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Thread: The Ethics in Gaming

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    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    Question The Ethics in Gaming

    Been playing way too many Matsuno titles lately... anyway, I wanted to discuss the ethics we see in gaming and whether the choices we make in games entail deeper evaluation and if they can be seen as a test of our own character.

    Have you ever been bothered by a choice you had to make? Followed a character whose goals clashed with your own principles? How about a villain you mostly agreed with? Do you find it easy to choose the evil options in games, or do you always stick to the paragon of virtue options? Does it bother you to see other players gleefully choose "evil" options? Do you roll your eyes when a player confesses they always choose the good choices? Has there been an ethical dilemma in a game that left you feeling anxious or concerned? Would you judge another gamer by the choices they make in a game?

    Obviously, there are a lot of questions and not all of them need to be answered right away. This is a pretty broad topic but I feel with a little discussion we can eventually narrow this down to something a bit more precise.

  2. #2

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    I guess in something like God of War/Spyro where you had to kill innocent people/animals for health would make me slightly uncomfortable but not to the point of having to stop playing, but I don't really mind playing the villain as long as their motives are something I can understand the logic and reasoning behind as opposed to just being the evil big bad.

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    *permanent smite* Spuuky's Avatar
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    Nah man it's all just a game.

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    Paragon til death. I always try and do the right thing and save as many people as I can and avoiding fighting where I can.

    One example of being railroaded into not doing that is early in Nier Automata, you're chasing this machine through a desert. It's obviously scared of you. When you finally corner it you have to fight. You can't talk to it. You can't leave. The only option is to fight.

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    If it's something like The Sims, I behave as deliberately chaotic evil as possible, because that's how I have fun in simulator games. And sandbox games. And games I don't really care about.

    But if it's a game with genuinely good writing and complexity, I tend to just follow my personal beliefs about the subject in question. There are a lot of choices in games that have stuck with me, but in terms of actual ethical dilemmas, none have left me as anxious as SOMA and its repeated interrogation of things like self-awareness, the right to life, and the blurry line between cruelty and mercy.

    As for following a character opposing our beliefs or agreeing with the antagonist, I usually don't have any problem with that (being forced to do things that make my stomach turn often makes for some of my favorite moments in gaming) unless the story itself is trying to tell us we should agree or disagree with the ones we don't. That's the difference between playing, say, a Yoko Taro game -- where the protagonist and antagonist are often on very dark shades of gray and almost no one is ultimately on the right side of history -- and playing a more traditional JRPG that expects you to hate the villain as a matter of course and excuse any questionable actions the plucky young protagonists have made.

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    The Alpha and the Omega WarZidane's Avatar
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    I'm one of those people who always picks the "good" choice (unless it's a replay and I want to see the other outcomes), but in the end they're just games, none of the decisions are actually real. I won't consider the guy who always picks renegade options in Mass Effect a psychopath just because he makes his character act like one

    I will say that a great example of how not to do ethical choices/dilemmas in video games is Bioware games, with their very black and white choices that aren't actually compelling ("Do I punch this journalist or not"), and every choice is cheapened by the fact that you're rewarded for being either pure good or pure evil, not for actually mixing it up and picking what you'd actually do.

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     Master of the Fork Cid's Knight Freya's Avatar
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    I have a hard time playing the "evil" role or making those choices if it presents them to me. I just can't do it. I feel bad. I can't be mean to Garrus I can't slaughter the innocent towns peoples. Those bootybay people are good people, i can't kill them to get the bloodsail pirate stuff D:

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    Feel the Bern Del Murder's Avatar
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    I don't like being mean to nice guys, even in games. If they had already messed with me, I'll mess back.

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    Radical Dreamer Fynn's Avatar
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    I know I sound like a broken record, but the Witcher 3 is great about this because there is never a “right” or “wrong” choice. It’s pretty much guaranteed that whatever option you pick, no matter how well-meaning you may be, some aspect of the results will probably feel unfair. And I really love how the game doesn’t make your character be the center of the universe - sometimes your decisions won’t matter and sometime someone else’s will just override yours. C’est la vie.

    And in general, that’s the type of choice I want in a game. If the game gives me the generic Bioware sadist/all-loving hero choice, I’d really rather have no choice at all because that’s not only meaningless, but I just feel it can even hurt the narrative.

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    Feel the Bern Del Murder's Avatar
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    Both are fun. I like being the hero, but the grey world is fun sometimes too. In Witcher I try to go for the choices that seem the most just to me. If it leads to someone doing something stupid and getting themselves killed, not my problem.

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  11. #11
    Famine Wolf Cid's Knight Sephex's Avatar
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    I get in a debate with a friend about this once in awhile. I tell him that I don't like to play bad guys in games (unless that's the point) because while good choices certainly get heavy handed and cheesy, it seems like bad choices in most games try to be as dark and edgy as possible, and that gets annoying after awhile. Another defense for "bad" runs is that usually something funny happens. Okay. Most of the time I can see the humor in it, but then you have a game that is tonally all over the damn place. I know people think of Bioware with these things, but even if the choices aren't crystal clear like they are in those games, it seems that most games are like:

    *Help this old lady!
    Good choice: You helped her. The game continues on. Hey, maybe you get a cool bonus or something.
    Bad choice: You made sure to kill her on the very exact minute that her 77th birthday arrived, and her whole family happened to see it. Then your character gets grim dark and drinks her blood while a 45 minute scene of her children and grandchildren plays in which they cry and beg you to stop.

    Hey, maybe the bad choice would be more interesting if you manipulated her. Or how about acting nice, but doing something bad behind her back while someone else she knows takes the fall for what you did? Or maybe you can ignore her and not help or hinder? Why does every choice have to be decent or cartoonishly bad?

    On the other hand, I hate it when games give you a crappy choice. I've been playing Skyrim again, and I am dreading when I have to chose between the Imperials or Stormcloaks because they both smurfing suck. I guess my main hangup is that if you go with the Stormcloaks, you have no choice but to screw people over in Whiterun. Before someone gets all up in my ass and screams at me that was the point of it, I still say those choices gets too cynical. It would be far more interesting if the game actually let you bridge the gap, or actually have somewhat obscure ways to bridge the gaps between camps. I'm not saying I would want to see a game where you boringly declare peace, but how about a path where you convince Ulfric to back off of certain things because you earned that respect from him based on your past actions? Or maybe you talked the Jarl down from his position? Or maybe some other creative choice that isn't seen by anyone else in the game unless you are crafty enough to find that path?

    BTW I just started playing it again and it has been many years since I played the game, so I probably got something wrong in that last paragraph.

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    Newbie Administrator Loony BoB's Avatar
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    99% of the time I'm gonna be the good guy, the person I'd want to be in that story. And then sometimes I just do the other stuff to see what happens.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolf Kanno View Post
    Been playing way too many Matsuno titles lately... anyway, I wanted to discuss the ethics we see in gaming and whether the choices we make in games entail deeper evaluation and if they can be seen as a test of our own character.

    Have you ever been bothered by a choice you had to make? Followed a character whose goals clashed with your own principles? How about a villain you mostly agreed with? Do you find it easy to choose the evil options in games, or do you always stick to the paragon of virtue options? Does it bother you to see other players gleefully choose "evil" options? Do you roll your eyes when a player confesses they always choose the good choices? Has there been an ethical dilemma in a game that left you feeling anxious or concerned? Would you judge another gamer by the choices they make in a game?

    Obviously, there are a lot of questions and not all of them need to be answered right away. This is a pretty broad topic but I feel with a little discussion we can eventually narrow this down to something a bit more precise.
    Matsuno is the best.

    When it comes to games that make a point of there being branching story paths, I admittedly tend to kind of freeze up thinking about what choice is best, especially if it's in a game where I've decided that I won't be save-scumming. I finally had the chance to play Skyrim recently, and despite the open-world structure, the confines of what narrative actions the player has in each situation seems to depend on what the writers find most compelling for the story, which wrests some control from a player who wants to play according to a particular moral compass. Seeing this, I've learned not to freeze up as much as I used to; it seems like exploring the limits of what the developers themselves think are right and wrong can be entertaining, so making a 'wrong' choice according to my own moral compass isn't so bad. That doesn't stop me from save-scumming when it gets bad enough, though.

    I think it used to bother me that other players made "evil" options, and part of me thinks that's just my attachment to my initial experience playing the game. Nowadays I'll go online just to see what happens when you play the 'wrong' way.

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    Wildökarudo Mercen-X's Avatar
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    I'm always curious about whatever outcome may result of the different choices we make in games. Usually, if there's no immediate result, I backtrack and try something else (usually, the "right" choice). Very rarely have I gone through a whole game making bad choices if there has yet to be any immediate consequence. I mean, why would it change the end game if it has had no conceivable effect in the early (or later) stages?
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  15. #15

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    Outside of chose your own adventure books and visual novels I haven't played too many games where I've been given choices that matter. I remember refusing to kill unicorns in RuneScape as a kid and not killing the cute bunny things that ran away from you in FF12 because I felt bad about it, but those weren't really "choices" so to speak. For VNs my first run is usually just picking the choices that I would make in that situation, followed by another run of doing the complete opposite of that to try and see the majority of the text before focusing on unlocking all the endings. Sometimes I try to be the nice guy that gets along with everybody, sometimes I'll be the villain if I think the story sets it up where it could be interesting (Sickness is a pretty good VN for this) other times I just try and make it as difficult as possible for the story to do it's job.
    Last edited by Sarisa; 04-21-2018 at 08:45 PM.

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