Video games get scarily realistic. Sometimes, we treat this mass of pixels almost like real life and NPCs like our friends – primarily when moral choices shape digital reality.
Be good or bad? Kill or spare? While we don’t ask ourselves these questions every day, they do come to mind during gaming sessions. Video games with moral systems encourage the exploration of fictional scenarios, almost experimenting with your feelings.
It makes them interesting and provokes another playthrough with a different approach. People want to be good, and right deeds feel like a reward – that’s what we have learned over the years. Therefore, considering the evil path in the game often feels awful. And appealing! Because where, if not in such an interactive fictional environment, can we test our ethical limits?
The Essence of Morality Systems
In a nutshell, morality is a set of rules determining what is right and what is wrong. Closely related to other subjects like guilt, ethics, traditions, or culture, it helps make life decisions. Some are more complex, others effortless, so developers implemented moral systems into video games.
One of the first such titles was 1991’s Streets of Rage, where the final choice dictated alternative endings. It was soon followed by I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, Fable, Bioshock, and the incredibly popular Grand Theft Auto. Does decision-making sound like a plan for the upcoming gaming session? We’ve created a short list of games with moral choices if you want to know their surprising outcomes.
Mass Effect is a classic example of a series where everything is black and white. That doesn’t mean easy – quite the opposite.
By executing decisions, players can create the evil or good Commander Shepard. Each deed affects Paragon and Renegade meters, which develop Charm or Intimidate skills. And many of these choices are complicated because while traversing the galaxy, we can decide the fate of alien races or travel companions. Some are even nice, so it would be a shame if they suddenly died. Right?
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
|CD PROJEKT RED
As a professional monster slayer, Geralt isn’t as appreciated as he deserves. In this cruel, yet beautiful world, our hero may want to follow the path of ultimate evil.
The Witcher series introduces an extremely complex morality system, set in a world overflowing with prejudice, racism, and a complete lack of hope. Geralt is not a shiny hero, just a man doing his job. Sometimes more like a tool. So noble decisions are problematic since each shapes the plot and future events. But that’s what makes this game so fascinating and realistic.
This seemingly cute game allows the completion of the entire story peacefully without killing anyone along the way. But it’s not that simple, and there are dozens of alternative endings depending on the player’s choices.
To fully understand the Undertale plot, complete it at least 2-3 times. The first time can leave you speechless because this game is learning. In most role-playing titles, the player is invincible, operating the ancient power of saving the game. But not in this one, as the save often introduces the consequences of bad choices that already happened and should be overwritten. The NPCs recognize you, there’s no fourth wall, the game notices how many times you’ve played it, and it looks like everyone knows something you don’t. Such fantastic mechanics make each choice unimaginably challenging and often result in guilt.
It is a charming story revealing the whole life of the playable hero. Full of challenging moral choices!
Everything you do in Fable affects your character and the surrounding world. This fact can cause an unsettling feeling because decisions turn out incredibly complex. Even the tiniest action affects your future reputation and appearance. And these NPCs notice it well!
|Bethesda Game Studios
Bethesda’s games are widely appreciated for their complex stories, moral depth, and memorable characters. And this one provides some pretty brutal choices that will always feel like the worst.
Fallout 4 features two plots that might make you question your moral compass. The first concerns the Synths – humanoid robots with no free will. The second is the selection of factions that exist in all Fallout games. But in that case, this choice can bear truly grave consequences. Have fun, good luck!
As it turns out, players don’t play games to do good but to explore their moral abilities and push certain boundaries. Making choices results in satisfaction or guilt, depending on the individual’s approach to particular matters. One might ask – is it all just for this? Well, yes! People also like to play the scariest horror games, and fear is not a pleasant feeling. But it’s fun because all these nasty or questionable actions happen in a secure digital environment. Consequences don’t affect real life, and NPCs don’t hold grudges (except those in Undertale, they remember). Running such tests on ourselves can bring pretty fascinating results and encourage us to think about human morality and life in general. So pick a game and see for yourself – can you play the bad guy?