Article Discussion

The morality of player made decisions in gaming is muddy

For as long as I can remember I have seen countless news pieces, news commentators and social media backlash towards games that are less than regarded by a few in the wider community. Titles like Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, Saints Row, The Elder Scrolls, Fallout and pretty much most open world rpg’s to date have always come under flak for players doing questionable things to innocent, digital civilians. Granted the news tends to focus on the players that then takes these acts and proceed to try them out in a real life situation or they use the player produced acts of violence in game as an indicator of immoral behavior towards women, men, gender rights, etc… The finger has been waved towards all manner of players and as such it has sparked debates and issues across all matter of sites.

The main beef of the subject here is that many gamers that play the games just to enjoy the story or to enjoy the sandbox environments. While some of them may take to terrorizing the local citizens of this digital world, many of them know when to separate the real world from the digital one. Frankly this is not grounds to defend murdering innocent lives within a digital world or for committing immoral acts. What I would argue is that it is a fake world that has no bearing on our lives in the real world unless we allow it to do so. The line that we draw between what fake actions (i.e. committing  crime in a game) versus real actions (emulating that action in real life) is a muddy bottle of water at best; though many would argue this shows a lack of immoral standards even if done in a fake environment.

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This is the current situation that we as gamers are in. It is not a fun one to be in nor is it a very enjoyable topic to discuss. It is the cause of much strife between gamers and those who would question a gamers action within a virtual play space. I feel that it is important for gamers to not shy away or become overly defensive when approached about the subject. Frankly I am no shining angel. I have my share of running around Fallout 4’s world and firing off a weapon in the peaceful Diamond City or taking a car for a joyride in GTA V. Do I do it because I think killing innocents is what gives me a thrill and it fills a void in my blackened heart? Or is it just because it is simply a game, a false world filled with false faces? See what I am getting at here. It becomes very difficult to say that I don’t do anything in a game that is morally ambiguous to a conscious personality. Frankly what also drives this moral ambiguity is often times certain mods. For example the mod Killable Children for Skyrim. This is a mod that will make anyone question as to why the hell would someone download this? It is frankly sickening and the last thing I would ever want to do within a gaming environment.

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Yet this mod remains up and available for download and yet people are still arguing over a person who ran over an artificial intelligence in GTA V; not saying that no one’s talked about the mod, it just lacks the coverage. I think that prioritizing mods that do degrade the moral choices like the aforementioned one does is more of a pressing matter and yet it really isn’t due to the simple fact that when you boil the muddy water away you still get muddy water. The mud isn’t able to be boiled away and still remains. You may have cleansed it of some disgusting bacteria but the soil still remains. Tackling player morality in gaming is a situation that seems like a lost cause and vice versa to players attempting to tackle false impressions. Gaming has and always will be a battleground for moral arguments as games will always try to explore questions that we frankly do not wish to discuss or to play out. I mean it took Rockstar Games adding a player interacted torture scene (With optional skip) in GTA V to get players to cringe and think about what actions they are doing, even within a virtual space.

Even so games continue to push to player made decisions into territory that many argue should not be available to gamers due to the simple fact that many who tend to play games are usually below the age of 17, the minimum age required to purchase M rated games in the United States. While games like Mass Effect present us with choices that could make or break an entire community or species, we often don’t think about the morality behind those choices and how they would weigh on our characters. Frankly looking back at it I wouldn’t mind going back through these titles that I loved and seeing just how ambiguous these choices actually are and what actual moral impacts they would have in a real life situation.

Now while this topic is frankly a tough one to talk about, let us know how you feel on the situation. Have you also seen games, mods or scenes that really made you cringe and think about the actions that you actually commit on a daily basis within most open world titles? As always we love to hear any and all opinions within questionable topics such as these ones.


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5 comments

  1. Great post! Sometime morality in gaming won’t work the way devs would like it to and it falls flat, but on the other hand, sometimes is can really make an impact on you. Fire Emblem Fates really go in depth with this concept and gave us 3 games all at once based around a single choice. Bioware games are also amazing when it comes to this!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks (o^.^)b

        Just curious, do you share these posts on any video game websites (aside from your own)? I work over at CreatorsCo (we’re part of Movie Pilot and Now Loading) and this is the sort of content that makes for an entertaining read. If you were open to the idea of posting your work on our sites in addition to also having your blog/site, I’d be more than happy to help you get started. My e-mail and more info can be found on my page. 🙂

        Like

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