There seems to be a lot of talk about moral choice in videogames and how, as a serious art form, it could AND should be provoking emotional responses. Triple A titles such as Deus Ex, the Fable series, Fallout and Mass Effect offer these experiences that allow you to craft your own story through the choices you make during the game. But are these games trying too hard to be “what gamers want”? Surely there are simpler ways to connect with the player and the best way to make a player “feel” is to tell them a story. These false notions of morality and choice seem jarring because Deus Ex, for example, offer constant choices which can be overwhelming and, in my exceptionally humble opinion, detracts from the experience. Too much of a good thing springs to mind.
Fable 2 is a perfect example of how the choices you make are false and ultimately have no effect on how “your” story progresses. You’re welcome to slay whole towns of innocent civilians for no reason, you can steal, orphan your own children, cheat on your wife and host weird orgies in your family home or skip and happy-dance your merry way through Whogivesacrapville. You can play however you like but at the conclusion of the game, no matter how you play, you’re offered the same choice. Be very nice to everyone, be neutral or be evil. It all boils down to choose A, B or C regardless of how you have chosen to play. The “karma meter” is exactly that. One good act completely negates one bad act. No grey area exists. You can slaughter a town, and I did slay many, many towns, then perform some expression, for example dancing like a chicken, and your sins are forgotten. Moral choice in games is a myth because you’re always offered a chance to negate what you’ve done by acting in a way that’s contrary to how’ve you played the game. You can switch your morality at any time to change the world. It doesn’t make sense.
In my opinion one choice should be enough. You make one choice in a game and choose your characters morality or lack thereof. There are far more interesting choices to be made than right or wrong. Kill or Help. Love or Hate. Surely in a medium that wants to be taken seriously and considered art, games writers and developers can give us something slightly more morally challenging than “kill him or help him”. I would even go as far as not having to make a choice. I find the problem with these games is that there is a choice at all. You are giving a dialogue tree and options to choose from. If a game truly presented you with choice, moral or otherwise, it would be natural and these options wouldn’t be present. You would be in total control of how your character acts or interacts. Technological limitations make this impossible and until it is possible, if it ever is, morality and choice in games will remain a myth. Total control or no control. This is why my favourite games are linear games. Games that tell you a story, that put you in the shoes of a character with existing relationships and personality traits and lead you through a pre-written experience. What’s wrong with being told a story? I’m sick of “linearity” being a negative term. Half Life 2, Portal, Shadow Of The Colossus, Sonic The Hedgehog 2, Super Mario Bros 3, are among the greatest games ever made and every single one of them follows a very distinct path (apart from maybe Shadow Of The Colossus but it’s still a linear game).
I want a pre-written story. I want to hear, experience and watch someone else’s story. I am not an author, I do not get paid to write stories because I am not good at it. Authors are good at it, that is why they are “authors”. Please can we stop having these games that are driven by morality and player agency. A drop down menu doesn’t mean choice. A, B or C is not a moral choice and non-linearity does not make for an interesting experience anymore. More Portals and less Deus Ex’s please and thanks.
I understand this piece is slightly disjointed and all over the place but I don’t care, so shut up.
Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 are the same game.
Brad Nicholson is a fantastic writer. His writing style is fresh, energetic and passionate. He obviously cares about what he does, loves his readers and is damn good at what he does. He’s something of a hero to me. As a host of a podcast he has always shone, his natural charisma makes him ideal at hosting. He’s funny, intelligent and very very unique.
The Electric Hydra is a gaming podcast, first and foremost. The reason it stands out is because it’s not afraid to discuss other topics. But it does so in a natural way, it doesn’t seem forced or intentional. The conversation flows with an organicness (word??) that can’t be faked. Due in part to the co-hosts/ other bunch of dudes.
Joseph Leray is an incredibly intelligent guy and another fantastic writer who has an amazing ability to debate and discuss. He often plays devils advocate in order to promote a discussion and always has something to say.
Jim Sterling is the best in the business. Intelligent, witty, well informed and very funny. He brings an energy to the show that can’t be faked. He clearly loves podcasting because, and I mean this in a good way, he is a show off. His natural energy and general silliness is refreshing.
Topher Cantler brings a calmness and chilled element. He doesn’t say as much as the others, but his opinions are always immensely valid. He’s insanely witty, talented (The Journalism Show is genius) and brings a completely different element to the show.
The reason I love the show so much is because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s not afraid of silliness or digression and stands out in a sea of dull, boring podcasts. It highlights a lot of what’s wrong with game “journalism”. The industry could learn a lot from these guys. Gaming is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be enjoyable, entertaining and it’s supposed to be a laugh. These guys stand out because they stand for what games “journalism” should be about. If more blogs and podcasts took a leaf out of their book I think the whole enthusiast press thing would be more enjoyable and have less arguments and more discussion.
I for one salute The Electric Hydra for daring to be different. I salute them for standing for what games should be about and I salute them for bringing colour and laughter and fun to games journalism. This is how it should be done. The Electric Hydra is the best games podcast available. It’s what’s right in a sea of what’s wrong, it’s the little bit of blue sky in between the grey clouds and the laughter in amidst the seriousness of gaming culture.
Thank you The Electric Hydra.
IOS is becoming a truly great source of games. Jetpack Joyride is one of the most addictive games I’ve ever played. It’s simple, fun and just awesome. The simple runner gameplay with the addition of amazing innovations, the vehicles, and the missions, make for a unique and original game.
Respect to Halfbrick for another quality title.
Video game franchises.
As many of us know Gears Of War 3 is out. I will not be purchasing this because it’s almost definitely going to be like Gears Of War 2, which was a lot like Gears Of War. Which is fine. Everything is fine.
But do we NEED these franchises that are identical in gameplay. Are graphical improvements and slightly different game modes enough to warrant another £50? I don’t think so. I think franchises are killing games. Do we need another Big Guns Big Armour Penis And Guns game? Or do we need some new I.P’s?
Game designers are resting on their laurels and pumping out these uninspired, rinse and repeat sequels. The gameplay and even the marketing is pretty much the same. I’ll pick on Gears some more. The juxtaposition of a slow song against the action has been used in the Mad World trailer for Gears 2 and the Dust to Dust trailer for Gears 3. Both great trailers for the same reason. Find a formula and stick to it. That’s what games need. I mean it’s not like games are a medium that has an infinite amount of possibilities, that can be used to tell an infinite amount of stories and can cause a more personal emotional reaction than any other medium on this earth.
But hey, chainsaws on guns!
P.S If one more person says “Derrpp everyone is having a horde mode since Gears 2 duuuurr”, I will kill. There are a myriad of games that came before that were wave based survival games. There was that one that was quite popular….what’s it called….oh yeah, Space Invaders!
I don’t hate Gears and wish Cliffy all the luck in the world with his game.