Do you feel like a hero yet? Externalized morality in video games.
Heron, Michael James
Belford, Pauline Helen
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HERON, M. J. and BELFORD, P. H., 2014. Do you feel like a hero yet? Externalized morality in video games. Journal of Games Criticism, 1 (2)
Video games have a long tradition of including elements of moral decision making within their ludic and narrative structures. While the success of these endeavours has been mixed, the systems used to express moral choices within a game have grown more popular. However, these morality systems are inherently restricted and limited by ludic and business considerations. Coupled to this is the concept of the “magic circle” in which games are considered to be morally discontinuous spaces where the normal rules of what actions are and are not permitted are different. Moral choices then become flattened down into mere narrative flavouring rather than a reflection of an individual’s ethical makeup. Moral choices within games are thus shallow and lack the ability to truly offer us an opportunity to reflect on the actions we have taken. Rather than offering insight, they instead cheapen and simplify nuanced topics and concepts. However, several games released in the past few years have made an effort to break free of this mould by explicitly externalising moral choices. In this paper we discuss two of these games: Pope’s 2013 title Papers, Please and Yager Development’s 2012