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Veteran Member - Level 11
In 2002's superhero flick 'Spiderman', the web-slinger is faced with a monumental decision. He's standing on top of an enormous structure as the Green Goblin drops both Mary Jane Watson (the love of our hero's life) and a tram full of children to their certain doom. The Goblin's intention is to make Spiderman choose between his personal feelings for Mary Jane, and his responsibility as a hero to save the children. Long story short, Spiderman saves them both, defeats the bad guy, and moves on with his life (albeit while dodging the hostility of his best friend, the son of the Green Goblin).
This scene irritates me to this day. "Why?", you ask. It's because Sam Raimi (the director) asked us a pretty deep question, and then didn't attempt to answer it. The question being, "Who should Spiderman have saved?". You see, if Spiderman was really forced to make a decision and choose between the two innocents, he would have had to let one of them perish. If the scene had played out this way, Raimi would have had to answer that question.
No matter the answer, Spiderman and his established morality system would have been challenged in a way that would have made the movie 'great' instead of just 'good'. Had he saved Mary Jane, instead of the children, he more than likely would have felt that he failed to live up to the lesson of responsibility that Uncle Ben attempted to teach to him. Not to mention, society would see the wall-crawler in a negative light. On the other hand, if he had saved the children instead of Mary Jane, he may have begun to question the values of responsibility and super-heroism seeing as how the love of his life had died because of him.If you're wondering why I'm talking about a movie made 10 years ago, (10 years? holy crap) it's because of the games that were released this past year, and the direction that video games as a medium are headed. The thing is that, even if Raimi had answered that question, we would have only gotten one answer. The reason being that it was a movie.
Pictured: Video Games Doing It Right
As we all know, movies are more limited as far as time is concerned. They usually focus on one side of an argument, seeing as how the plot of a movie can only head in so many directions, and the same could be said for books. Every other form of entertainment is linear. You get one beginning, one middle, and one ending. Any action that occurs in a movie cannot be changed, and we're never able to see how things would turn out had the opposite of said action happened.With that knowledge in hand, I say that video games are the best form of entertainment to explore morality in. Your beginning is usually set in stone, but due to the choices that developers are implementing into video games, we all might see a different middle, and - more often than not - a different ending. Video games are able to set up a situation, put us into it, and then challenge us. They can make us choose who to kill, who to interact with, or who to begin a relationship with.
Take this year's Telltale Games release, The Walking Dead, for example. As I move through the game, I'm forced to make these kind of decisions. These would be hard enough on any regular day, but then we're thrown a curve-ball in the form of Clementine (the little girl you come across in the first episode playing as Lee). Not only do you have to make decisions to keep yourself alive, but also ones that end up determining whether or not that little girl will also survive until the next day. You go from asking questions like, "Should I kill this person, or let him live?", to questions such as, "Will this person's existence threaten Clementine?". Once those decisions are made, you truly get a sense of the type of person you are, and where you stand on a situation. If you choose to replay any scene, the next time through you could make a different decision which changes the previous view point that you had staunchly stood by.
"Okay, Clem, I think I found a way - AGAIN?!"
Eventually, I realized that most of the choices I was being forced to make were so morally grey. Each option seemed equally justifiable that I was driven to a point where I just had to completely disregard right and wrong, and make all of my decisions based on how Clementine would be affected. It's becoming a trend in the video game industry to present morally grey choices to the player. Every option has some sort of unique justification, and a steep negative payoff as well.
Lately it's become harder to feel that I made the "right" choice, so I've just been relieved that I was able to make any choice at all. Just look at Mass Effect, or Bastion. Did you ever come across a scene where you were forced to choose between two extremes? During those scenes did you feel that all of your options were so complex and full of positive, as well as negative consequences, that you had to set your controller down in exasperation? I know I did. Twice in Bastion, and countless times in Mass Effect.
Give us a Spiderman game that puts us in the same situation that Raimi originally did. Not only will the decision of who we save affect the outcome of the game, but it could also affect the development of the overall story. We would be able to witness the consequences of Spiderman's actions, such as how the decisions made in the original Mass Effect carried over to the final game.If choices are implemented properly, the ending of a game will become a monument to our collective sins. It will show us whether our choices during our play through were right or wrong. There's something a bit poetic about that.
Special thanks to ace13 for reading this over, and doing some editing magic.