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On the Moral Consequences of Gaming

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the krogan-rights-forever-down-with-the-genophage dept.

Games 170

N'Gai Croal and the LevelUp blog are collaborating with the popular UK games magazine Edge, and late last month we discussed the emotional impact of games. Or, more realistically, the lack thereof. This week N'Gai has been exploring what could be done to reinforce that emotional impact, and perhaps take those choices to a moral level. "What if developers attempted to bring social sanction into the experience? What if your Gamertag were designated 'Child Killer' for having murdered [Bioshock's] Little Sisters--or 'Good Samaritan' for having saved them? Microsoft recently announced its plans to add the Facebook and MySpace-inspired feature of allowing you to browse your friends' Friends Lists; what if everyone on your Friends List were notified each time you killed a Little Sister--or every time you rescued one--like the Status Updates on Facebook?"

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what if indeed? (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21535791)

what if everyone on your Friends List were notified each time you killed a Little Sister--or every time you rescued one--like the Status Updates on Facebook?
I'd be annoyed as hell? As if it weren't already bad enough...

But seriously, we're not affected by games because we're focusing on our performance, not what's happening. Those who focus on games are affected by them; where's the problem?

Re:what if indeed? (1)

Malevolyn (776946) | more than 6 years ago | (#21535983)

Someone tell LevelUp and Edge about Fable. Maybe then we won't have any more of these stupid studies.

Re:what if indeed? (2, Insightful)

king-manic (409855) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536121)

Someone tell LevelUp and Edge about Fable. Maybe then we won't have any more of these stupid studies.
So they see a hamfisted, poorly implemented, inconsequential morality system?

Most of them break down to:

Option 1 - Inconvenient (refuse reward)
Option 2 - Neutral (take reward)
Option 3 - Jerk (take reward, and kill quest NPC)

It can be fun, but KOTOR, KOTOR2, Fable, etc.. all look like that. It's difficult to implement any deeper system.

Re:what if indeed? (0, Redundant)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536599)

Don't forget Black & White.

Re:what if indeed? (1)

Mercano (826132) | more than 6 years ago | (#21538437)

What Black and White taught me about morality: when a father offers up his son as sacrifice, spare the son but kill the father. The father gets converted to mana instantly, and the son becomes an ardent worshiper, generating mana for later. Win-win. (Besides, the father was a bit of a jerk. If your not serious enough to offer yourself, don't bother me with your first born.)

Re:what if indeed? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 6 years ago | (#21538955)

I dunno, I thought the morality system in Ultima 4 was deep especially for the time. There were a variety of virtues that you could build up and you had to choose -which- virtue to express at any given time, not simply become more "good" or more "evil" in general. Though it was pretty ironic to be building up your "humility" for the express purpose of becoming the Avatar of Virtue who would save the world and be famous across all of Britannia...

Though honestly I preferred the virtue system in Ultima 6 and 7, which was:
1) Steal anything that isn't nailed down.
2) Occasionally have a party member become incensed at your larcenous ways and leave, until you nicely ask them to come back after promising to never do it again.
3) Goto 1.

That's pretty much my virtue system in real life, except in real life I have a claw hammer for those pesky nails.

Re:what if indeed? (2, Informative)

cromar (1103585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536019)

I've seen this exact concept before in the old BBS door game Legend of the Red Dragon. It had a news feed like so:

Malkor has slain GoatseKnight in his sleep!
Malkor has slain Gorfried in his sleep!

etc. It is very similar to the web-based reincarnation Legend of the Green Dragon [] .

Re:what if indeed? (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536515)

The news feed you speak of existed entirely within the domain of the game world though. It described your activities in an acceptable way, because you wanted people to know those things, it was, as it were, part of the experience, and a cool one at that.

I don't have a problem with any site or game that advertises my activities on that site or in that game to others. I'd prefer a 'keep this secret' option. Don't want my neighbor to know I'm stockpiling weapons to launch an attack now, do I.

Re:what if indeed? (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536801)

I wouldn't mind something that showed up in my profile, kinda like a reverse "achievements" system..."Oh I see satanicpuppy got the 'Little Sista Slaughta' achievement for killing 50 little sisters."

No big deal.

Re:what if indeed? (1)

StarvingSE (875139) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536807)

StarvingSE has successfully flirted with Violet...

Gotta love nerdy teenage hormones. We didn't even need 3d graphics with physics-enabled "jiggly" sections back then.

Re:what if indeed? (1)

n3v (412497) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537127)

LOTGD is nice!! (as in Sacha Cohen, or whatever)

Re:what if indeed? (1)

mstahl (701501) | more than 6 years ago | (#21538575)

Malkor has slain GoatseKnight in his sleep!

I just had the worst mental picture: the goatse guy riding horseback into battle. The Goatse Knight rides again!!!

Re:what if indeed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21536409)

I already get to see the kill totals and points awarded for kills in the games I play. For some games it is a running total, other games that have an end give a summary upon completion. If one of these game companies wants to allow display of this information, go for it. I'm sure someone will get a good laugh at the number of times I've been "ganked" in World of Warcraft.


Re:what if indeed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21536499)

Considering BioShock was an extremely easy game, I don't see how you could be focusing on your performance...

'Child Killer' would be an awesome tag.... (2, Insightful)

SomeDanGuy (1070108) | more than 6 years ago | (#21539073)

Anyone who has played with average gamers today knows that having tags like "Child Killer" attached to their names would be seen as "awesome", not a deterrent. I'm sure this would inspire a race to collect as many "bad-ass" tags as possible rather than prevent immoral behavior. It's only when your choices actually affect gameplay that morality will be considered.

Sounds like an extension of 'Achievements' (3, Insightful)

Nos. (179609) | more than 6 years ago | (#21535857)

Valve's orange box gave us 'Achievements', which are viewable online. I know they're included with Portal, TF2, Ep2, and probably others. Given the framework in place, I'm sure valve could extend it to include more 'moral' type results. The only thing is, I'm gussing a significant number of players would seek to get these, as at least in certain gaming communities, they'll be considered badges of honour more so than a judgement of the moral of the player.

Re:Sounds like an extension of 'Achievements' (2, Interesting)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536001)

Speaking of Valve, they just released a ton of player stats on Episode 2, pointing out how long people played, where they died, etc. This was all in very broad terms, but imagine if they did something similar to moral decisions. Say in Episode 3 you have the choice to save Alyx but something else really bad happens to a lot more people, or you save the world but Alyx has to die. Now Valve would keep track of whether or not you saved Alyx the first time through, and then release the stats to everyone. I think this would be very interesting to look at.

Re:Sounds like an extension of 'Achievements' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21536973)

Building on that, perhaps the storyline for the future episodes could be built on what the majority of players did when they were given decisions. A sort of "choose your own storyline" type system.

Re:Sounds like an extension of 'Achievements' (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537139)

I think Bioware is trying to do this with Mass Effect, as it's a planned trilogy and choices in the first game will affect things in the second and third game. Don't know how that will actually turn out but I don't really have high hopes, it just seems way too complex. But I suppose if a character dies out in the first game they shouldn't be around later on, but someone else may keep them around all the way through. Should be interesting when it's all said and done.

Re:Sounds like an extension of 'Achievements' (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537097)

I agree. Beyond agreeing, I think it would be cool, and useful as well. Might help you match up with people online outside of your immediate social circle by the fact that they tend to have similar achievements.

Re:Sounds like an extension of 'Achievements' (1)

enderjsv (1128541) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537823)

Wow, that's actually a really good idea. In all the recent games I've played, Alyx is by far the most interesting NPC. I can honestly say that if Valve threw a decision like that into episode 3, it'd be an epic decision to make.
I think part of the reason so games are lacking in the emotional scale is that most of the so-called decisions that we make have little impact on the main points of the story line and instead focus on peripheral characters. In Bioshock, for example, "harvesting" might have been a little more difficult if the little girls actually had some kind of unique individual character instead of being cloned copies of each other you barely interacted with. But developers are scared to offer these kinds of decisions with marquee characters for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the problems it creates with the sequel potential.

Re:Sounds like an extension of 'Achievements' (2, Informative)

pthor1231 (885423) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536041)

Valve didn't give you that. They built it in on the non 360 version of the game because all 360 games have gamerscore, which was probably an idea taken from somewhere else, and I'm sure PC/PS3 players would be kind of annoyed if the 360 version had this and theirs didn't. And yes, there are tons of website dedicated to getting more gamerscore, see []

Re:Sounds like an extension of 'Achievements' (1)

Gulthek (12570) | more than 6 years ago | (#21538061)

Exactly. Commenting to undo incorrect comment mod, Thanks new /. moderation system!

Re:Sounds like an extension of 'Achievements' (1)

Nos. (179609) | more than 6 years ago | (#21538587)

Actually, Valve did give us that. Maybe they weren't the first, but that's besides the point. Valve did give us 'Achievements' with the Orange Box. The other, more important point I made (and many others have) is that these can't be used as a moral judgement of the player, since players will compete to get these titles.

Re:Sounds like an extension of 'Achievements' (1)

pthor1231 (885423) | more than 6 years ago | (#21539041)

Why can't you use something that people compete for as a moral judgment? By that logic, you can't make moral judgments on people who are competing for the title of "millionaire" Just because an "achievement" is there doesn't mean you have to achieve it.

Re:Sounds like an extension of 'Achievements' (1)

dabraun (626287) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536805)

Valve's orange box gave us 'Achievements', which are viewable online.

Every 360 game has achievements. Some of them keep the achievements in their PC versions, some don't. A few actually use the PC version of live and attach the achievements to your gamertag like the xbox versions do. (not sure whether orange box does this or not)

1000pts for a retail game

200pts for an arcade game (also applied to the half-way house burger king games)

250pts extra for a major downloadable upgrade (oblivion, gears, crackdown all have 1250 total points now, for example)

Re:Sounds like an extension of 'Achievements' (1)

C0rinthian (770164) | more than 6 years ago | (#21538287)

But you can't really draw a real conclusion from this information. Some of us intentionally play against our normal instincts. I'm running my first playthrough of Mass Effect, and I'm pushing renegade specifically because it is different from how I would handle these situations. (And I still ended up with some paragon points, dangit) Role-playing is pretty boring when you RP yourself.

Re:Sounds like an extension of 'Achievements' (1)

Pengunea (170972) | more than 6 years ago | (#21538639)

Man I'd love to see what Valve would come up for "moral" Achievements for Team Fortress 2. Benevolent actions in a purely competitive FPS can get mighty esoteric.

One I could think of offhand is "Avenger" which would be gained through getting revenge kills against an opposing team member who just dominated one of your team members.
I know I'd like to see something like "Career Medic". It would show the player is a dedicated Medic who can put out a high average of healing per round. Likely the sign of a benevolent team-mate and handy to know.

The flipside is it wouldn't show all the horribly antisocial Bonesawing I do. All the Spy Checks and intentional team damage to trigger Ubercharge at mission start could be construed in a negative light, despite the advantages. And what of the Bonesawing just for the heck of it?
If they manage to measure my TF2 morality, I'll raise a glass to them.

No, silly (5, Insightful)

Debello (1030486) | more than 6 years ago | (#21535859)

It's a video game. Your actions don't have ANY important reaction because IT'S NOT REAL. That makes those tags WORTHLESS. Maybe if you were an actual child killer it would matter, but since no one is hurt or helped in the process of slaying a little ghost girl, the title loses all possible moral meaning.

Re:No, silly (1)

cromar (1103585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536119)

It would be pretty cool if they DID have meanings. Combine that with an alignment stat... oh wait. That's Fable with tags.

Re:No, silly (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536169)

But what if one of the tags was Team Killer?

Re:No, silly (5, Funny)

Some_Llama (763766) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537587)

"But what if one of the tags was Team Killer?"

Can we have one for confirmed cheaters? and then a address listing and google map link?

Re:No, silly (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537779)

Can we have one for confirmed cheaters? and then a address listing and google map link?
And an icon consisting of a torch and pitchfork? Maybe a noose as well?

And then can we charge Microsoft for incitement to commit murder?

Re:No, silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21536281)

Some what ifs.

What if we the software ever got to the point of true AI? Would it still have moral implications? We know the computer is just a deterministic state machine.

What if these AI were in an identical human package and started demanding citizen's rights? Are they 'faulty' machines at this point? They're meant to do the house work and widget sorting, after all, if you just feed them their fuel. Do we mow down those robots in the uprising, or make concessions?

In my gut I feel that humans deserve these rights (not to be enslaved/killed for gaming purposes) and AI software don't, but I don't believe in a soul or any such thing. How does one reconcile these differences?

Re:No, silly (1)

flerchin (179012) | more than 6 years ago | (#21538159)

A true sentient AI would have to be granted rights eventually. Not because it demanded it, but because we would, just as we have demanded rights for animals. Furthermore, as long as we are the arbiters of said rights, we would always put human rights above any others (animal, AI, or otherwise). Our society has already determined that sentience deserves rights, the extent of which can be debated, so it merely remains to prove or disprove sentience in a machine.

Re:No, silly (1)

Cat Panic (1001091) | more than 6 years ago | (#21539359)

But a cat has rights, yes?
What happens when a cat turns feral and bites it's owner? The cat is destroyed for the good of the owner and everything else.

So we humans do put human rights above all others. So far so good.

However, lets suppose that an advanced AI has been developed. It doesn't even have to inhabit a human identical form as the grandparent suggests. A truly intelligent entity could conceivably exist entirely in software.

We humans are ill equipped to decide if 'AIs' are friendly or hostile, trustworthy or unreliable? The word that keeps coming to mind is government.

Eventually, you, flerchin are right, a sentient AI must be given rights which cannot and must not be bypassed, ignored or abused.

Bottom line is, You think things are difficult now? Wait a few years, things might get a lot more interesting!!!

Re:No, silly (1)

paleo2002 (1079697) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536853)

Why is it that video games are the only media being scrutinized at this level on morality issues? Are people who've seen Silence of the Lambs stamped "Cannibal" after leaving the theatre (or returning the DVD)? I've read Oedipus Rex. Does that mean I'm a motherf****r?

Re:No, silly (1)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537251)

whats wrong with being a bad mother -


- but I was talking about Terminator, he's the man!

Re:No, silly (1)

enderjsv (1128541) | more than 6 years ago | (#21538171)

Because video games are an interactive media. A movie is something you watch but don't participate in. Hannibal Lector is the one doing the killing, not you. A video game has the potential to put the moral implications in your hands. I think tracking such things in a gamerscore is kind of a stupid idea, but I do tend to agree that the potential for emotional impact in games is not being reached, do to both risk and difficulty.

Re:No, silly (2, Insightful)

justkarl (775856) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537337)

It's a video game. Your actions don't have ANY important reaction because IT'S NOT REAL. That makes those tags WORTHLESS.
Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

Re:No, silly (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537931)

It doesn't have any meaning until the FBI investigates some freakjob psycho and finds out that "not only did he kill people and torture small animals... he's listed as a child killer in XBOX live! Quick, do a search on child killers in XBOX live!" Then let the Media storm take control.

I'm only partly being tinfoilish though. I think that this would eventually happen, _and_ I think the quick search would be well reasoned, especially if it turns out to find someone who's score is morally reprehensible, and they play childkilling rapists in a GTA-MMORPG every night. Sure, you can't base anything legal-wise on info like that, but you can put another beat cop in the guy's neighborhood.

Re:No, silly (1)

bluej100 (1039080) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537953)

Exactly. When I saw the headline, I assume it was a discussion of how we justify to ourselves spending $300 on a console or $50 on a game rather than using it to help those who desperately need the money, not this nonsense. Actions in games have consequences in games.

I would not play (4, Insightful)

topham (32406) | more than 6 years ago | (#21535873)

If I thought I was being judged on moral grounds when I played a game I wouldn't play. There would be no point.

I believe I am ethical and moral in my real life, why the fuck would I want to be that way when playing a game? Isn't the point of a game to do things you would not ordinarily do.

And yeah, I killed some of the Little Sisters; after fighting a Big Daddy and getting my ass handed to me on a silver platter over and over again I figured they deserved it.

Re:I would not play (0, Flamebait)

DeadManCoding (961283) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536291)

Fully agreed with that one. I do my best to be a good human being, but in the virtual world, I want to be the meanest person possible. After all those years of tech support, I figure that doing some player killing is my attempt to balance the world.

Re:I would not play (0)

Das Modell (969371) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536605)

So you believe that actions become morally inert as long as they happen online? How far do you take this philosophy? Would it be okay to infect someone with a virus, hack their website or post their personal details online?

Personally, I think player killing makes you a complete assclown, and probably indicates that you have a personality disorder or some other mental issue.

Re:I would not play (1)

HolyCrapSCOsux (700114) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536803)

Would it be okay to infect someone with a virus, hack their website or post their personal details online?

That would depend on the person.

Re:I would not play (4, Informative)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537015)

Huh? Not because its online, because its a game. Your examples are causing real damage to real people / systems. Killing someone in a game is annoying, at best. Get a clue.

Re:I would not play (1)

Das Modell (969371) | more than 6 years ago | (#21538111)

My examples merely illustrate the fact that just because something occurs online doesn't mean that it doesn't have a real effect on real people. Games are played by real people, and by griefing them you cause them real annoyance, frustration and anger, and waste their time (which they may or may not pay money for). Gankers caused me to leave a PvP realm in WoW simply by making the game completely unplayable, which meant that I had wasted a considerable amount of time leveling up a character that I was ultimately forced to discard. PvP is fine when it's an even match or when the underdog has at least the possibility of escaping, but ganking is really no different from aimbotting or wallhacking in a FPS game. It's actually even worse, since even aimbotters and wallhackers can be killed, or voted out by the players.

Re:I would not play (1)

tcc3 (958644) | more than 6 years ago | (#21538305)

Where did he say he was a greifer? Bio-shock is a single player game. Hes doing an activity that is defined within the game. I would agree with you that griefers are annoying assholes. But its not because they win or because they beat you - its because they are cheating.

Nothing in his post indicated greifing.

It's the American Weigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21535881)

Remember that America stands for life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness to the point of risking anything--even life & liberty! Games are merely the pursuit of happiness, almost always at the expense of your liberty & life!

Roleplaying (3, Insightful)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 6 years ago | (#21535885)

See, there's this thing called roleplaying.

It's when I pretend to be something I'm not by using my imagination.

I enjoy being creative, it adds to my enjoyment of the game.

They create fantasy worlds for us to play in, so we live fantasy lives when we play.

You can not judge someone for fantasy crimes.

I am not affected by these fantasies, except perhaps earning more understanding for the types of people who act that way.

This is important because I will come across many types real people over my lifetime, and my ability to deal with them hinges on my understanding them.

Re:Roleplaying (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21536463)

I like to role play in bed. Usually I just imagine there's a girl next to me.

Re:Roleplaying (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21538051)

There's also at think called "paragraphs". Look into it!


Gamertag = Schizo? (1)

Huntr (951770) | more than 6 years ago | (#21535889)

FTS: What if your Gamertag were designated 'Child Killer' for having murdered [Bioshock's] Little Sisters--or 'Good Samaritan' for having saved them?

A lot of games have these kinds of labels already in game to describe your character.

But, I'm not sure how well that would work when putting those labels on a Gamertag. I mean, who doesn't play an RPG at least twice, once as a do-gooder saving the sisters, and then once as a maniacal murderer killing everything that moves?

Then what's the point of Gaming? (3, Insightful)

quanticle (843097) | more than 6 years ago | (#21535963)

The entire point of all games (not just video games) is that they allow you to pretend to do things without the moral sanctions that normally apply. To pick an antiquated example, would you like being labeled "potential thief" if you happened to play on the robbers' side in a game of Cops and Robbers? To put it more succinctly: if there are consequences outside the game, then its not a game. Its reality.

Re:Then what's the point of Gaming? (3, Informative)

nomadic (141991) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536177)

The entire point of all games (not just video games) is that they allow you to pretend to do things without the moral sanctions that normally apply.

There are several different reasons to play games, and I don't think escaping moral sanctions is the "entire point". I play games because I enjoy a challenge; whether intellectually, in the case of adventure or RPG games, or physically, in terms of racing or FPSes. And when I'm playing a game I generally play the good guy; I get a little squeamish about murdering people left and right. Yes, it's not "real," but I find I enjoy myself better if I act morally in the game.

Re:Then what's the point of Gaming? (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537541)

I usually play RPGs once doing what I think is best (mostly but not always the alignment:good) thing, then I do bad stuff, which is fun sometimes, but can really take effort near the end (Example from KOTOR, it's easy to steal the hunter widow's plate because I didin't have any interaction with the character, but when you announce your "conversion to the group" the fallout bothered me for a while (and I knew it was coming so I put it off for weeks).

Re:Then what's the point of Gaming? (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537673)

And, of course, the sheer joy of doing things the laws of physics ordinarily prohibit.

Or things not prohibited by physics but still incredibly unlikely (think most hard sci-fi).

its a different behavioral system (4, Insightful)

PJ1216 (1063738) | more than 6 years ago | (#21535999)

yes, its true, some people will go to the 'dark side' in various games because they like that aspect. though, sometimes, its a completely utilitarian view. sometimes the abilities afforded the player vary depending on how 'good' or 'bad' they are. sometimes a player might like playing a certain way and the abilities afforded to the bad side just play to his/her strengths better. some people look at it as a moral choice, others look at it as a challenge, some look at it as total game completion (yea, i finished the game saving the little sisters, now i gotta play it and not save them), or in the same idea, just changing the game so its less boring (i saved 'em all last time, i want the game to be different, so i'll kill them every now and then when it suits me).

Honestly, if they do it, instead of giving negative names to bad choices and positive names to good choices, it should just be names biased to that side. like on the good side, you'd have titles like protector, savior, etc. and on the bad side you'd have names that people wouldn't mind having or that are 'cool' like dark lord or some ish.

The reason we can choose in games is so we can get a more interesting experience, not so we can be embarrassed by it.

Re:its a different behavioral system (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536679)

I usually play through games that have "good" and "bad" alignment possibilities twice: the first time, I almost always play as good, because I get engrossed in the story and the characters and genuinely have trouble doing the bad things in the game world. The second time, the game and its characters seem less "real" to me and it's easier to play a bad guy; that is, it's easier to see the game as a game and play to reach goals (e.g. see that cutscene or take that quest that I missed because I was a good guy last time) without regard for any "harm" I cause.

I noticed that my play style in HL2:EP1 and EP2 underwent a similar transformation on first vs. 2nd and 3rd (in the case of EP2, at least) playthroughs--the first time, especially in EP1, I was constantly low on ammo and health, because I was constantly trying to protect Alyx. I even found myself deliberately taking hits that were meant for her, and getting between her and melee fighters. During the big antlion battle in EP2 where you have to protect her from wave after wave, I was hurting.

It became clear part way through my first playthrough invincible. The second time I played, I let her do most of the fighting, and spent the bulk of the big antlion fight in EP2 screwing around rather than trying to keep them away from her. Mind you however that even after I'd begun to think that she might be invincible during my first playthrough, I still didn't act like it, because I was still so in the game that it didn't matter. Second time, meh, it was just another computer program that I was using to get what I wanted. I know what happens, so it's less engrossing.

As for games with alignments, I'd like for more of them to harder to be the good guy. Not by handicapping them, I mean, but rather by making the choices less easy. "Kick the puppy, get 500 gold coins. Save the puppy, get 250 gold coins and two healing potions" just isn't doing it for me any more. The choices are usually "altruistic" or "sadistic". And can't a cold, calculating son-of-a-bitch do something good when it's in his best interests without losing potency in his dark-side spells because now he's less "evil"? I'm playing "The Witcher" right now, and I've heard that it's much better about making the morality of your decisions less clear-cut (I've only been playing 5 hours or so, so I haven't seen much of that yet), so here's hoping that it becomes a trend.

Re:its a different behavioral system (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536717)

Er, "It became clear part way through my first playthrough invincible." should be:

It became clear part way through my first playthrough that she was invincible.

Fallout (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21536055)

Sounds like Fallout 2, except more annoying.

What about tags that do have an implication? (3, Insightful)

faloi (738831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536063)

I'm not as concerned about the moral ramifications of how my character conducts themselves in a game. Certainly there are games where you get tags for your accomplishments, like gnoll-slayer or some such. That can give other players some indication of what you're doing.

What I'd like to see are some relevant tags, like team-killer. I don't care how you play the game in a single player mode, it's up to you. But in multi-player games, it would be nice to know what behavior we're likely to see.

Re:What about tags that do have an implication? (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536441)

What I'd like to see are some relevant tags, like team-killer. I don't care how you play the game in a single player mode, it's up to you. But in multi-player games, it would be nice to know what behavior we're likely to see.
Yes, but who hasn't accidentally killed a team member in a game? Or just ganged up on a griefer that joined your team? Should one mistake brand your gamer tag as a Team Killer forever? ("That's not a target; that's Church!")

And it makes griefing worse: they could deliberately jump into your line of fire so as to ruin the reputation of your gamer tag. Should they be able to force you to give up a prepaid year of service to dissociate yourself from that tag and get another to restore your ability to play?

Re:What about tags that do have an implication? (2, Insightful)

faloi (738831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537369)

Typically, you have to do something repeatedly to "earn" a tag. Killing a teammate once isn't likely to earn you that rank. Killing a teammate (or teammates) dozens of times might. For that matter, there could be a "target" tag. If you have a special aptitude for running in front of your team mates, you become a "target." If you shoot someone with a reputation as a target it, it doesn't really impact your TK reputation. Make them decay over time... Some people may dance at the threshold of getting that tag, but people that accidentally TK, as we probably all do, will have them decay before they accumulate.

For that matter, you could get more finite control. For example, some games allow the player that was killed the choice of whether to punish another player or not. Make it so only punished TK's count in the grand scheme of thing. Combine that with decay, and the chances that you're griefed into the tag are diminished significantly.

Re:What about tags that do have an implication? (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537801)

>Make it so only punished TK's count in the grand scheme of thing.

Every play bf2? Everyone punishes, all the time. Gamers in the thick of action are emotional and near crazy, not logical and willing to help the community. Not to mention the teen demographic that defines online gaming arent known for their maturity and excellent social skills. Id rather just have this all controlled by code. 5 teamkills in 5 minutes? Yeah thats a 5+ day ban.

Rep systems are interesting, but i think in the end people just dont care enough about games to take reps seriously. So, lots of people will just hit punish (Hello Milgram!) and be off with it. Clans will just pile-on a good player from a differrent clan/no clan just to hurt his rep. Please take humans out of the equation, theyre too biased.

Re:What about tags that do have an implication? (0, Troll)

Das Modell (969371) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536493)

Decisions made in multiplayer games can actually tell you something about a person, not to mention that those decisions actually affect other people. Players who gank in MMORPGs or grief in shooters very likely suffer from personality disorders, maybe even to the point of being psychopaths.

Re:What about tags that do have an implication? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21537625)

Players who gank in MMORPGs or grief in shooters very likely suffer from personality disorders, maybe even to the point of being psychopaths.

Dude! Either skip STV or roll PvE.

Re:What about tags that do have an implication? (1)

Das Modell (969371) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537967)

I did roll PVE. I'm not going to pay 12 euros a month for the priviledge of having other players constantly ruin my game. People who pay money for that are pretty fucking stupid. I doubt Counter-Strike players would pay money to have someone aimbot and wallhack on their servers.

Command and Conquer 3 (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536921)

Despite some pretty abysmal/buggy online performance last time I played (after 3-4 weeks ago), the rating system for C&C3 was pretty cool. It allowed you to rate opponents skill, sportsmanship (teamkilling I assume would be low) etc. I never really tested to see if you could filter out those who were jerks, but it would be a useful feature. EA had some good ideas there... now if they could only make the thing playable.

Why allow the action if it will have consequences? (2, Insightful)

quanticle (843097) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536075)

If the action taken in-game will have possible negative consequences outside the game, then why would you even allow the action? To use the example from the summary, you're allowed to kill the "Little Sisters" in Bioshock for a reason. If the game developer wants to make a moral point, I'd prefer that he or she used the in-game mechanic, rather than obscure mechanisms from outside the game. To go back to the example, if I'm not supposed to kill the "Little Sisters", then tell me that as part of the mission objectives, and/or force me to restart if do happen to kill one of them. Don't do this obscure we'll-allow-the-action-but-brand-you-in-real-life crap.

Re:Why allow the action if it will have consequenc (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21537401)

Yeah, I agree with you and all that crap. No one should force a set of morals on someone and then enforce those morals by socially "branding" you because of a fictitious action.
But I think your objection brings up a good point - namely that Life does not come with an instruction book. We get the basic "thou shalt not" crap but in reality we are able to do anything. If we aren't caught then no one makes us restart or punishes us in any way. That goes for the big stuff like killing or rape or invading middle-eastern countries without a reason, and it goes for the little things like stiffing a waitress on a tip or surfing at work instead of actually working. The consequences of our actions are part of our moral code, but we choose what we want to do despite that code.
It would be interesting in a theoretical way to see how the moral 'branding' would change game play.

What do I gain? (3, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536103)

Every one of these "video games as a moral measure" articles always mentions the downside. What if I do good?

Sure, you can label me as a hostage killer in CounterStrike for my occasional screw up in a firefight but does that mean I qualify for the G.I. Bill due to my fine combat record in Call of Duty 4?

And more-so, if I had friends that got bent out of shape because I don't lose sleep over the hostages I accidentally fragged I probably wouldn't want them around me anyway.

Missing the point (1)

Daishiman (698845) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536131)

I don't play gamoes to have a socially-dictated morality imposed on me. Games are a sandbox for me, to let the most fucked-up aspects of yourself take over without hurting anyone in real life. Exploring ethical boundaries is a necessary process in our self-development. I see nothing wrong with it provided it does not deter from real life. I contend it's been benefitial to everyone I know who's ever gamed.

Re:Missing the point (1)

Avatar8 (748465) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537131)

I disagree with you.

For years I thought the way you do: "Better they are performing these fantasy killings in virtual worlds than in real life." I've seen plenty of examples to counter this.

I think instead of providing a carthatic environment where all of these negative actions and emotions are expelled, performing such actions reinforce negative behavior. To your brain you're processing the same information; good choice, bad choice - it's the same chemicals and electrical impulses whether it's real or virtual. I'm not saying that people playing FPS will be the next Columbine f*#$heads to commit a real crime, but I do see and hear many people (who I can tell are gamers by their dress or conversation) acting rudely, inconsiderately to those around them and as if there are no consequences to their actions. When you try to reprimand them, they immediately scream abuse, discrimination or whatever other term applies to the situation.

As much as players enjoy anonymity for their actions online, by "practicing" such actions they are building confidence that they can do whatever they wish without consequences. I'd even extrapolate this to "road rage" - being in your car offers a certain amount of anonymity, too. As long as you don't get caught, you can do whatever you wish (speeding, no signalling, cutting people off). Whether or not this could be tied to these drivers being video game players would be an interesting survey.

Yes, they are games and everyone should grasp the difference between virtual and real life. Can everyone's brains filter out the decisions and emotions and leave them in the game? I don't think so.

Purpose of Games and Gaming (2, Insightful)

moore.dustin (942289) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536143)

For many, games are an escape from the grind of life. The last thing I want in my games are things that tie back and bring me back to the reality of life. The reason why I picked up that game was to be immersed in the games fictional world, not to have the game world reflect society.

You play to be different a different person through your character, in a different situations, with different rules/consequences. Why would I want to play a game that related my in game decisions to what society thinks is right or wrong? That is not a game, that is life. A game, to me, is an escape from life. Are they mutually exclusive, games and 'life'? Probably not, but that does not mean they shouldn't be.

Really bad idea (1)

Lane.exe (672783) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536163)

The idea of social sanction to enforce moral behavior in games is not a bad idea... if the group we're talking about has any degree of social sophistication. But it's been my experience that gamers, especially the ones who care enough to be actively involved in gaming communities, lack many of the basic necessities of good socialization, such as how to properly express moral disapproval (or even what is and what is not moral, apart from some basic sense of egoism).

Re:Really bad idea (1)

Zeromous (668365) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536549)

As a gamer, and fellow /. 6-digiter, I find your opinion incredibly insulting to my intelligence and morality as a person and a serious gamer. Social organization occurs in games specifically to combat the type of bad socialization you speak of. In fact, in these types of sophisticated gaming-societies, there is no need for moral behavior enforcement. That said, obviously it is a bad idea, as long as people like you judge morality on the basis of the lowest common denominator. I also suggest you stop using Halo matches or whatever it is you gleaned this opinion from, as your barometer of the average gamer, let alone a highly organized and serious gamer. It sounds to me like you've simply experienced playing Halo or something else with a bunch of 15 year olds. But its not right to equate those experiences as they are considered a minority community now (gamers 18 years)

Huh? (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536455)

Ironically, if you tried to enforce moral consequences like this in real life, for real-life, proven atrocities (say, having 'child molester' tattoo'd on the forehead of someone convicted of child rape) the ALCU would sue you senseless.

Why should our virtual lives have consequences, when we don't have them in the real world?

Re:Huh? (1)

C0rinthian (770164) | more than 6 years ago | (#21538521)

What, kind of like registered sex offenders having to announce themselves when they move into a neighborhood?

Re:Huh? (1)

Some_Llama (763766) | more than 6 years ago | (#21538569)

"Ironically, if you tried to enforce moral consequences like this in real life, for real-life, proven atrocities (say, having 'child molester' tattoo'd on the forehead of someone convicted of child rape) the ALCU would sue you senseless."

You mean like having a electronic bracelet attached to your ankle or your current living location published pubilicly for all to see on the internet with a big red dot? Or only being allowed to live in special designated areas for child molesters akin to ghettos of WW2?

Games desensitize. (2, Interesting)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536565)

Defcon being a prime example.

The first time I played it, a pirated version shortly after the release, I was genuinely touched. When my first nukes fell on Warsaw and Wienna, I was quite shaken. My friends live there. The music, the crying woman in the background, this all added to the game experience immensely. My conscience at work was quite strong. "Yeah, that's just a game", I'd rationalize, but I still felt for the virtual humanity.

Yesterday I got the original Defcon and played it for the first time in a long time again. I launched a mass attack. Tokyo, Cairo, New York, Mexico, London. And when they broke through the defences, I'd go like "Wow! Yeah!", I enjoyed the huge score and didn't feel the least bit sorry. I knew the counter-strike would wipe my country entirely, but cool calculation was "I have 100 mln people at -1 per million, I can lose at most 100 points. There's +2 for each million of enemy people I kill, so if I get to strike the biggest cities first, I'll reap enough points no loss at a later time will outweight. Screw all the defense, attack all big cities ASAP, hard." I won with over 300 points with the next best player getting just above 100 points. Considering the losses this translates to gameplay murder of about 400 millions people in the game. Yeah, the game was fun.

Re:Games desensitize. (1)

Von Helmet (727753) | more than 6 years ago | (#21539035)

OK, so you were desensitised to the violence in the game. Would you say you were desensitised to the idea of actually dropping nukes on actual cities in real life?

Odd the rejection of this idea (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536759)

Most of the comments are negative, but I detect a patern, ALL of the NEGATIVE comments seem to be from people who don't want to get the label child-killer attached to them.

Nobody from the child-saver group of players seems to NOT want this label.

Just an intresting obeservation I think. Make of it what you will.

Having these tags will decrease the replay value.. (1)

chakan2 (1106731) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536775)

My comment on this is I usually like to play through a game just to see the result of my various actions. In Fable for instance it was actually pretty fun to go through twice, once to see how evil I could make my character, and once to see how good. If there were reprocussions from playing through the evil (or good) side, that's a lot of game play I would have missed. The important moral choices to track in games are already available via your gamertag (on Live), or being outright banned from servers (in CS:Source, and most PC online games). I don't care if my teammates / other players are playing through in an Evil or Good capacity (Shoot that last hostage to win, I don't care, it's good team play). What I want to know is are they not spawn killing, team killing, hacking, or being genral ass hats. As far as the PC online community goes, I'm usually playing on a related set of servers (for instance the TnB servers). Usually you'll end up running into the same core set of players on the various servers, and if someone was a total jerk on one server, they're gonig to get booted from that 'community' of players. Like a lot of people have said already, gameing is role playing, and that's a very important distiction to make. I play games because there are choices and situations I can partake in that I couldn't experience in real life. Obviously, I'm not going to make the same choices in the game that I would in the real world. So I'm not sure how much good tracking those in the context of a game would actually do.

I play video games so I can escape... (3, Insightful)

Lord Aurora (969557) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536799)

...not so that my friends or I can find out something deep and personal about myself. The moment a game has too many ties to the real world is the moment it ceases to become a game and it becomes a nuisance. Video games were created for entertainment. If I'm marginally entertained by calmly slaughtering the entire city of Skingrad when I'm playing Oblivion, that's my business, and reflects nothing about my real life. And I hope I saved the game before I did it.

Re:I play video games so I can escape... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21538427)

Actual, how you behave in ANY environment is a reflection on you;however this isn't a direct link between a specific action.

Many armchair Headologist would say that because you specifically mention saving the game, then ultimately you are not a mass murder. What they won't take into account is the perhaps you're saving it so you can kill those same characters again?

Moral based Gamertag Blues (5, Funny)

Cathoderoytube (1088737) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536849)

When I was just a baby my mama told me 'son always be a good boy, don't ever play with guns'
But I shot a man in Bioshock just to watch him die. When I hear that whistle blowin' I hang my head and cry.

Re:Moral based Gamertag Blues (1)

Altus (1034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537061)

3 days with mod points and nothing good to mod. As soon as they expire I find this.

1984 (1)

tonyreadsnews (1134939) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536897)

Yes, and the telescreens will be able to tell us when we've been playing improperly and notify the right officials to come and re-train us!

Man, I *liked* Bioshock and Portal. (2, Insightful)

ZombieRoboNinja (905329) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536955)

Why do these two have to ruin fun gaming experiences by bloviating about them for pages and pages like they're Citizen Kane in interactive form?

Calling your Gamertag "Child Killer" for killing Little Sisters would be annoying and sensationalist. These guys are supposed to be a link between video games and the mainstream media, and they don't get that having a bunch of 13-year-olds bragging about their shiny new "Child Killer" tag would be bad PR? (No, those 13-year-olds SHOULDN'T be playing M-rated games, but as anyone who's ever used Xbox Live can tell you, they do anyway.)

Anyway, let's see if I can one-up them on the blowhard meter: if we are to take seriously Kant's Third Critique, we would have to accept that aesthetic appreciation is only possible when the object of appreciation is of no immediate practical interest to us (but rather a "disinterested interest"). If we start salivating when looking at a picture of fruit, that's not "artistic" or "aesthetic" appreciation. If we look at pictures of naked women for sexual pleasure, that's not "aesthetic" appreciation. By the same token, if we're worried about our actions in a video game because we think they'll affect our real life in some way, like making us online social pariahs because of our Gamertags, that's not an aesthetic concern either. Introducing pragmatic interests to games makes them closer to porno than to DaVinci.

Yes, this post is about Mass Effect (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 6 years ago | (#21536997)

First time a game has gotten to me this strongly...Getting off the Normandy at the Citadel, a reporter stopped me and asked if she could interview me. I said yes. In the interview, I pointed out that Saren had something to do with the attack on Eden Prime. The instant Shephard said this, the potential consequences of my action began to sink in...what will the council think of this? Am I the cause of some media leak now? Will things on the Citadel start getting out of hand as the people realize that not only were they lied to, but a SPECTRE of all people led the attack? And how will they react to me, the first human spectre, releasing this information?

I genuinely started to worry. Yes, I know it's a video game, and yes I know some council of alien species isn't going to punish me...but when I play that game, I become John Shephard for the duration of the time that I am sitting on my couch. I truly began to worry about the consequences of making such a poor decision...first time a game has ever made me feel the emotion of worry and doubt about my decision. /offtopic rant

One game already has done this (1)

Alzheimers (467217) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537043)

One game I hold singlehandedly responsible for my eating disorder: Gauntlet. It just HAS to go and announce to the whole arcade, "Red Wizard needs food, badly"

Shut up! Shut up! Don't shoot my turkey! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!


This is why my Team Name is Frag Master (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537209)

You mess with the best, you die like the rest.

Seriously, though, it would be nice to have games in which one's optional actions showed up with a halo or fiery flames above your head.

Oh, wait, wasn't this an xBox game ... called Fable?

Ultima IV, VII and IX (1)

Avatar8 (748465) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537267)

Reading the article and those linked within it, I could not help but think of Ultima IV and some sequels. It was all about the correct moral choices, but it was too binary to provide a sophisticated model as could be done today. Still it reinforced that performing good actions, being honorable, etc. would progress the game and allow you to win. Performing negative actions would bring your "social standing" back to zero and force you to start completely over.

In Ultima VII a friend of mine loaded my save game (very late in the game, fully geared with the black sword, etc.) and proceeded to fight and kill Lord British. Not only did the castle guards react, but everywhere the character went after that he was scorned and the guards were called. Rather intelligent coding, I though.

(***spoiler alert***) Ultima IX was a game that made me cry as the article's author asked. In the end the Avatar (me) not only sacrificed himself to save Britannia, but it absolutely closed off any chances of another game. Both thoughts brought tears to my eyes.

I think all of these are some of the best examples of how morality choice effects within games and how the games can affect the player.

What if... (3, Funny)

GigG (887839) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537283)

"...what if everyone on your Friends List were notified each time you killed a Little Sister--or every time you rescued one--like the Status Updates on Facebook? "

There would be a surge in Little Sister kills.

The Real Problem (5, Insightful)

Capitalist1 (127579) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537629)

The single most important problem with games that try to include consequences for "moral decisions" is that virtually no one knows that there can be more than one idea of what constitutes morality. Most people in the U.S. who talk about morality take it as given that the Judeo-Christian ethos *is* morality. Not just one option, not just a view, it is the entirety of the subject. People take as given that self-sacrifice is good, self-interest is bad, "spirituality" is superior to "materialism", etc.

That is why these morality games will and must fail. There are no real moral issues explored, only a scorecard of how well you've conformed to the designer's idea of what morality is.

Games might very well become more immersive and emotionally involving. They will *not* become real-world moral laboratories. If the player's view of morality differs in any way from the designer's then that disconnect will destroy the entire illusion.

Pointless. (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 6 years ago | (#21537785)

This sort of thing seems to me yet another effort to force games to be more culturally relevant than they currently are. Gaming will become an important part of society of its own accord. I don't think people sat around trying to figure out how to shoehorn philosophy into a book or a movie. An writer simply had a story to tell and chose a particular medium to convey it.

Ultimately any form of entertainment is escapism in one way or another. I suppose gaming will enable interaction like we haven't seen before because it allows a player to become a part of the story. But moral or philosophical questions should come as a natural part of the story, not as some lame, tacked-on mechanic.

I did feel a bit guilty one time when I accidentally killed a kitty in World of Warcraft, but I can't say I was emotionally attached to the game. Once, probably more than once, in Morrowind I've gone through and completely wiped out every last individual in some town. Then there were those captives in Blackthorn who begged for help but instead got a shotgun blast to the head. In Fable I kept my character good, but I did explore try exploring both extremes.

I'd like to think I'm not a violent person in real life. I generally try to be a decent guy. While I normally play a character in a way consistent with my personality it ultimately depends on my mood. So how exactly do my actions in a game have any bearing on what kind of person I am in real life.

Ultimately, any such feature would be nothing but a glorified method of keeping score. Players would just try maxing out both good and evil scores. If a game developer wants emotional impact they need to write better stories and remain faithful to that story in the game design.
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