Comic Updated August 08, 2008

The Olympics begin today, so everybody, get out there and root for the BEST COUNTRY EVER -- THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! And parts of Guam. Hey, Mr. Olympic official -- don't look now, but I think North Korea's been juicing. Also, their women's team? A little hairy, if you ask me.

So, I saw an article the other day -- I can't for the life of me find it again, which is terrible, because it was a very interesting piece that I think could spark a lot of debate within the gaming community, if they didn't only have my swiss-cheese powers of recollection to paraphrase it for them.

The gist of the piece was that games are sending mixed messages in regards to the consequences of peoples' actions. Specifically mentioned were the Little Sisters of Bioshock, and the girlfriends of Grand Theft Auto 4. The author asserts that the games' scriptwriters and the games' mechanics were at odds when trying to establish to the player the importance of a particular choice. The author notes, for instance, that there was scarcely any significant difference in the rewards for saving all of the Little Sisters (the 'good' choice) versus harvesting them (the not-so-good choice). Likewise, it was pointed out that dating every girl in GTA provided a tangible reward to the player -- health bonuses, cop bribes -- EXCEPT for when the player dated Kate, the game's lone good girl.

Now, what got me about this article is that the author clearly saw these design choices as being in error. Any GOOD game director, he suggests, would have made certain there was a significant and tangible reward to the player for choosing the good path. So that, you know, the player would KNOW he was being good.

What are we, six years old? Blame my Protestant upbringing, but I don't think good acts are -- or SHOULD be -- defined by their direct connection to a tangible reward. Bioshock? Half the point of the game was the murky morality in the world in which it was set -- rewarding the player for choosing the good path would have been counter to the tone of the game. Grand Theft Auto 4's girlfriends?

Heck, that was a moral object lesson in and of itself. Yes, the other girlfriends gave you tangible rewards, but they were vapid, apathetic, self-obsessed, and crazy. Kate was not. If you dated Kate, it was because you were interested in her story, her part in her family -- heck, maybe you just liked seeing Niko Bellic happy for a change. The lesson there is that you shouldn't HAVE to get paid to make the right choice.

Okay, so after the date, you ran over a group of tourists. This isn't a back to school special, I'm just saying, real morality is subtle.

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