Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shades of Grey

While Star Wars is, on the whole, a very black and white setting, I find myself greatly enjoying the introduction of shades of grey into it. It is strange that this should happen right around the time that Mass Effect 2 came out, since that is what I consider one of the great strengths of the game. And yes, this is another ME2 related post, so sue me.

In Mass Effect 2, the moral choices you are presented with are really quite compelling—mainly because for many there is no one 'right' answer. There are very few situations where one decision is clearly 'good' and the other 'evil' (as is the case with so many other games of this sort). You aren't talking of the difference between a heroic paladin and a mustache-twirling villain. For instance...


At one point, you have to decide between either killing millions of a hostile race or essentially brainwashing them to your side. Both choices are questionable morally and I found it an interesting exploration into my own way of thinking. Just how idealistic are my thought processes? In-game and 'in character', I tend to be very idealistic. But taking a step back, I find myself very much 'nagged' by pragmatic solutions to problems—things that may not 'feel' right, but would 'solve the problem'. It is a tribute to the writers of the game that they can make such compelling arguments for BOTH sides of an issue. Indeed, at the climax of the game, I found myself in a very 'real' quandry. The illusive man (played by Martin Sheen) nearly swayed me to his pragmatic cause, even though it felt wrong morally. I am very interested to see how this decision will impact the next game. In the end, it did come down to idealism on my part. As Commander Sheperd put it: "We're going to win this war. And we're not going to do it at the expense of my race's soul." (or something to that effect). While it feels good to support that kind of idealism in a game, it really gets me thinking what I'd do in 'real life' if faced with such moral choices. Would love to think I'd be as noble, but...you never know.

But what does this have to do with Star Wars? Well, I'll tell you! The whole idea of a 'pragmatic' secret society trying to save the Galaxy "whatever the cost" is now central to my current campaign. And believe it or not, I came up with the idea BEFORE ME2 came out! No, really, I did! Corewatch (the name of the shadowy figure in charge of this secret society) presented my PCs with a very similar 'grey' choice. With the superweapons he has at his disposal, he stands a real chance of making an impact in the war against the Nagai. And yet, such practices are VERY questionable morally. I was glad to see my players react thoughtfully, even if they DID ultimately go with the 'good' choice and condemning the use of bio-warfare and other things. Honestly, I wasn't entirely sure how they'd react. I mean, there was some compelling evidence on Corewatch's side...but in the end, they went with what 'feels right', rather than what the 'numbers support'.

This kind of grey area isn't something I like to inject into Star Wars ALL the time—because as I've said many times before, Star Wars is NOT a 'gritty' setting. I like the start contrasts of good and evil on the whole, but it's fun to switch things up from time to time.

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