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FPS Gaming and the 'Just-World Hypothesis'

Soulskill posted about 3 years ago | from the all-the-worlds-ills-can-be-solved-with-a-rocket-launcher dept.

First Person Shooters (Games) 366

Hugh Pickens writes "When people witness someone subjected to some misfortune, they're susceptible to suggestions that the person deserved it and thus see the misfortune as evidence of karma or justice – hence the 'just' in 'just-world hypothesis.' Now consider the controversial new first-person shooter Homefront, which has you play as a freedom fighter in an America occupied by a North Korean superpower. The introduction to the game goes to great lengths to relieve you of any moral misgivings you might have about plugging away at the enemies it's getting ready to throw at you. 'You see enemy soldiers not only brutalizing American civilians, but outright murdering a mother in front of her children and callously tossing corpses around,' writes James Madigan, a gamer with a Ph.D. in psychology. 'The message is clear: Hey, these guys are evil. When we give you a gun, shoot them and feel good about it.' Madigan says the interesting thing about Homefront is that it's not leaving any blanks to be filled, which robs the game of some narrative depth."

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366 comments

Kill the Invaders (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35859578)

It doesn't matter if it's the North Korean army invading the United States or the American army invading Iraq.

Protect your nation. Kill the invaders.

Make them pay for the theft of your national resources with rivers of blood.

Alternatives to the mass-murdering hero (5, Interesting)

Kelbear (870538) | about 3 years ago | (#35859720)

Shooters are rooted in well, shooting. Whatever moral conflict you may have about the taking of a life is quickly resolved and cast aside as you blast your way through hundreds, even thousands of enemies over the course of the game. Any hesitation must necessarily have been overcome in the first few minutes in these games.

This is largely due to the power fantasies that accompany the shooter genre. Players are powerful, and their "shooting" ability must be sufficient to overcome all obstacles thrown at them. Justification is needed to resolve the dissonance stemming from gunning down so many enemies. Uncharted is one example of a (great) game that has received some criticism for failing to address this point. Charming off-the-cuff quips are jarringly out of place after slaughtering hundreds of men. Even after the protagonist is himself shocked at the prospect of shooting museum security guards, and is instead offered tranquilizer darts, these guards are sedated right off walkways to fall several stories down. Or off the edge of rooftops where the fall is almost certainly fatal. The justification for shooting is made necessary by the nature of shooters.

So here's an interesting idea from the "Extra Credits" guys at www.escapistmagazine.com .

How about a game where you're a widowed mother trying to get your children to safety across war-torn Europe? The objective is clear, the motivation even more so. The focus would not be on charging into violence, but avoiding it where possible, or using it as an ugly means to a necessary end. A challenging premise for game design, and for game writers. It offers the potential to challenge the players with things like:

-Dialogue of a mother trying to raise children to be good people in an awful environment.
-Deciding what taboos may need to be broken to get the children to safety. Perhaps she will need to kill a man to protect them...and then explain to them why it was right (or wrong?) for her to do that. Perhaps she will need to sleep with a guard so the kids can slip past...but burdened with the memory of what happened.
-Being asked to risk your safety and that of your children on behalf of someone else, or even someone else's children. (and again, having to justify your choices to your children later).***
-Comforting a child.

Extra Credits offered this idea up as part of a discussion on what it takes to create a "good female character". They posited that a good /female/ character is not simply a gender-neutral character that would be good regardless of gender (which would simply be a "good character"). Rather, a good female character is a character whose femininity is innately tied to who she is. This would be an opportunity for a strong female character to flourish as a result of her femininity, rather than a lack of the same. And sex appeal would not have to factor in anywhere either.

P.S:
***An interesting dilemma came up for me in Fable 2 *minor spoiler ahead*:
Once of the quests involves being tricked by a villain, and finding yourself and an innocent woman, placed in front of a demon demanding life force from one of you. This meant that one of you would be instantly aged into a shriveled husk. In the end, I gave the demon the girl. After all, it was just an AI character, whereas I was a real human being who would feel some regret at having my avatar tarnished for the rest of the game.

But I had a twinge of regret, I had been playing virtuous hero throughout the game until this point, rescuing others, and refusing reward whenever it was offered. But now I was not being asked to be the hero, I was asked to be the martyr. Being defaced was a purely visual effect, but a significant one because this was the first time the player is asked to actually give up something irreplaceable. This was the one time where I was asked to make a real sacrifice, however small it was. I was surprised to find myself a bit ashamed at my selfishness, and the event sparked some brief introspection. Great stuff for a videogame.

Re:Alternatives to the mass-murdering hero (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35859832)

Off topic, but it seems that you've found the precise length of a slashdot comment that causes the "Read the rest of this comment..." link to appear. Your comment is the first that I see that is not abbreviated but still has it.

Re:Alternatives to the mass-murdering hero (1)

wertarbyte (811674) | about 3 years ago | (#35860170)

I've never actually talked to anyone playing the "evil" way in Fallout 3 - it seems that even though everything is purely fictional, some rules of society still apply. Perhaps its also just an experience from past games that "noble" conduct usually was rewarded later on. But I even sometimes felt bad when the game did not offer a "common sense" solution and I had to resort to deadly force (Why do I have to kill the Overseer?).

Re:Kill the Invaders (1)

smelch (1988698) | about 3 years ago | (#35859750)

Like Hitler with the Jews or the US with the Mexicans or Saxons with the god damn Christians. And when you win, invade the invaders and baptize them.

Re:Kill the Invaders (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35859850)

Your equating the Holocaust to the US war with Mexico?

Re:Kill the Invaders (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35859928)

not equating, comparing... (that's a difference)

in both cases, and in almost any war/conflict, there is a tendency to demonize the enemy, display him as non-human and evil, and declaring it righteous to kill him.

in this regard, there probably are some similarities between the war us-mexico and the holocaust - because even in the us-mexico war, there were people (probably on both sides) that did not regard their enemies as full human beings...

Re:Kill the Invaders (2)

TheCarp (96830) | about 3 years ago | (#35859758)

Heh right out of the French National Anthem....

"Let's March! Let's March! Until their impure blood, waters our fields"
(it flows a lot better in french)

But its true, I always point out to people when they talk of wikileaks possibly outing people who worked with the US troops.... those people are the ones that, if we were in the same situation as Afghanistan or Iraq, would be the ones we are calling enemy collaborators. Would a german troop cry over outing of french resistance? Its all relative, but, the person working against his own people to help foreign invaders deserves what he gets.

Re:Kill the Invaders (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35859990)

Funny... you guys would be singing it in German if you werent helped out awhile ago...

Re:Kill the Invaders (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35860008)

And you yanks would be speaking proper English now if it weren't for some Frenchie assistance against the Brits.

Re:Kill the Invaders (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35859914)

Would have been more fun to have them justify playing afgan or libian defending against an american invasion (And more realistic!). Ofcause such a think is unthinkable in the land of the free where freedom of speech and general openmindedness of the nation would quickly put an end to a title.

Re:Kill the Invaders (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 3 years ago | (#35860338)

It doesn't matter if it's the North Korean army invading the United States or the American army invading Iraq.

Protect your nation. Kill the invaders.

Especially if they are little green pigs! CRUSH THEM ALL!!!

Well... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35859580)

How do we know that the mother of that child didn't deserve it?

Re:Well... (1)

Daetrin (576516) | about 3 years ago | (#35859724)

"How do we know that the mother of that child didn't deserve it?"

Obviously that's a joke, but there clearly is some dissonance between the first half of the blurb and the second. As long as we're doing armchair psychology it seems like there's a pretty clear difference between blaming a victim when something bad happens to them because of a third party, and justifying your own actions when you do something bad to someone else. And if it was really a case of the "just world phenomenon" they wouldn't need to provide any excuses about why it's okay to kill the enemy, you'd invent your own reasons.

Re:Well... (1)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | about 3 years ago | (#35859822)

Yea, after the first half of the blurb I was really hoping that they had developed some sort of "Just World" system for multiplayer where after $X n00b tube kills a player's gun misfires and the grenade somehow goes off in the chamber.

How could this have happened? (4, Insightful)

Hartree (191324) | about 3 years ago | (#35859586)

Good heavens. We have to make this right by making it be the US soldiers we're shooting.

Those bastards! (1)

icannotthinkofaname (1480543) | about 3 years ago | (#35859588)

Why would you rob a game of narrative depth?

Re:Those bastards! (2)

bareman (60518) | about 3 years ago | (#35859622)

They'll get their karmic reward for the narrative depth theft by no one buying the game.

Robs narrative depth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35859590)

I don't see how giving me more than enough justification for dropping Koreans is going to rob the game of depth...

Re:Robs narrative depth? (2)

royallthefourth (1564389) | about 3 years ago | (#35859628)

Narrative depth, not gameplay depth. Any deep thinker will be unsatisfied with a totally unambiguous set of circumstances and characters. On the other hand, those types tend not to play many video games anyway...

Re:Robs narrative depth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35859774)

On top of that, of the ones who do play video games FPS isn't exactly their first choice.

Re:Robs narrative depth? (1)

royallthefourth (1564389) | about 3 years ago | (#35859816)

On top of that, of the ones who do play video games FPS isn't exactly their first choice.

Yes, this is why I near exclusively play JRPG's, particularly the Tales series.

Re:Robs narrative depth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35860246)

Yea, those require some serious deep thinking....

Re:Robs narrative depth? (2)

Culture20 (968837) | about 3 years ago | (#35859994)

Any deep thinker will be unsatisfied with a totally unambiguous set of circumstances and characters.

Unless they've been exposed to nebulous gray-area dramas their entire life. Even Scrappy-Doo has been used as a surprise villain recently. Scrappy Effing Doo. I predict that the new Smurfs movie will show complex motivations for both Gargamel and the Smurfs.

How is this different from Doom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35859598)

Doom shows you that your enemies are incarnations of evil, leaving even less blanks. Did narrative suffer? Of course!

So how is this news?

(also, first post?)

Re:How is this different from Doom? (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 3 years ago | (#35859918)

And in its predecessor, Wolfenstein 3d, your enemies were Nazis.

Re:How is this different from Doom? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 3 years ago | (#35860104)

Better yet, sometimes they were Nazi zombies.

I think that the answer to GP's question is simple, though: we're talking about humans here. They're not soulless killing machines, no matter what the media has taught us about the militaries of the DPRK or NSDAP, or about soldiers of any given army being immoral people. In World War I, there were often cases where the troops on the ground were so horrified by the violence, and so aware of the basic goodness of each other as human beings, that they wouldn't fight; one particular story tells of a German soldier visiting an English trench for Christmas dinner. Although the powerful ideologies carried by modern military aggressors often bury this, it's not trivial to forget that your enemies are humans. Don't mistake the cartoonish sensibility of early-nineties id Software for reality!

(That being said, Doom's narrative was built to fail by the time of release.)

Battle against Doors. (2)

Tei (520358) | about 3 years ago | (#35859610)

Homefront - Thrilling Gameplay Experience

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFVz6-A75Fc [youtube.com]

Homefront tells the tale of one nation's struggle against the tyranny of locked doors.
----------------

I don't think Slashdot sould dignify some things with a article. This game, probably don't deserve one, has is just another COD clone.

All FPS do this (5, Insightful)

slimjim8094 (941042) | about 3 years ago | (#35859614)

Half Life 2 jumps to mind. You kill a guard with your crowbar; they're beating up this guy while his wife scream "please, somebody help". Tha'ts how you get your pistol.

Games aren't the real world. A World War I game that forces you to ask "wait, why am I shooting them again?" just isn't any fun. I think that's why people like WWII so much - by war standards, it was morally unambiguous.

Moral ambiguity bothers people. It's not enjoyable. It shouldn't be enjoyable, and it's good that it bothers us. Is it surprising that we don't like it in games?

Re:All FPS do this (2)

glwtta (532858) | about 3 years ago | (#35859716)

Moral ambiguity bothers people. It's not enjoyable. It shouldn't be enjoyable, and it's good that it bothers us. Is it surprising that we don't like it in games?

Well, except for those of us that do like it in games; because it does bother us - that's what games are for, playing with things that bother us in real life.

Re:All FPS do this (5, Insightful)

blair1q (305137) | about 3 years ago | (#35859742)

WW2 was morally ambiguous.

Not for America, maybe, certainly not for the UK or Russia.

But for the Germans, who should have been asking why they were shooting us instead of Hitler, it was a psychological minefield. Italy and Austria, too.

And then there's France...and Switzerland...

Re:All FPS do this (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35859834)

If you exclude multiplayer, how many WWII shooters are there where you play as the Germans? Or French? Or Swiss? Or Italians? Or Austrians?

Hell, how many WWII shooters are there where you play as the BELGIANS!?

Re:All FPS do this (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 3 years ago | (#35859970)

The Swiss?
So you would stand around and do nothing?

The Swiss did not participate in WW2.

Re:All FPS do this (1)

blair1q (305137) | about 3 years ago | (#35860256)

The Swiss were not attacked and did not attack anyone in WW2.

That's a lot different from not participating.

And, in the face of Hitler's plans for the world, what does it mean not to attack him?

Re:All FPS do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35860354)

They were busy stealing Jewish gold and taking in gold from Natzi leaders to hold for them when they had to escape to South America. That's not doing nothing.

Not FPS but strategy (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | about 3 years ago | (#35860180)

My brother always played Panzer General with the Germans. He said they had better weapons. Nice excuse. You better keep and eye on him...

Re:All FPS do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35860270)

Italians were the best allies the Allied forces could have hoped for in WWII.

Re:All FPS do this (1)

toastar (573882) | about 3 years ago | (#35859948)

Weren't the German soldiers told Poland invaded them first?

Re:All FPS do this (1)

hitmark (640295) | about 3 years ago | (#35860372)

Something like that, i recall reading that the SS sent some troops across the Polish border disguised as Polish soldiers and opened fire on the German troops stationed on the German side.

And it is easy to say in hindsight that the Germans should have shot Hitler, but at the time he and the National-Socialist party had managed to restore order and meaning to a broken nation.

Re:All FPS do this (2)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 3 years ago | (#35859776)

Moral ambiguity bothers people. It's not enjoyable. It shouldn't be enjoyable, and it's good that it bothers us. Is it surprising that we don't like it in games?

If games are indeed art, as many have argued in recent times, then moral ambiguity is an important component. It's not necessary of every game ever made, but a game without moral ambiguity is more akin to the art you put up on the fridge because your kid in preschool made it.

Re:All FPS do this (2)

vux984 (928602) | about 3 years ago | (#35859966)

If games are indeed art, as many have argued in recent times, then moral ambiguity is an important component.

Monet's world famous landscape paintings are definitely art, and not remotely "morally ambiguous". Just one example, of countless...

Re:All FPS do this (1)

TheCarp (96830) | about 3 years ago | (#35859778)

Wolfenstien 3d (original).... you start out in a cell, with a dead gaurds body at your feet, and a knife and pistol in your hands.... as if the fact that they wear uniforms with swastikas and yell at you in german wasn't enough.... they also already captured you and you killed a gaurd to escape.. you need more justification to leave a trail of kraut bodies?

Re:All FPS do this (1)

lxt (724570) | about 3 years ago | (#35859790)

I'm not entirely sure I agree with you when you say "we don't like [moral ambiguity] in games".

I'd argue the problem is more moral ambiguity is difficult to write in games. It is hard to create characters and situations that are both morally ambiguous and rewarding to play, but when it's done right it can be extremely effective. The problem is it's extremely easy for a writer or game designer to take the easy way out and just state "this man is bad" versus "this man is driven by a series of complex emotions and decisions".

For example, Deus Ex is pretty much in every single Top 10 Games list ever made, and that's a game which takes great pains to make almost every character morally ambiguous. Everyone you're up against will have some plausible logic behind their actions, and you're frequently chastised and praised for your violence or passivity as a player by NPCs. And it's undeniable that players responded extremely positively to that game.

People *are* drawn to ambiguous characters for the simple reason that they reflect ourselves: nobody is perfect, after all. I'm not saying every game should offer you differing ethical choices and perspective (hey, sometimes its fun to just gun down Nazis without worrying about the consequences of your actions), but morally ambiguous characters *can* be enjoyable to watch (hey, The Sopranos and The Wire were based around that entire premise), and to play.

Re:All FPS do this (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 years ago | (#35859810)

I'm not sure that there would be any part of a WWI video game that would be even remotely enjoyable. You'd spend months crouching in the mud behind some barbed wire, losing 1HP per hour to trench foot, occasionally getting insta-gibbed by artillery fire or coughing out your lungs from poison gas, until you were ordered over the top and killed by either machine guns or land mines.

Come to think of it, though, MMORPGs have proven that people are suckers for ghastly, relentless grinding...

Particularly in an FPS (3, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 3 years ago | (#35859870)

Most FPSes are not big on stories and choices. They are big on shooting things. There are games that focus more on story, but shooties are not them.

Heck some of the really popular shooties, the story is completely ignored by most players. Like Battlefield Bad Company 2. It is the online shooty I currently like. I have no idea what the story is, never tried the single player. It is US vs Russia but it doesn't really matter. It is people I am supposed to shoot vs people I am supposed to help. Heck, you swap sides each round.

People need to stop wanting games to be "perfectly real" or any of that shit. No, games need to be fun. Now for some games, that means a deep story, and maybe it means some hard choices. However for others, it means a bunch of baddies of some variety to shoot. Both are ok.

Re:Particularly in an FPS (1)

dow (7718) | about 3 years ago | (#35860304)

The single player Bad Company 2 isn't too bad, and you feel a bond with your squad mates that you don't often get... not bad at all.

I think it was the latest Medal Of Honour however, that actually brought a tear to my eye in one part of the story. This is certainly one of the few games ever to have this effect. Maybe I was just feeling tired or something.

Re:All FPS do this (1)

_xeno_ (155264) | about 3 years ago | (#35859872)

It's actually kind of hilarious when they screw it up, though.

Take Just Cause 2. From the title alone you can tell that they're trying to invoke the "just-world hypothesis." But they don't really succeed at it. (And based on the plot twist at the end, this may be intentional.)

Essentially you're playing as an American spy whose job it is to cause chaos and disrupt the despotic regime on the island you're on. The reason is never clearly states (see plot twist) but you're intended to assume it's for the common goal of Spreading Democracy and Peace.

Ways to do this include killing police, killing military officers, and blowing up water towers, gas stations, and power stations. Now the first two you can argue are just. The last are you making the citizens' lives miserable for the sole purpose of causing unrest.

And that kind of calls the first into question. The police are routinely seen threatening to execute civilians for no particular reason, but they're also there to stop this mad man who has been traveling around the island, blowing infrastructure up.

Ultimately the over-the-top nature of the game ensures you stop caring about killing the clones of the three original guards over and over again, and it's a really fun game - but make no mistake: if this were reality, you're playing a freaking psychopath.

Moral ambiguity? (1)

mevets (322601) | about 3 years ago | (#35859898)

I guess I agree in a different way. 'Play' that involves the fulfillment of violent revenge fantasies isn't morally ambiguous. Morally vacant is closer to the mark.

Morally ambiguous or conflicted, to me, means interesting.

The publisher could have at least had the shred of decency to call them insurgents.

Re:All FPS do this (3, Interesting)

fudoniten (918077) | about 3 years ago | (#35859912)

I disagree. I suppose it depends why you're playing. If it's a 3D version of Pac-Man or whatever, and you're just playing for the action, then sure, you don't want any moral ambiguity thrown in. But that gets boring fast, to me at least.

I'm playing Red Dead Redemption these days, and there are a lot of moments where you're riding across the prairie and come across a shootout. What's going on? Should you intervene? Is it lawmen chasing a bandit? Bandits attacking a family? Just gangsters having a shootout? You have to sneak up and survey the situation, and try to figure out what the hell is going on. Moments like that make the game for me, I find them thrilling. Much more, actually, than the scripted moral conundrums you find in 'deep' games, which tend to be about 1.5D. Do you want to a) be a paragon of virtue or b) be a complete jerk? In these random encounters, all of a sudden you've got a whole platter of options. Try to figure out what's going on, and join the 'good guys'? Or join the bandits? Wait until it's over, finish off the survivors, and grab all the loot? Or, shrug and head in the opposite direction, since it's none of your business? The last one is interesting, 'cause it's easy, it's probably what most people would do in real life...and it flies right in the face of normal game logic, where of course you must get involved. It's kinda thrilling to have real decisions to make in a game.

Re:All FPS do this (0)

smelch (1988698) | about 3 years ago | (#35859932)

Well the answer to why you are fighting in WWI doesn't make a lot of sense unless you look through the lens of time: If you don't destroy enough of the German economy Hitler will never take hold and that little brat Anne Frank will be able to complete her work on converting penny-pinching in to pure energy, putting oil companies out of business. Had we not succeeded Jews would eventually have been forced to breed, and their genetics mutated to the point that they looked like little more than cheap rotiserie chickens constantly haggling with each other (though none of them have any money or anything to sell) to keep those electrons flowing in to our brand new 1983 Bayer eCars. Hitler of course caught wind of the plot, but didn't capture all of the details. With his imperfect knowledge he didn't realize he was playing right in to our hands the whole time. To save Jews, we had to kill Germans and Austrians so they would kill the right Jews so the Jews didn't get themselves killed. Or some people will argue it was all to line the pockets of oil companies. We may never know for sure.

Ok, I see your point. Its a little more difficult to explain the ethics of WWI than WWII.

Re:All FPS do this (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 3 years ago | (#35860062)

I remember Half Life (1) was similar. You start off and you're killing extraterrestrials. Then soon you're fighting US soldiers. It just felt... off... The game didn't give you a reason for this. I certainly made it a point to not shoot until they shot first. In a sequel you get to play one of the soldiers. Now in Half Life 2 (not done yet) I'm still not sure if the Combine are humans or not, and so far the game refuses to pause and give any narrative about what's going on. Though there is a good bit at one point where a vortigaunt refuses to forgive you for all the ones you killed in the first game.

The snag here I think is that you're stuck with only one way to proceed. This is definitely true of Half-Life series which is firmly set on rails, but seems typical for many FPS games as well (I'm not a big fan of them). You're given no option to sneak past, find another route through, negotiate, etc. At this particular place in Half Life 2 where you get your first gun, you have no choice. You're in a corridor, no way back because you jumped over a fence, and no way forward or sideways. Compare this to RPG games (at least the better ones) where you're given more freedom. Fallout even let you complete the main story line without killing anything (man or beast or mutant).

Another snag is that players want something other than fantasy or scifi and want something more realistic. But then you end up killing humans in a war game, and a single character ends up with a higher body count than an entire battalion would have. You're not rewarded for taking prisoners.

A World War I game that makes you ask why you're shooting them again would be a GOOD game, and it would be fun! To some players that is. However I know some others just want to kill things; which is why they should play the fantasy/scifi game so that they're at least killing monsters.

Re:All FPS do this (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | about 3 years ago | (#35860328)

I don't know if you heard the bit of dialog in HL1, but there's a bit where you can overhear the soldiers saying something like "I know we're all gonna die here, but I'm wanna kill that Gordon Freeman. He's killed all of my buddies..."

In HL2 ep1 as well, you have to kill a few "Stalkers", which are modified humans. Alyx, your AI friend, feels pretty terrible about this - but the situation demands it, because it's keeping the door locked that you need to go through.

I'd say they address and highlight moral ambiguity, but help you justify it. Were they to not, it would be less "fun" - but very possibly more interesting.

Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35859658)

Now consider the controversial new first-person shooter Homefront, which has you play as a freedom fighter in an America occupied by a North Korean superpower.

Remind me again how this is all that much different from the US occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan and (in the past) many other countries... I mean sure, we don't (usually) go around massacring civilians and all that, but I find it hard to draw a line between good and right and moral occupations (the US occupying other countries) and bad and wrong and evil ones (the other way 'round).

That said...

Madigan says the interesting thing about Homefront is that it's not leaving any blanks to be filled, which robs the game of some narrative depth."

Come on, it's an FPS game. I don't want narrative depth. I just want to shoot stuff!

Re:Well... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35859998)

I mean sure, we don't (usually) go around massacring civilians and all that,

Except of course when they have a wedding...

or have these cameras, err, rocket launchers with them...

BTW, does the term "drop weapon" ring a bell?

Re:Well... (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 3 years ago | (#35860128)

I find it hard to draw a line between good and right and moral occupations (the US occupying other countries) and bad and wrong and evil ones [...] we don't (usually) go around massacring civilians and all that

Since you answered yourself and are AC, I'm guessing you're a Troll. If not, just imagine Half Life 2 without the systematic killing of civilians. What if the Combine occupied Earth, increased our tech level, instituted the overwatch, but didn't commit the atrocities? People would love the Combine. Gordon Freeman wouldn't be a freedom fighter, he'd be a sadistic serial killer, or a terrorist with misplaced priorities at best.

No choice without complaints (1)

Kohath (38547) | about 3 years ago | (#35859702)

No matter what choice a developer makes, someone is going to complain about it. If the North Koreans weren't unmistakably evil, critics would be complaining about a lack of motivation and calling the game racist for allowing non-whites to be shot.

Uncharted was called racist for having some Asian soldiers to shoot. So Uncharted 2 made all the enemies white (specifically Russian).

Cartoon worlds have cartoon enemies. Critics complain. And there's always someone around to label anything and everything racist.

Moral Misgivings? (1)

Mechagodzilla (94503) | about 3 years ago | (#35859728)

I find it quite interesting that the author thinks that someone who would by "Homefront" would have moral misgivings that they needed to be relieved of. Shouldn't the Anit-Discrimination Group for all things Asian be kicking in about now? One usually hasknowledge of the game before it is purchased. I have never heard of the situation where the game was returned because some had to "kill too many things." My daughter was wathcing me play an FPS. She asked "how do you know which ones to shoot?" I repled "I shoot the ones shooting at me first", trying to be a little neutral. She asked "Do you get more points if you shoot them all?" No paternity test needed here...

On Babylon 5 (4, Insightful)

david_thornley (598059) | about 3 years ago | (#35859730)

On Babylon 5, one of Marcus's lines was that he took great comfort in the basic unfairness of the Universe. If it were basically fair, that would mean he deserved everything that happened to him.

Re:On Babylon 5 (1)

x6060 (672364) | about 3 years ago | (#35860002)

On Babylon 5, one of Marcus's lines was that he took great comfort in the basic unfairness of the Universe. If it were basically fair, that would mean he deserved everything that happened to him.

I would mod this up if I could. That was one of the most comforting sayings I have ever heard from a TV show.

The boring thing about it... (1)

wes5550 (1911966) | about 3 years ago | (#35859736)

"Madigan says the interesting thing about Homefront is that it's not leaving any blanks to be filled" - I would hardly call that interesting

Assassin's Creed (3, Informative)

Relic of the Future (118669) | about 3 years ago | (#35859748)

I noticed the same thing playing the (original) Assassins' Creed. Just before you assassinate someone, they are invariably shown performing some terrible crime; either the commission or ordering of brutal murder, the threat thereof, slave trading, or human mutilation.

Re:Assassin's Creed (1)

danbert8 (1024253) | about 3 years ago | (#35859852)

I never got to the point where I assassinated anyone. I gave up after walking around for a few hours so I wouldn't get caught climbing unnecessarily tall towers just to jump off them again. Did the game eventually become fun?

Re:Assassin's Creed (1)

Tukz (664339) | about 3 years ago | (#35859902)

Assassinating templars was fun, but besides that, no, it didn't.
The sequel(s), however, was fun.

The world is far from just... (2)

Aldenissin (976329) | about 3 years ago | (#35859784)

We fail to realize how much power we control over our lives. I once had a friend go on about this woman who was robbed. I was like she's the victim. He said yes, but she went un-escorted, at dusk, at a place that was known to have several robberies in the last couple of months, and was a known place to avoid for the last several years, when everyone knows there is a good chance you are coming out within 20 minutes, stepping out of a SUV with pearls on.

I don't think his point was that she deserved it, but that she was careless, and I agree. You can't "justify" the robber pointing a gun at her. You just can't. But she could have done some things differently. She is the victim, but she also put herself out there. Some would blame her, and that is perhaps where the "just" part comes in. I try not to pass judgment until I know all of the facts. Maybe she didn't know, but then she was still careless in not making it a point to know. And some therefore might not "feel sorry" for her. I do, she was ignorant more than likely. I mean really, who likes to play with fire unless they don't "really" understand how bad they can get burnt? Only the mentally ill, or someone who wants to get burnt...

As far as the game, I don't play them anymore, but if I did, I'd likely go along with it unless it made me uncomfortable, or just pretend there were different circumstances, as surely others will. I don't have reservations about harming someone to protect an innocent, but I do have reservations about killing someone unarmed, "enemy" or not. Again, we don't know all of the facts. And pushing hate/anger on someone in the form of a bullet is not going to make friends.

“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”

                                                                        -- Abraham Lincoln

No Dilemma (1)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | about 3 years ago | (#35859796)

Other character has a gun and is shooting at me? Light that sucker up. Moral considerations are for later when you're cleaning your weapon, something that always seems to be left out of these games.

Estus Pirkle will be PISSED (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35859838)

You see enemy soldiers not only brutalizing American civilians, but outright murdering a mother in front of her children and callously tossing corpses around

Ol' Estus Pirkle's gonna be PISSED that they stole his plot...

Ref: If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? [wikipedia.org] - a bizarro "come to Jeebus" flick built around a Communist takeover of the US

CoD: World at War (3, Insightful)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 3 years ago | (#35859858)

You know, in CoD: World at War, whenever I would play the Soviet campaign missions taking place in Berlin, all I could think about was the fact that, historically, most of the defenders of Berlin were either young teenage boys or men of middle age or older. Some volunteered, others were forcibly conscripted. No military training, with simple weapons that could be mass-produced quickly(google the VK 98 and the VG series of rifles). Conversely, the heroically portrayed Red Army was made up of conscripts and murdered and raped civilians as it crossed Eastern Europe(yes, the Germans murdered civilians as well-mostly Jews and suspected Communists). And you know what? To me, knowing this historical background actually makes these levels a lot more emotional and significant for me. Moral ambiguity has a lot more power to it and makes shooting games more, not less, fun. Read any soldier's memoirs. There is always this watershed moment, where the soldier pauses and realizes he is being told to, encouraged to, and rewarded for killing another person. It is a turning point for them, one that usually becomes a defining moment in their life. War is always at some point morally ambiguous, down to the individual level. If a game can actually accept this and embrace it, it will find itself being labelled as not simply another cookie cutter FPS, but as a legitimate and hard-hitting experience.

Re:CoD: World at War (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35860068)

the heroically portrayed Red Army was made up of conscripts and murdered and raped civilians

The Red Army had zombies in it?

My favorite FPS (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | about 3 years ago | (#35859868)

My favorite multiplayer FPS has two teams of mercenaries who work for two different holding corporations and are fighting each other over various objectives, such as control points or intelligence briefcases.

Both holding corporations are run by the same person, known only as The Administrator.

The mercenaries appear to be clones of the same 9 people, but they wear different hats.

In case you're wondering, I'm describing Team Fortress 2. :P

Obligatory Red vs Blue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35859884)

Simmons: D'You ever wonder why we're here?
Grif: It's one of life's great mysteries, isn't it? Why are we here? I mean, are we the product of some...cosmic coincidence? Or is there really a God, watching everything, you know, with a plan for us and stuff. I don't know man, but it keeps me up at night.
Simmons: What? I mean why are we out here, in this canyon?
Grif: Oh. Uhhhhh. Yeah.
Simmons: And what's all that stuff about God?
Grif: Uhhhhh. Hm? Nothing.
Simmons: Do you want to talk about it?
Grif: No.
Simmons: Sure?
Grif: Yeah.
Simmons: Seriously though, why are we out here? As far as I can tell, it's just a box canyon in the middle of nowhere. No way in or out.
Grif: Mmmhmmm.
Simmons: I mean, the only reason that we set up a red base here is because they have a blue base over there, and the only reason they have a blue base over there is because we have a red base here.
Grif: Well, yeah, that's because we're fighting each other.

Re:Obligatory Red vs Blue (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | about 3 years ago | (#35859964)

I seem to remember seeing a comic commenting on that same situation related to Team Fortress's 2fort (I mean the original TF from the late 90s, not TF2)... in 2fort, you have two buildings across a small lake from each other with a bridge crossing it.

Actually, I seem to recall the commentary for TF2 mentioned that this is part of the reason they went for a cartoony look in the second game; in cartoons, you don't need to explain why something happens, it just is.

Clever marketing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35859886)

Find a PHD to say some academicky things about your game = advertising in disguise!

Not an good example of "Just World" Hyp./Fallacy (5, Interesting)

eepok (545733) | about 3 years ago | (#35859888)

The Just World hypothesis is appropriately explained in the summary, but I don't think the excerpt describing the game actually works with the phenomenon.

(1) You see people of a certain uniform brutalizing people you assume are innocent.
(2) When you harm the brutalizers, your justification is "eye for an eye" on a national level.

There is no issue there and such judgments are not noteworthy.

What the "Just World Hypothesis" (better referred to as the "Just World Fallacy") actually describes is that pattern of humans seeking a means to place blame on victims while ignoring the free will of the offender.

So, if we're going to actually use the Just World Fallacy appropriately in the context of this game, we would have to personally make the assumption that the dominated did something to deserve their plight.

"Wow, NK is dominating USA in the game. Well, the USA probably had it coming... just look at American Idol." --- Just World Fallacy

Other, more pertinent places we see the Just World Fallacy:

"Ya, you were robbed, but you left your door unlocked. You deserve what you got."

"Ya, she was sexually assaulted, but she was dressed like a whore..."

"The boy was killed while legally crossing a street in a crosswalk. But he was dressed in black, so he had it coming."

"Her car was stolen, but it was her fault-- she left her keys in car."

Re:Not an good example of "Just World" Hyp./Fallac (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35860238)

I think that you are confusing the "Just World Hypothesis" with "Blaming the Victim". Note that the first phenomenon is often a motivation for the second, but they are not the same phenomenon.

The Just World Hypothesis does not require the observer to actually have evidence that the victim did something wrong. "Oh, he's poor -- he probably did something stupid to lose all of his money" is a better example of the Just World Hypothesis than the examples you gave. The assumption is that people who have bad things happen to them deserved to, even in the absence of any evidence that this is the case. When there is actual evidence (even flimsy) this starts to look more like Blaming the Victim in an attempt to be consistent with the Just World Hypothesis.

... Did you say North Korean superpower..? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35859906)

If they're having North Korea as a superpower the game is already more deeply entrenched in a fantasy world than Lord of the Rings.

Americans don't need a reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35859942)

Americans don't need a reason to fight, just give them guns, point to a group of people and declare them to be the enemy. Hell, they'll split the country into 2 teams and fight themselves if nobody else has pissed them off lately.

anti-korean (1)

krnpimpsta (906084) | about 3 years ago | (#35859956)

great, first the VA shooter, and now this anti-korean game.

hope there's at least some south korean protagnoists in the game or else i'm pretty sure i'm gonna get capped in the face by some idiot for being korean.

You always root for your side (2)

Normal Dan (1053064) | about 3 years ago | (#35860004)

I find it funny when I play multi player FPS's I will get all fired up and yell at the enemy at how horrible and disgusting they are and how our team is so awesome and flawless, etc.

But when it comes time to balance teams and I get automatically switched, I'll start snubbing the team I was just on and start rooting for my new team.

I'm exaggerating a bit, but I do notice the whole us verses them attitude that can change in an instant when I switch teams. Always thought it was interesting.

Almost all games do this (2)

brit74 (831798) | about 3 years ago | (#35860016)

This is why enemies like zombies and Nazis are so popular in games - because they're unequivocally bad, and therefore, you shouldn't feel bad about shooting them. There are a few exceptions, of course: some games will let you do bad things and those games tend to be controversial (example: Grand Theft Auto and the Call of Duty scene where you're walking through a Russian airport killing civilians). Another common thing games and movies do is not showing you the face of the enemy - showing someone's face humanizes them, which makes killing them seem bad. Examples: Half-Life 2 soldiers have masks over their faces, storm troopers and a whole bunch of other Star Wars baddies have masks, Killzone enemies wear masks. In many cases, even Nazis wear masks (http://ui07.gamespot.com/806/returntocastlewolfenstein_2.jpg). In general, if you're supposed to like someone, they won't have a mask, and if they have a mask, they're probably bad.

(P.S. The Spy and Pyro in Team Fortess are always bad.)

Games in general provide a just world (1)

coldsalmon (946941) | about 3 years ago | (#35860106)

All games provide a "just world" in the sense that they operate consistently according to rules. This is true from Tic-Tac-Toe to Mario Bros. to Crysis. One of the primary draws of gaming is the chance to experience the fantasy of a just world. In real life, you can do everything right and still lose -- or do everything wrong and still win. In (good) games, there is a direct relationship between following the rules and getting a reward. It doesn't matter what the effort and reward are, and these are often totally (and whimsically) arbitrary. The crucial thing is that you are rewarded for good performance and punished for bad performance consistently, according to the rules, every time. When this consistency breaks down, you end up with a frustratingly bad game.

In real life, you are told "if you go to college and get a degree, you will get a rewarding job and make a lot of money." However, many people who follow this advice will not receive the reward. By contrast, we know that when we are playing a game we will always progress to the next stage if we collect 5 stars, or open the door if we get the key, or receive 500 gold if we deliver the letter. Can you imagine if you did a quest and simply didn't receive the reward (and didn't get any chance for revenge)? Or if the rules just changed randomly without notice? Nobody would play such a game, except to create a hilariously virulent video review.

The fantasy of a morally just world is an extension of the fact that games create worlds that operate consistently according to rules.

obligatory xkcd (2)

smellsofbikes (890263) | about 3 years ago | (#35860158)

Right on topic [xkcd.com]: if there's ambiguity, or if you suddenly start realizing that the opposition is human and can be sympathetic, it changes the whole FPS experience. And people know this, too, which is why we engage in demonization of our enemies in the run-up to a war: so we can less badly about killing them because we've already justified it to ourselves. We probably have to do that in order to survive, but propaganda is the least attractive form of advertising.

The suspension of disbelief (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35860168)

Starts with North Korean superpower.

Perhaps if we let them borrow part of our military as a part of the aid we supply them to keep the population from starving.

Fact vs Fiction (1)

Andtalath (1074376) | about 3 years ago | (#35860236)

It's quite simple really.
Do you want to make games educational or do you want them to be entertainment?

Yes, both of these are in stark contrast when it comes to replicating real life.
No one will have fun playing a game where falling a bit too far makes you limp for the rest of the game (or the remainder of the mission), where you slowly bleed to death and lose accuracy based on how close to death you are and so on and so forth.
Likewise, living a normal day life, or, heck, living the life of an actual soldier (sitting and waiting for hours on and, then somebody sneaks up on you and kills you) is also quite boring.

Moral ambiguity is one thing, actually teaching people about how real life works would be a horrible passtime.
Seriously, imagine a game where you spend the entire game fighting a villain, everything points towards that he is the villain and he will walk.
You finally kill him, find out that you've been duped by the actual villain, then you get arrested and put on death row.

Game over.

Does that sound fun?

The point is, entertainment isn't supposed to be like real-life, if it where, you would only get a single chance at it and it wouldn't be straight-forward and entertaining all the time, cause life isn't.

So, no, unless you think that games should solely be based on learning things about real life, let them be just, let them be fun and let them be rewarding.

Not saying that depth isn't relevant, just saying that fiction usually let's the good guys win, even if that is a blatant lie.

North Korean superpower? (1)

Jeremi (14640) | about 3 years ago | (#35860362)

Those guys haven't even figured out how to feed themselves. By what conceivable quirk of fate would North Korea become a super power?

I see this all the time playing GTA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35860368)

Like the guy who drove up to me and honked his horn, or the woman who walked into me, or the guy who swore at me while serving me at burger world, the game makes sure the people I shoot deserve it first so I feel ok with it

Bad Guys are Bad, mmmkay? (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | about 3 years ago | (#35860374)

Sometimes the bad guys are exactly that..bad guys. In these cases, there is no moral dilemma.

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