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Morality and Player Choice

I've been kicking this idea around for a bit, and I decided to type it out. Not my best work, but I hope you enjoy the read.

 

In gaming today, there's more player choice than ever before. It's only natural. We, as human beings, make thousands of choices in a day, and its integrated in gaming quite well. As the most interactive of our media forms, it makes sense to tailor games to human nature and morality. After all, nothing appeals to us more than to shape our own course.

Mass Effect: The poster child for player choice and morality.

There's a lot of positive things to say for this kind of system. Not only does it make you feel as if you're fitting the game to you, it also gives a player cause to think: Whether or not they made the right choice, or maybe they should have done things differently, or a sense of accomplishment when you see your choices unfold in the way you wanted them to. I applaud developers for taking interactive media to a new level with gameplay mechanics like this, and I greatly look forward to the future, but it's not exactly perfect.

Infamous: A game in which your choices cause not only your powers and appearance to evolve, but the city itself.

More often then not, the choices are not organic. Imagine this: You're put in a situation where your only options are: A: Talking a petty criminal down before he can make things worse, or B: Kick him in the nards and shoot his brains out with a gun.

Pretty extreme choices, huh? No middle ground, and no option C. At that point, what do you do? You either stick with whatever path you've been going along, or you look at the Wiki and choose whatever option gives you the outcome you desire. And then you continue onward, playing game and rarely thinking on your own. Not exactly the outcome you want? Got to many "good guy points" by beating up some bank robbers when you needed the experience points? No problem. Go on a murderous rampage and let the evil fly!

 

And than, when you have a change of heart, it really doesn't benefit you to suddenly switch play styles. You're already on a path, and you've got so many morality points put into one path, why change? You're only a couple of points away from being able to unlock that conversation option that let's you get the outcome you want.

 

Skyrim belongs to the Nords! But, we'll totally except your help elves and beast people, regardless.

 

Than there's how the choices you make effect how the game goes on. You decided to help the Stormcloaks take back Skyrim, even though you're a High Elf? Good for you, but the majority of them will still badmouth elves and all non-human races. Yep, you just completed a rather long quest line, changed the face of the entire nation, and burned so many bridges. But, you're still eyed as a lesser being by the average citizen. Of course, you can totally change their mind about you by gathering oysters for them.

And then we're talking about how your choices play into the entire series in general, as in Mass Effect. With Mass Effect 3 looming over us, we're about to see how even minor decisions are going to factor in at the end of the Shepard's trilogy. Did you make the right choices? If not, are you going to go back and play through all the previous games to get your ideal save ready? That's just some food for thought.

These companions from Dragon Age: Origins made appearances in II, based on the outcome of their stories and whether they survived or not. So do several other characters.

I think when the credits roll, we look back at our choices and think about them. Would we have chosen differently if there was another option, or if it didn't lock out a cool quest or gear? Perhaps, perhaps not. That's what multiple playthroughs are for, I suppose. But, I personally can't wait for the day when player choice truly becomes play choice.

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