Game Ethics

Reading Time: 2 minutes[avatar user=”John” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” /] I play a lot of videogames. Too many. At times it has reached a very unhealthy level, but that’s not the reason I mention it today. The reason that I mention it is that I’d like to call out a few games:

The first one is a game called “Divinity: Dragon Commander” in which you play a dragon with a Jetpack trying to unite the world through military conquest. I have yet to find another game with quite that premise.

The gameplay is OK, and as a real-time strategy game I would say that it is average. Where it really shines is that as the be-jetpacked dragon leader of multiple ‘races’ (including the Lizard-people, the elves, the imps, and the undead) you need to make choices as to how you will react to different situations ranging from whom you will marry to the legalization of drugs.

The way the game mechanic works is this: Someone from among your generals or the diplomats from each race will introduce an issue. You will then have the opportunity to talk with your other councilors before you rule on the issue (or decide to ignore it).

As tired as I was of the elves by the end of the game, I love this type of mechanic that forces me as a player to flex my emotional and ethical muscles. I may have settled this issue in my mind prior to playing, but now that I am confronted with it in a ‘more real’ way, do I still hold to that conviction?

Is the Undead’s religion sacred or silly? Are the needs of the many greater than the needs of the few? Are there things that are inherently right or wrong? I love games which make you answer these sorts of questions in a non-preachy way.

Video games are certainly overused. My 340 hours logged in Terraria testify to that fact in a very humiliating way. However, I believe that video games as can be redeemed to provide a greater awareness of political, social, and ethical issues in the way that I just described. Players can even experiment as the villain of the story and gain a completely different perspective.

Now I do not believe that games can replace other forms of media- for one thing it is much more difficult to reach the same intellectual depth in a game (whilst keeping it ‘fun’ and a ‘game’) than it is in a book. Nevertheless I think that this is an aspect of gaming that has not yet been tapped to its fullest potential.

Just some food for thought for those building games.