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Default Puresophistry - Why a “Moral Choice” in Gaming Is Awful

April 18th, 2013, 13:08
Puresophistry wrote an article about why moral choices are terrible in games.
It’s easy to see what the developers are trying to achieve by including these sorts of choices. If each player has a different experience they’ll have more to talk about to each other, and they’re also more likely to play the game a second or third time to see how it would have panned out had they chosen differently.

You could also be forgiven for thinking that giving the player the opportunity to steer the game at certain times would add depth and meaning to it, but unfortunately the opposite is true.

In the end, it’s difficult to impart a moral choice on the player that is both meaningful and recognisable as a moral choice. In real life, moral choices are complex and often don’t have a polar divide between good and evil, or selfish and selfless for example.

In video games the choices have to be crafted so that both options are viable and reasonable, but distinct, and this is a very difficult thing to do.The result is either unrealistic choices, that are often laughably exaggerated, or similar ones where it’s not evident which is correct.

The latter are more interesting for the player, certainly, but many people feel unfulfilled because they wanted to do the right thing, but didn’t know what is was.

Unfortunately, this is the true nature of moral questions a lot of the time, so perhaps it’s not that moral problems are done badly in games, but more that we don’t want them to be done too well.

All in all it may benefit many games to leave out the moral choice system altogether and focus on the gameplay and core events of the story. Again, which branching plotlines can offer an additional level of depth and intrigue, be wary of them if you ever want to make a sequel as you’ll probably leave a decent chunk of your fan base unsatisfied.
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April 18th, 2013, 13:08
All in all it may benefit many games to leave out the moral choice system altogether and focus on the gameplay and core events of the story.
I can't believe some can find such a rotten excuse for dumbing down games.

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April 18th, 2013, 13:16
Someone should understand something about game design before writing an article about it.

Bad implementation of moral choice is not the only way to handle it.
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April 18th, 2013, 13:20
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Someone should understand something about game design before writing an article about it.

Bad implementation of moral choice is not the only way to handle it.
Well most blog writers think they know everything. Look at the title of his site. Still some might find some enjoyment out of this article.

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April 18th, 2013, 13:29
I don't agree with his "solution" at all, but I do agree that most moral choices are poorly implemented. An example from Mass Effect 2:

Spoiler – ME2 Ending
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April 18th, 2013, 13:30
If nothing else, I'm sure someone enjoyed writing it
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April 18th, 2013, 14:11
The game that got the largest amount of attention was Infamous 2 … which was enough to tell me the value of the article after skimming, which didn't increase upon further reading. Infamous 2, Walking Dead (tie-in game), Heavy Rain, and Mass Effect 3? It is obvious even before I looked that this was written by a young, console-only kid for whom Mass Effect is a 'deep RPG' … and no clue about the history of games.

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April 18th, 2013, 15:01
I would agree that a lot of 'moral' choices in games are not done well. The only ones I think were done very well were in Ultima V: Lazarus. You have several opportunities to turn in the restistance and if you played like most normal games (IE just click through every dialogue option), you'd out them. You have to make a choice either to join the oppression or protect the resistance.

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April 18th, 2013, 15:02
This article is the intellectual equivalent of:
Homer: Hey, how come you never play your guitar any more?
Bart: I'll tell ya the truth, Dad. I wasn't goot at it right away, so I quit. I hope you're not mad.
Homer: [sweetly] Son, come here! Heh heh heh…

[Bart sits on Homer's knee]

Homer: Of course I'm not mad. If something's hard to do, then it's not worth doing! You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short-wave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle, and we'll go inside and watch TV.
Bart: What's on?
Homer: It doesn't matter.
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April 18th, 2013, 15:07
In one German gaming magazine, one editor wrote that he found these "moral choices" in games great and that everything should be black or white - in this sense.

He never mentioned "grey".

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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April 18th, 2013, 15:12
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
In one German gaming magazine, one editor wrote that he found these "moral choices" in games great and that everything should be black or white - in this sense.

He never mentioned "grey".
I love the grey areas as that is what people deal with everyday. To bad only a few games try to include that. Your either the second coming of some god or the greatest evil ever to walk the world.

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April 18th, 2013, 15:14
Yes, but my point was that that editor didn't want "grey" choices - he explicitely wanted black or white …

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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April 18th, 2013, 15:17
it's easy to agree with him on this:

In video games the choices have to be crafted so that both options are viable and reasonable, but distinct, and this is a very difficult thing to do.
and also easy to disagree with him on this:

All in all it may benefit many games to leave out the moral choice system altogether and focus on the gameplay and core events of the story.
The obvious thing is to avoid #1 to some degree; which is bound to piss off people who want their game to be gamey at all times, where taking the left path is exactly as viable as taking the right path.

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April 18th, 2013, 15:17
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
Yes, but my point was that that editor didn't want "grey" choices - he explicitely wanted black or white …
Well that is his opinion. I guess people just want to be good or evil. That's disappointing.

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April 18th, 2013, 15:19
Yes, I found it disappointing as well.
But what disturbed me was that he was basically applauding at those firms which implement only black & white choices - as an gaming magazine editor !

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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April 18th, 2013, 15:40
Taking a reasonable approach is out of question.
The "if you cant do it well, dont do it at all" has merits in it but certainly does not correspond with the reality of the industry (providers plus customers)

I remember pushing out the same conclusion at release of The Witcher 2: so far, designers fail so much in certain gaming dimensions that are so less complex than moral choices, that the ambition of bringing moral choices into a game should be left aside.

Adding content, even when it is known, can only be delivered poorly, is the way to go with gamers though.

Morality is a very complex issue and I noticed for example in Skyrim that consequences of choices are crafted in such way the PC is made right.
For example, you are given the option of sparing or killing an NPC. If you decide to spare him, he is revealed as innocent. If you decide to execute him, he is revealed as guilty.

When it comes to morality, designers in video gaming are way out of their depth. They dont know how to deliver on simpler things so reasonably, they should abstain from attempting more complex things.

It wont happen though.
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April 18th, 2013, 16:34
If the whole idea of the game is based around "Good vs Evil - which will you choose" its one thing. But if its a general purpose RPG, I think most of the choices are absurd. Most seem to go something like this:

"You reach the top of the hill. You can now clearly see that the smoke is from a few burning cottages. It appears that the village is being attacked. Will you:
A) Charge your courser down the hill, sunlight glinting off your radiant & heroic smile, slaughter the rogues that are attacking the village, and see justice done!
B) Charge your courser down the hill, help the invaders slaughter the villagers, and bathe in their blood (you evil, evil villain you)!"

Maybe, I don't want to get involved. Maybe I want to sneak in, and get a better view of the situation. Maybe…
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April 18th, 2013, 16:59
There can be a middle ground between KoTOR's black-and-white choices and other games where there is only a linear path. The Witcher did pretty well with a more nuanced approach. The problem is, the more shades of gray you have the more difficult to program all the possible repercussions down the line. I can see where it could get murky quite quickly.
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April 18th, 2013, 17:03
The thing we all realize is that branching is $$$ - no reason to assume that in a seriously branched games you could have towns or even worlds certain players would never see. And depending on how the dominant path runs, that could mean as much as several % of resources were spent developing something the vast majority of gamers never see - which is a real issue for project management (i.e. not just for the 'bean counters')

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April 18th, 2013, 17:09
Originally Posted by Couchpotato View Post
I love the grey areas as that is what people deal with everyday. To bad only a few games try to include that. Your either the second coming of some god or the greatest evil ever to walk the world.
But do people really want to deal with the same stuff they deal with in real life? Games are an escape from our real lives. I enjoy having to make a decision in a game, but I generally don't like having to really agonize over it. I do enough of that in my normal life between family and work. The decisions in games shouldn't stress you out, IMO.

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