Gaming's Morality Play

As a small beggar-child trying to scrounge together enough gold coins to buy a magical trinket, you'll take any odd job. So when a felon offers to save you some trouble and offers you some money, it's hard to side with responsibility. Only you'll find out 10 years later that your decision devolved the town you lived in into a den of scum and villainy. If you had resisted, the city would have blossomed into a bustling haven.

Welcome to "Fable II," the sequel to Peter Molyneux's blockbuster game that launches Tuesday for the Xbox 360. "Fable II" is as much about player choice as Will Wright's "Spore" is. But instead of presenting players with a set of tools to shape the appearance of a species the way "Spore" does, "Fable II" lets you dictate the moral fabric of your in-game character as he ventures through the world.

Moral dilemmas are starting to make their way into games with increased frequency. This is part of a desire among games designers to "move away from 'reflex' challenges to mental, emotional and psychological challenges," Ubisoft Creative Director Clint Hocking said in an e-mail. "The stuff that matters to us as human beings is the challenging decision making, but very few games use this."

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