Editorial: Gaming Morals

I always wondered what it would look like to have a moral choice system in real life. If game developers were the judge I would have full negative karma and be known as The Lord of-not-giving-a-shit. Moral choice has been in games since the SNES, matured in the creation of Fable and has spread throughout the game industry. But what started off as an interesting concept, has taken a turn for the mundane.

Part of the problem is the “Moral” of moral choice. The game designers, or specifically, writers decide on morality. Because of this, you’re making a choice not basis on true freedom but under the assumed morals of someone else. A great example of this is Fallout: New Vegas. Killing a bunch of NCR soldiers doesn't affect karma but when I tried to collect loot from their headquarters, I was promptly given negative karma. It’s alright to take a life but touching their stuff, no, no, that’s evil.

Sometimes the moral choices just don’t make any sense. Infamous 2 comes to mind. There’s a very important decision near the end and without spoiling, both decisions have you saving people but different types of people. Neither one of them is eviler than the other but the game color codes which one is good and which is one evil. Same problem happened in Fable 3 when you become a king. All the good decisions demand you lowering your defenses so the giant smoke monster could rape your people. But hey, at least you made a pretty little park for that to happen. And it WILL happen.

But moral choice wasn't always so weird. In Chrono Trigger, they subtly mold moral choice into the story without you really realizing it. There was never any good or bad, paragon or renegade, there were just your decisions and consequences. This is really the only realistic way to use moral choice. And I don’t know about you, but I really don’t need a meter to tell me how much of a dick I am.

MrDudeMan's picture

I think the biggest problem with moral choices in newer games is that it really does not affect much. I wish stories would be molded around choices (Chrono trigger is a good example) and that choices didn't just affect one cut-scene at the end of the game. Really, nowadays a "moral choice" is just a tool developers use to add artificial depth to a lacking story. Although I think that the moral choices in fable 3 (and the very last choice at the end of 2) were good example of moral choices that you actually have to think about. On the one hand you did promise all these things, but on the other theres an impeding threat approaching. I think the point they were trying to make in fable 3 was to determine how willing you were to save the country. It is possible to grant all the wishes of the citizens and have enough money to save everyone, you just have to build it yourself. This would have worked well for them if it were not for their ridiculous time skipping format (going from 143 days to 0, really?). Also the end choice for fable 2 was a good example of a good moral choice. I'm presuming a large majority of people didn't just chose the right wing answer of saving everyone but instead chose to save the dog. 

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