Monday, November 9, 2009


No, this isn't a continuation of my previous religion-oriented posts (hallelujah!). Rather, it is something that I have been thinking about very directly in the past few days—specifically in regards to gaming. Moral choices are a cornerstone of gaming—it is the thing that really separates gaming from other forms of entertainment. In movies, you watch as others make choices and live with the results. In gaming, YOU get to make those choices for your character and see how things work out. Some people (like myself) tend to keep their character's choices pretty close to their own viewpoints—i.e., how THEY would react in a given situation (or at least how you hope you would). Others enjoy playing completely against type—or explore the darker or more selfish sides of their personalities. Both approaches can be very fun.

But more than just 'fun', moral choices can add depth to a campaign, making it more than just 'kill the bad guys, take their stuff'. The reason I bring this up now is because I am in the midst of playing a console game: Dragon Age: Origins. More than just about any other video RPG I've ever played, Dragon Age truly centers around this idea of 'morality'—while at the same time never forcing you down one path or another. In fact, it has no 'good' or 'evil' system in place—and the choices your character faces are often very murky. Occasionally, you'll even come upon something that really doesn't have a 'right' choice. Something bad happens either way. And what I find myself doing is actually FEELING good or bad about what choices I made and the results of those. There is no 'game mechanic'—penalty, bonus, etc.—to go along with these choices. The are there simply to get you to think and feel 'in the moment'. The best RPGs are like that. Whether you play them across the table with your friends or in the digital world of make believe. The ability to feel immersed is real thrill (for me) of gaming.

All that being said, I'm not looking to 'escape' anything through gaming. I have both feet very firmly planted in the real world. Immersion is just a way to explore situations and hardships you yourself will probably never have to in real life—and in a way, it teaches you about yourself and your moral boundaries—where you draw the line. None of us can ever really say how we'd react in a certain situation. We all hope we'd be the hero, the person who does what is right, but until you actually face a situation, you never know—but through gaming, at least, it can get you thinking. And I love that.

So yeah, I'm rambling, but I wanted to throw some words up to at least try to sort out my feelings on this stuff. And it gets me thinking about Star Wars and my upcoming gaming sessions in it. When it comes to Morality, the Star Wars universe is pretty black and white. There are usually very clear distinctions. I like that about the setting. It makes for grand, heroic roleplay. But at the same time, I think morality is still key. Afterall, the central theme of the movies was the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker—who's moral choices first condemned then saved him.

At higher power levels, morality becomes more and more important—because simple physical challenges aren't...well, as 'challenging' as they used to be. A lot of old-school gamers talk about the 'endgame' of the original D&D game—where high level characters begin to rule their own lands, raise armies, wage wars, all of that. I'd have to say that's pretty much the phase my Star Wars campaign is in. The characters are movers and shakers on a large scale. Their actions have far-reaching impact. The challenge for me now is to start hitting them where it hurts—their moral soft spots. I want to start presenting them with a few shades of grey, and see where that will take them. At the same time, I feel it is going to be a bit difficult—because I really do NOT want to make Star Wars 'gritty' and realistic. Its...well, its something for me to consider as I'm planning.

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