Hitman is a 2016 stealth-action game developed by IO Interactive. In it, you play the eponymous hitman, a nearly superhuman assassin named Agent 47. Usual gameplay involves sneaking into fashion shows or hotels, switching disguises to remain undetected, disabling guards, and gradually making your way to the target who you then assassinate. Hitman penalizes any killing that is not of the intended target, and as such the game has lethal and non-lethal ways of dealing with guards and civilians. I have played Hitman quite a bit and have unlocked most of the special equipment you can bring into a mission, this is why in the video I begin with a non-lethal concealable baton and stash a silenced submachine gun in the attic (though I end up never using it). The level I chose is the first main level of the game, which takes place in a Parisian fashion show. The levels in this game take pride in their scale and this level is no exception. As a result of the sheer number of bodies in this level that I had to pile up this video was particularly long (around sixteen hours in total) and was completed by me in several sittings. The final product is a stitched together version of those sittings.
Obviously, a main distinguishing feature of this body pile is how long it took to create it. Previous attempts on a weaker computer crashed after just completing the top floor, and I assumed piling the whole level would actually be impossible on any current computer. I do accomplish it, but many hours of the video are reduced to stuttering, choppy video by the intense burden on the processor of rendering, and simulating the physics on, all of these bodies. Hitman just isn’t able to sustain, computationally and infrastructurally, the amount of bodies it presents in its levels if they aren’t all walking and talking and alive. Hitman presents the possibility for violence that far exceeds what the game itself is designed to handle. While the violence in this video is definitely at an extreme, Hitman also reveals itself to be a game that is not prepared to handle its own violent potential. Bodily representation in this case is contingent on all of those representations behaving in ways that are expected. When gameplay strays into uncharted zones of violence, the game pulls itself apart at the seams.
Due in part to the long length of the video and the tedium of the intensely repetitive action of dragging these bodies around, I began to instrumentalize bodies in the video in very much the same way as I did in Metal Gear Solid V. In Metal Gear Solid V I was using bodies as projectiles, to manage the state of the bodies in my pile. In Hitman, bodies took on a similar role, as tools for managing and manipulating the state of the game. I use them to prop open doors, I use them to scoop together bodies on my path, and I use them to reshape the pile at the very end. In Hitman all of the body placement and movement is very low to the ground, and so bodies for me became transformed into scraping tools that I dragged behind me, that could scoop things together and bring them with me. In this extreme case, these bodies shed their representational function as bodies and instead became wholly determined by their infrastructural and mechanical power on the game itself.
When I entered the level, you may have noticed great crowds in the foyer of the mansion that are not there later on. These characters are never put into the pile in this video, but that is because they are represented bodies that do not actually have bodies! These characters appear to have bodies, but actually do not count as bodies in specific infrastructural ways. When most characters in Hitman are killed or knocked out they can be interacted with, they can be dragged around or stripped for a new disguise, but these second-class data-lite characters have nothing. They are still represented visually, but when knocked unconscious or killed they are gone from the game world in an interactivity sense. You cannot touch them, and they have no collision or physics. Nothing can touch them, and they cannot touch anything. Much like there are dead bodies as “props” in Dishonored or Viscera Cleanup Detail, these are living “props” that are disjoint from the “real” infrastructural bodies. These prop bodies are placed in areas where violence is unlikely to occur in Hitman, like the very public foyer area, and they never represent any characters of significance to the missions or story. They only exist to give the space an illusion of a crowd, all the while not being afforded the same level of existence as the more "important" characters. Much like the sleeping guards in Metal Gear Solid V, the weight of bodily representation, in both a physical sense and a data sense, is linked to how likely the player is to have a meaningful interaction with them. This is a reflection of the distorted vision of reality that most games enact where the player does not only have incredible power and agency, but literally is the center of existence itself.