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Digital morality: Is it good to be bad in gaming?

Do moral choices in games make them more, or less fun? No really, it's a serious question. It's a fairly widespread trend in the games industry just now to offer stories and characters that elicit an emotional response from the player. An emotional response that's intended to make the game more immersive, the characters more believable and the lasting memory of the game, more enduring. All positive consequences, but what about the negative?

Take Grand Theft Auto IV: Liberty City. A high watermark in interactive storytelling and character design. A genuine digital soap opera, as gripping a drama as The Sopranos or The Wire, but with enough action to keep core gamers entertained and enough heart to keep industry proponents naval gazing contentedly.

Skip back to GTA's 3D debut, Grand Theft Auto III: Liberty City. Another high watermark for the games industry but for completely different reasons. For those of us that spent a good deal of time with their asses glued to the couch in 2001, GTA III: Liberty City was about three things - carnage, carnage and more carnage.

And what made this carnage so effortless and enjoyable? Was it the game's succinctly balanced sandbox? Was it the incredible scope for unscripted action? Was it the ingeniously targeted escalation of cause and effect?

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