Light or dark, good or bad, hero or jerk… Those are the eternal choices in any self-respecting story. Sometimes it may seem very repetitive, the main character of the story finds himself in a difficult situation where he has to choose between the easy or the hard way, and normally, the hard way involves challenges and suffering but also transforms the main character into a hero… A hero not because he has superpowers but a hero because he has faced the consequences of his actions. Or maybe he does have a superpower: Morality. And… What about all of that in video games?
“Morality is a fixed element: We all know what’s good or bad. Because of that, choices in video games that are around morality tend to be one-sided. Either the good side will be made to be superior for the lesson that good always wins, or being bad is better as the temptation.” – Josh Bycer
Video games use morality to pull players into the gamespace, but a game is not real life so, when it comes to morality in video games, would you make the same choices in the game as in real life?
“And “real life” is the other problem with morality. We all know how to behave in the real world and having choices that go against that can come across as shock value. If your character is nothing more than a psychopath, then all you’re doing is making a controversial game for controversy’s sake.” – Josh Bycer
People have to connect with the characters so having a psychopath as a main character makes the main goal of the story quite difficult to achieve. The challenge of writing a character who connects in all levels with the players is huge, you can even put bad people into your story, it is not a problem as long as the player can still empathize with them. The hardest choices you can set out for your players are the ones that don’t have a right or wrong answer.
“Instead of having a game that asks you to either kill or save someone, let’s make that choice personal. Imagine if you have to decide between killing someone, or having your hand chopped off. We’re now no longer talking about morality, but consequence.” – Josh Bycer
No matter what you are going to choose, something bad will happen, but you have to, you need to do something. We have seen these kind of choices and consequences in games like the first Witcher, no matter what the player decided, someone died, no bad or good choices, only consequences.
“Ultimately we return to the main point: That morality by itself doesn’t lead to personal stories in game design or storytelling in general. The world is not black and white, and neither are our choices. If you want to make the player feel engaged and have their actions matter, focus on consequences, as that’s where we really see the impact.” – Josh Bycer
When you are writing your characters, give them a background, something they are fighting for. They can do good or bad things, but your players have to understand why they are doing that, the motivation behind theirs acts. And the acts have consequences, so show them, the importance of a choice is not the election itself, what really matters is the consequence. That is what will make your characters suffer, that is what morality is about, the impact of your actions in the world.
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