How Players Rehearse Their Ethos via Moral Choices

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How Players Rehearse Their Ethos via Moral Choices. Video Games have rapidly increased in popularity over the last decade. With unprecedented levels of growth, there has also been a rising discussion surrounding the nature of their impact on a player’s morality. 


How Players Rehearse Their Ethos via Moral Choices


Player choices


Some games are designed to be immersive, and various studios have their approaches to player choice. In the article “Playing a better me: How players rehearse their ethos via moral choices,” the authors dig deep into how video games have impacted players and whether there’s a structure to how a player’s beliefs may influence their moral decisions.

There’s a popular assumption that hopping onto a video game is an easy way to position oneself in a judgment-free zone. 


Whether video games can be seen as safe spaces?


Over the course of their research and two-dozen interviews, the authors were confronted with the question of whether video games can be seen as safe spaces. From what they gathered, this isn’t the case.

Because video games are designed with inspiration from real-life choices and decisions, the way players confront these moments are intuitively human. Although there’s a considerable lack of “real consequences,” still, that doesn’t make them less impactful.

For specific video games with black-or-white choices, it’s easy to keep up with a natural bias toward playing the hero or the “good guy.” Most gamers gravitate towards that style of play. For the players that don’t, it’s usually in games where one doesn’t have to confront humanized consequences for their choices.


Different choices


There are situations where the illusion of a safe space can be shattered for a player, especially when a difficult choice exists and no decisively satisfying options are available.

For example, in Mass Effect 2, there’s a morally grey choice that has to be made entirely by the player. Confronting this moment was difficult for Stella, one of the interviewees. According to her, this choice was particularly gut-wrenching because her character had to pull the trigger on an in-game crew mate that had become a close compatriot in the story’s campaign. That decision was made to save many lives, but it still didn’t lighten the weight of guilt. She even had to stop playing for a while after.

In some instances, the position of being the bad guy has brought friendships into question. According to Malcolm, seeing his friend choose to play an evil character in the Mass Effect role-playing game initially felt like a reflection of his friend’s true self. However, his friend wasn’t inherently different on this. Malcolm concluded that his friend made this choice because he viewed the villain route as a way to view an unconventional storyline for the game.

Some players see role-playing as a way to self-insert and simulate a life where they become the hero. For others, gaming can be a medium to dissociate from oneself and enjoy the entertainment of a virtual world for good or bad.


Final thought


Video game morality is based on a predetermined set of choices from the designers. Although the real world inspires them, those in-game choices are still created as absolutes. 

In the real world, players have more nuanced factors to consider. Therefore, it’s safe to say that video game morality can be separated from the real world. Some immersive games can blur the lines, but you’ll need to remember that video games are carefully crafted virtual worlds. In real life, there are more options.