More FtBCon panels: video game edition

Last night: Video games, religion and morality


Coming up in a minute: Female protagonists in video games



  1. John Kruger says

    As I remember the Star Control 2 slave trader dilemma, when I saved my game to sell off my crew and see what I could get they gave me a bunch of useless junk artifacts, so the programmers were only punishing you for the bad choice (skyrocketing crew replacement costs) with no worthwhile reward. In fact, to advance the game and get what you really needed from them you had to give them a fungal pod from the evil aliens that had no moral baggage at all anyway, whether you sold off your crew or not. Not a real moral choice that weighed any cost or benefit really, more like a moral test to passed or failed.

    I think it was only a relatively recent thing to be able to make traditionally “bad” moral choices without some kind of karmic punishment inflicted on you (Star Wars KOTOR is the first one I can think of). For a long time the “bad” choices were just a chance for the game to justify punishing you in some way (ex. attack the chickens in Zelda and get swarmed by them.) For a long time video games were considered a genre only for children, so I think most companies avoided any kind of moral grey area like the plague until that perception changed, much like cartoons used to keep topics light and stay directed at younger audiences.

  2. Psychopomp Gecko says

    Actually, bad choices do hurt you in games. Perhaps less so in Fallout 3, but in New Vegas, closer to the spirit of the series, evil choices will alienate you from companions and whole communities. You want to side with the escaped prisoners? Prepare for a few towns and the NCR to shoot at you. Siding with the gang of slave-owning, women-abusing, crucifying Roman Legion wannabes really doesn’t make you a lot of friends.

    The really fun thing to do, however, is to check and see how many people actually take the evil choice. An interview from the creator of Bioshock Infinite would be interesting to follow up on. There’s a part where you “win” a lottery to throw a baseball at an interracial married couple. You could just toss it elsewhere, or even at the MC of this little event. The creator of Bisohock noted that he hadn’t seen anyone yet, at the time of that interview, throw the baseball at the couple.

    I guess it’s like real life. We all have some bad choices open to us, and some won’t have bad consequences except in our own heads, so the measure may be who actually takes the bad choices. Or to steal a quote from Stargate SG-1: “And what is the measure of a god, Gerak? Is it the scope of their power, or how they choose to wield that power?”

  3. John Kruger says

    It really depends on the game. The “Infamous” series on PS3 had some decent dilemmas that mostly revolved around inconvenience (should I take the chemical hit and be delusional for a while or force someone else to do, ect.), although being “good” or “evil” only really affected the cut scenes you watched for story development and what kind of powers you would unlock as the game went along. The game play was essentially the same either way (same levels, bosses, ect.). Star Wars KOTOR was similar that way. Dragon Age had different choices to make that affected the story line, but the overall story was mostly forced back on track after relatively minor consequences for each act (you could pull some pretty outrageously heinous stuff and then go on to the next act with some pretty silly justifications). Only the conversations changed a little.

    I think most games stick to a relatively linear story line, because any big consequences as the result of a single decision double the game content you need to develop or halve the single play through experience. Games that play out philosophical dilemmas in a realistic way are very cool, but the work load becomes exponentially greater with every new possible decision.

  4. Russell Glasser says

    What I found interesting about the Druuge choice was that you don’t get punished for your bad action RIGHT AWAY. They give you some time to enjoy the fruits of your cheap purchases, and only after you start doing it as a habit and then return to starbase do they hit you with the punishment.

    Also, I don’t remember if I mentioned it or not, but the Druuge have the “Not So Different” speech at the end, which provided me with at least a few moments of self-reflection as I tried to justify why I really AM better than them.

    The interesting thing about the Druuge race is that they are, at base level, a bunch of self-interested Randian anarcho-capitalists who don’t want to be slowed down by pointless regulation. (Regulation against feeding their crew to the furnace, that is.)

  5. says

    Well, in New Vegas it wasn’t about if you’re good or bad, it’s about whether if the NPC or faction likes what you’re doing or not. At first the Legion won’t attack you, until you commit some atrocities against them. But if you want to side with a glorified slaver band (the Legion is nothing more really), of course you shouldn’t take a Brotherhood member or a Follower with you, but maybe a ghoul, who doesn’t mind it.

    In Fallout games the dilemma is mostly this: Do you take their stuff or do you stay friends with them? You can create a character with much HP and big melee damage and just punch everyone to death or… you can create a character who can talk anyone into anything. I think the latter is more interesting.

    And that reminds me of Mass Effect where many times I read that “the good choice is always the top one.” No. It’s the “paragon” choice. The interesting thing in Mass Effect is that it doesn’t judge if it is good what you’re doing. It judges what people will think of you. A hgh paragon value can mean that you’re a manipulative douchbag and a high renegade value can mean that you’re honest.

    But my favorite game about moral decisions is The Witcher (the first one). There are no real answers, it’s you who decide what’s moral and what’s not. You are the arbiter. Much like in the pen and paper RPG Dogs in the Vineyard.