Video Game Morality

Posted: October 7, 2013 in Current Gaming
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’ve recently started playing Bioshock Infinite. Yes, I’m behind the times here, but money seems to be in short supply way too often lately. Had to wait for it to go on sale. Anyway, that is all beside the point. There is a particular spot in the game, somewhat early on, where you are entering a shop and are warned by the game that stealing from the cash registers can have consequences. Now, had the game not referred to this action as theft, I never would have thought twice about taking some money from the shops, just like in my everyday life. Once it was identified as stealing though, my view of it instantly changed and I refused to do it. Even after some later events resulted in the shops being empty, I refused to take any money there because when I approached the register, the game referred to any action as stealing.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized that when I’m given a choice in games where one path is generally good and the other is generally bad, I will always take the good route. There is no exception here. When playing the original Bioshock, I refused to harvest even one little sister. I realized that I was making things harder on myself because I was getting less Adam, but I just couldn’t do it. I realize that my actions in the game truly affect nothing more than the ending of the game, but at the same time, the character was my avatar and I was dictating the actions as if I were actually doing them (in as much as you can treat Bioshock as being realistic). Yes, this is silly, but it’s how I always play it. I just don’t believe that I would enjoy myself as much going the “bad” route.

My Fable character had less hair, but basically looked like this.

My Fable character had less hair, but basically looked like this.

This was also true in Fable and Fable 2. My character developed a halo after a certain amount of time. In hindsight, I don’t believe I did anything that was considered bad or negative in the entirety of the game….assuming polygamy, adultery, and orgies aren’t considered negatives. I live vicariously in that regard.

I’ve determined that the key to my playing a game on a good path is if the game identifies that you have a choice. If not, then I rarely give it a second thought. I don’t jump over goombas in Mario games for instance. They are made to be squished. In my first paragraph, I mentioned the theft tag in Bioshock Infinite. I pilfered every register I came across in Bioshock and Bioshock 2 and would have done the same in Infinite, but the game made it taboo for me, so my entire thought process changed. I have no qualms with sneaking up on an enemy and taking them out, but stealing money from a shop? Not happening. If Nintendo decided that in the next Legend of Zelda game, Link would get some kind of negative reputation for smashing pots and taking items from people’s houses, I would no longer do it. It would suddenly be taboo and would completely change my behavior. It’s the same reason I no longer attack chickens.

The exception here is a game in which you are clearly the “bad guy.” For the record, I don’t enjoy the GTA series or games similar to it. I’ve played it a bit, and for all the things it does right, I get no joy out of it because my character is generally deplorable. In my experience (and it is admittedly limited with the GTA series), I was never given a choice to do anything “right.” To proceed in the game, I had to be a criminal. It’s clear that you are doing so because the cops go overboard trying to track you down. I can’t enjoy that in a game. It shatters the illusion for me because it is so unlike the choices I would actually make. I respect what GTA has been able to accomplish, and have no qualms with people playing it and enjoying it. I’m just personally unable to do so myself.

All of that said, no matter what happens in future Zeldas, when I play A Link to the Past, you can bet I’ll be smashing some pots and taking rupees.

  1. Lol, I totally put the money back, too.

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