Stuff I Found

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Torture needed in video games?

According to this commentary by Clive Thompson, video games could use some more opportunities for players to torture other characters. Why? To learn about the consequences of course! I disagree. Thompson says:

[Video games are] also extremely good at illustrating consequences: If you do X, then Z and L will happen; if you do Y instead, then C and Q result.

I disagree with the premise that games are "good at illustrating consequences" ... the real world is good at illustrating consequences; games are the opposite. That's why they're fun to play. You can go on a shooting rampage without consequences, no need to even feel guilt. That's the whole point. When people make real world moral decisions, I don't think they look back on their video game experiences to analyze the difference between right and wrong.

I think this idea that people can learn about morals from video games is also a problem with video game designers... if you have a player make a moral decision in a game, you must realize that the player will first probably want to choose the moral decision that leads to winning the game. They'll only choose the other choice to "see what happens". The only way to have a real interesting moral choice is to have one in which either decision the player makes will have good and bad effects on the playing of the rest of game. But the only thing this does is allow players to explore decisions they would never make in real life; they don't learn anything about morality from this.

I think novels, films, and video games... really anything with a narrative with a moral message... definitely are ways for us to explore morality, but they aren't going influence what we finally believe is right and wrong. You can make films and games in which the bad guy wins, but audiences aren't going to think "oh, maybe killing innocent people is okay because this character did it and got away" ... NO.

So showing the bad consequences of torture in video games with the hope of teaching some moral lesson is a silly idea.

By the way, in the real world, people can profit (and have profited) greatly from "morally wrong" decisions... sometimes bad guys really do get away. But most of us probably agree that the ends doesn't justify the means. What makes something right or wrong isn't its consequences.

Okay, that's kind of a tangent from the article, but I hope you get my point... :-)


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