I’ve been quite sick the past few days and, as such, have been left to reading and video games – a rare and guilty treat – to pass the time. Video games, in particular, let me realize aggression in a more “healthy” way than merely going up to someone on the street and suckerpunching them. I can commit all kinds of acts of violence in the game’s digital world and never suffer any consequences.
A game that I’ve been playing as of late follows the traditional trope of saving the world from a great force of evil. You hack and slash your way through hordes of enemies and the blood flows like water. What I’ve noticed – this being the first game I’ve really played for more than thirty minutes in what seems like ages – is that no matter how violent the task, the morality of your actions are on rails: you can only choose that which benefits the greater good.
I’ve played a few games over the past few decades that take a more ambiguous tone when it comes to morality, but it seems, more often than not, that the only acceptable choice – if the player is given a choice – in most games is to choose actions that result in “good”. Either the option to do “evil” (or even just actions of “moral ambiguity”) does not exist, or the player is penalized for choosing such an option. In games that are often meant to be engrossing, the morality and message is predetermined. You can choose your own adventure, but only so long as the choice falls in line with the moral expectations of society.
This reminds me of the old “choose your adventure” books that I would read as a young child. I was supposed to have a say in the outcome of the story, but, in reality, most of the options were “bad” and you’d merely flip back to the page in which you made the “wrong” choice. Ultimately, society has decreed that certain stories are more worthwhile than others. Such is unfortunate for the individual either trying to figure out their own morality (or lack thereof) or trying to satisfy urges that cannot be satisfied “in real life” due to obvious consequences.