Nikhil TanejaSep 07, 2009 12:00:00 IST
Good or Evil, Black or White. How often have you come across a game where characters are drawn to fit the bill of a good or bad guy perfectly? Almost always! It gets a bit tiresome, how most videogames have plots where the antagonist's just downright 'bad' and the heroes are the manifestation of all the good in the world. The bad guys might as well eat little kittens for breakfast, while the hero helps the poor and needy in the most selfless ways possible. If only things were as simple as black and white in real life. Truth is, there's more gray than either of the other two shades.
Most games leave the gray areas rather unexplored. In our last article, Morality in Gaming, we discussed how moral choices in games make them that much more immersive. While that stands true, the fact remains that these choices in most games with morality engines, usually linger around doing things the 'good' or the 'bad' way. Either one of them lead down the path of good or evil only, with no middle ground to explore. Look at inFamous, for instance, where you either help the masses and be their saving grace, or be a selfish prick and go down the path of evil. The so called 16+ rated game forces you to pick between either one of the two kiddish paths if you wish to be rewarded by the special powers either the good, or the evil side has to offer. There's no room for experimentation, and no way to exercise your own sensibilities in each scenario, limiting the morality system to two conformed paths, rather than giving you access to a freeform structure where applying your own sensibility in each case is rewarded.__STARTQUOTE__My gripe (with inFamous) is that the choices you make are cumulative, and add up to the larger scheme of being 'good' or 'evil', rather than rewarding you or making you face the consequences each time you make a choice, which is a more realistic and less confining way of doing things__ENDQUOTE__
I'm not saying that inFamous isn't fun - between hunting for dead drops and pummeling Reapers, I've lost myself in the game through many nights, just to see the sun creep up outside the window before I knew it. My perpetually red, sleep-deprived eyes are testament to how much fun the game is. My gripe is that the choices you make are cumulative, and add up to the larger scheme of being 'good' or 'evil', rather than rewarding you or making you face the consequences each time you make a choice, which is a more realistic and less confining way of doing things.
In that respect, games like Fallout 3 excel by limiting the scope of the morality system to your immediate actions. Each action has its consequences, which can be seen in the game world immediately. If you choose to tactfully chat your way past a guard in the game, rather than killing him with the first weapon you find, the game awards you for your patience in tangible ways (by making him help you out later on in the game) rather than telling you that "you've gained +2 moral points for being good, now go spend it on some moral candy". The game world and its morality engine becomes more organic, where it evolves around your actions, rather than imposing a fixed 'good' and 'evil' path that restricts room for experimentation. You can choose to help the down trodden when you feel like it (which would be a morally correct thing to do), and mess around with ghouls at the same time just because you hate the way they look (which could be considered a bad thing), without one action canceling out the other, like it would in the case of inFamous. Each of those actions would bare their own consequences independent of each other, allowing you to effectively be the gray area