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The False Dichotomy - Why Morality Systems in Videogames Have Failed

Pixels or Death's Patrick Lindsey writes:

"Morality is complicated. Our moral canvasses are painted with all sorts of shades of gray, yet when transposed into videogames what we get is a very simplified black and white version of things. In most games morality takes the form of the classic “good vs evil” dichotomy – paragon/renegade, light side/dark side, etc. The fact is games just aren’t good at capturing the nuances of our moral dilemmas. Oftentimes we can either choose to help someone for the “good” option, or choose not to help, or to personally gain from the situation for the “bad” option."

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NeoBasch3082d ago

I hate morality systems. Would prefer games to be more subtle with their morality like Heavy Rain.

manumit3082d ago

Yeah but when its done right it can be fun, Fable for example when your a bad arse with red eyes the people run away and get freaked out when you talk to them. haha. ohhh...fun times.

bruddahmanmatt3082d ago

"Infamous" is making the author of this piece look really stupid.

NeoBasch3082d ago (Edited 3082d ago )

Is working his way through Fable III, but glad you mentioned it. I loved how at the beginning the King made you choose between executing your friend and a bunch of random nobodies. Even greater still, the relativity of inaction. Kudos to Peter Molyneux for putting a timer on there. The slight addition made the scene all the more intense.

I decided not to choose. Where do you draw the line? What makes one person more valuable than the next? I theorize that by giving into these petty delusions of control we turn ourselves into monsters. We are no longer human the moment we decide that only we know best.

Would like to see this implemented in more games.

Morbius4203081d ago

By the end of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic my evil character ended up looking like Michael Myers. So awesome!

ReservoirDog3163082d ago

Yeah there needs to be more shades of grey for morality or else it's just a reason to playthrough a game twice (which isn't a bad thing at all).

Though I gotta admit, I played good all the way through inFamous but had to stop and think how I wanted to finish the game. Like it presents the good and bad but the outcomes are so tough that you just have to think it out. I really like inFamous 2 now that I think about it.

gaden_malak3082d ago

I agree but I'd also like to see different decisions branching to new areas of the game and not the same game with a different ending depending on your choices.

If I am bad I want people, even my own crew, to fear me. I want power and I want to act like I want power.

VanguardOfCalamity3082d ago (Edited 3082d ago )

There are a few times I've had put down the controller for a few moments to decide a moral choice portrayed in a game - saving the rachni comes to mind... but I do think game makers have a hard time mimicing subtle moral choices

Xof3082d ago

Games don't really have morality systems. Just systems that call themselves "morality systems."

Very few games ask players to make moral choices. The first Witcher game being the most notable example of the last decade.

In general, a morality system cannot exist in a game if that morality system is tied to actual gameplay--to work, these systems need to be very subtle (invisible to the player) and need to have actual consequences to the narrative.

Sadly, while the technology is certainly there to accomplish a decent morality system, I doubt any developer is up to the task. There's too much emphasis of the visual aesthetic of games these days, too little on AI and scripting.

maniacmayhem3082d ago

I agree, one of my criticisms for Mass Effect was the fact that the player could see if a choice was good or bad. The player would automatically choose the red or blue text without even thinking about.

The whole morality system should be invisible to the player. And the outcome should also be more severe depending on how you choose.

NeoBasch3082d ago (Edited 3082d ago )

Why don't you have more bubbles? I understand why people shouldn't ask, but I've always liked your comments. Very logical and astute. Your explanations are thorough and bring a lot to discussions. Thank you.

Totally agree on the overemphasized visual aesthetics. AI, programming, and physics can make or break a game. It's all about believability. These "morality systems" tend to break immersion because of the black and white choices.

Anderson83082d ago

couldnt agree more.. if you can see what the outcome of your choice will be it has a lot less impact

GunofthePatriots3082d ago

It really doesnt have a point because the story stays the same for the most part. You can be "evil" but end up saving the world or whatever.

synchroscheme3082d ago (Edited 3082d ago )

Damn good article. It does suck how games will have the choice to be obviously good or blatantly evil. Often times having trophies for doing so just so you can go back and try the other route. Moral choices shouldn't be used as a means of replayability or just to see the other ending to the game, it should actually have you questioning yourself as you would in a real life situation.

Granted, I suppose a lot of devs realize that games are also a way to explore thoughts and situations where we normally wouldn't dare to go to, and if given the choice a decent person will almost always choose the more honest or noble option, so nothing is being explored.

In order to bypass this, devs should instead look not toward good or bad, but that special gray area where there isn't a particular desired outcome.

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