Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Way Morality In Games Should Be

Ever since the dawn of gaming there have been morality games. In general, they have existed primarily in the small pocket of RPGs. As this concept became more and more popular; it has begun to be carelessly induced in every small niche of gaming. I will be honest, the first true mortality game that I played was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. It was a very well made game for its time period and I believe it offered some very keen insights on the future of western RPGs. It is now five years later and the formula has remained the same; for better or for worse. The formula has remained intact to say the least; there is always a definable line between good and evil. Albeit, your choices are very linear in this regard. Your selfish actions means you are evil while being benevolent and kind is the negation to that. Fundamentally however, it seems that we have forgotten why this system is crucial to the RPG experience.
It wasn't until I played the second SW: KOTR game that I realized that I craved for something different. In that game, there where a few key moments where it is brought to your attention just how "good" you were. By helping and being charitable, you were dooming people to a life of dependency. It created the good shade of Grey that morality truly is. In that form we can then express our motivations as gamers. As gamers we make choices based on our perceived social norms. We play the "good" character because there is no challenge in playing as an "evil" character. In that way developers cannot truly simulate desperation in this console's generation. Without desperation, the concept of morality falls completely apart.
On that note many games of this generation within the morality genre contain "difficult" choices. Irrevocably these are choices that are often the splinter group of the two common moral choices. These choices are laid out very routinely; they revolve either around an evil concept that is too repulsive to put into practice even in a digital world, or a very morally grey issue that is the lesser of two evils. These bring about a generally genre defining experience. However, I beg to ask the question; what if all your choices were difficult? Not having three or four difficult choices in the scope of the ten hour experience, but a genuine thought provoking experience? No, what if every choice was not a black and white cutout. What if the gaming world that you crafted was as morally questionable as everything else in the world? To not be the savior or the harbinger of doom but your own person. Just an average Joe or Jane trying to make it through the day. Making these choices as that person, not as the stereotypical action game character who is capable of godlike feats. There exists only you, and the people that you interact with. The world and its values are defined through your actions and how you perceive it. Essentially taking out the proverbial hand-slap that developers give us when we commit an act of indecency. Gamers don't need developers telling them how to play their games. If you want to ransack a village and burn the place to the ground, that is your prerogative. We don't need good and bad smiley faces telling us that we are "bad" people.
Though games are nowadays a point of contention on many issues relating to art and culture; they are above all a form of entertainment. That is why as gamers we have come to overlook the difficult choices that are associated with games. We have come to a point where we cannot push the boundaries of the norms now accepted for the video game industry. If we are to show brutal acts of violence, why can't we include sex that expresses love? However, that is an issue for another time. Beyond the realms of Peggle and 99 cents I-phone games there exists the triple A titles. This is the world that morality resides in. As the industry begins to grow we have to understand why these games exist. They exist for the sole purpose of reminding you just how human you are.

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