Just A Thought: Morality Systems Need to be Less Black & White
This generation has seen decision-making and morality systems play major parts in a lot of games. The likes of Mass Effect, The Witcher 2 and Fallout 3 have all featured them in some shape or form. While all three games are ‘good’ examples of morality systems, they all tend to suffer from the same issue–and it’s an issue that affects almost every single game with a system of this nature.
‘Black and white’ decisions are the bane of morality systems. The choices are normally between doing an utterly selfless deed that is absolutely morally correct, or doing something that is straight up 100% evil; there is rarely middle ground. The problem with this is that these decisions then become a little detached from the dramatic effect that most of these games are aiming for.
There are a few cases in which morality systems have been fleshed out, but these are in short supply. It’s time for more developers to flesh out their morality and decision-making systems in their games, because not all good outcomes are a result of typically ‘good’ deeds (see Games of Thrones; Jaime Lannister particularly, for a popular reference point). The same applies to bad outcomes. Good intentions have a tendency to lead to bad results at times, and this is rarely reflected in video games.
Morality systems aren’t exactly new, yet they seem to be progressing at an extremely slow rate. Improving the choices and the impact they have upon the game world is something that needs to be addressed. Forcing players into a tough choice in order to achieve a ‘good’ outcome adds a large amount of drama to a game’s story and overall experience. The current trend of morality effecting a character’s look and dialogue options is outdated, and it’s simply time to move on.
As the next generation of consoles comes ever closer, I hope to see morality systems improve alongside new technology. The concept of morality has seeped through into various other genres so that it’s no longer confined to RPGs. It’s time for more games to encourage the player to make hard choices–choices that aren’t simply good or evil. Challenge the player’s morals, make their choices feel more tangible, and ditch the paragon of good and the embodiment of evil. Give morality and choice legitimacy and depth and the game’s experience will only benefit from it.