“You’re Just Gonna Be Nice”: How Players Engage with Moral Choice Systems By Amanda Lange. Are you a Paragon, or a Renegade? Light Side, or Dark Side? I surveyed over 1000 gamers to see how they engaged with moral choice systems in video games. The results are sadly predictable: You’re all too nice.
I came across this article on reddit, r/games, and it was really a good read. Lots of information on what most of the gaming savvy crowd on reddit did for their choices in games.
First thing first, since Mass Effect 1 where I played as male first (my own gender,) I played as a female protagonist whenever possible first and then a male on a 3rd or 4th playthrough. That was mostly because I really loved Jennifer Hale’s voice acting but later it grew into a thing of its own. So now I predominantly play games as a female protagonist when given the choice on the first playthrough.
The second thing is that in games with multiple endings, I play to see them all nearly every time. Any game I start I usually try to finish, though not always. So multiple playthroughs are the norm.
It got me thinking of how I approach “morals” with gaming. In games like Fallout: New Vegas or Mass Effect or Dragon Age, where you get to create your character I would try think of a nature and demeanor for my avatar first and then base my decisions off of that, good or “evil.”
In games like the Witcher, where the protagonist has a back story and history already fixed and famous for, I chose as I thought Geralt would. That being the safety and survival of his friends and himself. Then onto being paid for something if it was in the means of the people I saved or served. Trying to stay as neutral as possible but would side with non humans if it came down to it. I felt that the Witcher games best captured choice and consequence in a game and there was no binary good or evil way to play the game. It was satisfying to see how different choiced played out as most choices did not have an immediate result. There would be a point later in the game where a small cutscene would play out and then the consequences of earlier choices would show.
The good and evil choice largely depended on the outcome, not rewards or gains. In Knights of the Old Republic, I played as I thought a hero would trying to make the universe a better place for everyone. On the second playthrough, I played a self serving opportunist who did things on a whim, like having Zaalbar (who owed me a life debt) kill his lifelong friend Mission Vao because I could (with maniacal laughter). In Fallout: New Vegas, I played as a pragmatic do gooder who strived for independence in himself and others, I chose fight for the independent New Vegas route and killed who ever would not join or those who would hinder that independence. All with no thought of my avatar’s benefit. On a second playthrough of New Vegas, I sided with the legion and killed all would not submit or opposed, and took what ever I wanted.
I found that games with good and evil choices or paths had very little thought put into being “evil.” Like the article states, evil is usually just being self serving or ruthless, nothing that made it worth playing as evil really. Being rude = evil. Extortion = evil. Using force or intimidation to coerce = evil. All very dull and that is usually why I play the “good” role in a game in the first playthrough.
Anyways the post, or article, is a good read and got me to think about the way I play games.