Saturday, March 24


Morality is a fascinating issue. The greatest of all fantasies, in my book, is being able to play [a] god in world that recognizes you as that. A world where morality changes around you and which starts to craft itself around what an individual player is like, rather than expect players to be a certain type of character. I guess my long-term ambition is that morals in a game are constantly shaped by the person playing it, which kind of means that the player is more like a god.
See? Peter Molyneux gets it. This quote comes from an interview with Molyneux in The Escapist Magazine. Peter Molyneux is the creative director of Lionhead Studios, acquired by Microsoft last year. 25 years in the industry, Molyneux is the creator of classic games like Populous and the more recent Black and White II. Molyneux is currently developing Fable 2.

Back to the quote. Games have a power and value not possible with other mediums. Warren Specter once said that books and movies are linear, passively-received "roller-coaster rides"; thats all fine and good, we like books and movies. But, readers and watchers are removed from the experience, they fell no remorse or guilt for a character's actions or intentions. Games, on the other hand, are interactive. Games involve players, and have incredible potential to morally effect them. Or rather, games give players morally determined choices, and therefore give players the opportunity to morally effect themselves. Furthermore, even if the player has no choice, s/he is still the one performing the act (moral or immoral); unlike books or movies, games require active-participation from the player.
Premonitions to a rampage.

Ironically (and fortuitously) enough, another article in last month's Escapist dealt partially with morality as well. The article was about an editor's attempt to unleash the hardcore gamer inside his wife.

Sean Sands and the Misses on World of Warcraft:
"Well, what if I don't want to kill things? I mean, what else can I do?"
"You're a Hunter. It's kind of your thing."
"Oh. What if I wanted to start over and be one of the guys who heals? Can I go around healing wolves instead?"
"No, you'd just be healing the guys who are killing the wolves, or yourself, while, well, you know."
Hardly any games offer an immoral free play-through. Even in games like Splinter Cell, you eventually have to kill someone. But when you do, it may have a big impact emotionally, as it did with me. Especially since I'd been avoiding murder the entire game. Mrs. Sands is killing the wolves in WoW. She really has no choice if she actually wants to play the game. Even so, she is clearly pained to do so. Books, are powerful too, but the reader isn't the one hunting, just observing. But recently there has been a growing trend in more morally opportunities for the player. Bioshock is a great example, the entire game is about choice. Players can be as moral as they choose, and later deal with the consequences of their actions.
Coolest Enemy Ever.

Moral issues are becoming more and more prominent in video games. Three of the most ingenious game designer's (and people) of all time can't be wrong.

The moral of the story
How do games have potential to morally effect players?
What games have the most morally powerful that you've played or know of?
-What specific elements make the games' powerful?

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