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Author Topic: a "morality in gaming" article I wrote on a blog  (Read 4023 times)
Ramza
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« on: April 23, 2010, 08:10:21 PM »

http://www.gameosaurus.com/?p=1892

check it out. Say what you think. Replying here or there is good. Either way I see the feedback and feedback is what I'm lookin' for. I hate talking in a vacuum, though I find I do it quite a bit thanks to ye olde internet. :)
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Ithunn
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« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2010, 12:14:20 AM »

Mmm, I believe video games are definitely a form of media that can facilitate moral ideology and questions. I'm skeptical about whether they teach them or not. You approach games typically as a form of entertainment, not education. Games are generally fantastical, and unrepresentative of real life. Any morality issue would reinforce pre-established moral codes. I feel that deconstruction is an important aspect in teaching moral issues, but I have not encountered a game that works significantly on my personal psychology rather than me observing artificial psychologies (ie, game characters). Books can deconstruct and build simply because many of its genres extend beyond the entertainment category.

Out of all your examples, I believe Chrono Trigger is your best one. It becomes more than just morality in gaming. It becomes guidance, because you have no option to do differently in order to advance the game. But it's artificial: you immerse yourself in a world you cannot control. The world can have metaphorical parallels to your own and can be relatable. But I don't believe what it was teaching (with the plant) is effective enough to cause real life acknowledgement or change unless you consciously relate it. Either way, your title "Taking (Or Confirming) One's Morality," seems kind of ambiguous, because with most games, you are not confirming your morality. You are not the one, Neo.

I get what you're saying though and I think it's interesting. This whole response is my first thought. I'll think about it more later.
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Ryos
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« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2010, 12:43:00 PM »

That's actually one of the main reasons why I really enjoy playing games that let you determine just how nice or mean you are (especially when the game actually lets you, rather than basically shut you out of like 90% of the world by doing so).  In traditional media characters are predefined by the creators.  Games can let you make those choices.  Assuming, of course, that the game gives you that opportunity.  I think half of the reason why I like The Witcher as much as I do is because you can equally be a virtuous character or an absolute villain and still make your way through the game.  Obviously those choices come at a cost, but half of the fun is seeing what happens as a result of your actions.
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Rapturous
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« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2010, 07:38:35 AM »

Writing 101 tells you that any well-written story includes lessons about life.  It doesn't matter if it's an interactive story (i.e. video game), a book, or a movie.  A good story is a good story is a good story.  So, without question, video games reliant on a strong story component can teach (and almost always do) life lessons.  I'd even say that anyone who argues otherwise has never held a noisy piece of plastic in their hands.  There's simply no argument (suck on that, Spielberg).

I think you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone here at RPGFan who has not learned anything from a game, whether they realize it or not, Pat.  We're here because we love RPGs to some extent, and that extent is at least large enough to warrant posting on a somewhat small Internet forum.  I mean, if you're not getting anything out of the stories, why do you like RPGs?

I owe much of my personality today to adolescent experiences with RPGs (I still have a theory that depending on what stage of your hormonal development you play a game, you will have a vastly difference experience and capacity for enjoying said game).  So, to be blunt, Japanese RPGs are directly responsible for shaping my morality (though, I don't like that word, so I'll say "world view"), which makes Japanese culture very interesting/important to me.  Which encouraged me to study and work in Japan.  Which shaped how/where I lived my life for years.

If not for strong story components in games, I would be a vastly different person.
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Prime Mover
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« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2010, 02:19:22 PM »

I'm gonna have to go with Rapturous on this one. Games are a form of narrative story telling, not fundamentally different from other forms. Sure, they may allow you to experiment a little more in game with choices, but it doesn't fundamentally change the intentionality of the creators.

Back in college, I took a Philosophy of Film class, which discussed the unique principals of film not found in other art forms... the philosophical questions that film brings to the table that no other genre can, by nature. A number of us in the class were also gamers, and after class, we would apply much of the questioning processes to games. The important part of any critical philosophical analysis, is that you isolate what things are unique to a particular form, and what are shared attributes. For instance, in a philosophy of film class, there's not much reason to discuss basic principals of plot development, because it's pretty much a universal within all narrative genres. However, the ability to use a camera to frame specific elements IS unique to film, and is therefor more directly relevant to film as a genre.

What we're talking about with morality may be very relevant to narrative, but it's not particularly unique to games specifically. I guess the only point is that games, reaching a specific demographic, may be able to reach some people that literature and other narratives may not. I'm not suggesting that this discussion is irrelevant, however, just pointing out that it may not really be relevant to games specifically.

Don't get me wrong, it's often good to keep reminding the general populous that games have more in common with more universally accepted genres.
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Ithunn
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« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2010, 08:44:26 PM »

Then I don't think RPGs are the exceptions then when it comes to morals in games. It could be the most basic or fundamental moral that could be learned in a game like Jak and Daxter, Legend of Legaia or Street Fighter.

I don't think I've learned anything morally from a game. I've already learned it. What they do for me, is reinforce. There's some games with piecemeal'ed religious subjects that I had no clue about and wish to learn to understand the game, but not my world views (coughcoughXenosagacoughcough). In terms of the difference between media that I brought up, I was really getting at how people approach specific genres. You can get the same sort of morals from G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra (moviesux) and a game, yeah. But more often that not, I know people approach different movie genres list history/historic fiction, etc. with the intent on being educated rather than entertained based off of societal ideals. I'm just going with what I've experienced. I'm not saying RPGs could never teach - I just haven't experienced one that taught something new. Now is the time to mention that I have a festering backlog of games to play anyway.
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MeshGearFox
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« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2010, 09:46:41 PM »

It seems to me like you're applying your own concepts of morality to a set of games, whether there's actually anything in the games to support these ideas or not. In particular, I think your CT analysis is entirely off base, and I'm not sure applying scripture to FFIX when it was produced by a largely-atheist nation's a particularly sound idea.
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Rapturous
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« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2010, 07:30:05 AM »

It seems to me like you're applying your own concepts of morality to a set of games, whether there's actually anything in the games to support these ideas or not. In particular, I think your CT analysis is entirely off base, and I'm not sure applying scripture to FFIX when it was produced by a largely-atheist nation's a particularly sound idea.

That's how stories work, though:  teaching lessons in stories isn't something you try to do, it just happens.  Any good writer just writes a believable story, and it's up to the reader to get something out of it.  Pat's application of scripture, etc. is doing just that.  What he gets out of a game (story) can be completely different from what someone else gets out of it.  However, there are common themes in games that most people will agree on, such as everyone needs friends (Final Fantasy, lol).

It's just good writing.
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Ryos
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« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2010, 09:24:02 AM »

Also in terms of the religious point, there are some works out there that do try to posit a particular religious belief in Japan.  Hermes - Winds of Love is a cult's attempt to gain greater legitimacy by spreading its tenets, and there's a plethora of Shintoism and Buddhism elements sprinkled throughout a lot of cultural works.  Granted the Christian elements, when they do appear, tend to be "Christianity is some weird evil foreign religion" messages, but that's what happens when you're unfamiliar with the subject matter and want to use it anyway, not unlike our own fascination with ninjas and and samurais and Buddhism and whatnot as mysterious concepts.  That and a lot of the creators are just as liberal there as they are here.  But that...as they say...is another story.
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« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2010, 10:56:13 AM »

It's just good writing.

I'm going to play devil's advocate and ask you where this good writing is, because I've been missing it in the last few RPGs I've played.
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MeshGearFox
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« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2010, 04:04:38 PM »

I think the whole "let the readers draw their own conclusions" thing is *lazy* writing. That's not to say I think trying to draw your own conclusions is bad. And writers also tend to put stuff in unintentionally that hints at things. Storylines and characters are sort of organic things that you really don't have as much control over as you think.

But actively avoiding your own conclusion to let the reader drawn their own conclusion is sort of lazy.

(Not having a conclusion just for the sake of not having conclusion and expecting the readers to just deal with, though? I'm down with that).

(And o.p.p.)

(Missy Elliot was better).

(was)
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Prime Mover
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« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2010, 10:10:03 PM »

Part of the reasons for writing a story is to try and convince the audience of something. Sometimes, leaving things up in the air at the end, but expecting the audience to be able to fill in the gaps that you want them to, is a very good tactic, because it makes THEM fill in your ethical blanks. If, however, you're making the audience fill in THEIR own blanks that may lead to completely different ethical ideas... that's bad story telling, and lazy, and unwilling to face up to your original point.

As an audience, we WANT to hear the author's perspective, even if we don't agree with it. That's the reason why we play your game or read your story. If I wanted to listen to myself, I'd just sit around and blog on the internet and never listen to anyone else (oh wait... many do).
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Ramza
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« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2010, 11:58:38 PM »

It seems to me like you're applying your own concepts of morality to a set of games, whether there's actually anything in the games to support these ideas or not. In particular, I think your CT analysis is entirely off base, and I'm not sure applying scripture to FFIX when it was produced by a largely-atheist nation's a particularly sound idea.

Um ... yes, right. Well I think there are things to support the ideas I present clearly.

If you could tell me how my CT analysis is offbase that'd be lovely. Specifically, why bother helping people in a dismal future that you are going to be preventing anyway? Why not just get the fuck out of there? Sympathy for your fellow man wins the day when, if this were the same game developed by Bethesda in 2008, you'd have the option to give those guys the middle finger and find your own way back to 12000 BC.

As to "applying scripture to FFIX" -- sweetheart, I can (and do) apply scripture to Stephen Hawking's ideas. Religious texts can be used in far broader sweeps than you may be comfortable with, but that ain't stopping me.
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MeshGearFox
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« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2010, 10:01:58 AM »

Quote
Specifically, why bother helping people in a dismal future that you are going to be preventing anyway? Why not just get the fuck out of there?

Mostly because you got the sequence of events wrong.

The way you wrote it implies that Team Chrono goes down into the food storage area in search of said seed, just for the sake of doing what little they can. That's not really the case at all. They go down there to look for the dude that got killed and a larger food supply (although Lucca implies she was more looking for an information center*. The writing, as I said, is sort of scant and it's not clear why they go down below), and only bring the seed back after they discover the food's all rotted out.

Second, they find out about Lavos AFTER they get the seed. When they DO find out about Lavos, they pretty much do resolve to just prevent that future from ever happening. When they do drop the seed off, it's... there's nothing in the script indicating that it's got the kind of importance you're assigning to it.

Finally, they're pretty much stuck where they are. They couldn't just get the fuck out of there if they wanted to because they don't really know HOW to/get the bike key until after they've brought the seed back anyway.

So basically I think you're misremembering the sequence of events and because of that are giving a heightened level of importance to something that was pretty incidental.

Quote
As to "applying scripture to FFIX" -- sweetheart, I can (and do) apply scripture to Stephen Hawking's ideas.

I could analyze Final Fantasy VII in terms of being symbolic of the Bush 43's adminstration, and probably make a pretty compelling case given the emphasis that game places on terrorism, environmentalism, unchecked capitalism, mako = oil, and the like. It still wouldn't make any sense to do that, though, because FFVII has absolutely nothing to do with the United State's political situation from 2000-2008 for reasons that I hope should be painfully obvious.

What I'm saying is that you can apply any given philosophy to any body of work, or analyze anything in terms of anything. That doesn't mean you *should*.

*Lucca: So this is the info center!  Good!  The computer's still operational!  
If we run a search on time warps, we might find our Gate!  Here!  Got it!  
East of Arris Dome...

Seems like, to me at least, that the only reason she wanted to go down there was to find the info center. Doubly so since they find the seed mid-dungeon (right after you kill the robot thing) and don't go back immediately.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2010, 10:10:13 AM by MeshGearFox » Logged

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Ramza
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« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2010, 06:52:52 PM »

You got me on misremembering the CT events.

As for FFVII and the "W" era, someone SHOULD write that analysis. Even if the authors didn't intend it, and couldn't have intended it, for future events. Those things are archetypal and it's worth doing the compare and contrast if only for intellectual exercise. That would really be an awesome analytical essay. :)
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