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Valve: "There's Never A Real Moral Choice" In Video Games

"Choice" is a prime topic of conversation amongst gamers these days, as the perceived "open-endedness" of next-gen titles offers players a variety of options. In other words, choosing between "good" and "evil" actions is a popular theme.

However, Valve's Chet Faliszek believes there are no such things as "moral choices" in video games, and his beef appears to be with the literal definition of the term. According to Destructoid, here's what Faliszek had to say on the matter:

"There's never a real moral choice you're ever making in a game, because you're never going to have to live with that choice. We do things in our game to get you to behave better, to make you play together, to have this interaction in a game, but I don't think those are moral choices. I don't think games allow you to make moral choices. Games allow you to be evil, to do bad things. In Grand Theft Auto, I'm going around running people over, and guess what, I'm not doing that in real life.

So, in the context of games having moral choices, that's a weird thing to me. I don't think they have real moral choices when I think of that. They have something else, like strategic choices, choices inside their world, but to me a moral choice is something that would live outside of a game. I don't see that."

It's an interesting discussion, and one that can have many different viewpoints. If you continue down that road, you'll also generalize even further; it's not just about "moral" choices, but about choices on the whole. Are we really making decisions that have realistic effects on the remainder of the story? Wouldn't it be accurate to say that with every action one makes, the future is automatically and irrevocably altered? Thing is, with every new choice, we need an entirely new branch of a storyline, and in all honesty, we have to yet to see "choice" implemented in an authentic way in any video game.

As for morality...that's a whole other can of worms.

7/30/2009 John Shepard

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Comments (39 posts)

Qwarktast1c
Thursday, July 30, 2009 @ 10:00:25 PM
Reply

he's pretty much right

especially about the GTA part! i mean seriously, yeah your doing some evil stuff that would be considered immoral in real life..... but it's just a game. that's one reason why games are fun is because you can do things, either good or evil, that you can't do in the real world

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Xra897
Thursday, July 30, 2009 @ 10:32:51 PM

totally and our people should listen to this and stop complaining how if teens p[lay fps they're goin to shoot someone

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TGG
Thursday, July 30, 2009 @ 10:17:38 PM
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Games are a fantasy. It's all about society's rules not applying to you. So introducing that concept into a game clashes with that idea. Of course you can kill old ladies, you won't go to prison, you can just bribe the cops. Of course you won't suffer a fatal injury after getting shot in the forehead, just type in some cheat codes on your cellphone...and there you go.

There would have to be some sort of way that a game implements this properly. I don't think that giving a real moral choice would be impossible.

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bigrailer19
Thursday, July 30, 2009 @ 10:28:51 PM

by no means is it impossible and even though some may disagree with what im about to say im saying it anyways.

The elder scrolls IV: Oblivion did some good things advancing towards this. When you steal something you get shunned upon not by just the person u steal from but guards, town folk, etc. I remember distinctly about 5 min. into the game i found a horse, not knowing what the red meant while the action cursor was up ( i know obvious) i took the horse. I rode that horse too, right into the next town where i was beatin and called a thief. I hated myself for stealing that horse one because i died and had to start from my last save which was when i first started the game considering i had just got out of the prison, DAMNIT! SORRY. anyways i also hated that choice because i was playing a good character and even though one bad deed can go undone in the game every time i looked at items stolen i always seen that dang 1!

Point is even though its not a huge issue some games like Oblivion offer these choices in more ways than good or evil and do go beyond that to making choices to fight or run, to murder, or be friendly, to steal or to be honest so, its it may not be a reality of choices but its definitely moral to the character in the story, because the choice changes the course around him or her, maybe not the story at all times, but how people react to you, and such which drastically can change the way you play the game.

Last edited by bigrailer19 on 7/30/2009 10:30:09 PM

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migabyte
Thursday, July 30, 2009 @ 10:54:07 PM
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Well thank you for stating the obvious.....It's just a buzzword like "real time" or whatever. It is a bit of a reflection of peoples inner morality, but it isn't actual morality. DO you like causing destruction? Or do you like to be the hero? Anyways......

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JMO_INDY
Thursday, July 30, 2009 @ 11:02:52 PM
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I guess you could implement this in games, but why? Everyone has a little evil in them, ur gonna do something bad one time or another, just like in real life, and your gonna pay for them just like in real life. It doesnt matter whether or not they put a direct Good or Evil choice in the game, people will always do something bad and something good, no ones perfect. If they were to put a Moral Police in games, they would have to bust you for everything you would get busted for in real life, and I dont think developers want to handle that responsibility, might be a pain in the ass.

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Mornelithe
Thursday, July 30, 2009 @ 11:16:38 PM
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Moral choice only equates to replayability for me. As it allows for multiple responses to a variety of situations. Granted, there are few games that explore Morale/Ethic bounds to that extent, but InFamous, for example, is worthy of two play throughs at LEAST, simply to see the good and evil sides of the game.

Beyond that, I personally love starting massive police wars in GTAIV. Mowing down pedestrians at will. Beats doing it in real life.

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Banky A
Thursday, July 30, 2009 @ 11:28:28 PM
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I was struck deep with all the assassination and story choices in GTA IV though.

*And whether to try push that one Mitsubushi Lancer X off the road when I was cornering with the Nissan GT-R* ^_^

GT5! Aye Mornelithyyy?

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Killsignal
Thursday, July 30, 2009 @ 11:33:42 PM
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semantics... this isn't worth the time...

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coverton341
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 12:44:26 AM

Semantics: It doesn't mean what you think it means.

I'm not directing that at you in the slightest. Your post just reminded me of a shirt my friend owns that says that and a recent picture I saw somewhere that said it too. Hilarious.

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LegendaryWolfeh
Thursday, July 30, 2009 @ 11:41:49 PM
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Kind of on topic, but I think games should add more stuff for the gray/neutral people. I mean I'm not pure evil or pure good when it comes to games. I mean when I see people in trouble I obviously would rather help them then hurt them or anything, but at the same time when I'm fighting someone or something else, I don't care what I do to get it done, so I'm just saying, gray/neutral people exist too! (so stop giving all the extreme's the best stuff lol)

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WorldEndsWithMe
Thursday, July 30, 2009 @ 11:53:36 PM

You can get trophies in Fallout 3 for having a neutral karma.

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chucknasty
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 12:09:45 PM

Bioshock let you choose between being a little too nice to little girls or killing them or doing a combination of the two....er, wait...never mind.


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WorldEndsWithMe
Thursday, July 30, 2009 @ 11:44:04 PM
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Wanna know what gamers think about these systems? Check it out in the forums: http://www.psxextremeforums.com/gaming-discussion/10169-survey-results-karma-systems-games.html

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WorldEndsWithMe
Thursday, July 30, 2009 @ 11:49:14 PM
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This guy is mixing up the game world and the real world in an argument in which that discussion does not belong. In considering good or evil or morality or whatever, you have to apply those principles either to the game world, or the real world. And yes, your decisions do affect the outcome in the game world, just in a different way as they do in the real world. Valve is confusticating simple things again.

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ExhumeART
Thursday, July 30, 2009 @ 11:52:25 PM
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I agree up to a point. However, in Fallout 3 I couldn't bring myself to play with bad karma. I felt (and still feel) horrible about stealing from or killing innocent people trying to rebuild their lives, even though it's just a game. Although, I recently reached 100% in GTA IV lol.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Thursday, July 30, 2009 @ 11:55:03 PM

Don't feel bad, I wasn't too pleased with myself for planting a grenade in someones pocket just to get a trophy.

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robinhood2010
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 5:45:15 AM

Mines work better.

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Blaiyan
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 12:05:36 AM
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This can be a tough subject. I've written and erased what I typed twice already. Basically I disagree. You can't say the game has no morals because there is no punishment. If games "allow you to be evil" then isn't that a moral choice? Couldn't one say something similar for non-fiction books and movies? It seems like one side will be foolish, deluded and thee other self righteous or hypocritical. I just don't want to waste time complaining about things when i can simply change the type of games I play/buy. I was recently insulted because I lost excitement for heavy rain when it was announced that they have a sex scene in the game with no mention of whether it can be completely skipped or not. So everyone's going to choose what they want. Frankly only my opinion will determine what I play. Anyway developers putting out more games with morals choices definitely at least adds to gameplay. It might even slightly change how some look at the industry. I loved playing through Mirror's Edge without firing my weapon but I also like Turok minus some parts of the story.

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coverton341
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 12:41:01 AM
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Mayhap we generalize even farther down the rabbit's hole and beg the question; do we make choices at all? I mean in the most broad sense of the word. Is anything we do a choice or are our actions merely part of a unified perpetual flow of energy with a harmonic balance? If matter is really only energy condensed to a slow vibration and the same base components of that energy make up everything from the air we breath to the skin cells in our hands to the electrical impulses in our brains then is anything we do random or out of the control of said components of energy? But this type of thinking could lead to all kinds of theological debate and I am but a simple sack of protons, electrons, and neutrons. What is choice, what is reality, are these things that are unique to our individual perception of our own unique experiences? I could babble on at great lengths about this kind of subject because reality, causation, chaos, and an individual's perception of these things are all topics of great interest to me but I will leave it at that and let you infer what you will.

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RadioHeader
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 6:48:20 PM

Far out!

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jdt1981
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 12:58:58 AM
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Just because moral choices in games don't have real life consequences doesn't mean they don't have value or can't be a rewarding gameplay mechanic in games if done properly... I enjoy moral choices in games, when they're done right they can derive an emotional reaction from the gamer. For example in Star Wars:KOTOR helping the widowed beggar on Tatooine by buying her raid plate so she and her kids can leave a planet where they have no future feels kinda good, on the other hand stealing her raid plate and leaving her and her kids with nothing kinda makes you feel like a scum-bag so emotionally there is a real consequence. But then again maybe that's just me and I get more immersed into games than the average Joe.

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JMO_INDY
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 1:33:05 AM

The only game where I got emotionally involved was the Metal Gear Solid series, Hideo is a god, and im an Atheist, so thats saying alot.

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SerichA
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 1:11:46 AM
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Just a smaller part of the bigger picture: There's Never A Real Moral Choice In Life.

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Jalex
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 2:30:12 AM
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Why do developers feel the need to talk down about something that they themselves don't utilize?
Personally, I think choices like these being implemented is one of the biggest draws for a game.
And if he's going to start picking on an aspect of games for not being realistic, then he probably shouldn't be involved with making games. I mean, what was the last completely realistic video game anyone played? I know I haven't played any.

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JMO_INDY
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 3:24:07 AM

MGS 4, its war, so you dont get hunted by anyone except the enemy. Thats pretty realistic, besides all the new futuristic gear, which is a possibility.

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robinhood2010
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 5:43:26 AM

ironically making it unrealistic there.

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Oyashiro
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 3:59:26 AM
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And here I was thinking that games are meant to be escapes from reality.

I think Mr. Faliszek is taken this a little to seriously.

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JMO_INDY
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 4:32:18 AM

im sorry, but i cant help but picture that kid as your avatar talking and having a real nasally voice, it kinda bugs me, but o well. just my two cents.

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robinhood2010
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 5:42:20 AM
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Regardless of whether or not these choices are carried over into real life, they are still related to 'morality' It is called empathy, Chet Faliszek. You cannot tell me that, even if it is in a videogame, that the choice to kill a baby or not is not a question of morality, because it is, by the simple fact that WE, the gamer, are human, and place our own morality into that situation.

The difference here is that these morality choices make no difference in the real world, so it is acceptable to make what is effectively the 'wrong' choice. I also run people over in GTA, but that is a choice I have made, as a gamer, knowing that it is a 'bad' thing to do. But this is still a moral choice. Nobody decides to be good or bad in Infamous, Fable 2 or Fallout 3 just for strategy. They do it for the emotions they get when they blow up a civilian, or when they rescue screaming citizins from a rampaging demon.

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tes37
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 6:45:23 AM
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Consequences and/or punishment doesn't determine morality. Something either is, or isn't right or wrong. In real life I don't have to be caught and punished to determine I am wrong if I am indeed wrong.

If the game is made to have moral decisions.... then they are moral decisions, but it is still just a game.

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___________
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 6:58:14 AM
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thats where heavy rain will step in and change the rules.
but when you think of it hes got a point.
what you choose in games does not have a permanent effect on the environment.
like in GTAIV if you choose to kill or let those guys go that lvl changes but what happens 20 days or so from there is not altered by your choice.
same as infamous, the people may look upon you differently but what happens to you, and how you live your life is exactly the same.

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Highlander
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 12:35:39 PM
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<puts on flame retardant suit>
Ah, moral choices in games, how I love this topic.

Chet Faliszek appears to believe that you can abstract the moral choices in games and redefine them as purely strategic game choices. To me, Faliszek seems to wish to excuse games offering immoral courses of action, and players who choose those actions, by redefining the choices as purely strategic game decisions.

It's implied that games are fantasy and the actions and decisions we face have no moral impact because we will never be faced with them in real life. Really? I think that the choices we make in games are driven by our personal morality and do have an effect on us in real life. However, I don't think that this is necessarily a threat to our personal morality. It depends on a lot of factors.

In behavioral science Systematic Desensitization is a widely used technique treating phobias. It's a form of behavioral conditioning designed to break the cause and effect cycle that drives the phobic reaction. The patient is exposed to something they find unpleasant in a controlled manner so that they can experience the situation without a fear of consequence. The experience is repeated many times and eventually the patient is no longer sensitive to the phobic trigger.

This is precisely what video games let players do. They create immersive environments where the player can experience events and situations that allow them to make unrealistic choices that are 'evil' or 'bad'. There is no real consequence to making the evil choice in a game. Over and Over players are put in the position of making a moral choice between good and bad. Over and over they can choose the 'bad' in full knowledge that there is no consequence. This is behavioral conditioning.

Sure, it's just a video game, players in a game know it's a game. However, be honest and recognize that it is also a form of behavioral conditioning. Would the armed forces use glorified video games as training aids if the constant exposure to the action didn't have some effect? They wouldn't, would they? Another word for behavioral conditioning is training.

I do agree that these are games, it is fantasy, and people can distinguish this. They know it's not real. However, the games do have an effect, mild though it may be. For most people that effect is canceled out by a sense of morals, and an understanding that games and reality are different. Our unconscious mind discards thoughts or impulses that we know are wrong.

The majority then are able to shrug off the influence. On the other hand, lets look at the minority. Some people in our society have questionable morals, others are are more easily influenced. For these people the conditioning has a stronger impact. Continual exposure could heighten that impact. Such individuals might then make poor decisions in life. This is not a direct cause and effect, the individual is making a choice based on their own sense of morals.

Before anyone thinks I am picking on games, let me just say that behavioral conditioning is a continual process, all experiences have an impact. The TV we watch, the movies we see, the music we listen to, the books and magazines we read, the games we play, the people we associate with, the things we do, the things our parents and teachers teach, everything in life has a impact. No one element can shoulder the blame for a kid turning out to be a criminal - or worse. Since kids are the most easily influenced members of society, the importance of the role of parents in shaping their children's environment cannot be understated.

Last edited by Highlander on 7/31/2009 1:23:28 PM

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tes37
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 9:03:21 PM

I'll have to agree with quite a few other folks on this site that your posts are always interesting if not informative. Usually informative.

I have a buzz, ..so .. I didn't mean usually informative and less interesting

Last edited by tes37 on 7/31/2009 9:06:37 PM

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Minishmaru
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 1:12:57 PM
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I get tired of people trying to make a big deal of something just because they try to be on the opposite end of things. No choice in morality, pfft. Sounds like they wanna do something about it but ultimately won't. Just blowing smoke up our butts

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RadioHeader
Friday, July 31, 2009 @ 7:03:02 PM
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We gotta give credit where it's due, games do indeed affect our emotions. I put a leg-breaking tackle on Christine Ronaldo in FIFA09 and felt extremely contented.

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Strker777
Saturday, August 01, 2009 @ 1:04:35 PM
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@ Highlander
Completly agree 100%!!:)

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maxpontiac
Saturday, August 01, 2009 @ 2:00:01 PM
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When I play games such as Fallout 3 and inFamous (for example), the choices I made in the aforementioned titles were a direct extension of who I am.

Yes, I understand it's a "game", but my general decision making, IE - Morals play a huge part in how I acted in the Wasteland and in Empire City.

I am positive I am not alone in this way of thought either.

So, Chet Faliszek, you are only fooling yourself as an individual, and perhaps, as a company.

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___________
Sunday, August 02, 2009 @ 7:40:06 AM
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not really because i allways do things in games, i would never do in real life because i feel bad.
like bioleach 100 enemies in infamous, i couldn't do that (kill people) in real life because i would feel bad.
in retrospect 99% of the time, the way i play games is the opposite of what i would do in real life.
like GTAIV i love driving like a maniac and running people over.
again to infamous, in the game i did both paths, in the game i shared and kept the food to myself.
if that happened to me in real life i would share it with the people.
i couldn't scare them off i would feel bad.
thats the best part about games, they allow me to do what i would never do in real life.

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