Deus EX HR, Mass Effect 3: A Tale of Choices

Leaving Morality Decisions Down to Players

Okay, so I'm not gonna talk about the ending of Mass Effect 3 here. Let's get that out of the way right now. Pfuh, feels better already. Also, no spoilers.

So, what I actually want to talk about is decisions. Having just finished Mass Effect 3 and Deus Ex HR still fresh in mind, I wonder why so little games feature a heavy use of moral decisions in games. If done correctly, it can change your whole experience. To better or worse. Lets start with talking about Deus Ex. I may be a little biased, since it's my second-favorite game of all time, but that is only because of choices. Starting with leaving the most fundamental decisions down to players, such as choosing your playstyle, it sets out to let you define a whole experience of your own. No two players will play it exactly the same way. Choosing between hiding from enemies and taking them from behind or just straight out assaulting them is down to you. Choosing your answers in conversations will define if you need to invest another half hour rampaging your way through the building looking for that damn key or if that guy just gives it to you. Maybe you will play the game Call of Duty style because you're used to it, but you shouldn't.

Oh wait, I can't say that. I wouldn't. There, much better! And thats what it is all about. Not narrowing the path of your experience down to exactly one playstyle. Everyone is different. Everyone plays games differently. Is one really better than the other? I can't tell. I shouldn't tell. Cause making that decision for you, taking your own will from you, like so many games do these days isn't the right way: I think that choices should display in every game. How often have you thought: "Aw man, I wish I could hit that guy in the face!" And I think you should be able to. But you know, you might be happy there for a second. You showed that asshole. That woman-hitting, moustache-sporting son of a bitch. Cause assholes always have moustaches. It's how you identify them. But back on track. Maybe it turns out that that guy had friends, also moustached, who weren't happy about you hitting their buddy. And maybe these friends got guns. So you have to deal with them. And that's why I love decisions in games.: You gotta deal with the aftermath of your choice. It may sound good at first, but you may run in a brick wall later if you behave like an asshole. You can't just go around hitting everyone in the face with a chair. that's not how it works in real life and that's not how it should work in video games. Don't get me wrong, I love games that let you do this too. Crazy over-the-top stuff like Saints Row The Third. And that's the other side of the coin. Having dealt with important choices, hard live decisions, all day, maybe you just want to get away from reality for an hour or so. And you turn to video games. And I can understand that. Video Games are good. I, too, love Call of Duty. It just lets you relax, with it's one-way-that-always-fits playstyle. Shoot the bad dudes. Easy. Simple. Right? Is shooting always the solution?

"No!" says Deus Ex. It makes the shooting hard on you. One, two hits and you go down. You're dead, done for. Load last checkpoint.

"Yes!" says CoD. Shoot all the enemies, proceed. Next level. But that's not how it works in real life. Grown men don't solve their problems like that. They can't. because it wouldn't get them anywhere except in a body bag. You gotta deal with assholes and dicks. because you can't hit all of them. Some may be your boss, you may need some of them to do important stuff for you. And that's how it is in games too. Commander Shepard wouldn't save the galaxy without being nice to people. If you go around flipping off everyone, they may turn their back on you. And you can't blame them for that, can you? And we're back to outcomes.

You may loose one or two of your buddies because you made a stupid decision. You fucked up. But that's okay, cause there's an extra ending for people that fucked up. Because people fuck up. Everyday. And normally you have to live with that. You won't get the same ending as the person next door who never fucked up. Normally you don't. Except for in ME3. Dammit.

But you will get an ending. You may not be happy with it, but it reflects your decisions. If you chose truthfully, like you would in real live, it reflects yourself. And that's good. I love choosing my own outcome. I wanna see if I would have saved the galaxy, if I would've been in Shepard's place. But I can't. Since there's no giant spaceships. Yet. But for that we have games. And they are wonderful for letting me be Commander Shepard. Choosing my own answers really depend my experience. It improved the game in many ways. It made me Commander Shepard. And Adam Jensen. But not the protagonist of Battlefield. At no point felt I touched or moved by Battlefield. Because it wasn't me who made these choices. It was some writer. And I don't like that. I hate not being able to live my own way. And I hate not being able to play my own way. And maybe you do too.

5 Comments
6 Comments
Posted by Fredddi43

Leaving Morality Decisions Down to Players

Okay, so I'm not gonna talk about the ending of Mass Effect 3 here. Let's get that out of the way right now. Pfuh, feels better already. Also, no spoilers.

So, what I actually want to talk about is decisions. Having just finished Mass Effect 3 and Deus Ex HR still fresh in mind, I wonder why so little games feature a heavy use of moral decisions in games. If done correctly, it can change your whole experience. To better or worse. Lets start with talking about Deus Ex. I may be a little biased, since it's my second-favorite game of all time, but that is only because of choices. Starting with leaving the most fundamental decisions down to players, such as choosing your playstyle, it sets out to let you define a whole experience of your own. No two players will play it exactly the same way. Choosing between hiding from enemies and taking them from behind or just straight out assaulting them is down to you. Choosing your answers in conversations will define if you need to invest another half hour rampaging your way through the building looking for that damn key or if that guy just gives it to you. Maybe you will play the game Call of Duty style because you're used to it, but you shouldn't.

Oh wait, I can't say that. I wouldn't. There, much better! And thats what it is all about. Not narrowing the path of your experience down to exactly one playstyle. Everyone is different. Everyone plays games differently. Is one really better than the other? I can't tell. I shouldn't tell. Cause making that decision for you, taking your own will from you, like so many games do these days isn't the right way: I think that choices should display in every game. How often have you thought: "Aw man, I wish I could hit that guy in the face!" And I think you should be able to. But you know, you might be happy there for a second. You showed that asshole. That woman-hitting, moustache-sporting son of a bitch. Cause assholes always have moustaches. It's how you identify them. But back on track. Maybe it turns out that that guy had friends, also moustached, who weren't happy about you hitting their buddy. And maybe these friends got guns. So you have to deal with them. And that's why I love decisions in games.: You gotta deal with the aftermath of your choice. It may sound good at first, but you may run in a brick wall later if you behave like an asshole. You can't just go around hitting everyone in the face with a chair. that's not how it works in real life and that's not how it should work in video games. Don't get me wrong, I love games that let you do this too. Crazy over-the-top stuff like Saints Row The Third. And that's the other side of the coin. Having dealt with important choices, hard live decisions, all day, maybe you just want to get away from reality for an hour or so. And you turn to video games. And I can understand that. Video Games are good. I, too, love Call of Duty. It just lets you relax, with it's one-way-that-always-fits playstyle. Shoot the bad dudes. Easy. Simple. Right? Is shooting always the solution?

"No!" says Deus Ex. It makes the shooting hard on you. One, two hits and you go down. You're dead, done for. Load last checkpoint.

"Yes!" says CoD. Shoot all the enemies, proceed. Next level. But that's not how it works in real life. Grown men don't solve their problems like that. They can't. because it wouldn't get them anywhere except in a body bag. You gotta deal with assholes and dicks. because you can't hit all of them. Some may be your boss, you may need some of them to do important stuff for you. And that's how it is in games too. Commander Shepard wouldn't save the galaxy without being nice to people. If you go around flipping off everyone, they may turn their back on you. And you can't blame them for that, can you? And we're back to outcomes.

You may loose one or two of your buddies because you made a stupid decision. You fucked up. But that's okay, cause there's an extra ending for people that fucked up. Because people fuck up. Everyday. And normally you have to live with that. You won't get the same ending as the person next door who never fucked up. Normally you don't. Except for in ME3. Dammit.

But you will get an ending. You may not be happy with it, but it reflects your decisions. If you chose truthfully, like you would in real live, it reflects yourself. And that's good. I love choosing my own outcome. I wanna see if I would have saved the galaxy, if I would've been in Shepard's place. But I can't. Since there's no giant spaceships. Yet. But for that we have games. And they are wonderful for letting me be Commander Shepard. Choosing my own answers really depend my experience. It improved the game in many ways. It made me Commander Shepard. And Adam Jensen. But not the protagonist of Battlefield. At no point felt I touched or moved by Battlefield. Because it wasn't me who made these choices. It was some writer. And I don't like that. I hate not being able to live my own way. And I hate not being able to play my own way. And maybe you do too.

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Posted by Willza92

Interesting, I agree that Deus Ex is great and the way it approaches it's gameplay really is something that should be adopted by more games, but not all games. There really is a market out there for just going through the motions and having a story told to you, however games like your recent Call of Duty and Battlefield really don't have interesting, well told stories, but simply checkpoints held together by flimsy story beats. It's why you yearn for that freedom in those games, because the stories aren't well told or particularly interesting, makign the player wish to explore other, potentially more interesting options. However, let's take... CoD4? Which, personally, I think is a well told story that paces itself brilliantly. There is nothing in that game that I would change, even if I could change it. Would I try and save that pilot who went down in the helicopter? Yup. Would I have stealthy attacked the ship at the beginning? Hell yeah. Would I have gone all out assault on Al-Asad with my fellow marines backing me up. Damn straight.

But, lets take, Modern Warfare 3. In the African level, would I have broken stealth to save those villagers? Would I have seeked another way to save them without alerting the entire militia? Yes. Very much so.

It's up to the designers and writers to think of the scenario and either give us the choice, ala Deus Ex, or to think of the right choice for us, ala CoD4. Unfortunately too many games are getting it wrong, giving us choice when it doesn't really effect the outcome or not giving us choice and forcing us down the most cliché, overused path that we have travelled down many times before.

That's just my two cents, I loved Deus Ex HR and found the ending rather difficult, because the game had spent most of its time validating each argument and like you say, it's up to how the player feels that ultimately effects the final outcome.

Posted by believer258

This is true and all, but a developer shouldn't make a decision because "real life is that way". There isn't any weight to it when that's the sole reason a game includes something, I feel like it cheapens the vast potential of games or any entertainment media when it has to be tied down to "that's the way it is in real life".

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Posted by Aetheldod

@believer258 said:

I feel like it cheapens the vast potential of games or any entertainment media when it has to be tied down to "that's the way it is in real life".

I agree with this .... Im not into enterteinment and media to relive sucky real life bullcrap. But that doesnt mean that it is carte blanche for any other far winded thing to happen at developers wims if its not explained properly in game (through mythos , story , game world , character consistency or even gameplay)

Posted by Willza92

Also, I forgot to mention...@Fredddi43 said:

Cause assholes always have moustaches. It's how you identify them.

Posted by believer258

@Aetheldod said:

@believer258 said:

I feel like it cheapens the vast potential of games or any entertainment media when it has to be tied down to "that's the way it is in real life".

I agree with this .... Im not into enterteinment and media to relive sucky real life bullcrap. But that doesnt mean that it is carte blanche for any other far winded thing to happen at developers wims if its not explained properly in game (through mythos , story , game world , character consistency or even gameplay)

Especially gameplay. Just Cause 2 is one of, if not the, best examples of just letting a person roam wild and do crazy stuff whenever and however they want to for any reason they want to.

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