With Mass Effect 3 ranking as one of the most hotly anticipated upcoming releases of next or indeed any year, what better way to look forward to that momentous day than to take a look at the idea of moral implications within video gaming. Increasingly over the years the option to choose your own path has become more and more popular in the gaming sphere. While less evident in the shooter genre the option to be good or evil is more commonly found with RPGs and action adventure titles. The idea of choices and their long term effects is not exactly a new concept to the games industry, but the level to which they are implemented has changed to a degree. Titles such as the Silent Hill series have always offered different endings based on choices made within the game, but often these were not explicitly moral choices or the impact of the choice was diminished in the wider storyline, only becoming evident as the game concluded. This element is also present in Bioshock, in your choice of whether or not you harvest the Little Sisters for ADAM you determine which of three endings you achieve. As can been seen with titles such as Brink, a mission based shooter, you are given the option to play the missions from both sides, as the law abiding Security, or the revolutionary Resistance. While moral choices are not explicitly made in the actual gameplay, I have found from speaking with players of the game that there is obvious preference with which side to take. Personally I always favour the Resistance while a good friend of mine loves Security. While not so much a moral choice, and more a favouritism of sides, Brink represents the base level at which these choices are made. Though whether you choose a side for their look or their ideals is another matter. Choices can manifest in other ways. The controversial level of Modern Warfare 2, No Russian, allows the player to choose whether they join in the terrorist act, or abstain. The level involves a small group, in which the player is undercover as one of them, walking through an airport in Moscow, and shooting any and all civilians and security they see. What makes the level interesting from a moral standpoint is that at no point is the player told they must shoot, there is even the option to skip the mission altogether. It is the choice of the player that determines how involved they are with the mission. While, as seen, shooters can hold a degree of moral choices, it is the realm of the RPG and action adventure titles that arguably dominates the market of choice driven gameplay. Titles such as Fallout 3 used a morality system to provide different reactions within the game world, how your father would react to you, or for example which companions would join you. If you were not sufficiently evil or good certain people would plain refuse to join you, making you choose accordingly. Bioware is a big runner with this style of games, with titles such as the Dragon Age and Mass Effect series that have large portions of their stories dedicated to the choices the player makes in order to achieve different endings. They have also taken this a step further by linking the games to their sequels, so that choices you make carry forward. A choice system was used in both series in order to choose how your player spoke to those addressing them, with your companions reacting accordingly. A change can also be seen in the player character, while not in an obvious way. For example in Mass Effect 2 if the player often takes the Renegade route their scars will become more pronounced, while if they dont their scars will heal. Using Mass Effect 2 as an example, a loyalty system was used for your crew and whether you had the loyalty of a person or not was shown in a very visual way by a change in clothing. How this related to the gameplay, by the end of the game at least, was shown by those whose trust you had earned survived, and those who didnt trust you often died in the final sequences. What games like Mass Effect did was to force the player, in a very visual way, to think about the choices they made, and reconsider what they had done. In a similar way with Dragon Age you are given the choice to preserve your life via a dark ritual, having to use a male member of your team if you play as a woman. You are allowed to choose whether your sacrifice your life to save a nation, or if you preserve it with the possibility of creating a greater evil, the result of which we are still yet to see. While vocal choices and different endings are to a degree what defines Dragon Age and Mass Effect, titles such as Lionheads Fable series take a different route with the moral system, with actions speaking louder than words. The Fable series gives the player a very visual representation of their moral compass, while it has been seen that other titles give the player an idea of how their character is seen by others, Fable rather literally turns your hero into an angel or demon, a beautiful saint or a hideous sinner. This visual representation was taken a step further with Fable 3, with the appropriate wings materialising by the end of the game once your moral alignment had been determined. Fable differs from the likes of Mass Effect in the sense that while one relies on worded replies to decide the alignment, Fable determines from your actions. If you go on a killing rampage in a village you will become decidedly more evil and the economy of the area will drop, while if you donate money to charity and do good deeds the opposite will happen. In different ways many games of the modern day challenge the player more and more to think about the actions they take within a game and represented with various degrees of starkness. While in some cases this may force the player to make more informed choices in order to preserve areas of the game, or characters, they like, we must face the reality that sometimes its just fun to be bad.
Top 5 Morality Games
5. Modern Warfare 2 While as a whole the game does not really force many moral choices on the player, No Russian more than makes up for it, providing an interesting dilemma for the player. 4. Bioshock Bioshock make the list at number 4 purely for the Little Sisters. Whether you choose to save them or harvest them for more power, it impacts the ending. 3. Fallout 3 Fallout makes the list due to the way your actions cause reactions with the people around you. Go on a rampage and people will run away, companions will refuse to join you, do the opposite and people are more favourable to you. 2. Fable 3 The literal manifestation of good and evil, with the players actions doing all the work, places Fable 3 at number 2. 1. Mass Effect While in general I prefer Dragon Age to Mass Effect, the Mass Effect series, for me anyway, shows the best implementation of the morality system, even if not in an overtly visual way.