Is it possible to be half a bad person? Or can you be a 75% saint? The moral choices in video games attempt to answer this question for us.
This question stuck with me after I watched Boardwalk Empire.
Nucky Thompson was caught between his duties as county treasurer, and as a bootlegger. Check out this scene:
“You can’t be half a gangster.” That line always stayed with me.
It means that in order to achieve something, we have to go all the way.
For fans of Breaking Bad, there’s also this scene:
See what I mean?
In some cases, it seems like the best option is to put on the persona 100%. There isn’t a middle ground.
Video games, especially interactive movies and decision-based games like Detroit Become Human, lean in this direction also.
Remember Infamous and Mass Effect? In both of those games, your decisions fall upon an scale between good and evil. They can even change your characters abilities and directly affect the outcome of the game. Those games ushered in the era of moral choices in video games.
So, what about us? Does this apply IRL?
Career advice typically involves around finding your passion, or developing your special gift.
If you join a fraternity or sorority, you make a life-long oath. If a corporation hires you, you sign a contract. When you get married, you sign a contract fo’ life, and make an oath before God.
If the mafia hires you, make make a blood-oath.
Often, society tells us that we need to devote ourselves to something, or make a commitment to one type of persona. You can’t have one foot in and one foot out.
Words to live by?
It goes both ways. There are times when it’s great to have a hyper-focus, and times when the better option is to have a little finesse.
Politicians exemplify this.
The president needs to be able to kiss babies, and also authorize missile strikes.
The average woman thinks her man should be sweet, and also be able to defend her, which means cracking skulls with your own falcon punch. (if necessary).
You need to be capable of both.
Nice guy, with a big punch:
Evil always seems stronger in video games and fiction
There are exceptions to everything, of course, but it usually seems like evil characters have some type of strength of power advantage. Remember:
Negative side of the force gets force lightning (and force choke):
Akuma, which means demon in Japanese, has more offensive moves and attack power (though his HP may be slightly lower). And he even has a Shin-Akuma variation:
Or, your character’s hands are tied
In Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2, you can “decide” Darth Vader’s fate. If you choose to execute him, it’s revealed that you’re a clone. If you spare him and only arrest him, you are the true Star Killer, and not a clone.
This game essentially “rewards” you for being a pacifist, even though Darth Vader would destroy an entire planet if it serves his mission.
In real life, the ethics are much more complicated. Here, moral choices in video games are oversimplified, and you lose if you decide to be a renegade.
No middle ground in gaming
All of these games are awesome, and it’s great that ethics have a place in video games. Thoughtfulness is always a good thing.
But, in all of these IPs, it seems like the good versus evil equation is only white and black, though the world seems to be much more gray.
But these are only video games, after all.
What do you think, commander?