger features like the enemy AI were, well, less than groundbreaking.

That doesn't matter. It only takes a few moments to sell an illusion and encourage you to play a little smarter, a little more in keeping with your assigned role in the game. And if you want to break out of that for your own amusement? That's always pretty entertaining too.