Chris Avellone - on Morality in Games
Gamebanshee posts a link to Chris Avellone's blog over on the Obsidian forums, where he discusses his take on morality in games as postulated in a Q & A he did for a student's master thesis. As a bonus, it comes with one of Avellone's trademark stick figure illustrations.
Do you consider moral choices in games to be an important aspect of game design? If so, why?
At the risk of being quoted out of context, I don't think it's important. I think that the player should have difficult choices to make and moral choices are one of the best ways to present it, but the most important thing from a role-playing game standpoint is that there be reactivity and consequence to your actions, whether they are moral choices are[sic] not.
In what game design phase do you think one should begin to think about moral issues in the game world, and why?
Generally, I think it should be considered as early as possible in the game design, preferably at the time that you decide upon the game's "theme." For our Aliens project, for example, the moral theme that we're trying to communicate was considered an important establishing point in our early pre-production phase (as it was for Mask of the Betrayer).
What do you consider to be successful use of morals in a game?
Fallout 1 and Mass Effect come to mind. In Fallout 1, part of the dilemma in retrieving the water chip for your home has the potential to cause another community to be extinguished. This ultimately doesn't have the impact it could because you have the ability to save both, but it's a choice that makes you pause for a moment, since your choice can condemn one civilization or another to death.
There's several moments in Mass Effect where I had to pause before making a choice because the game had done an excellent job of painting what the consequences of each action could be as I was making the choice. I don't want to give any spoilers unless you've played the game, but I had to struggle with some of the choices while making them, which makes them successful in my book.
In our latest title, Alpha Protocol, we're presenting some of the moral choices within the context of the CIA operation itself - and the choices you make to achieve your mission or your goal can depend on how much you're willing to place others at risk.
It's an interesting interview, and there are also links to some of Avellone's other blog topics, including this one on his character Ravel in PS:T, for those who want to read further.