5 April 2013

A Game of (Im)morals

Lately I've played many games that give players a fair amount of choice over how to handle events, both practically and ethically. Some titles integrate this in the game mechanics. Games like Mass Effect and Infamous have dualistic systems tracking whether you behave like a good guy or a badass, with your rating having an effect on certain elements of the games. Dragon Age has a sort of similar system, but tracks the individual approval of each of your companions. On the other end of the spectrum, sandbox games like Skyrim allow a great deal of freedom over how you play your character.

I think this is a Good Thing. You can play a badass with a 'tude, or a downright evil bastard, if you wish to. And this, in my mind, says nothing about what you're really like in the real word. It might even be healthy. We all need to 'vent' sometimes.

However, as much as I believe the above to be true, I generally seem to end up playing the good guy. I might not always have the greatest respect for authorities, but if asked to stand up for the little people, or defend ideas like tolerance, I'll be your champion, no question about it. And, like, probably be relatively polite to you while doing it...

This didn't stop me from completing the assassin and thieves' guild questlines in Skyrim. Or from running around pickpocketing everyone in sight in Dragon Age: Origins. But these are more exceptions to the rule. You have to misbehave a little. In the former there may have been just one or two killings that made me cringe a little, but the desire to progress the story was stronger. And, in the end, these questlines seemed less morally conflicting than some others, particularly the civil war quests (which I still haven't actually played, much for this reason). There is honour among thieves (and assassins), after all...

It is often said that the freedom of choice adds to replay value in these games. It sounds like a great idea. But, to be honest, I'm kinda scared of playing them again because I think I might just make the same choices over and over again.

What this all says about me and my values, I'm not sure. Sure, I'm very much a supporter of equality and human rights in real life, but I'm just not a 'doer'. Quite the contrary, really, I'm a rather lazy and selfish person. So maybe playing the good guy is, in its own way, a type of 'venting'... Or maybe, deep down, I'm just more of a naive idealist than I'd care to admit...

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