I’m starting to wonder why video game designers felt the need to add moral ambiguity. I’m pretty sure I was a happier gamer back in the old days, when I could be a one hundred per cent good hero and save the world without wondering whether or not I had made the right decision about that dragon or those werewolves. I suppose they’re trying to make it more like real life, but, honestly, if I wanted real life, would I be playing video games?
Real life is that place where nothing is ever black and white and most of the time I have no idea what to do next. Video game worlds used to be clear-cut and obvious. Everything happened in a certain order and everything I was asked to do made the world a better place. Sure, I had to kill things in order to save the world, but the things I had to kill were all bad. Or I didn’t even have to kill them; I just “defeated” them. They disappeared when they were defeated and I was rewarded with a certain amount of game currency and experience and absolutely no guilt.
Those of my readers who are gamers may have realized by now that I recently started playing a Dragon Age game. Those who know games a little better than they know me might have been thinking Fallout, but no, those are all too bleak to even watch someone else play. At least Dragon Age lets me play in a pretty world. I’ve started with Dragon Age Origins, which seemed a very good place to start, especially since it’s old enough to be found in the Used bin at Game Stop for less than $7.00.
The decision-making started before I even got to play the game. I had to create a character. Older games might have asked me to choose gender, race (elf, dwarf, human, etc.) and class (warrior, mage, rogue, etc.) but this one asked me to choose the character’s appearance, right down to how long the nose was and how far apart the eyes were. I hear that folks familiar with these types of games can knock out characters that look just like themselves in ten minutes flat, but it took me closer to an hour. I started out trying to make my mage look just like me, but then I decided I wanted her to be young and pretty, so I made some changes.
When I finally got to start playing the game, I had to make decision after decision, with every single one of them having consequences. Some were good, some were evil and some were neutral. It could be hard to tell which was which, but what happened next in the game depended on the choice I made in each situation. I met other characters who joined my party and sometimes one would like my choice and another would not.
I love role-playing games, but I think these guilt-inducing games have gone a bit too far. I know these are just games and these people I’m so attached to are just ones and zeroes but it feels real when I’m playing. I find that even when my daughter watches me play and looks things up on the internet so I will know the consequences of my choices, I will end up going with my gut anyway. My current choice may make it a lot harder for me to win the final battle, but it’s the choice I have to make because that’s who I am.
Speaking of who I am, Xbox Live offered me a new gamer name when I registered there so I could get downloadable content, but I chose to go with the one I’ve been using as my gamer handle for years. I’d rather be Releaf1954 than InfernalPrune50.