The Inner Psycho – Morality in Games

If we know we are looking at ones and zeros, then why it’s so hard to pull the trigger? Or maybe it was easy this time? Sometimes we will cry over non-existent character and sometimes we will become ruthless killers laughing at bloodbath happening on the screen.

Moral compass

If game give us choices we are more likely to go with the “good” one. As social animals we are genetically preconditioned to help other beings. Game designers use this to make the decisions harder. Nearly every game that has impactful moral choices consists storyline constructed to make us bond with characters. Look, how much easier is to be the bad guy in Postal where lore doesn’t really mean a lot in gameplay, than in Fable, where you need to decide about the fate of character you got to know. Percentage of people that will play “evil” route only is really small compared to people that will play only “good” scenario. In games based on choices, from RPGs like Fallout to adventure games like The Walking Dead most of us will go with morally good scenario because these games aim to play with our emotions, so we will get deep into the world and since we are genetically “good” that’s why most of our choices will be rightful. Playing as morally “bad” character, besides small group of people who go for this path from the beginning, will be motivated by need to see the other decisions outcomes after passing the game for the first time rather than our feelings.

To make moral choices harder causing more engaging gameplay, designers must:

a) Make them more vague and construct them the way that player can’t help everyone. It’s too easy when everything is plainly good or bad. It’s so out of reality that player won’t immerse into the game. Real life choices are much more complicated, make in-game choices as hard as those.


b) Make nefarious options more profitable than good ones. This way player will need to choose between moral and substantial value. It can even come to point of making the game harder for every rightful choice. Majority of players will have hard time deciding if they want to go their(good) way and make their gameplay tough as hell or be a bad and enjoy benefits of the dark side. From evil comes power, right?

“InFAMOUS features a likeable protagonist and a recognizable world, but the choice to give food to hungry citizens or keep it for yourself is no choice at all in a game that doesn’t require you to eat.” – J. Matthew Zoss

What if I like being evil?

Welcome to minority then, sorry but you are more likely to be disappointed than our rightful fellows. However there are some games that executed morally “wrong” scenario nicely like Undertale (don’t even get me started, if you haven’t played it just go and do it), Bioshock or Mass Effect. It takes time to find a nice one but just so you know, they exist.

On the other hand we have titles that even encourage being evil, that evil way is the only way. Overlord, Evil Genius or Dungeon Keeper are some examples of how most of this type is constructed. Somehow when we play them we don’t feel bad at all. Why? The humour of course. Replacing sadness with laughter, only thing that is restraining us, emotional people from cruelty and iniquity in world when there is no law above us, is our remorse. Interesting, how easily we can forget this feeling when we are bombarded with jokes and funny graphics. It’s so simple to slaughter some kids when they are doing silly voices.

Sometimes we use games as a release from anger or frustration, it’s basically violence without consequences, sounds like The Purge scenario, but don’t take this movie concept literally, just look around. People work five days straight, waking up early, doing stuff they don’t even like and then, on the weekend they are purging, going apeshit in clubs and pubs, drinking and behaving like Uga-Bugas, this lets them live next week and the pointless cycle continues. Have you ever been on ComicCon or something similar? Once a year all basement dwellers can go out of their caves in mother’s house and pretend to be social with other of the same kind. Then we have games, the idea is the same. They let us do staff that is morally and/or legally unacceptable, we can runaway from complicated, frustrating world, and release our anger by shooting some nazis. Isn’t that awesome? We can free our inner psychos in game so they won’t appear in real life.

The army of sociopaths

“All the other kids with the pumped up kicks…”

Every time i hear that games make kids more violent my trigger meter goes crazy. Show me data, show me some statistics proving that crime levels raised after releasing some games. Guess what, there is none. Millions of people that play FPS won’t go out to do kill streak on human beings BECAUSE they are mentally stable. It’s not like the game made ‘school shooter’ a savage psycho. Life made him like this, probably bullies or parents, for sure he was influenced by humans. Saying that game was the reason is just pitiful attempt to wash out the guilt from society.

I would even risk saying that some violence was avoided thanks to the games that let us become villains. If we feel angry or frustrated about anything that happened we can have our release in games. If someone have tendency to go sociopath, he can always be evil guy in game and this will let him function as proper, grey citizen when he’s away from the computer.

How dumb is idea that players can’t differentiate real life behaviour from what they do in game. If someone can’t do it he is already pretty fucked up and games have nothing to do with it. Griefing may be fun, but it doesn’t mean that someone will go and beat you up every time you go out of your house. It’s more likely to happen when you live in neighbourhood full of chavs and they are raised like that, they became bad because of retarded society they are in, not some games about killing. Spreading disease on purpose could be freaking awesome activity to do in World of Warcraft, but it doesn’t encourage players to take syringes with HIV and use it on random people.

Only incredibly sensitive and unstable people can become violent because of the game.


If someone is dumb enough to let the game influence him this way, everything can make him go psycho mode. Take away the games, something else will come up. It’s not a problem for crazy brain.

We use games as containers of our emotions, as we can fly away from social constructs and laws and behave however we want. We can be rightful, neutral or evil. We can be total madman or a simple good guy. Whatever we choose after submerging into digital world DOESN’T MATTER. Because guess what, it’s not the real life and in-game morality have nothing to do with our out-of-game behaviour.


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