While it is hard to create multiple endings in video games that reflect a player’s actions; video game developers give players a false sense of control of video games. They give players moral choices to choose that do not actually affect the game’s ending or the player’s choices because players are given very limited control over a game and are pushed into a single ending. Even if a player decided to perform low moral actions non-player characters will not react adversely based upon player choices. No matter which moral path a player chooses to walk, their actions are never reflected. Rather it is a dilemma created by developers that have no real consequence.
Choose your alignment but it doesn’t really matter.
Video Game developers give players a false sense of control of video games. Players are given black and white choices that do not allow a player to act outside of their moral code. Player choices do not reflect in the game. In a lot of games the player’s party members may not even react to adverse actions in games. Additionally no matter what the characters final alignment is in the game, no negative or positive outcomes are gained from following that alignment path. Typically this system is found in most modern RPGS. Often video games blur the lines of what is a good alignment ending of a game and what is a bad alignment ending. Instead, both paths ultimately lead to the same conclusion. Regardless of how the player got there.
Take for instance BioWare’s Mass Effect. If the player decides to follow a Paragon or Renege the more extreme of the opposite reactions are greyed out. However, even if a person is someone of low morals they still have a right to behave outside of their moral code and Vise Versa. Additionally, if you play the middle ground both extremes are greyed out. J. Cameron Moore in his paper Making Moral Choices in Video Games states, “Yet many role-playing video games blow it! They do not fulfill this potential because the choices they require of players are not morally significant: either these choices have little effect on the narrative development in the game or they occur within an amoral secondary world.” In a poll on my twitter account, I asked my followers what they thought about the morality system in games. It seems that many feel video games give players limited control over their actions in games.
In a poll on my twitter account, I asked my followers what they thought about the morality system in games. It seems that many feel video games give players limited control over their actions in games.
The morality system in games. Do you think it works?
— Dina Farmer (@DinaAFarmer) March 5, 2016
This can mean that players, of course, are pushed to progress in the story. Yet again we are not given any freedom to actually shape the story instead there is the idea of choice. But the player continues to follow a mostly straight line.
Video games need to evolve.
Aaron Birch of Den of Geek states,” As morality is a very complex and often a personal thing, for a game to truly embrace this subject, and to give players a real moral choice, the game itself needs to evolve. At the most basic level, pre-scripted stories and character interaction would need to be altered, or totally overhauled. As everyone is different and has a different sense of morality, games would need to adapt to each player. This would mean a greater level of artificial intelligence, and even learning and adaptability. Even the best AI in gaming at the moment is still a simple decision tree based upon possible player choices, and so limits are easily reached. With better, and more flexible AI, unique choices and situations could make for a far more believable and emotionally involving situations.”
Games need to evolve.
It is simple games need to evolve in order to reflect the idea of freedom of choice in games. The Witcher series tends to produce the best results of player freedom. Player choices in this game are not always black and white. Additionally, players find they can make pivotal choices in the story that appear to be insignificant choices. Choices made in this series often display negative or positive consequences in the game. Such as the quest Velen. Since the quests stack on each other the outcomes of this quest will differ depending upon what the player did in The Whispering Hillock. Although certainly, BioWare has done some of this to a mild extent such as not saving the mages in the Circle of Magi during the Broken Circle quest. You will not be able to save Conner if you don’t save the mages. Yet that is the only consequence for not saving the tower. It seems CD Projeckt Red got it right when they keep the moral choices hidden from the player character. They gave a player pause about which choices they should make and even created virtual stress by adding a timer for certain critical choices. The developers seemed to understand that players enjoy having the perception of choice in the very least and their choices reflected in games.
What needs to be done.
It is certainly a challenge to give players more options in video games that are not dependent on a rigid morality system. However, some developers like CD Projekt Red and to a mild extent Fable have already given players a wider range of free will in the games. Games need to evolve to allow players choices to reflect their actions. Additionally, the ending of the game should be affected by player choices in some way rather than leading up to the same ending. Video games need to do a better job of presenting better thought out morality systems when they are offered. As Birch states, the development of a game that gives more freedom is difficult to create without sacrificing gameplay. However, if a developer claims to truly create a game with a strong morality system they have a long way to go.
Making Moral Choices in Video Games by J. Cameron Moore
The problem of morality in video games by Aaron Birch.