17 January, 2011

A moral choice: Part 3, the Entertainment

Although choices are hard we seem to be liking them a great deal. Especially in interactive mediums (games), but by themselves too. This time I'll do it a little less wordy and instead give some cool examples. Oh, and here are links to part 1 and 2.

When moral choice would be connected to movies I would immediately think of The Dark Knight. There were two interesting scenes there (sadly, that involved video editing, which you will see is not my main skill):

What will the people on the 2 boats who have to destroy each other do?

That outcome by itself warrants a future entry on optimal group decisions. And the now for less important stuff: who will Batman save? The man who could stop crime in the city or the woman he loves?

That seemed to turn out badly... and it was brilliant. But of course these situations don't let you decide, you just get to watch the outcome. However, you do have these choices in games, especially RPG's. Here is a discussion of exterminating or reprogramming (thus taking away their free will) a race of robots:

However, I reached a different conclusion: reprogram them of course. I mean they had their will already taken from them so I don't feel it's wrong, plus I think it will make Mass Effect 3 more interesting.

However this example just proves my idea that games are dumbed down nowadays. Consider the choices Fallout (and I mean the good old games, not this piece of crap 3 that gets praised nowadays) was modeled on instead:

"You go looking for an orphan’s puppy, only to find that it’s gone rabid and you have to put it down. Then when you try to explain it to the boy, he attacks you. What do you do in that situation? Fight? Run? Disable the boy somehow? That kind of moral ambiguity was the inspiration for many of Fallout’s quests."

This was said by Tim Cain about a quest from Wasteland in an interview. And here you have more. Do yourself a favor and play these games, they are the best I know of at creating a morally ambiguous world, like, you know, the one we live in. I think such a dilemma showcases a lot more than the one from Mass Effect 2, which is grand in scale but not very emotionally involving. Moreover there seem to be no shades of grey.

I am still waiting for a game to successfully implement a 2D system like the alignment in AD&D for example (did I mentioned they dumbed it down in 2008?). In Mass Effect getting Paragon or Renegade points basically doesn't change much and it is random at times anyway (see the example above, both outcomes should give you Renegade points), while in the Knights of the Old Republic games going dark-side meant you would have to be a mindless, violent brute. Their combination however would turn up interesting results. I wish for the creation of characters like the Emperor from Star Wars, who would be Lawful Evil. That would add some depth to behavioral and moral choices in games. That would be awesome!

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