Last month, outspoken game designers Clint Hocking and Manveer Heir held a little cross-blog discussion regarding the design and implementation of ethical choices in video games. We are accustomed to making decisions about weapons, strategies, and the color of our Sim hairstyles, but meaningful choices with moral weight are relatively rare. Even when faced with potentially tough moral dilemmas, the current nature of video games may dilute the effect. Heir suggests in-game permanence (which has created various interesting experiments), while Hocking eschews authorial influence in favor of ludic solutions.
It is tough topic, so we decided to we decided to call for backup. This week, we have are honored to welcome Nels Anderson, author of the excellent Above49 blog and gameplay programmer for Hot Head Games. Join us while we discuss permanence, harvesting children, Choose-Your-Own-Adventures, readability, and the future of moral choices in games. With three of us at the table, we made this podcast slightly longer than normal, but extra time is well spent on a very complicated and contentious subject. We encourage you to read theHocking's and Heir's original articles in the show notes, along with supplementary pieces we discuss in the show. As always, feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments.
Some discussion starters:
- Have you ever faced a difficult in-game discussion that stemmed from moral concerns? If so, did you translate this into simply mechanical outcomes? Did you approach is role-playing as the protagonist?
- If your in-game decisions were permanent, would they be more meaningful? What techniques add add weight to a decision?
- To what extent is in-game decision making impacted by real-world experiences? Do you carry your personal set of ethics into a game?
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- Run time: 41 min 13 sec
- "Ethical Decision Making," by Clint Hocking, via Click Nothing
- "Designing Ethical Dilemmas," by Manveer Heir via Design Rampage
- "Ludonarrative Dissonance in Bioshock," by Clint Hocking
- Rescuing vs. Harvesting Little Sisters Graph, via Escapist Magazine
- Music provided by Brad Sucks