Values and the Meaning of Moral Behavior in Video Games

Ultima VI, The False Prophet

The unintended trilogy about morality in video games became an unintended quadrilogy, this time looking not at choice, but at behavior.

Given my narrow focus in looking at this subject, I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but this is not about whether the actions available in a game are moral or good or whatever. This is about games that give choices based on morals and how they reflect or more often fail to reflect in those video games. In fact, it has more to do with the overall pervasiveness of games being based on violence in the moment-to-moment play that causes anything regarding play behavior to be about violence.

I can see those arguments being formed in the aether matter of the internet and I’m cutting them off at the pass as best I can.

Really read those two pieces about Ultima IV I linked in the post. They way they frame Richard Garriott’s struggle with and ultimate answer to this issue really clarified my need to speak again on this subject. He recognized that people, kids in particular were spending dozens if not hundreds of hours in his games and if he didn’t have an obligation to do more with that time than help pass it by. Those hundreds of hours killing and looting are reinforcing something and he wanted to do better. This was in 1984.

It’s not about the violence. It’s not about the endless waves of killing. It’s not even the laziness of doing it because that’s what video games do logic in creation. It’s the striving for something more and hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty that arises from not being able to see past those biases. If you strive for more and bill yourself as doing more, then you have to step up and follow through.

I promise this is the last PopMatters post on the subject of moral choices, moral behavior, moral whatever for a long while.

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