Video Game Morality

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Answered by: Benjamin, An Expert in the Classic Video Games - General Category
If books can teach morality why not video games? Video games (if we can even call them that anymore) have evolved over the past decade to become a large part of popular culture. While there are still what we’d consider “games” like New Super Mario Bros. and Call of Duty a lot of games have gone beyond that to become interactive entertainment experiences.     Mass Effect is a great example of a video game that's transcended it's "game" status. Mass Effect is a trilogy of games that’s essentially a space odyssey, you travel the galaxy recruiting a crew to save all sentient life. Aside from great game mechanics, an incredible amount of polish, and really well crafted universe one of the reasons Mass Effect has become such a popular and critically acclaimed series is the choices you make throughout the series and the morality system as a whole. By no means is it the first game to include video game morality and let you make moral choices but it stands out because of it’s polish and realism. Bioware made the moral choices a bit more ambiguous than “Smash Puppy or Don’t Smash Puppy”, making the player take time and second guess their immediate gut reaction.

     Moral choices in video games may become it’s vibranium shield (see how I sneaked in that Cap reference?). For years now every time something violent happens people tend to turn to video games, point a finger and scream demon. I hate to admit it but with games like Grand Theft Auto it’s hard to defend against those kinds of claims. Of course if they played GTA they’d realize that the violence is just an entertaining medium to tell a story but all they end up seeing is the part where you have sex with a prostitute and beat her with a bat to get your money back. Though I will say that is a fantastic way to get your money back, I highly recommend it.     The flip side of that extreme violence is moral choices, and I don’t know why people haven’t been spouting that back as a defense to these wild claims. If you go see a violent movie you only get to see how the protagonist reacts and you end up assuming that whatever choice he/she makes is the right course of action but in a video game you’re forced to make a decision, putting you in the hero’s shoes. Maybe you won’t kill that beggar that’s in your way because now instead of watching it happen you’re the one that actually has to pull the trigger.

I know it sounds cliche to say but kids these days are exposed to an incredible amount of violence and video game morality may be a step in the right direction. Think about when you were 7 or 8, the games we were playing were games like Goldeneye and yeah there was violence but it so toned down and incredibly unrealistic. Back in those days the AK-47 looked like a colored pencil and bloodstains were a little red pixel on the front of the character model. Toned down and unrealistic violence like that is no longer the case, in Modern Warfare 2 there’s a quick time event where you stab a man in the chest and stare in his eyes as he dies, yeah that’s fuckin awesome. But, we all know kids as young as 7 or 8 play these games because we hear them talk shit online. That kind of scene does desensitize kids to violence and by no means am I saying it shouldn’t be in video games, I love games like Gears of War where you chain saw locusts in half but we can all agree that young kids shouldn’t be playing these games. No matter how many laws and rules and regulations we make there’s no way we’re going to stop kids from playing these games, it’s just not gonna happen. We can put some hope in the fact that for every time they give someone a lancer to the chest they’re also choosing not to obliterate an entire race of sentient creatures. But then again kids are bastards so who knows?

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