Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Video Game Morality

There may be some minor spoilers here; consider yourself warned.

Continuing some earlier thoughts...

In that last post, I talked a little bit about how I'm playing the Evil side this time around, so I can see what Evil missions and Powers I might have missed, and what the Evil ending might look like. I also talked a little about how oddly difficult I found it to be Evil in the game; I'm having to fight against my native inclinations and some ingrained habits. Despite this, I've managed to become as Evil as the game's system of morality will recognize. By the standards of Infamous II (and, before that, Infamous I), I am absolutely evil.

But that has some interesting implications all by itself. The way the game is set up, there's a very strong incentive to be either very good, or very evil. It's not the missions; you can complete good-side or evil-side missions as you choose. It's the powers. There are certain powers that are simply not available until you reach a certain degree of virtue - or a certain level of vice. (There are also certain... I'd call them "corollary effects" of being particularly good or particularly evil.)

Now, I'm not entirely opposed to the idea that someone with this degree of personal power - and seriously, we're talking "Hey I can take out an entire police force and be ready to go again five minutes later" kind of power - would likely do either a lot of good, or a lot of evil. Especially since MacGrath is interacting very directly with both his rivals and enemies, and with the un-empowered people around him: there's no insulation, none of the usual buffers that keep most of us from dealing directly with the sort of people who could ruin our lives on a whim.

But, I would like to see a third option: not neutrality, exactly, but... lack of extemism? I'd like to see what might happen if I used my powers without any particular concern for what kind of progression particular actions could earn me. I'd like a third path, where players could grow their powers without needing to strive for the ultimate good or the absolute evil.

I can make some guesses about how I might behave. If I wasn't striving for sainthood, I'd probably be less worried about hitting innocent bystanders... but not as sublimely indifferent as I am in my current quest to be evil. On the other hand, I'd probably stop to heal the sick and injured... especially if I'd injured them myself... but I might not have been so obsessive about healing every single person I found, if I wasn't both Becoming More Good and gaining experience points every time I did. Still, I'd be interested to see if those guesses bore out without the specific incentives to reinforce them.

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