With games increasing in scope, refinement and ambition, developers have begun to muddy the moral waters, and more and more titles are posing the kind of tough ethical questions that were once the exclusive purview of philosophy.
The rights of the many versus the few? The dangers of progress? The value of life itself? All have come to trouble the consciences of video game villains and protagonists in myriad titles.
And the dilemma gets so much worse when the decision is taken out of the hands of the character and handed over to the player. Cue long, hard moments of sober introspection, gut-wrenching turmoil, even bleak nihilism, as we wrestle and agonize over the fates of the people and places we have come to love and ask the simple question:
What do I do?
Here we look at ten of the toughest questions video games have ever asked. We’ve scoured the Internet for the polls and examined the debates, to see what you, the players, think and by your vote settle the matter once and for all.
Note: This article assumes that the choice was made in response to the first time the question was posed, not with the benefit of hindsight.
10. Destroy The Geth Heretics, Or Rewrite Them? - Mass Effect 2
The stakes: A faction of the robotic Geth, the Heretics, have adapted a Reaper virus which they intend to use to compel the true Geth to fight for the Reapers against organic life.
As a powerful race who evicted their own creators from their homeworld, this could be fatal to the galaxy. As it turns out the virus is destroyed regardless, but what happens to the Heretics is left to the player.
The choice: Destroy the Heretics, permanently dealing with the threat, or rewrite them, forcing them to accept the true Geth’s viewpoint but at the cost of making the Geth as a whole stronger and raising a question as to their stance on organic life going forward.
The verdict: As per this poll (scroll down to Legion's quest) players chose to rewrite. Destroying the Heretics is considered genocide, something that would be unacceptable in the case of organics, so why should it be acceptable against synthetics?
And while rewriting them is ethically problematic – you are brainwashing a sentient species into accepting a viewpoint they are directly opposed to – doing so adds significantly to the Geth’s strength, which, if you can get them on side, would make them invaluable allies against the Reapers.