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Ketchaval

Conveying MORALITY through Game Choices?

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Several questions: Is it possible to convey moral messages through gameplay / story choices? Can games have a moral? Are games amoral because they don't involve real people? Are gamers more interested in strategic advantage than story cause and effect? 1. I can imagine a game conveying the Moral of the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg (which isn't so much morality as common sense). Ie. You come across a plant that keeps producing healing herbs every month, but if you uproot it the plant is worth five herbs but it won't grow back (unless you plant a new one). So if you uproot it you get a better short term pay-off. But you lose out in the long-term. 2.Can we have games where you can be Martin Luther King or Malcolm X, ie. which allow you to approach the same issue from a different angle and shows the difference between your influences.

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Original post by Ketchaval
Are games amoral because they don't involve real people?

Morals are to large extent abstract principles to begin with. If you use game entities to convey a moral message, it's not any different from a movie, a book or a play using actors to do the same, or even from the "thou shall not kill" type of directives. Definitely not 'amoral' -- if this was the case, people wouldn't be getting such huge kick out of doing 'immoral' things in games. ;s

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Original post by Ketchaval
Several questions:

Is it possible to convey moral messages through gameplay / story choices?
Can games have a moral?
Are games amoral because they don't involve real people?
Are gamers more interested in strategic advantage than story cause and effect?


1. Yes. It's been done in many games. It's been well done in KOTOR.

2. Yes. They often have many morals.

3. Amoral because they don't involve real people? This seems like a ludicrous proposition on it's face, but I think you just didn't finish your throught. Are books, art, or other media amoral because they don't involve real people? Does this make the Bible amoral?

4. Yes, they are to an extent. In Black & White, many people choice to go black because of some of the "costs" of being White were too high. Having to feed your villagers that worship at your temple, having to constantly upgrade your worshiper's towns even when they were sprawling because they could NEVER be pleased, etc. In Jade Empire, however, this was balanced well as playing open palm or closed fist both netted different exclusive content and/or rewards.

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1. I can imagine a game conveying the Moral of the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg (which isn't so much morality as common sense). Ie. You come across a plant that keeps producing healing herbs every month, but if you uproot it the plant is worth five herbs but it won't grow back (unless you plant a new one). So if you uproot it you get a better short term pay-off. But you lose out in the long-term.

2. Can we have games where you can be Martin Luther King or Malcolm X, ie. which allow you to approach the same issue from a different angle and shows the difference between your influences.



1. Yes, this would be neat. However, I would make the immediate choice more violent. Perhaps not graphically violent if the game is targeted to a family audience, but something that is as bad as the rhyme. Kill and eat the goose!

2. You could do this, but would it be fun? I think you would annoy people if you had Martin Luther King cast in a fighter, brawler, or some other kind of action game. It would be ridiculous and very wrong.

While telling this story would be good, I don't know how you would make it all that interactive. You could have minigames that simulate giving speeches and Martin could fumble or "Say on Brother!" based on your skill.

I guess you could make a strategy game out of organizing protests. . . but the subject is quite sensitive and I think that you could very easily move from tribute to something ludicrous and thus demeaning to the weighty subject. Like, "I better put the black guy with the best stats up front so he doesn't get killed by the white man's dogs and water hose." How awful is that?

Also, pretty much everyone who was a part of that is not dead yet. It isn't far enough back in history that it is not emotional to people. While you want people to feel things from your game, I don't think that you want people to judge your game based on pre-existing emotions.

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Original post by Ketchaval
Several questions:

Is it possible to convey moral messages through gameplay / story choices?

Yes - In the popular Knights of the Old Republic, as well as other bioware titles, the players response to an action defines their morals. In Fable, the player has the option of beating up a bully who is picking on a little kid. He can side with the bully or side with the little kid. If he chooses to beat the bully up, he gets a doll. Now it is his sisters birthday, and he needs a birthday present for her. He could keep the doll, or he has the option of giving it to the little kid who owns the doll.

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Can games have a moral?

Sure - A game can present the player with scenarios in which the player must make choices to reflect his morales. In a game like Knights of the Old Republic, the ultimate enemy is bent on controlling the galaxy. You can kill him and restore order to the world, or he could be malicous and try to take control of the world.

In fable, you are sent to save your mother who is sent in prison. This virtous gets the tables turned on you when you get arrested and thrown into prison. The games morale was to show a good action can have worse reasults in some sense, though it is only part of the build up to the climax.
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Are games amoral because they don't involve real people?

Morales dont require real people - Cant morales be shown through childrens stories like The Boy Who Cried Wolf, with fictional charcters?

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Are gamers more interested in strategic advantage than story cause and effect?

The purpose of a story is to provide conflict in the game. A strong story will give the player motivation to play a game. I believe that strategic advantages - possibly I see as (new skills/abilites?) Can tie hand in hand with the cause and effect. Aka what you choose dictates what advantages you get. It depends on the gamer. In fable, for example, at the end game, the player has the option of keeping the ultimate sword of power or destroy it. Now some players might care solely about getting that sword to be more powerful, and dont care on the effects on the world. I believe this is the case more in mmorpg games where the player is competing with other players to be the strongest. Others wont care about the avatars stats but rather about what type of influence he/she is having on the world. I cant give a statistic, but I would think that those who prefer the strategic advantage would be found more in the mmorpg competitive environment, and the cause effect influence of the world players would be found in single player games where he is influcing a world of non-playing characters.

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1. I can imagine a game conveying the Moral of the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg (which isn't so much morality as common sense). Ie. You come across a plant that keeps producing healing herbs every month, but if you uproot it the plant is worth five herbs but it won't grow back (unless you plant a new one). So if you uproot it you get a better short term pay-off. But you lose out in the long-term.

Sure this a choice of the player - It depends on the scenario. If I came across this scenario in a game like knights of the old republic I would take the 5 herbs at once, because I would be less likely to want to come back at all. However, if this were a persistant world (mmo) I would go with the long term benfits - This question of a single pisnt so much about morales but what is more convient for the player.
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2.Can we have games where you can be Martin Luther King or Malcolm X, ie. which allow you to approach the same issue from a different angle and shows the difference between your influences.

I dont see why not - It depends on what type of game you are applying this scenario too. I would assume you are speaking player rpg, in which case multiple solutions too problems is an issue of game design which is under-developed. Right now players can approach scenarios from a few different combat standpoints, but other solutions such as diplomacy are underdeveloped.

[Edited by - Talonder on May 26, 2005 10:20:12 PM]

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1. guess at Player Psychology

Gamers will do what they can to get the outcome (or gameplay) that they want.

If someone is playing a game and being virtuous is boring then they may play as an "evil" character if it provides a more enjoyable gameplay experience. Ie. If they enjoy the combat etc oriented gameplay. In Black & White I wanted to play as a Good god, but found that the gamerules made it boring to play this way, being a relatively more evil god ie. using warfare and big fireballs to impress the opposing villages was a lot more fun for me.

Likewise if a player enjoys interacting with a character from their party who has been imprisoned then they will probably try to free him/her unless this task is too onerous.

Convenience is also an issue, if they profit more from being evil instead of good (ie. they get more resources) then this is a strong encouragement.

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I always thought this was a good idea but have failed to see a game use the full potential of this idea. Fable did it but it didnt really effect the game and you could change it to easily.

I think when you apply this concept to a game it must make major changes in your game play, not only appearance, moves, or the way people act towards you but it should effect the entire story.
In fable it would have been nice if you could have joined to bandits and gone on raids with them, excelled in their ranks and become a leader, and have the story take off from there, where you eventually disband the guild and fight them.

I also like your idea of showing something from different angles in a story. In real life people usually only see one side of a story. Perhaps a game where you get to play as a soldier bombing a village and killing terrorist. Then maybe the next part of the game you are playing as a kid who is in search of his father and your running through the streets and soldiers are killing your people. You eventually come up to your father to find him dead.
In this you get both sides of the story, the goal of the soldiers trying to protect their homeland, and the rage of a son who finds his father dead by these men.

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I came up with this fantasy story to a FF type RPG game idea some years ago. Its basied entirly around a moral dilema; the preverbial double edged sword.

The player character is a little slave girl, one of only a very few remaining members of a dying race...her race is despised, feared even...in short NPCs just generaly treat the player like some barnyard animal...

during the course of the game players become aware of these certain "lemming" like creatures...and once killed they grant you magical powers...but at a cost, the magic can only be used once, and simply bearing the mana slowly kills you...its a bit like drug addiction really...you get a short intense high that quickly becomes a deadly withdraw eventualy leading to death...the more of these "lemmings" you kill the more mana you recieve but the more drastic the withdraw becomes. and there is no undoing this effect once players take advantage of it.

Effectively players are somewhat forced into a moral corner by the actions and reactions of the NPCs, makeing the player want to take advantage of the "lemmings" magic abilities inorder to lash back agains the agressiveness of the NPCs...however this is takeing the easy route, a route that leads to an eventual dead end...but the harder route...of not becomesing the "beast" the NPCs fear you to be involves much deplomacy and sacrifice...potentialy leading to an ending where players fellow slaves are granted freedom, and NPCs gain a new respect for the race...

In a way it was inspired by Martin Luther King and Gandai...whom took a non-violent protesting approch inrder to right the wrongs imposed upon them...a very difficult thing to do, especialy in light of our internal animalistic desire to lash out at our oppressors.

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