5 Mistakes Every Videogame With A Morality System Makes

The concept of moral choice systems in video games sounds really good on paper. Instead of doing whatever the narrative tells you to do, you can make your very own decisions, allowing you to have an impact on the world, and to see the consequences of your actions. It's unfortunate that more often than not they are flawed, unfair, and brainmeltingly stupid.

Here's a list of common mistakes even the greatest games tend to make.


1. It's either Good or Evil, there's nothing else

Quick, think of a person you know. Now describe that person with only one word. What word did you use? Greedy, lazy, selfish, kind, friendly? Maybe one of those, maybe not. But I'm sure there are two words you didn't use. Good and Evil. People are not that simple, and for some reason developers fail to acknowledge that. They keep making these systems like every single person is either black or white, but next to all people are in the grey area. We all have positive and negative qualities. On good days we smile at the world. On bad days we tend to be shitheads. But this is not how things go in Videoland.


5 Recurring Mistakes In Moral Choice System Based Videogames

Pictured: video game morality


InFamous is a great example. Before the events of the game, Cole McGrath was a slacker dude with a slacker dude best friend. He got into trouble with cops at times, but he didn't want to harm anybody. He was just minding his own business. Then The Blast came, and once he got his Emperor Palpatine superpowers, he is torn between whether he should be a superhero or a supervillain. Instead of, you know, just remaining Cole. With lightning coming out of his hands. Many ?Karmic Moments" could have been handled differently, making a nice balance between the options presented to us. For example, the food supply option at the beginning. Instead of sharing it evenly with everyone or taking it all away, how about taking an entire container for you and those you care about, and leaving the rest for the citizens? Nobody would have any without you, so it should be fair. But you can only be Cole, The Saint Protector, or Cole, The Mass Murderer. Cole, The Guy Who Just Wants To Stay Alive would have been way more interesting, and believable.

5 Recurring Mistakes In Moral Choice System Based Videogames

 "Sacrificing myself and killing people are my only options."


2. The Evil options are cartoon villainy

When I was younger, I liked picking the Evil options. My reasons were simple. Even back then, I understood that actions have consequences, and I would have felt bad if I intentionally caused harm to someone for no reason. That's what society calls a conscience. But conscience has nothing to do with video games, and I didn't feel bad about bringing harm to a bunch of ones and zeroes. Playing as an Evil character was like discovering an uncharted territory, and that gave it an incredible appeal. But then something changed and I didn't particularly feel like doing it anymore. I grew up.

I grew up, and realized: ?Wait a minute! This is horseshit!" The problem was not playing as a villain. The problem was playing as an impulsive, stab-happy, rabid murderbeast. Because those don't make good villains. When you play one of the Knights of The Old Republic games, you can't be the evil mastermind manipulating from the shadows and wearing a grandfatherly smile in public. You can't be a Darth Sidious. You can only be Dark Jedi Imma Fakyu Upp. Or Sith Lord Darth Massmurder.

5 Recurring Mistakes In Moral Choice System Based Videogames

Not pictured: You

The game developers want you to feel like a really evil bastard when you want to play that way. However, they are also lazy as fuck, and it's beer o'clock anyway.  So they make the conclusion that killing and stealing are really nasty stuff, give you the opportunity to kill and steal a lot and call it a day. None of that is Master Manipulator territory, and it's really hard to take it seriously after a while. Going into a room and killing someone because you can is not evil. It's insane.

Since I realized that, I usually go with the Good option, except when I'm really against it personally for some reason (remember, I'm gray, just like everyone else). But it's really tempting to just go all Good when...