Originally posted by @shavixmir
Context is everything.
If the game is (tongue in cheek) action and you shoot the crap out of people, it’s going to be experienced differently than if you follow a character’s life for a long period of time. Have to stab them and stand over their shaking body as they whine for their mother as they die.
An example: did you cry during Star Wars or during Schindler’s list?
More people die in Star Wars.
Context. Can’t say it enough
Agreed. Scenes like the one described in the OP can be handled maturely, if the writing is strong and warrants them.
I once played a game called BioShock, where you have the option of killing little girls or letting them go. They control a giant mechanical monster, and send it to kill you. But, due to the dangerous environment, their motivations are simply to protect themselves, and are not malicious. A girl doesn't know if you're friendly or want to hurt her.
Killing her resulted in a significant boost in powers and abilities, saving her resulted in comparatively meager rewards. However, after letting go of the girls a few times, you do get a very good reward, which you can't get if you killed her. However, you don't know the game will reward you for letting them go. There's a woman who calls you a "saint" for saving the little girl, and bestows these rewards.
This adds an interesting moral dimension to the game. There are monsters and other frightened human beings trying to kill, and you just want to stay alive. I remember after letting the girl go the first time, I killed her to see what would happen. She's crying after you beat the monster protecting her. You pick her up, and she shrieks, quivering in your hand as she dies. That was just too heart breaking, and I started the level again, and let her go when got back up to that part in the game.
Was this wrong? I don't know. I didn't think so at the time, since it's your choice if she dies or not. But I thought the game handled this well.