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Author Topic: Who says video games aren't thought-inspiring?
Book
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Anyone here up for what's probably going to be some idiotic, pedantic whining? Cause odds are that that's what this will eventually turn into. Consider yourself warned.

Anyways, I recently received Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic for Christmas and, as you can all expect, I haven't seen sun or moon for any long period of time for the last week or so. I'm sure you all have heard or at least can get the gist of the game: you, the character, are presented with numerous choices or scenarios throughout the story, and your moral choices affect your powers and the plot of the story. It's really quite ingenious and involving, and the characters and stories are so well-developed you really feel pressure for every choice.

And, anyways, I found, the more I played that I seriously could not be bad. It actually, and try to keep a straight face as I say this, makes you feel really, really bad when you beat up the beggar or murder the innocent and whatnot. Yes, a video game is capable of such a thing. And I talked to some other people who had played the game, and they, too, said that they couldnt be bad, or, at least, when they were bad, they really didn't enjoy it. Such as choosing to leave the wookies on Kashyyk to a lifetime of brutal slavery, that was a tough choice. But the only other choice was to lead them to freedom, causing you to then lose Dark Side points and, so, become weaker.

And so I thought to myself, is this really how evil works? I mean, shouldn't evil, by definition, be something that tempts us, that makes us really want to do it? To me, evil isn't just kicking old ladies down or setting fire to blood banks, evil is, I don't know, the easy route. Pure viciousness, I think, comes from some kind of mental or personal defect, but the urge to do the easy or popular thing is something we're all capable of. Whereas good, on the other hand, is something usually no one wants to do. Almost no one wants to get up and spend a saturday that could be spent drinking beer on the couch and watching TV and go down to the soup kitchens to help out.

Yeah, that's right. I'm using a video game to make an ethical philosophical point. I have that much time on my hands.

So how should good and evil be represented? I think the game's great, by the way, I don't have any real problem with that. But, I guess, to mirror real life, the good choices should be expensive and long, usually causing the character to have to go out of his or her way to help someone, because damsels in distress don't just fall into your lap. And evil? Well, evil would be interesting. At first it would be the quick and easy thing to do, cutting corners and avoiding obstacles, and then, as time went on, your choices got more and more limited and more and more depraved as you "fell to the dark side." And the only way to free up your choices would be to go out of your way to do the tedious good deeds on the other side of the galaxy. Visiting the soup kitches on Tattoine or whatever.

Maybe not that mundane, but you get the idea.

Just my two cents.

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T_Smith
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Um, when I was watching my friend play I kept encouraging him to go dark side on everyone, cut some heads off, and tell people that they need to get over their problems cause they are worthless to her.

I guess I am an evil dude. The light side of the force is too easy to predict.

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Ryuko
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I think about video games all the time... Mmmm... Solid Snake... (drools)
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Julian Delphiki Jr.
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But it is so damn expensive to be good. I mean, you have to pay docing fees, and pay the full price for things. It is so much easier to use the "Jedi Mind Trick" in those circumstances. Maybe that is just just me, but I get a kick out of ripping that lady off when she is selling her house.

-W-

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A Rat Named Dog
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We actually had a really long, involved discussion about this subject on a game developers' board that I participate in. My position was that the good-vs-evil choices in games like KOTOR are fundamentally unrewarding because they amount to acting out a choice you make at the beginning of the game. You start out thinking, "I'm going to be EVIL and KILL EVERYONE!" and then you do it. Or you say, "I'm going to be GOOD and RESCUE BABIES!" and then you do it. You get exactly what you ask for, and there is no game in it.

And those are the only choices. Kill everyone, or rescue babies. But what the game never does is address the fact that sometimes killing someone can be good, and sometimes rescuing a baby could be done for an evil motive. The game doesn't respond to motive at ALL. It just awards you "good" points or "evil" points based on who you arbitrarily decide to kill when.

And as you said, it also never addresses true evil. A truly evil person doesn't Kill Everyone. That's what a crazy person does. A truly evil person tries to steal joy from others to enrich their own lives, while a good person sacrifices his own desires for the benefit of others. I intentionally played an evil character in KOTOR, and it really bothered me that in order to do so, I had to be an IDIOT and leave a trail of bodies in my wake. Constant, unmotivated murder was the only real way into the dark side.

See, the good/evil choices in Fallout were handled a lot better. There were at least two ways through every major problem, and usually, BOTH sides required you to kill, steal, or otherwise do some damage. And you would have to decide which team you thought should win. The xenophobic paradise-building empire? Or the rugged, stinky freedom-loving rogues? Most of us would say that the latter is "good" and the former is "evil", but in the context, both of them represent themselves very well, and the choice means something to you because you have to work it out. And then at the end of the game, a series of slides shows you how the future turns out with the choices you made.

The original Deus Ex did this, too, with its alternate endings. All three endings were "bad" in some ways and "good" in others, and you had to pick the one you felt would be the best.

That's what these types of games really need complex morals that aren't presented in black and white. They should present moral choices where there ISN'T a clear good and evil, and then assign realistic consequences to player actions. Let the player explore the meaning of his actions by experiencing the aftermath, rather than making his choices entirely to earn points toward some arbitrary goal of "being a goodguy" or "being a badguy".

[ January 07, 2004, 05:03 PM: Message edited by: A Rat Named Dog ]

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Strider
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i can't wait for Fable. i hope it's a one up on on this type of game. It's looking to be amazing.

[ January 07, 2004, 06:30 PM: Message edited by: Strider ]

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Rhaegar The Fool
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I played Knights too, and when I did, I went totaly spasctically evil, and I loved every minute of it, see if you go totaly evil, its gets really really fun, and you start to love it, and yes, I use my saber on every single beggar around, and I think my count for Jedi trying to save them is about, oh sixteen or so. Glee!
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Maccabeus
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Well, Geoff, that's one of the characteristics of the universe the game is set in. There's the Dark Side and there's the Light Side, and usually it's pretty clear which is which. I'm enjoying the New Jedi Order series because it actually manages to muddy the waters somewhat. Unfortunately it seems to be backing away from its more radical ideas.
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Book
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An evil person, I think, is someone who only does things for his own personal profit, regardless of the cost to others. And KOTOR never really worked that insidiousness into it; like whatsisname, Palpatine, he never ran around hacking people's heads off. He had more at stake. And he was a much smarter and much more evil man for it.

Also, did it make you feel good when you made Zaalbar kill Mission? Cause that part made me feel awful.

Also, usuall when I used my mind trick to get out of docking fees all that happened was one of my goody teammates moaned about it.

Pretty much the only parts of the evil thing I enjoyed was the powers, how cool I looked, and that one part at one of the final movies where Bastila's talking to the Republic commander, who suggests they pull their forces back, and Bastila looks at me, standing in the shadows with my arms crossed, and I just barely shake my head. That was cool.

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pooka
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Earlier today I was thinking about this LDS Relief Society Conference talk where (I think it was Ann Pingree) said "you don't have to choose between reading your scriptures or robbing a bank". So in a really effective game, if you initally choose to read the scriptures instead of robbing the bank, your next choice is "fix nutritious breakfast or get to work on time" whereas the bank robbers choice would be "use my Ford POS getaway car [which if I leave behind will implicate my sister in the crime] or steal that SUV that someone left running outside the Starbucks." Then when it turns out the SUV has a kid in the back, "do I ditch the car and the kid or write the owner, who left her purse here, a ransom note?" I think that's more how real evil works.
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TomDavidson
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Couldn't you read your scripture WHILE you rob the bank, thus maximizing your XP for the miniquest?
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pooka
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Then people would just think I was merely insane. We keep coming back to that problem.
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A Rat Named Dog
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I didn't have Force Persuade, so I couldn't get Zaalbar to do a darn thing. Killed them myself, I believe.
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Maccabeus
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The thing about evil and feeling good is that really being evil provides you with immediate real-world benefits. You have the money or the jewels or a bunch of girls (all thinking they're you're one true love) or whatever. Being evil in a game, at most, will help you win the game, and you can do that being good. So your morality kicks in and says "But I really wouldn't kill anyone!" and the good feeling never appears.
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Rhaegar The Fool
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Oh really?
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pooka
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I was showing my kids how to get all the weapons and skip levels in Tomb Raider II last night, and Lara mysteriously exploded for no apparent reason. I guess that's one hazard of cheating. Enough to keep my daughter from ever trying it.
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