The morality judgement

So, I've started playing Infamous: Second son. I know I'm late to the party, but what the hell. I'm a moderate fan of the series. I enjoyed Infamous 2 quite a bit. But both games suffer from the dreaded morality system. While the Infamous games are far from the only ones that use a morality-system, they are very adamant about having it in the forefront, driving the playing-experience.

To be frank, I hate these systems. I'm not talking about just the morality in Infamous, I'm talking about most morality-systems. I think that they do not offer anything but to incentivise replays and give players “lawful good” or “stupid evil” choices. While I can't fix the first problem this presents, I believe you can at least work around the second.

See, the problem arises when writers are asked to create negative responses to any given situation. The classic example is: “Do you help the old ladys cat down the tree, or do you burn the tree down and eat the barbecued cat?” To put it more video-games terms: Do you save the city full of millions of NPCs or do you burn it down and eat barbecued NPCs? This might be overtly optimistic, but I believe that most people are good-hearted by nature. Well, at least, most people aren't kill crazy maniacs in disguise. So, naturally, for most people, the evil choice is less appealing, unless you are going in to the game with the mindset of role-playing an evil character. The fact that most people are at least decent makes the morality-system pretty moot. One usually goes in for ONE type of character to play, and then plays the game as such. Never truly having to compromise or change. So, now I'm going to purpose two systems that use morality, but keep with the spirit of the battle between good and evil.

Being evil is easy

The title should be pretty self-explanatory, and it is fitting with how life sometimes works. Being evil in a game could give you certain benefits that make the game easier. Just how it sometimes pays companies better to screw over their employees. In gameplay terms this could translate to certain enemies turn to allies, or specific attacks have no effects on you. It could be OK to just give an evil player better powers, but that might upset the balance of the game too much. And also, remember, being evil might be easier, but it might not be the best idea, long term. So one could make these extra powers short lived, or mercurial in nature. Again, a company screwing over their employees for an extended period of time might lead to negative consequences when said employees find better companies to work for. Hurting the bottom line, in the long run.

Being evil is surviving

Ever thought about how people struck by war or natural disaster can do some really questionable things to survive? Ever thought about how when taken out of context, said actions can look really bad. Ever thought about how when taken IN context, said actions might be presented as the only way for said people to keep on surviving? That there could be worked into a game as a morality-system. I hear “This war of mine” did something like this, and it turned out to be quite interesting. The idea of having to pick evil choices as a means to survive is an interesting game mechanic. Because it first presents a concrete situation where being evil might be attractive, and it also helps to solidify the idea that it's not really the ONE bad thing you do that makes you “evil”, it's the hundred of small bad things you do that ultimately damns you. In gameplay-terms this could translate to something as simple as stealing supplies from neutral-parties, eventually seeing how you being a parasite on them is a bad thing. Or it might be used in a stealth-game, where killing guards is bad, but gives you easier access to their treasures. And in the end, all of the guards you face are heavily armored and armed bad-asses, because now you have a reputation. In the end, you've upset the order of things so bad for the guards that they are forced to take extreme measures, which end up biting you in the ass.


I know that these two ideas seem similar on the surface, but I think that both can be interesting if put in a game. And I know that there are a lot of better ways to implement a morality-system than the binary good/evil-system of todays games. I think it's only a matter of time before more games like “This war of mine” pops up to challenge our idea of the morality-system.