So let us talk about video game morality! This is a picture of you playing a good ‘Twilight Sparkle’.

This is you as EVIL Twilight Sparkle! Besides the clothing and missing eye, what’s the difference?

ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. I’m using this example because there’s really little difference between them. They have the same powers and even basic appearance, but one’s likely to give you a kidney transplant, the other, very likely to punt your baby dragon into the nearest Celestial goddess pony’s sky lamp. In other words, the SUN. Now that we’ve got that settled for now, let’s talk about video games.

I’ve always thought that morality, or ‘amoral jerk’ and ‘righteous paragon’ are a little far-fetched. Many a dictator starts with a very high approval rating, Many a monk can be formal brutal warlord. Morality isn’t simple, at all. You can go through a thousand different choices in a day, but not all of them affects your ‘good and evil’ score. For example, I could give money to the poor, or I could realize that I’m a poor college student and say ‘I’ve already tithed, and that’s the bare minimum a Christian has to do.’ does that make me evil? In a video game, that would likely earn me a few points in ‘pointy horned jerk’.

If I would run a MMORPG, I’d give a player good/evil choices, except that they wouldn’t be clear cut. I also wouldn’t tell them what is good/evil. I expect that most people’s morality is developed enough to tell themselves that kicking puppies into the sun is wrong and educating orphans is right. We’ve all been taught good and evil, at least by society, hopefully by some thousand or so year old religion. I’d give them two choices: Squeal on a captain of the army who is stealing from the stores, join him in stealing, or ignore him. If the character squeals, he’d be rewarded, but others won’t trust him. Ignoring him would bring nothing, and likely I’d have someone else tell on that army guy and joining him means sharing the punishment. Maybe I’d include blackmail, murder the captain, and a whole bunch over. I would literally inundate the character with choices. Maybe I’d allow characters with an 80% or so approval rating with God an option to turn off the obvious ‘bad’ choices (not that it would be guaranteed to all be good) because they’re so pure that they don’t even consider evil.

Another example: Kill the Pirate, Bring the Pirate in, let the pirate go, let yourself be bribed, join the pirate crew, any number of things. Literally everything I could think of. Evil choices? Check. Good choices? Check! But what if it’s known that the pirate has bribed officials before and there’s an outstanding death sentence on him! You could kill him there for little to no repercussions from your soldier superiors. You could also drag him in, but the sergeant at arms would just shoot him anyway. You could open up an entirely new questline if you killed the pirate, took over his crew and decided to become a privateer. In other words, the good is clear cut, but very open to interpretations.

One last gripe, I hated, with a PASSION Star Wars the Old Republic’s morality system. It was so clear cut I could shave with it. Killing people is bad, always, but saving people, no matter how evil and literally nonredeemable (like Dark side clone minions) is good. You could release those morons and they’d go straight to killing innocents as soon as you turned your back. Or blinked. This happened on occasion. There’s this dungeon called the Red Reaper. It’s a ship with some cryogenic-ally frozen sith in it. Light side is to release them, but dark side is to kill them in your sleep. I light side choice, they run out, pick up weapons and immediately try to kill you. You kill them! What’s the point of doing the light side choice if you were just going to kill them anyway!?

One last note: don’t play the game, it’s got star wars in name only and is likely the second worst mmorpg I’ve ever played. The first being Pandora saga and the best being WoW, then Star Trek, then Guild Wars. So there.