Weighing choices based on your morality CAN be not just difficult, but also interesting when you see measurable consequences that stem from such decisions. Incorporating such a scheme in a video game means that people can experiment with their own moral code within a controlled environment and directly see the effect. For example, Fallout 3 may be based in a world far from our own (both in time and social climate), but MANY of the choices you make in that game directly correlate to REAL WORLD issues (slavery, euthanasia, charity, racial prejudice, drug use). I'm not saying all games should incorporate this. Needless to say, a large portion of players want their video games simple in this regard, as making complex decisions reminds them too much of real life, which they endeavor to escape from. But for some of us, a little complexity is EXACTLY what we're looking for. I mean, imagine a game where you DON'T have a bar that tells you how good or bad you are. You AREN'T told immediately if something you did makes you a bad or good person. A game where the only way you can measure yourself against the common morality of society is by interacting with people you personally have affected. That is my idea of a real role-playing game.
Rauch believes a lot of games make use of very simplistic moral ideas, which at times can take players out of the game,though it’s all about how well the morality works in the context of the gameplay.
“Seeing certain options open up and others close off was one of my favourite things about the single-player mode in Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, and the difficulty of maintaining a consistent ethic in The Suffering made my whole experience more intense,” Rauch said. “Fable’s morality system is a train wreck, but even that made it a more memorable experience. Laughing at the fact that eating tofu helped me prepare for cold-blooded murder was probably the one saving grace of that game.”
According to Rauch, people like a little villainy with their heroism, which is why morality in games is becoming so popular. Besides adding an extra layer to the gameplay, morality systems are supposed to allow players to better identify with their characters and to some extent, begin to better understand their choices and actions in the game. But does this actually happen when players are presented with black-and-white moral choices? The problem, according to Rauch, is the limitations of the medium itself.
“In a game, actions only have moral meaning when they're attached to a symbol that plays a role in the storyline. What actions can be performed from that is largely determined by the genre’s conventions. There are certain moral ideas that just aren't going to make sense in certain genres without substantive changes to the game rules, and you're going to have some limitations in any game in which there's one win condition and one loss condition, especially if that loss condition is usually the player's death. Martyrdom is a tough thing to reward in most genres," he said.
"There are creative challenges for game developers to overcome, but this is always risky because video game production is a capital-intensive business. Games are expensive and slow to produce, and the big name titles are expected to subsidise the losses. Investors would much prefer another Halo clone over something new that might fail.”
But that’s not all. According to Rauch, while moral conflicts appear interesting in dramatic situations, the simple fact is that day-to-day moral choices are usually very simple and intuitive in normal circumstances. The trouble is, video games don’t involve normal circumstances, which is partly what makes them so fun and what makes the idea of a moral system so intriguing. So perhaps one of the reasons why in-game morality tends to be so simple is that most people, including game developers and players, think about it in simple terms when presented with the abnormal circumstances of most games.
The question of whether developers should try and mirror real-life moral choices in games is a complex one to answer. This would certainly break the illusion and give players agency, but would it be a successful game? While Rauch is not entirely convinced it would, he still believes developers should experiment with the possibility.
“I think any new gameplay concept, or any new game genre, is a good thing in itself,” Rauch said. “I like games, and I like seeing them change over time. I think developers should make games that mirror real-life moral choices, and games that mirror highly unlikely, super-heroic choices, and games that imagine entirely hypothetical, otherworldly choices. These games might be boring, but I think that games like The Sims and Diner Dash have pretty conclusively shown us that any activity can be fun with the right design.”
The way to do this, according to Rauch, is to start a conversation.
“Designers, players, and especially critics would benefit from having a few long conversations about how people act in certain situations, and whether they ought to act differently. Players need to be allowed to fail once in a while; it would be nice to have some unambiguously bad choices available. Games right now seem to be stuck in a place where the consequences of player actions are entirely predictable, and take effect either immediately or at the very end of the game. Some kind of partial randomisation, or delayed effect, might help to deepen the kind of experiences we could have with games.”
Variety is the Spice of Life
Games like BioShock and inFamous have attracted criticism from gamers who have discussed the morality element of the gameplay for a number of reasons. The most important flaw cited in these discussions is that the morality systems used in these games give the illusion of meaning to a player's actions. For example, killing or saving the Little Sisters in BioShock is promoted as a very weighty and important player decision, when in reality it has little bearing on your character: both paths give you roughly the same amount of ADAM. Similarly, the "morality moments" in inFamous present a very crude and simplistic idea of morality: participating in either the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choice doesn’t advance or impact gameplay in any way, other than adding points to a meter and producing differently-coloured lighting attacks. In order for morality to function properly within a game environment, developers need to pay attention to the consequences of in-game actions, making them lead somewhere instead of nowhere and using them to shape and affect narrative and gameplay.
Assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Central Oklahoma Mark Silcox and associate professor of philosophy at Louisiana State University Jon Cogburn have partnered up to write Philosophy Through Video Games (Routledge, 1999), a text that discusses the relationship between philosophy and video games, and looks at how morality systems work within the game environment. The first thing Silcox and Cogburn do in the text is strongly encourage game developers and designers to study different philosophical systems of morals instead of using inchoate intuitions like ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
“If we could do one thing here, we would first require all video game designers to read one of the excellent short introductions to the western philosophical tradition in ethics,” Silcox said. “There are so many fundamental issues on which smart, informed people disagree that it would not be difficult to design games around the kinds of conundrums and tragic choices that lead thoughtful people away from thinking in such black-and-white terms. One thing we can’t stress strongly enough is that great art can’t just always show ‘bad’ acts, which leads to ‘bad’ consequences. Real life isn’t always that way, nor is great art.”
According to the two philosophers, the function of a morality system in a video game is, like all art, to allow people to imaginatively play with compelling possibilities in a safe manner, experiencing what it is like to be a very different person in a very different situation. This works by the portrayal of certain kinds of actions in games that have typical consequences, which players must react to in various ways. However, how to translate this successfully to video games is still being worked out; according to Silcox and Cogburn, players are beginning to demand something above higher scores and more loot for good behaviour.
“Some of Peter Molyneux’s more recent games were going to be something like this, where the behaviour of the character affects the interface in interesting ways, but neither of us has been very moved by the games themselves. Mechanisms like the one in Fable where you can reverse the polarity of a character’s morality just by mooching off to a temple and making a sacrifice to some deity have a horribly trite and arbitrary feel to them," Silcox said.
“We think this might be done better in games like Empire: Total War and the Civilization series. We’re also encouraged by the fascinatingly complicated systems of etiquette that have sprung up around highly social MMORPGs like Second Life and EVE Online. The more that people’s lives as gamers start to blend together with their social interactions in games like these, the more closely what happens in them can be expected to reflect the ethics of our everyday interactions.”
Something that video game developers should steer away from in trying to achieve a more realistic and textured morality system is the temptation to include real-life moral choices. Silcox and Cogburn agree with Rauch that games based on real moral dilemmas just wouldn’t work.
“It is admittedly very difficult to imagine a genuinely fun video game that mirrored the sort of everyday moral choices that most people end up being preoccupied with, e.g. whether to tell off one’s boss, how much to spend on grandma’s birthday gift, or whether to be faithful to your spouse, as opposed to whether or not to nuke eastern Europe or to spray machine gun fire into a crowd of zombies.”
One solution would be to create unpleasant consequences stem from committing morally questionable acts in games, which would heighten the experience of playing and make game narratives seem more vivid and realistic. Silcox and Cogburn believe that the representation of morality in games is more than just a passing trend, and, as games take on a more and more central position in our culture, designers will find a way to fix the existing problems.
“Game designers would be well served by immersing themselves in the debates between adherents of different moral theories in the Western traditions," Silcox said. "Might we dare to imagine a future in which video game designers actually had a place on the very short list of people whom we routinely expect to provide us with real moral wisdom?” Click on the Next Page link to see the rest of the feature!
@ Khatjal Ok, so I think we get the general feeling about your overwhelming pessimism and lack of faith in humanity. But just for a second, let's not speak in sweeping generalities and assertions. First off, the average person who spends a large portion of their time playing video games is near the age of 33. If you think the majority (let's say 70+%) of 33 year-old people can't think in more than black and white, I seriously question how much thought you put into this subject. Second, people (as in most people) have to deal with gray area in their decisions on a daily basis. I'm not saying these decisions are earth-shattering, they could be as simple as the response to 'how are you'? Honestly, how many times have you THOUGHTFULLY considered that question and been able to immediately answer 'absolutely perfect' or 'kill me now'. Answering such a question truthfully can require some thought, despite its inconsequential nature, and more often than not, your answer would be somewhere far between 'good' and 'bad' (otherwise known as neutral or gray area) .
The general populace doesn't have the brain power to distinguish anything other than black or white choices. The grey middle ground is too ambiguous and not "obvious" enough for the layman. Think of your typical racist thought process. To them the whole world is black and white with few shades of grey: "This is good, that is bad... don't try to tell me otherwise". It's sad, but human nature tends to gravitate to absolutes (Ex: "God controls everything", "All these things are similar", "They're always like that..."). Adding shades of grey will make video games unenjoyable for the vast majority of people, because they won't be able to relate. ...And no, i'm not insinuating that i'm not among the vast unwashed masses of lay people. I'm human as well, and like all people I think in absolutes too.
It's great not having to be clean cut hero or Kratos style anti-hero in gaming given the correct context. It does add a breath of fresh air when you are not dictated to complete a story to save the game world or characters you may not care about. Unless of course it is Bioshock, the morality of harvesting didn't add anything to the game. I really liked inFamous' morality system. It wasn't just your notoriaty shooting up when choosing to unleash chaos when fighting your foes but it was how the game world reacted to you as a consequence of your actions. If you were loved you had people gather around you if you stayed still, taking phoos, asking for autographs, girls screaming in delight at the sight of you, praising your acrobatics/ fighting/ climbing and even trying to aid you in combat time to time. On the flip side when you were bad people ran in the oppoisite direction screaming or cowered at the sight of you and there was always one who would stand toe to toe and give you a dressing down or spat on you. Even the ability to form mobs and attack you. This was completely missed in games like Oblivion and Fallout and to a lesser extent Fable. That is the type of thing that is needed to reward morality, seeing peoples perception of you with your accolades in the game world.
Its ncie they're adding more and more things onto the world of gaming. Hope they can keep up with such ideas.
I like what oblivion did, no karma system but you are treated differently by the public. If your a murderous and theiving person your treated with disrespect by people who are good and greeted friendly by those who have a lack of morality. But Oblivion was not a game focused on morality, i found fallout was.
Darkrobe's idea of a quiz pre game isn't a bad way of going about it but if you limit it a little bit just not as much as as they have and take out the +3 good or -2 bad it could be done without much work at all things like if i help this guy these guys die and these live or the other way round if you don't and the game never gave you that ended a good way or bad comment on it then really you just picked what you thought was right or wrong i think that's what they are really getting at leaving it open ended and taking out karma bars like in my last post dragon age makes a good step in that the only good and bad is what you think then what your party members think but it's still things like destroy the most holy of ashes or not 90% of people read into what the programs think is good or bad in that. they just need more open to interpretation kind of situations for the player to have to pick rather than a cat in the tree kind of thing how bout do i fund the black smiths or the potion masters tell they monopolize the city do i fight along side the thief's of the underworld or the smuggles things like in halo are the red team or blue team good or bad? it became a internet comedy cause it's impossible to pick unless you hate one of the colors all they need to do is make it impact the game world in some way and you can pick for yourself if you think that one of the 2 sons of almost the same right and both have the love or hate or maybe both of their people is the good or evil king
I think the article was well done but missed an important note in that the amount of code to do a proper morality in a game would be overwhelming. The gray area would have to be huge, not just black/white; just like in life. Such as stealing something to help someone because the NPC won't give you the item willingly due to your moral character standing; which is full of gray. Does the end result justify the means? Can you imagine writing all the code for this, plus the storyline text menus, as well as trying to gauge whether it is right or wrong. We are all individuals, and what games miss out on is that what is perceived as "good" in a game is subject to the whim of the person(s) writing the code; perhaps what I think is good is far different than the developer does and the choices presented aren't good at all; especially from a religious context (i.e. sexual relations outside of marriage for Mass Effect; which brings up the gender question as well if you chose to be a lesbian but then again the Ansari gender is comprised of both). As game development increases into the morality what needs to be done is gauging what the gamer considers good, bad, and gray; with some sort of morality quiz prior to the game to determine how the game plays out; now that would be an interesting game to play!
Driving to work to support your family: Good. Driving to work and do hit-and-run on pedestrian on way to work: Bad. Driving to work and hit a pedestrian, stop and call police: Bad/Good. Driving to work and hit a pedestrian trying to rape/mug/attack another person: Good/Bad. Everyone loves a hero, hates the villain in most stories. But realistically we can't stop wondering about anti-hero's who do the right thing the wrong way for the right reasons by their own point-of-view. Morality isn't about either just good or bad, right and wrong. Its about making the best of a bad situation or screwing up a perfectly good one. That is our reality and at the moment is just way too much code to put into a home computer or console.
Irrational I think you completely ignored the fact that morality is solely a byproduct of human consciousness. There are no core values that are mutually exclusive from religion or metaphysics. Morality and ethics have their roots entirely in religion, only recently have people begun to examine the idea that there are standards that should apply universally, independent of religion. Anyway, I'm not sure what they're talking about in fallout 3. You have complete moral flexibility. If you do something evil, all you have to do is give a bum a bottle of water, or do any other good deed, and you will get karma back. Granted, doing "evil" things nets you a far greater amount of negative karma points than any "good" actions will, but it's far from impossible to go from -1000 karma points to 1000 karma and back and forth again, for anyone who actually plays 100% of the game.
Most moral decisions are black and white if you really think about it, unless you were raised without any.. So thats why they are in video games too, maybe they are a little more exagerated but isnt every thing else in a video game.. stupid article
Props to Gamespot for a great article... its a shame I had to search the homepage for it. It should be more prominent.
i think they are slowly getting better about the way they go about it like in dragon age i made many avatars each with there own way of handling things rather than good or evil at first i meant to k she's good this ones bad but soon i was making he's a soldier good at heart but will kill anyone for revenge or she only cares for animals and other elf's like in the city elf home at first giving the elf money seemed like the good thing to do but at the 3rd time he came up with friends not even trying to pretend they were in need attacking him seemed like a nice option i want to see even more depth than that and hope bioware has put some of it in mass effect 2
I retract my comment from part one of this article about not mentioning Dragon Age's morality system. Good work Gamespot!
great. an epic moment of a great game ruined in the first few seconds of reading. im waiting for my new laptop before i get modern warfare 2 so ive been rather stern with not ruining anything about the single player. a little warning would be nice.
I think it's fine for games to have the main goal, save the world, it gives you a clear cut picture of good vs. evil, but I think they should start thinking more in the real world much like how Dragon Age did and start letting the players natures dictate how they go about saving the world. Does my nature as a person delve into evil deeds for the greater good, or as a morally righteous person does always doing the right thing at the moment always mean I'm doing the "right thing" for the future, can there be a consequence? I think it's great for there to be a grey and ambiguitiy just as it is in real life. Think about it, if you give a homeless man a dollar you might feel like you did the right thing, but was that dollar all he needed to buy himself another drink and spur himself into further depression?
First off, I think Molyneux tries way to damn hard to coerce emotion out of his games. The only way you can get a true sense of morality in games is to have a good story and believable characters. And that's VERY TOUGH to do. Fable 2 was a let down. He would brag about his dog (and although it was cool) it no where near matched the emotional weight of Aeris' death, for example. Games are based in binary, 1s and 0s, hence programmers find it easy to only make morality either Good or Evil. And people, I think in general like the ease of having a clear objective, to not have to think so hard and just KILL, KILL, KILL. So I think in the end that everyone involved gets caught up in a false dichotomy of whether something is good or bad, when the focus shouldn't even be that at all. Final Fantasy, Suikoden, Deus EX, Mass Effect, hell even WoW to a certain extent, blur that line of Good and Evil; how characters struggle with their nature and how tyrants do too. As someone mentioned earlier, like most myths and stories you have to have conflict and that comes from a well defined protagonist and antagonist. It is easy. With the advent of more and more technologies, as writing for games becomes more and more lucrative we'll see deeper stories and morals, hopefully even within an even more viable indie community.
I played The Witcher and also participated in the forum on the developer's site. I actually asked them if the writer of the game was a sociologist, and one of them answered that several of the team came from social science backgrounds. I loved the game because the moral conundrum that was involved created characters like Lutinpofin. He expected a polarized morality system and got pwned! IMO, The Witcher's morality system was not flawed... it was deviously brilliant!
Peter Molyneux can certainly learn a lot from Bioware Less floating numbers and more subtlety please
The problem with morality in games is that games usually have you tasked with saving the world. What a game needs to do is reduce the goal of the PC, at least if it wants to do so-called "grey" choices. Because if the fate of the world is your goal, it almost has to come down to good vs. evil if you want choices. Save it or Destroy it? Have a smaller goal and your "morals" will be easier to make ambiguous.
I think Bioware took a step in the right direction with Dragon Age: Origins. Any developer wanting to make a game with deep moral decisions should follow DA:O's lead and get rid of the vulgar "morality meter". However for me, your decisions in DA:O are not as deep as they should be. No matter what course of action you take, the game ends with one of two possible endings (referring to either *SPOILER* Allistar's, Loghain's or the PC's death; or the secret ritual). Bioware could have invested in more possiblities for endings. Still, it's a step in the right direction. At least it's better than Fallout 3's crappy black and white "moral" system.
I found myself being immersed in the Witcher's universe. I took the time to weight all the good and the bad about my moral decisions in-game. I was proud of myself and thought : "Hey, the moral system is really deep but I think I figured out the best way to act in this game..." NOT ! To my surprise, I finished the game and I got one of the worst endings, they told me I acted egoïstically and blah blah... so I'm not sure if the system is really that deep or just flawed. The game was great ; but it left me bitter.
As far as im concerned morality is a proxy for a deeper understanding of actions and their consequences in the real world. Christian morality is not exactly a 'deep' system, and 'philosophizing' morality intellectualises it in a way that does not reflect its true nature either; most philosophical conceptions of ethics or morality start from a core 'ideal' (such as life is precious, survival of the species, you should not kill, divine actions etc) and shape choices and consequences in the world to fit or promote that ideal; but morality involves choice about 'core values' as well; adopting a philosophical position piecemeal is a choice itself. Morality is none of these things. Morality is cause and effect with a view to an aim. When you direct your energies to one aim, it is an account of how others will percieve this act and direct their own energies; even how inanimate objects will react and influence others' choices. It IS mechanistic, only between the most complicated mechanisms of all, life. It is also a vague and implicit choice of what 'core values' to promote (judged by hindsight). Morality is nothing less than the choice of who you wish to be and what you feel is important in life. For a game to reflect this would be both difficult and possibly misleading; morality is grounded in life, not the faux morality of imagination. Books, movies and television can and do get it wrong
The Witcher is the game has has probably got it most right, followed by Fallout 1 and 2. Having said that, this is the sort of article that should be on gaming sites like Gamespot a lot more. I am as fed up with the shallowness of gaming sites as I am the games themselves! It's easy to see why every open-world, non-linear, morality system based, 100's of NPC's and 100's of square miles of world to explore are released with bugs and need a patch or three. For this reason, I wish RPG's like the above were not marked down just like shooters for having bugs, and I wish gamers would give RPG's a break too! I would rather have a buggy deep RPG that needs patches, than just have easy to program corridor shooters as the only choice!
The best morality system I experienced without black and white choices was the one of Dragon Age. An exemple out of the many, many you'll encouter that stuck with me. Was when you encouter a woman asking you to kill her to end her suffering (won't spoil too much on the situation and the "why"). Do you kill an innocent to easy her/his pain? Do you choose out of a self righteous decision that goes against her own wishes to let her live to try and find another way? Or simply not do anything and let it die of her own pain?
ye indeed, assuming you'd be given choices inbetween black and white u'd need a more complex system to back them up i don't agree with the opinion that morality is silly though, that is just superficial probably from the usual observation that the person that seems to abide it is usually the one that gets to lose something, it may as well be one of the strongest binds to society, had it been an existing trait in everybody, we wouldn't need a boogieman over us they'll never be able to simulate this in a game, at some point u wouldn't be able to scale the choices, add an extreme amount of background detail to everything plus they'd have to include their personal opinion which could cause reactions from people
Morality is silly enough a concept to me in real life, but it's fun to try to emulate real-life choices in a virtual world, if only to see yourself in a different life (that is, as an antisocial bastard who takes advantage of every opportunity for loot or sex scenes). This writer seems to be discussing morality in video games under the assumption that there could possibly be a virtual world that emulates the complex moral decisions we face day-to-day. Though I doubt it's possible within the next decade if ever, the concept of guilt and empathy for an NPC on the same level of a human feeling for another human is very interesting to me. This discussion, as silly as it may seems, sheds light on some serious possibilities within the somewhat distant future of video "games."
dnrta. It's a simple answer - the less choices the player has, the less a developer has to account for when it comes to building the game. If there's only 1 choice, they need only program 1 outcome, saving time and resources. While we'd all agree this is not preferable, it certainly was very practical as little as a decade ago. Thankfully technology, skill and resources have all come a long way since.
I actually like games where you can play as good or evil. For me it means at least 2 playthroughs from a different perspective. But I love Fallout 3 so much I'm thinking about playing it again just for the hell of it. Same with InFamous...
I usually play in a place between good and evil because I love it and I can see different aspects of the plot an in-game features, but in most of games I'm pushed to chose a side in the conflict. It's important to know that we as humans are chaotic, sometimes we like sweet but sometimes is better bitter. I hate that points in a game when the player is push to take a side no matter what morality is considered, Why no a third faction that suddenly appears and smash all the storyline?, Fallout is a good example of this sometimes. The most important thing is, please developers and writers, try to do that important points of flexion in the plot softer, that the player only knows according to his/her own morality and the choice is not based on get some feature (item, exp, etc) of the game. I think that details matter and it's not needed some kind of morality interface, the plot and in-world consequences are enough.
"Lothos_Delion Posted Dec 1, 2009 2:28 pm PT I mean I think its good for the story but beyond that games are just that games. Not to be taken seriously or considered to be anything more than they are." At the risk of sounding crazy: not all games are just games. There are serval I like to think of as electronic art. They are intricate designs with epic stories, grand musical compositions, and many moral questions that are meant to make you think. Video games are a modern medium. Like many genre books, a lot of them are purely for entertainment, but you can do more. Many games are developed for at least 3+ years before they're put out on the market. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of people spend those years trying to make that singular game the best it can be. I'm not saying there are several LOTR or Dune out there in the gaming world, but I'd hardly say all games are simply entertainments that shouldn't be given any serious thought.
I usually try to make good choices in a game. However, I recently picked up mass effect on the the pc. I played like a heartless brute. Man I couldn't stop laughing. I have not had that much fun in a long time. I think I will continue to go the direct opposite of my values. It a lot more fun.
Good point @FlashHawk79. I'm going to sound like a sickening fanboy, but I remember in the opening Liberty Island level in Deus Ex, when you get to the NSF leader you have a choice of interrogating him or just shooting his proud head off. I had run through either choice multiple times and the reaction from Paul (your brother) was predictable in each case ('Good job' vs 'Too much force!' - or something like that). However, there was this one time when I accidentally shot the guy in the MIDDLE of an interrogation. So I walk back to Paul, start up the conversation, and I'm waiting for him to say "Too much force"....and he goes "You're an A*****!!!" That was SO completely unexpected and awesome :D, I revisited practically all the dialogues and situations to see if there were any other such things I missed. I did find a few gems, but the great thing about this was these events weren't the result of an either-or choice like "What if I did or did not do this?", but also "What if I did THIS first, and THEN the other thing?" and in some cases even "What if I did it like this?" That the developers had actually thought out all these possibilities was just absolutely incredible, but I don't know if this kind of depth can be approached today, given the quality we expect from AAA titles, the associated costs and the almost-double marketing costs after that. Although I sure hope someone CAN figure it out!
?In Fallout 3 it?s pretty damn clear that by the end of the game, your decisions have had some serious repercussions on the world. This all sort of culminates in the game?s climax, where you hold the fate of the Capital Wasteland?s people in your hands. Do you poison the water, or leave it clean? Do you sacrifice yourself, or talk someone else into doing it? All of those things--which are all tied to the game?s morality--are pretty central to Fallout 3?s themes and gameplay." Are we talking about the same Fallout 3 I played here? None of the "big decisions" in this game had ANY repurcussions. Set off a NUCLEAR DEVICE IN THE MIDDLE OF A TOWN? No worries, just hand out water to bums and everybody in the world forgets it. And better yet, the shopkeeper and giver of the only major quest in the town miraculously survives! And that ending, forgetting for a moment that the Broken Steel DLC made a point of showing the player that their choice had no repurcussions (you survive no matter what, poisoning the water changes more or less nothing) the entirety of the choice came down to an incredibly non-ambiguous GOOD/EVIL dialogue choice. As for the indicator that helps the player know when they've done something bad (shouldn't they know by the fact that they're, you know, doing it?) one of the first mods was to get rid of that stupid thing because it's irritating lowest common denominator design--something that describes Fallout 3 perfectly
Oh... wow. I've never realized this was in the games while I played them. I guess the developers hid it pretty well, and still somehow taught us... very... subtly ... . ... well, for some games, it just won't work for the players to make their own choices. Take Kingdom Hearts for example. If you make the gamers decide, then the story would start to get ruined. The developers made the story like it is... and it's the type of story that just won't be the same if it was any different, because every detail counts for it.
Quite honestly, the best way to be "moral" in a game is to not make it obvious that this is [GOOD] and this one is [EVIL], obviously, but two should be to not make it obvious that we're making a major choice at the time. Obviously pressing "The Button" is a clear choice, but some things should be less obvious. Here's an example: To anyone who has played the Broken Steel expansion of Fallout 3 and witnessed the confrontation at Megaton between the settlers and the Brotherhood of Steel water caravan, THAT is a good situation for a morality check. I recognized that it was about to hit the fan, got to cover, and sure enough, a shot rang out. I literally thought, "who do I shoot at?" I didn't really see who fired the first shot, and in the end I chose to fight alongside my Brothers. Perfect moral situation in the game. I think that right there is what should be used, not some shallow meter. Individual events should affect endings and stuff, and not some idealistic "points" system. Each action should have its own consequences. In Fallout 3, for example, you know those bounty hunters that get sent out to get you if you're really good or really evil? You should have a choice of how to react. Either try to bribe them, or maybe try to reason with them, or anything else for that matter. Then, if you do wind up shooting him in cold blood, there should be some kind of game-changing, however so slight. That'll take up a good deal of AI, sure, but THAT's the way to do Fallout 4.
I only play as a good character in Fable 1 and 2, but in Oblivion I play as a xenophobic Imperial that kills off any nonhuman. While these two types of play are fun and I get to balance out my desires to be a paragon or a Devil, I would enjoy more opportunities to be neutral throughout most of the game. I'd like to see multiple outcomes for good and evil choices as well. Humanity is chaotic and games should reflect that with different conclusions/rewards/events for quests or actions rather than having a single event.
I mean I think its good for the story but beyond that games are just that games. Not to be taken seriously or considered to be anything more than they are.
I think if Bioware made a RPG played in first-person perspective, all of us would get even more immersed in the world and care for the world the devs created. Im sick of people that kill a child in a RPG saying "nah, its a game and the child is not real anyway, so whats the deal" :-/
really great article. touches base on alot of unexplained subjects that maybe alot of people like myself have wondered while either playing these games or questioned about ones judgement.
I like to be evil just because its a lot easier to kill then let live. But im really niec in real life that might be why who knows....lol
i enjoy being able to be a truly evil prick when i play a good rpg. more please, the repercussions in RL are quite distinct, with a game i get less backlash from the people in my real life, but i get the benefits of blowing up towns, planets, poisoning water supplies, helping dragon cults prosper and bringing down honest government. its just too hard to get away with all these wonderful and enriching things in reality. its especially gratifying when the game gives me feedback on my choice, characters cry, laugh and adjust accordingly.
@xxxx59 That was a great decision to have to make, and hope that it has a significant effect in Mass Effect 2... I chose to save the Council. I had to sit back and think though, about what consequences might possibly result from the choice. I figured, personally, that a life is a life, and that saving hundreds of human lives was way more important that saving just three, no matter whose. But then I started to extrapolate. What if, in the diagetic future, humanity as a whole was shunned by the Council's member races? What about the thirst for vengeance that the Turians, Salarians, whatever might have, because my Sheperd had chosen to sacrifice the entire bloody Council for a few humans? How would the other races, who are more than powerful enough to completely wipe the Alliance out (as well as other humans), look upon my decision? The reason why I consider that crucial decision to be the best in any game I've ever played (though I haven't played that many games with morality systems) is because it made me suppress my instinctual choice in favour of an intellectual one. In order to feel like I had done the choice justice, I examined the entire context of the in-game situation. Now that's a way in which morality helps to further immersion, which I believe to be one of its most worthwhile traits if pulled off right. Bad morality systems and decisions just tear you right out though... it's like you can picture the guy who scripted them. Just my 2 cents. ;)