Video Games and Morality…

Christian.  Female.  Gamer.  I have to be in the vast minority (anybody else out there?).  I’ve been interested in, and played video games before the wonderful old atari system came out; on old (Apple) computers of course.  So obviously I don’t think playing video games is wrong.  What I would like to discuss, just because I find it interesting, is what about morality within the context of the world of a game?

For example, in one of my favorite games of all time; Knights of the Old Republic, which is based in the Star Wars universe, you can choose what kind of Jedi you become.  Do you stay a good Jedi, or start embracing the teachings and/or action of the Sith (“evil” Jedi).  Of course if you choose the Sith side of things, you aren’t a very nice person in the least.  So (some of you must be wondering) why would you ever choose to play the villain of the piece?

Well, you see, that is interesting too.  To get the fully story in a game, you play both sides, as each decision often adds to the storyline, and fills in gaps.  So, it’s the programmers who are really the immoral ones! 😉  To get all the details that you buy and play the game for, you must play both storylines; good and bad.  Some people cannot do it.  They can’t force themselves to even be verbally mean to a group of bratty kids (in game)… let alone turn traitor and kill a member of your own party.  Others of us don’t really have much of a problem with it, although there are things I absolutely will not do even in video games.

It’s just a fascinating concept to me.  No one mistakes a video game’s world with the real world, but we do know that even “fantasy violence” can disturb people, leave an impression, and give people ideas.  Now, there are games that are built solely around violence, such as the Grand Theft Auto games; and I definitely stear clear of those; however, many people gloss over the fact that even if you play the good side, the good storyline, you still wind up (usually) killing people, or at least other living creatures.

So what does anyone out there think?  Does your morality impact how you play a video game, the choices you make within the game?  Or, can you shut off your real life morality in order to complete the game?  and if you can, should you? For me, it is changing.  With youtube so accessible, everyone puts the “bad” storylines up where you can see the ending without having to actually play as a bad character.  If I have a chance to fill in the details without actually playing through the game as a “bad” character, I’ll take that choice.

One of the latest games with a clear good/bad choice that I’ve played was BioShock.  Without spoiling anything, there is no possible way I could have played the character as evil/bad…so I did indeed go to youtube and watch the ending.  Cheating?  I don’t consider it so, since I did beat the game as a “good guy.”  Now, if you would like to comment, would you kindly refrain from game spoilers?


Filed under Of Interest, Sacred Secular, Theology

12 responses to “Video Games and Morality…

  1. BigBunny

    I too cannot play the bad guy in games…well at least i feel bad/weird when doing so. eg: Warcraft 3. it’s my fav. game (i love strategy games) in it you have to play The Scourge to continue the game. but to my surprise even though i was hesitant at first I got use to being the traitor evil hero, in fact he’s cooler as a bad guy 😛
    i can’t play RPG games – make me dizzy. i love Popcap games…nothing bad there though. a frog spitting out coloured balls don’t count does it? ZUMA anyone? 😛
    another game The Battle For Middle Earth i always chose GOOD…though i gotta admit those winged Nazgul really kick butt!!
    oh – i too played Atari, the 2600 my fav. game was ‘Crystal Castle’ and ‘Dig Dug’

  2. Kliska

    I have to admit, my most memorable game on Atari was Pong…it was the first game we played on it, and I remember it fondly as everyone gathered around the TV, regardless of age and watched the bouncing ball…

    Yes, not too much to question morally on that one! Demons to Diamonds, Donkey Kong, Phoenix, Q-Bert, etc… really important choices I tell ya…

  3. anyprophet

    Video games are escapist fantasies and some people enjoy playing the bad guy. I have no problem separating video games from the real world and I’m sure this trait is not unique to me.

    And even in games like Bioshock the moral choices aren’t always as clear cut as they appear to be. In that game you have been thrown into a dangerous world and you don’t always have the luxury of being the hero.

    Also, I don’t see what being Christian has to do with morality. You people clearly do not get your morality from the Bible.

  4. Kliska

    I have no problem separating video games from the real world either; you just presented a straw man version of the discussion in my blog post. The question isn’t can you separate the two worlds, the question is; Does your real world morality change how you play a video game’s storyline?

    Actually, BioShock is a good example of how clear cut they can be within a games context. From the very beginning you are presented with a choice as the game player as to how you will handle dealing with the little sisters; the endings reflect the choice.

    Though your last comment is ad hominem, stereotypical, and a red herring, I’ll answer it anyway. Believing in The One True God, and Christ has everything to do with morality. “Us people,” true Christians, “get” our morality from God. Once you place your faith in Christ, you are indwelt, sealed, by the Holy Spirit. He leads us and guides us into all Truth; most often through Biblical scripture, and He works on us and changes us, from the inside out.

    If one doesn’t believe in God, then one doesn’t have a logical basis for moral claims; everything just becomes opinion. For example, you couldn’t say that what Hitler did was “wrong,” you could only say that you personally did not like it. In fact, BioShock’s storyline surrounding Andrew Ryan’s philosophy behind Rapture displays this nicely; though not 100% accurately.

  5. StephenA

    Male Christian Gamer, and game programmer-in-training here. I have a tendency to play as ‘evil’ in most game where there is such a choice. I especially love playing as undead in RTSs and RPGs.
    However, I was unable to complete the ‘bad’ ending of Bioshock.
    What I found most interesting though, is my reaction when I first saw the trailer for Bioshock. (where the player menaces a little sister, but is then brutally killed by a big daddy). I turned to my brother and said “I want to be the guy with the drill.”

  6. Kliska

    It was an odd “preview,” from the player’s perspective…though without giving away spoilers, I guess it does make a little bit of sense as the plot develops, and also in accord with the “good” ending to the game.

  7. I liked this post! Good thinking about the moral choices we must make within video games.

    I could not bring myself to choose the evil ending in BioShock, though i did accidentally kill a girl once.

    I linked to this in a recent post – I hope you like it

  8. Kliska

    Benjamin, good post! I especially agreed with, “Rabey’s article reads like a virgin-eared person hearing rock-n-roll cranked to 11 for the first-time: rather than figure out what is going on in the music, it is much easier for that person to shake a stick at the loudspeakers yelling “back, back… evil…”

    Thinking about all of this, I remembered a CS Lewis quote, in paraphrase, “The world doesn’t need more Christian writers, it needs more writers who are Christian.” I think that translates well into the digital world, especially the world of video games with developers, programmers, etc…

    Parents do need to be aware of what content is in video games, but they need to make sure that they are teaching their kids about personal choice, responsibility, their personal relationship with God, and to let their children, as they mature both in age, and in faith, decide what to play/watch/listen to, etc… as each person will react differently to things, and the Spirit guides each of us, on some level, as individuals.

    There’s also got to be common sense, such as not letting a 10 year old play GTA, as there are as many psychological issues as there are spiritual ones…

  9. Ethan

    hi !,
    I’m a Male Christian (YAY JESUS !)

    Firstly I’d like to say, awesome topic !

    Secondly, I use to play video games like Hitman, where the object of the game is too kill.

    My computer broke down, and over that time of not having a computer, I learnt about Morality Issues and Sanctity for Life. I now have my computer fixed just as we have finished.

    I’m now confused about what games I can play.

    I never liked the idea of killing people in Hitman 2, but I always read the ‘Mission Briefing’ and checked out every ‘Target’, they were all what everyday people would consider to be bad guys eg. drugs, terrorism, arms smuggling.

    I always play the Hero in a game, even in Hitman I liked thinking I was this anti-Hero who was at least taking out people who could be displayed as ‘deserving it’.

    I guess also, the idea of Hitman 2 having an official moral storyline for the central character also gave me reason to understand the good qualities found in the character I was playing, yet now I feel weird for wanting to play the game, this is definitely one of my favourite game series.

    Also, this might sound silly, but I’m having difficulties installing James Bond: Nightfire and even Indiana Jones & The Emperor’s Tomb, these are my favourite games ever ! like seriously !!!. I’m a HUGE Indy and Bond fan, and yet they have elements of killing to them. Arguably you could say James Bond and Indiana Jones are defending themselves from the likes of Terrorist guards and Nazis, but then the issue of Sanctity of Life and Christian Morality arises.

    I would just like to know, if it is morally acceptable or even ok for me to play games such as Indiana Jones or James Bond ?

    I’m sorry this is long, I just really needed to explain.

    BTW: The ‘Hitman’ game is Hitman2: Silent Assassin, in case it needs referencing, it has a moral story to it.


  10. Kliska

    Ethan, welcome to the blog! Thanks for your comments. As to your question, “is it morally acceptable or even ok for me to play games such as Indiana Jones or James Bond?” I’d have to say that the answer will be between you and God.

    There are a few “rules” or morality guidelines that are for all believers…but there are also certain things that I believe is between the believer and God. What kind of movies to watch, books to read, or video games to play, I feel, fall within that area.

    I’ve played several 007 games and never really saw a problem with it, but again, it will be a personal choice.

    Think about the game content, pray about it, see if you find any scripture you feel is touching upon the issues at hand, and pay attention to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and your own conscience. As I’ve said in other posts, God gave us freedom from the Law through Christ; so, we live in an age of grace and freedom, but that freedom comes with responsibility.

  11. Pingback: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed; First Impressions… « The Christian Scribbler

  12. cocgblog

    I’ve been polaying EVE Online and I killed a guy in low sec and I got flammed because my bio had a link to my christian gaming site. Does my light not shine as bright because I blew up a internet space ship? : )

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