Ethical Choices in Games: Beyond Good And Evil

I'm not sure I have used this blog title before.

I'm fairly certain I have, but after writing 358 blogs on this site over the course of 4 years, I can never be sure. If so, apologies. Do not panic; You are not stuck in some infinite internet loop. Calm yourselves.

Incidentally, this is not a blog about Beyond Good And Evil. Sorry :(

The whole Paragon vs Renegade thing is something that I have written about before, though not for a while. In summary: I do not like that process, at all. In my experience, to take advantage of these systems and the rewards that they bare, you must commit to a single path entirely. For example in Mass Effect, choosing the path of ethical ambiguity meant you were deprived of both the extreme Paragon and Renegade answers that would pop up occasionally and, arguably, would allow the conversation to escalate to it's most entertaining conclusion. They grey road is, in many cases, the least rewarding. Such game designs are also, to any experienced player, condescendingly transparent. One of these choices will give you a good ending, one will give you a bad ending - it is seldom difficult to figure out which is which. Bioshock, for example, made it fairly obvious throughout that saving the little sisters would pay off in the long run, but at what cost? By making the decisions so linear, the element of choice becomes redundant.

And then some games give you alternate endings which are neither good, nor bad, and the result is underwhelming for a whole different reason - because your moral decisions were apparently meaningless. I'm still looking at you, Mass Effect.

There are, of course, examples that contradict this. The Witcher (more specifically the sequel, which is the only Witcher I have spent any time with) managed to instil a wonderful sense of ethical uncertainty. Your decisions sent ripples flowering off into the fabric of the world, some of them trivial, others leaving deeper and more meaningful scars on the world around you.

So why bring this up Sweep, you bellend? We don't need to hear this shit from you again.

When I play games that facilitate any kind of moral spectrum, I tend to pick my ethical alignment at an early stage, for the reasons previously stated. Usually I pick being an Evil Dude, because kicking guys out of windows is much more entertaining than helping orphans and letting the rest of the game's inhabitants treat you like a little bitch. But then I started playing the Walking Dead and... fuck, I'm finding it hard. Telltale have managed to place me in a situation where I am forced to act with a genuine moral integrity instead of simply choosing the actions that I believe (And secretly hope) will cause the most chaos and destruction. The Walking Dead makes me feel... guilty.

That's a big deal for me. Guilt is not an emotion that I frequently entertain.

The choices that you make are not inherently good, nor evil, but they are tough. The one choice that still fucks me up was at the beginning of episode 2 when you are asked to share out 4 portions of food between 8 people. I didn't want to give any food to Duck (he's Kenny's son, and he's fucking irritating) but... I couldn't not give food to a starving child. That just seemed... wrong.

The best part about the Walking Dead is that it lacks any sense of predictable linearity. You make decisions and, as in the Witcher, you don't know what this means for you, nor your group. You are having to react to people and, despite their stereotypical character roles, they remain unpredictable. The cast remembers your decisions, even if you don't, and they come back to haunt you. Usually when you least expect it.

But the Walking Dead goes beyond that, even. The game forces you to act selflessly because you actually care about the other characters. There were moments in Episode 2 where I gave pause to reconsider my course of action. For a little girl who doesn't even exist.

This, I think, is what makes a great videogame. And this is why you should go play The Walking Dead.

Also, it has zombies in it!

Thanks For Reading

Love Sweep

31 Comments
32 Comments
Edited by Sweep

I'm not sure I have used this blog title before.

I'm fairly certain I have, but after writing 358 blogs on this site over the course of 4 years, I can never be sure. If so, apologies. Do not panic; You are not stuck in some infinite internet loop. Calm yourselves.

Incidentally, this is not a blog about Beyond Good And Evil. Sorry :(

The whole Paragon vs Renegade thing is something that I have written about before, though not for a while. In summary: I do not like that process, at all. In my experience, to take advantage of these systems and the rewards that they bare, you must commit to a single path entirely. For example in Mass Effect, choosing the path of ethical ambiguity meant you were deprived of both the extreme Paragon and Renegade answers that would pop up occasionally and, arguably, would allow the conversation to escalate to it's most entertaining conclusion. They grey road is, in many cases, the least rewarding. Such game designs are also, to any experienced player, condescendingly transparent. One of these choices will give you a good ending, one will give you a bad ending - it is seldom difficult to figure out which is which. Bioshock, for example, made it fairly obvious throughout that saving the little sisters would pay off in the long run, but at what cost? By making the decisions so linear, the element of choice becomes redundant.

And then some games give you alternate endings which are neither good, nor bad, and the result is underwhelming for a whole different reason - because your moral decisions were apparently meaningless. I'm still looking at you, Mass Effect.

There are, of course, examples that contradict this. The Witcher (more specifically the sequel, which is the only Witcher I have spent any time with) managed to instil a wonderful sense of ethical uncertainty. Your decisions sent ripples flowering off into the fabric of the world, some of them trivial, others leaving deeper and more meaningful scars on the world around you.

So why bring this up Sweep, you bellend? We don't need to hear this shit from you again.

When I play games that facilitate any kind of moral spectrum, I tend to pick my ethical alignment at an early stage, for the reasons previously stated. Usually I pick being an Evil Dude, because kicking guys out of windows is much more entertaining than helping orphans and letting the rest of the game's inhabitants treat you like a little bitch. But then I started playing the Walking Dead and... fuck, I'm finding it hard. Telltale have managed to place me in a situation where I am forced to act with a genuine moral integrity instead of simply choosing the actions that I believe (And secretly hope) will cause the most chaos and destruction. The Walking Dead makes me feel... guilty.

That's a big deal for me. Guilt is not an emotion that I frequently entertain.

The choices that you make are not inherently good, nor evil, but they are tough. The one choice that still fucks me up was at the beginning of episode 2 when you are asked to share out 4 portions of food between 8 people. I didn't want to give any food to Duck (he's Kenny's son, and he's fucking irritating) but... I couldn't not give food to a starving child. That just seemed... wrong.

The best part about the Walking Dead is that it lacks any sense of predictable linearity. You make decisions and, as in the Witcher, you don't know what this means for you, nor your group. You are having to react to people and, despite their stereotypical character roles, they remain unpredictable. The cast remembers your decisions, even if you don't, and they come back to haunt you. Usually when you least expect it.

But the Walking Dead goes beyond that, even. The game forces you to act selflessly because you actually care about the other characters. There were moments in Episode 2 where I gave pause to reconsider my course of action. For a little girl who doesn't even exist.

This, I think, is what makes a great videogame. And this is why you should go play The Walking Dead.

Also, it has zombies in it!

Thanks For Reading

Love Sweep

Moderator
Posted by Ravenlight
Posted by Sweep

@Ravenlight: not unless you want Marino to kill you with a brick.

Moderator
Edited by Cloudenvy

@Sweep said:

Incidentally, this is not a blog about Beyond Good And Evil. Sorry :(

Fuck.

I feel cheated!

Posted by Ravenlight

@Sweep: Then can we merge the Brick and Revenge pages?

Nice blog, BTW. While we're on the subject did Beyond Good & Evil actually have any moral choices? Why does the game bear that name, anyway?

Edited by CrossTheAtlantic

I've only played the first episode of The Walking Dead, but I've been really surprised by it, primarily because of that feeling of "guilt." I'm not really a fan of either the comics anymore or the show, and when I bought it on Steam to see what the fuss was all about, I intended to go into it totally cold and logical, playing out the zombie apocalypse how it should go down, dammit. But by the time

it presented me with the choice to save either Duck or Shawn, I went against my initial instinct to save the--comparatively less useful--kid.

The way it manages to convey emotion and intent all the while making it difficult to really gauge any kind of "right" scenario (is it better to be honest about your past? lie? avoid the topic entirely?) is so outside of how most games deal with morality I couldn't be more impressed. It's pretty refreshing as, as you said, to see the black/white morality system chucked in favor of something that--at least so far--feels organic.

Posted by Marino

@Sweep: Bumped this up to the front page. I wonder if anyone will know why I titled it what I did.

Staff Online
Posted by SexyToad

@Marino said:

@Sweep: Bumped this up to the front page. I wonder if anyone will know why I titled it what I did.

Isn't there a rule about not bumping? Just kidding don't hurt me. I'm just a little SexyToad... Also I feel evil now, I didn't save any of the girls in Bioshock so i can get upgrades...

Edited by jakob187

Not about Beyond Good and Evil?

Flagged for misleading thread title. O__________O

I am also now under the firm belief that this sentient English hamburger is nothing more than an advertising bot trying to sell me penis pills...for my penis.

Posted by Phatmac

Nice fucking title Sweepy, you should be like a writer or something. I also share the same sentiments on The Walking Dead being great at giving you tough choices to make without enough time to realize what they'll actually do. I also hate good/evil systems in games as it is a cheap way to make you play a game twice. The Witcher 2 is worthy enough for a second playthrough because it has a great amount of content that you'll never see if you pick a certain choice. Compare that to infamous and it'll be clear that infamous doesn't have such an impressive use for the morality system. I also hate the morality system in Bethesda games as they usually don't impact your game at all. Lastly, everyone should play The Walking Dead game. Even you.

Posted by Sweep

@Marino: I'm assuming it's not a Lemon Jelly reference...?

Moderator
Posted by the_OFFICIAL_jAPanese_teaBAG

Hmmm I should probably start playing the Walking Dead soon, I feel like Im really missing out

Posted by JackSukeru

@Ravenlight: As far as I remember there were no moral choices in BG&E, just a conspiracy where the government fighting the alien invasion were actually working with them or something.

Also what the fuck!? Why is this not about Xenosaga episode 2?

Posted by Tylea002

That's what I thought when I finished The Walking Dead episode 1. That's the first game ever that made me feel proper Regret. And I think that's a good thing, but I can't even tell.

Posted by Marino

@Sweep said:

@Marino: I'm assuming it's not a Lemon Jelly reference...?

I had to Google that to know what it was. So...maybe?

Staff Online
Posted by Red12b

@Sweep:

I feel like I fucked up the last decision,

Posted by Arbie

That was a really good read. I agree it gets old after a while in a game where you catch on pretty quick which options will lead you down a certain path and then end up feeling tied to them!

What you've said about The Walking Dead makes me want to play it a fair bit! And you've reminded me I need to play Witcher 2 still!

Edited by TwoLines

Ah, hell. I'm broke dude, stop hyping The Walking Dead. First the bombcast, now this. And to think I was lured here by the BG&E title! Shame on you Sweep. Shame on you.

Posted by Slag

You just sold me on this game Sweep. Nice blog!

Online
Posted by natetodamax

I've played both episodes of the Walking Dead and I love for the same reasons. Though the game imported two of my choices from episode 1 into episode 2 incorrectly, it's still been a lot of fun.

Posted by Hailinel

Personally, I like my good and evil with a heaping helping of order and chaos. It is, I think, what distinguishes the morality of the Megami Tensei games so well from more standard games. The sense that while what you're doing may be lawful, it's not necessarily good for you or anyone else.

Posted by LikeaSsur

I agree that as great as Mass Effect is, it's morality system is deeply flawed. Dragon Age II does a little better with it by having each character react to what you say. Hopefully with III, Bioware will finally get it.

Posted by Klei

Thought this was about Beyond Good and Evil. I'm disappointed.

Posted by falserelic

I love games where you can make good or evil deeds. They can bring out the good and bad in me. Its always interesting seeing how a character changes depending on your choices. Now I feel like playing infamous I'm going to redownload that game on my ps3.

Posted by BlueLantern1995

@falserelic said:

I love games where you can make good or evil deeds. They can bring out the good and bad in me. Its always interesting seeing how a character changes depending on your choices. Now I feel like playing infamous I'm going to redownload that game on my ps3.

I love those kinds of games to, Infamous series is a good example, the Epic Mickey Series is fun as well(though not a dramatic example LOL), Spider-Man Web of Shadows and other games like those...man I can't wait to play Epic Mickey 2

Posted by falserelic

@BlueLantern1995 said:

@falserelic said:

I love games where you can make good or evil deeds. They can bring out the good and bad in me. Its always interesting seeing how a character changes depending on your choices. Now I feel like playing infamous I'm going to redownload that game on my ps3.

I love those kinds of games to, Infamous series is a good example, the Epic Mickey Series is fun as well(though not a dramatic example LOL), Spider-Man Web of Shadows and other games like those...man I can't wait to play Epic Mickey 2

There's one game I hope comes on psn and that is The suffering 2.

The choices you make will give you different demonic powers. It was aswome transforming into a beast, and violently slaughtering anything that gets in your way. I had a blast playing this game.

Posted by Loafsmooch

Games that can make you feel strong feelings like guilt are so interesting.. Gonna have to get The Walking Dead now.

Another game that has recently made me feel guilt and remorse is DayZ. The fact that your choices aren't affecting fictional NPC's, but that they're affecting other people just makes those feelings all the more real. Anyone who's into games that invoke strong feelings should try DayZ. Best part of it, each life is a unique adventure.

Posted by Sweep

@Loafsmooch said:

Games that can make you feel strong feelings like guilt are so interesting.. Gonna have to get The Walking Dead now.

Another game that has recently made me feel guilt and remorse is DayZ. The fact that your choices aren't affecting fictional NPC's, but that they're affecting other people just makes those feelings all the more real. Anyone who's into games that invoke strong feelings should try DayZ. Best part of it, each life is a unique adventure.

I played a bunch of DayZ and I can't say I have ever felt any sense of remorse at killing another player. Dog eat dog...

Moderator
Posted by kgb0515

Nice read, but your background is super creepy to me for some reason.

Posted by Fat_Magnum

I can certainly agree that these games have been some of the most emotionally evocative experiences I've had in a long time and in surprising ways, no less.

For instance, I recall at the end of episode 2 just feeling... tired of people dying and everything being so damn miserable, in response I didn't feel like I could bring myself to kill the last brother in that cannibal family.

While I do like to feel that there is an element of choice to a game, I agree that a morality system makes it feel to "gamey" to have any real impact emotionally. "Hmm, Nah I want that full evil bonus so this village is going down."

Posted by MattyFTM

I went with a reasonably grey route in the Mass Effect trilogy. It was pretty much 70/30 Paragon/Renegade. That gave a really nice mix. And in virtually every single dialogue option I have both the paragon and renegade options available. Occasionally the renegade option wasn't available, but there wasn't a single time the paragon option wasn't. The grey route worked out fine for me. Maybe it's a bigger issue if you're closer to a 50/50 split.

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