Morality is not always black and white, and some of the most interesting games are those that explore the grey area. In fact, that's something that games are uniquely suited to doing, not just because of agency and dialectic, but because of complicity (Iain Banks' novel of that name notwithstanding).
I'm on record as saying I don't particularly like a lot of the choices in Dragon Age: Origins, but the decision of what to do with Loghain is one of my favourites in any game, because it's totally unclear what the 'right' thing to do is.
And I think that ties in with why I think games shouldn't be held to moral standards. One doesn't become a good person simply by adhering to a set of moral guidelines; one becomes a good person by challenging and constantly reevaluating one's own morality. Games give us a safe environment in which to do that. Our own complicity in a virtual genocide makes a far greater impression on what we think of genocide than someone telling us that genocide is bad. It personalises it. It takes away our defence mechanism of discounting it because it's happening far away. It forces us to confront the issue and evaluate it, rather than file it away under 'bad' and forget about it. To take a non-game example (having said that games are uniquely suited to it, I know, but this is a particularly effective film), I think that American History X is morally worthwhile not because it tells us racism is bad ("Well, thanks, Captain Obvious"), but because it "brings it home" so to speak.
"Moronic cynicism is a kind of naïveté. It's naïveté turned inside-out. Naïveté wearing a sneer." -Momus
Anyhoo, yes - I think game content should be restricted by moral standards, but only in terms of extremes. I, personally, think a game adaptation of Lolita would be going just a little too far.
The idea that there are things you legally can and things you legally can't talk about is crazy to me. Lolita is great art.
What's the difference between this and (the vast majority of contemporary) games in which you play a mass and/or serial murderer?
In other words, what would you have against a Lolita game that you don't have against all other games widely available to Western audiences?
Last edited by Oof; 29-03-2012 at 09:36 PM.
I'd play a Lolita game. What's that game about a failing marriage and you talk to the husbands and walk through their apartment? Something like that.
I understand that it might make us uncomfortable, but I don't think there's actually a valid objection to the notion of a Lolita game.
Edit: I've finally thought of a proper comparison. It would be like objecting to The Reader. I think playing as one of the two main characters would be a fascinating and thought-provoking exercise. I think we'd surely be depriving video game culture if this game were ever mooted and subsequently abandoned.
Edit Edit: Or even Apt Pupil. Or how about the scene in IT where the children can't get out of the sewers after they defeat the monster and there's only that one solution? What about the bathtub part in The Shining?
Edit Edit Edit: Stephen King. Stephen King, you weirdo.
Last edited by Oof; 29-03-2012 at 10:03 PM.
When it comes to the law and censorship, I would prefer the authorities to take a fairly relaxed view. I wouldn't go so far as to say never censor anything. For instance, an RPG in which you are frequently rewarded with xp points for racially abusing black characters would probably merit some action. But for the most part the authorities should leave well alone.
When it comes to the moral responsibility of the author, then they probably do have some obligation to restrict themselves. I don't think they have to worry too much about major things. After all, everyone is going to be willing to accept that sometimes immoral actions can turn out well. Also in "murder simulators" like Skyrim it's quite obvious that the rules of the game world are so far removed from reality that encouraging certain actions in the game world can't really be seen as promoting them in reality. I suspect that it is in minor and subtle points that designers need to be more careful, where it is not obvious that the game is subtly encouraging a certain mindset.
Things get even more complicated when you consider how the player's prejudice influences their view on what you've done. A decent example here is the Arkham City Bitches. When I first read about that furore, my reaction was "meh, they're scummy thugs, it's realistic for them to act that way." But after thinking for a bit I realized that, first, I have no real reason to think it's realistic for them to act that way, and second, there's a fair chance it isn't realistic at all. My judgement is being made by my prejudice about scummy thugs and, more subtly, perhaps my prejudice about women. Observing the behaviour in the game will reinforce my prejudices. This isn't a good thing.
But on the other hand, if you're a designer and you're trying to create a certain atmosphere, then the best way of doing that is not to make things realistic, but make things what most of your players think is realistic. Straying away from this is a dangerous game. I remember an argument with someone who was criticizing a fantasy game for using what he considered "modern" language. I demonstrated that the words he was complaining about were historically used long enough ago for it to be reasonable. But he maintained that the use of the words damaged the setting. So it seems likely that there are situations where you have to actually choose between three things: being realistic, being moral, and creating the atmosphere you want. Which way to go? I can't really say.
Irrelevant on further examination of the rest of the thread.
I'm of the opinion that games are art. The job of an artist is to explore the human condition as much as they can. To be constantly pushing boundaries, and finding the truth of a subject. Sometimes that means questioning the inherent reactions we as sane people have toward a given subject, and being intentionally repellent when doing so. As an example, most of us would agree that murdering a child is an abhorrent thing to do. An artist may want to question the protective instinct, and help us come to realizations about it by having us kill a child (in a game) to save the world. In short: No. It's the job of any art form to make us question our deepest beliefs and instincts. Without it we die as a species.
Doesn't make much sense, does it?
If anything, a Lolita game set in a contemporary milieu could help society examine the discomfiting place in which female youth finds itself today.
Last edited by Oof; 30-03-2012 at 12:01 AM.
Killing kids in Fallout 1 was great. Not because "hurrr I can kill kids" but because it fit the postapocalyptic scenario and it had appropriate consequences.
The game world reacting to my actions is something that I love. When my portable nuke launcher fires in the direction of a kid, I expect him to be dead. I can play with a dead man's eyeball and eat women for breakfast but killing kids is a big no-no?
You know how the yellow press is: CHILD MURDER SIMULATOR. Video games are still struggling to be acknowledged as a medium and especially with the violent murder simulator stigma so it is sad but understandable that Bethesda didn't bother. Even though it undermines the medium itself, as choices and consequences are what make games unique and have always been an important aspect of the Fallout series.
Last edited by Anthile; 29-03-2012 at 11:36 PM.
"I was one of those. I meddled with dark powers. I summoned demons. I ate the entire little cheese, including the rind."
~Kvothe, The Wise Man's Fear
Remember the flak Manhunt got all those years ago? Remember the uninformed shitstorms that CoD:MW2 and GTA got? That's the sort of crap we need to avoid, and if we get - say - a Manhunt 3, it will not endear gaming to the uninformed masses.
The value of art is exactly that it makes us uncomfortable, or that it coaxes us to consider new things, or old things in new ways. Take away that, and you may as well just force all artists everywhere to create MLP content for the rest of their lives. And that might well offend some cultures. Let's have everyone stick to creating geometric shapes, just to be safe, eh?
Beyond inciting behaviour that is contrary to the public good, where do you draw the line? Your criterium is so arbitrary that it's not useful. How many people must be liable to be offended before we censor something? Does it matter what race they are? What culture? What religion? Another problem with your suggestion is that it enforces the norm. What you're proposing would have the unfortunate side-effect of enforcing the majority's views and opinions and damn what minorities have to express on a matter.
I'm rambling at this point -- there's so much wrong with your thinking that I don't even know where to start -- so I'll stop here, and just let you consider what you've stated in this thread.
Last edited by Oof; 30-03-2012 at 10:30 AM.
A key point about freedom of speech in art and entertainment is that if you do find that a topic makes you uncomfortable, you have to ability to not participate, or to stop participating. You should not restrict a person's freedom of speech, their ability to simply express a view or to explore events, themes or concepts. Also integral to freedom of speech is that one person's expressions should not be forced upon you. But you may choose to listen. And to stop listening.