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Seeking gamer-minds - relates to The Witcher, RPGs, morality and choice-in-games.
Jakkar
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March 25, 2013 - 12:36 am
Member Since: February 11, 2011
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I posted this to my facebook and that hastily written, awkwardly formatted form of communication is how you'll receive it, after I recalled that I don't really have any gamer friends. You have been shanghaied as stand-ins for my non-existent gamer-buddies.

 

I just killed a woman as she tried to run away in order to extract and sell her teeth.
I just killed a foe in an RPG - a Devourer - a fat, female vampiric necrophage as her AI unaccountably led her to run in a straight line through the fields, because she's a monster (and I play a Witcher, a hunter of monsters, the game being 'The Witcher'), and because I've been tasked with gathering the teeth as a reagent for a potion, and will be paid for it rather well.

I feel uncomfortable, in-character, with what I just did. Imagination makes games. The best games are those that fuel the imagination well.

 

  •  
     I set her aflame with Ignii, the sign of Fire, but she kept running even as she smouldered. I then stunned her with a blast of Aard, the sign of telekinetic force/wind, and cut her head off before taking the teeth and butchering a number of other reagents from the corpse.
     
  •  ... I like that people make games about unpleasant people and unpleasant tasks. I like that it is pointed out often, and that Witchers are viewed with disdain, fear and suspicion by the majority of the gameworld.
     
  • Need more games that make us question our actions and motivations.
     
  • And definitely need more games that allow us to choose otherwise.


    ...
    Yes, I commented myself four times.

    Simply felt like sharing this where I know it has a chance of inspiring some interesting thoughts. What was the last unscripted event you recall in a game that made you uncomfortable? The Witcher does this to me fairly frequently.

    Spoiler-preferences; I've not finished The Witcher, or played the sequel at all.

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Steerpike
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March 25, 2013 - 8:58 am
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Off the top of my head, the battle with Great Grey Wolf Sif in Dark Souls. I'm not one of those people with wolf posters all over, but I think wolves are beautiful and they captured one's movements very well for Sif. Near the end of the fight she starts scrambling backward, whimpering and favoring a paw; that definitely affected me, since I knew that there was no way out but to end her.

Also in Dark Souls, the strange decision I made to return to The Painted World of Ariamis and kill Crossbreed Priscilla even though I didn't have to. For some reason I was feeling completionist, but normally I make some effort to try and play as a character or viewpoint.

Going farther back, Deus Ex: Invisible War. I can't remember the whens of it exactly, but it's the point when you discover that the two primary factions - which are sort of religious and government, if I recall - are actually left and right hands of the same body, and that their respective leadership senses this but doesn't know it exactly. That made me very uncomfortable because it took away my compass for decisionmaking. All choices seemed equally manipulated.

I never played the original Witcher much, but I loved many of the moral choices in Witcher 2 (a better game all around, Jakkar, so be sure to add it to your list).

Offhand I think the easiest way to make a player feel uncomfortable in a game is to let them do something they don't need to do, or give them avenues that are easy but not right. Games that make you think about your decisions have a lot of leeway in this, but there are many that can't deliver.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Synonamess Botch
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March 25, 2013 - 10:59 am
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When I betrayed the Forest Covenant in Dark Souls, all for a much-desired item.  Shiva's contemptuous words of recrimination echoed  for a good while.

This one is sort of the opposite, from Heavy Rain:  I wasn't willing to shoot a man in cold blood just for the promise that doing so would help me find my son.  That one may not qualify as unscripted though.

 

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Jakkar
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March 25, 2013 - 11:40 am
Member Since: February 11, 2011
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Aarghghellebarghl. Abandon thread! I haven't finished Dark Souls D: I don't know who these people are then my eyes reflexively snapped shut oh dear oh dear. I'm afraid I didn't reach past the first paragraph in sheer panic. I have what may be termed an extreme aversion to knowing anything about games/sections thereof prior to my own first experience of 'em. I stopped playing Dark Souls on a friend's PS3 while stuck on Ornstein and Smough (sp?), but have recently reacquired for PC... I'll try to give some meaningful feedback on this some day.

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Synonamess Botch
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March 25, 2013 - 12:15 pm
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No spoilers below!

Fear not, noble Jakkar.  None of the things Steerpike or I have mentioned are really spoilers.  The information does sound spoilery, true.  But they're simply dry facts; events one may encounter in the course of a normal playthrough.  It's the context and the motivations that would lead one to these actions, and why doing them in the first place is such a weighty decision - that's the meat of it.  Still, I understand your desire to know nothing beforehand.

Oh, and play Dark Souls already (but steer clear of the Bollocks thread)!  O&S are indeed a tough challenge.  I won't say anymore for fear of offending your spoiler sensors. :)

 

 

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AJLange
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March 25, 2013 - 1:47 pm
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I am a total sociopath in games.

It's not that I've never felt bad about killing an NPC, but it's more of a "oops, that's going to negatively effect my factional reputation, better save-scum" kind of thing.

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Dix
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March 25, 2013 - 6:52 pm
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<em>The Witcher 2</em> (and, hell, the first) gave me that feeling sometimes.  I've played 2 pretty recently, so it's possible that's it.  I just finished Spec Ops: The Line the other day and it feels a bit too easy to say that game did it, because it sort of did but not so much as I might have expected.  I mean, not in the unscripted portions, because I fell pretty clearly on one side or the other for what choices I could make.  I won't say what for the sake of spoilers.

I'm not at all a sociopath in games in general (at least any games that give me a choice), so...

OH!  Wait.  Duh.  The Walking Dead.  Nothing's gonna top that for a while.

"Home is not a place.  It is wherever your passion takes you."

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Steerpike
Subtropical Southeastern Michigan
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March 25, 2013 - 10:15 pm
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Jakkar, you can probably get some co-op going with Tappers if you like. Xtal and Botch are still playing, and I bet I could be convinced... ;)

With Dark Souls, I maintain that spoilers actually helped me enjoy the game in a way. Knowing things I would have otherwise missed enhanced the richness. Still, I understand your view on the matter!

I'm trying to think of other examples...

Companion Cube in Portal, but everyone has to do that, it wasn't a choice I made. Walking Dead of course.

There must be some way-back examples, from like the eighties. Though maybe only Botch and I remember the eighties.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Dix
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March 26, 2013 - 6:30 pm
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Thinking on this more I'm a pretty easy mark when it comes to games making me feel at least a little guilty.  I mean, in Dishonored, for example (or most any game in which you can progress relatively non-lethally), I spend a lot of time trying to get around or subdue guards because what did they ever do to me?  Never mind that they will try to murder me if they see me.  They might have families!

"Home is not a place.  It is wherever your passion takes you."

Scout
Portland, Oregon
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March 27, 2013 - 2:14 am
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I played the first Witcher game. Twice. Last game I really loved. Don't remember ever setting anyone on fire for their teeth but I might have. I always try to be a good guy unless I stumble upon a cannibal. I draw the line at cannibals. Gut them, burn them, tickle them until they scream for mercy. 

A lot of games advertise choice but usually it's the choice whether to play the game or not.

Witcher actually held up their end of the deal, I thought.

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Synonamess Botch
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March 27, 2013 - 10:16 am
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Yes I remember the eighties, sort of.  Don't particularly remember any uncomfortable moments though.  Maybe some from Wasteland which I've forgotten.

Pool of Radiance?  No.  Demonstalkers?  No.  Bard's Tale?  No.  Phantasie?  No.  Koronis Rift?  No.  Airborne Ranger?  No.  The goals were decidedly simpler then.

 

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Lex
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March 29, 2013 - 6:19 am
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My game consumption is very limited and slow compared to that of the rest of you here, but I enjoy being pushed into being evil or choosing that path against my own probably rather "goodie goodie" tendencies. In this context I always recall the moment on HalfLife where you discover that the marines have not been sent in to rescue but to exterminate you, and you have to entirely readjust your moral compass.

That was probably my earliest exposure to anything resembling a moral dilemma in a game.

In the Witcher, the lead character is obviously on the cusp of good and evil so that moral choices are to be expected, but Skyrim also contains plenty of opportunities to blur definitions of good and evil, and I look forward to playing the vampire at some point!

beerchug

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xtal
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April 4, 2013 - 1:46 pm
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Off on a tangent: guesswork: most people play games as "morally good" or "morally responsible," at least the first time they play a role-playing game, because this is their "true" play through, or whatever, that symbolizes best the choices they would likely make in comparable real world situations. Everyone plays like this, right? I do. Say 75-85% of people do this.

While a lot of games today avoid path-changing binary choices in favour of "morally grey" stuff, or whatever (although the Witcher 2 seems to do both from what I've heard), I've always thought one older example particularly interesting: Knights of the Old Republic. After the big twist you're soon faced with a choice: pursue the light path, regroup with your friends and go after Bastilla and Malak. You could fail in turning her back, but that was the only potential road bump on the path to a happy ending.

* [Kotor spoilers...if you still haven't played it after 10 years] *

The dark path was much more interesting and realistic to me (after the twist, I mean). It played perfectly on knowing that the majority of players try to do good; but would you still act the same way after knowing the truth? Well, yes, many would try to remain good, I suspect, even after learning their past-- or true, if you will-- nature. But if I were writing the story of KOTOR I'd be tempted to turn it linear and make it light-dark canon. The other possibilities don't interest me. Light-light is too do-gooder (yes, easily arguable), while dark-dark diminishes the twist and dark-light is too bizarre, narrative wise. Maybe the game could tease you with light side options but ultimately you're left with dark consequences. I just know that the dark path of KOTOR makes for a much juicier story arc: when Bastilla and I returned to the ship on that beach and just flat out told everyone "look ya'll, we've gone to the dark side, so get in line or get lost" is still one of my best gaming memories. When they realize you've already killed confused Juhani and poor old innocent Jolee ... that was an absolutely treacherous moment, and I loved it. I think everyone should have experienced it.

What I'm saying is I sometimes wish story tellers would tell the story they want and pull the rug out from under my feet. "Yeah, those tough choices you made? Sometimes things don't work out. You can't control everything around you. Deal with it."

I've had my fill of the back of boxes telling me I can affect real change and see the changes happen around me. That bores me now, and 9 times out of 10 there is nothing rewarding or true about it. A lot of times developers confuse "moral ambiguity" with "picking a, b or c." They can't see that choice isn't necessarily an integral part of that. It can be, but for the entire history of video games we've all been playing power fantasies. "Are you the ultimate good guy? Make choices and the world will be a better place!" Well, that's not interesting to me anymore. Sometimes I'd like a problem that I can't solve; just one that I'm left to deal with.

From what I played the Witcher did well trying to partially address this.

/end tangent

If being wrong's a crime I'm serving forever

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Synonamess Botch
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April 4, 2013 - 2:22 pm
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I’ve had my fill of the back of boxes telling me I can affect real change and see the changes happen around me. That bores me now...

This right here.  I think we've been fooled too much by games which offer an illusion, but ultimately boil down to taking one of two paths which eventually converge anyway.

I also commonly see an argument which goes something like this:  "Simple good and evil choices are passe!  We don't want black and white.  Give is grey!  GREY!"  That right there is what bores me.  Right is right and wrong is wrong; there is no moral grey.  One makes a choice to do right because it is right and that's it.  It's the consequences which can get messy.

If games offered meaningful, lasting consequences no matter the decision, I think they'd be more engaging.  But often the consequences are cosmetic or fleeting.

On the other hand, I also don't necessarily need to have a choice.  Dropping the bomb and leaving me to clean up the mess can be just as interesting.

 

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