Opinion: Dear devs (especially you, Molyneux); stop with the moralising already

7 mins read
Victoria’s Secret angel… get it? Hi Miranda!

In this post-modern world of ours, we are privileged first to possess two types of media – old and new. Considering you’re reading this opinion piece on a website for videogaming, it would seem you’re well versed in the definition, but for clarity I shall include it: old media is newspapers, books, television, radio and magazines. New media is computer games, the Internet, and all the bounty it provides.

We are the first humans to see the social, cultural, political and economic worlds collide simply because of a new way to communicate since the invention of the printing press – and other than the obvious ramifications it has on our current landscape, it has given those prone to moral panic another target for their scare-mongering and ignorance. The very first was rock and roll, with that servant of Satan, Elvis Presley, licentiously shaking his hips in an effort to bring the devil into every pure God-fearing soul there was. These attempts did not stop there on to incite panic and moral outrage, from Elvis, to Black Sabbath, to Judas Priest, and then finally to television, the self appointed lords of morality declared every one of them evil, without actually looking into it at all.

Now, with the emergence of new media and its ensuing popularity, arms are up in cries of incredulity once again, to target the new rock and roll that is gaming.

Skyrim: Morality done right?

I’m not entirely sure, but I think it’s a safe bet that this had a fair chunk of influence over a lot of what is released today – games with a moral agenda. The deal with all of these is that we have a blank slate of a character devoid of any real personality – obviously in an effort to help you project yourself onto the protagonist – and the game will give you fair justice for what you deserve, based on the righteousness of your actions.

I as an opinionated gamer with a platform for such opinions, I think that any mechanic can be good if it is well executed; however, most of these games aren’t. The key issue is that these games are acting like moral guardians, dropping Aesop’s on the audience like Wile E. Coyote drops anvils on that damn bird – with the same amount of subtlety.

The games should not act as a patronising parent, standing over the player, rebuking them for every action that may be misconstrued as vaguely bad. For the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, developers, you are not here to teach us the difference between right and wrong, you are here to give me the entertainment my money paid for.

The preacher

Even on a statistical basis, most people know the difference – it is instilled through our relative cultural values and what our mothers and fathers taught us, and it is not up to the industry to further this. Alright reader, you’re probably thinking I’m attacking a straw man here, but I have a fairly specific target for all of this – the one who calls himself Peter Molyneux, and those who do similar things.

I beg you, in the insignificant chance that you’re reading this, to stop building games and their rewards systems on the concepts of good and evil – A) because as I have outlined, you’re not my mother and B) they really suck. Fable? Honestly, Peter. Your obsession with gaming as a tool for dropping those Aesop-anvils has to stop.

Other than acting like a maternal hen, developers doing this are robbing themselves of story/gameplay pathways yet untapped. For me at least, I would very much like to see the villain’s side of the story beyond a caricature such as that displayed in Overlord (as awesome as that was) – the motivation, the reasoning (if any) and the diabolical steps to the execution of the events that the hero tries to stop. I so desperately want to see a villain that isn’t just written off as ‘he’s bad, therefore he’s crazy and the men of Willowdale need to go forth and rid us of this menace.’

Dante’s Inferno: The trip through hell was more interested in being a game than preaching. Very underrated God of War clone, this one.

Please oh please could we have this? Can we have something new and radically different that would keep us all entertained? Gaming industry, you have been running out of ideas for a while now (the indies are the only ones coming up with daring content) and this would be amazing; just so long as you could take the momentary blow of someone somewhere raising the foghorn and declaring the decay of our youth, as they have been since the dawn of time. If creative freedom does not appeal to the larger studios, then I simply suggest that there is a market for this and cash could be made exploiting catering to it.

The moral panics will pass as the older, non-gamer community, well, dies off, and let’s face it – scandal has always sold units. Give me a compelling, scandalous, well written and well designed game, and myself and the masses will come. Bearing wallets.

Do you think there’s room for games to give us a good morality tale and be the modern Aesop’s Fables? Sound out in the comments below!

– Zane M

This is the bio under which all legacy DigitallyDownloaded.net articles are published (as in the 12,000-odd, before we moved to the new Website and platform). This is not a member of the DDNet Team. Please see the article's text for byline attribution.

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