Essay Proposal: Moral Choice in Gaming (2208122)

When playing role-playing or adventure video games recently, having a choice seems to be an important element in many games. The player can choose when and how to react to a given situation, and that tends to involve a moral decision on the player’s part. As games increase in complexity, moral decision making is becoming an increasingly popular aspect in game development. So what are the benefits of having moral choices in a game, what does it offer to players? Does it make the game more interesting or less interesting for players?

Having choices in a game may make the gameplay experience more dynamic and interesting. Players accomplish goals in a less linear way, making the game more challenging. Having moral choices in a game on the other hand, may increase the possibility that players become emotionally involved, enabling them to input their own decisions or allow their personality to affect the game. Is having the responsibility to choose an option and handle its consequences an enjoyable thing for players?

Some video games offer players the choice of being a hero or villain, but morality is often not an entirely black and white concept in reality, choosing to join the dark side in a game does not necessarily reflect your own personality. Does an ‘A or B’ style decision provide enough choice for the player? When players are given option A and B, are they “real choices” or is the game only creating a sense of freedom? Does the action of choosing “good” over “evil” (or the other way around ) reflect your own morality, or is it just simply two linear paths of game play? Is there a possibility that some players prefer a morally ambiguous game play and find exploration of gray areas more satisfying? For example, Bioshock is a successful game with high ratings. It satisfies players with moral clarity: players are aware of the right thing to do, but at the same time there is an alternative game play option available that indicates a selfish act. However, the polarizing nature of these choices may not resonate with every player’s particular desire.

So what about players that prefer a more realistic or relatable approach to decision making in games, are there other games that provide a wider array of moral options? Players experiencing linear or limited structures of game play in repetition may lose interest sooner or later. Because there is not much emotion involved, players are essentially playing with their mechanical skills rather than thinking about why or if they should be performing a certain task.

I will be comparing games with varying levels of moral choice: games that are linear, games that offer black and white decision making, and games that offer more complex choices. Resident Evil (linear), Bioshock (binary choices), and Fallout 3 (multiple choices) will figure prominently in this comparison. Information on these games will be based on personal experience and game reviews. I will investigate and observe different levels of choices a player is given, in comparison to binary or limited choices. I will analyze the effects of increased and decreased moral decision responsibility in gameplay. From these sources, I hope to determine the benefits of playing a game with increased moral choice, and what effect this has on a player. Through an analysis of the effects of moral choice in gaming, perhaps it is possible to suggest alternative structures for choices in games, or to improve upon the structures that are already present.

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