I have a personal problem with morality and how it's done in gaming. Obvious parallels of "Mother Teresa or Satan" aside, the way games decide to implement it somewhat irks me.But let's get the most general part out of the way.
Morality in Video Gaming consists of doing one of the following:
Via Dialogue -
Refusing all promise of reward, stating that your intentions are for the greater good as god intended. (Lawful Good)
Complete Apathy. Don't even so much as bat an eye when someone asks you your motives. (True Neutral)
Don't even let the guy finish the sentence. Drive rusty stakes down his throat the minute he so much as opens his mouth to breathe. (Chaotic Insane)
Via in Game Action -
Only attack those who are expressly coded as evil.
5-Star Rating Killing Spree.
Or they could make absolutely no sense at all
There is usually little to no room for any other choices. You're either Lawful Good or Chaotic Evil. And even if you manage to somehow get yourself at a neat True Neutral stance, the game will eventually railroad you into either extreme.
In fact, sometimes games build up the "Your actions mean everything" part, only to give you a choice at the end that locks you in to another alignment all together. Several Bioware games, from Baldur's Gate to Jade Empire, are very headbangingly guilty of that.
(I personally remember the end of a Knights of the Old Republic play through, becoming some sort of horrible sith monstrosity that managed to still be regarded as a Jedi. And yet somehow, Bastila came back from the dead to be evil and stuff. Very confusing, that.)
However, this argument isn't one of "Are alignments necessary" or "How do they affect the game." Its more of a statement of how alignment is treated so very uncreatively in so many games that advertise it.
How often, dear reader, have you come up to a dialogue sequence in a game where you had the option to request a more reasonable payment in exchange for your services? For simply acting like a businessman, an entrepreneur, you're slammed with evil karma points. God forbid that saving the world is expensive and equipment doesn't pay for itself; if charging prices to reflect on the prices of the world is evil, shouldn't more shopkeepers be sprouting horns and clouds of smoke?
Likewise, there are also situations where...well, lets just give an example.
A villain has just kidnapped the mayor's daughter. You corner the villain and confront him. This man has proven himself to be dangerous and unstable and will likely kill the woman if you so much as breathe the wrong way.
The following options are available:
A| Shoot the man, ensuring he doesn't wind up harming anyone again.
B| Convince him to let the girl go and escape.
C| Sell the girl off, skullfuck them both.
While C and D are obviously Chaotic Insane and Neutral, respectively, it's B that's the Lawful Good. Never mind that you just let a dangerous criminal escape Scot Free to possibly do the same thing in another town to another young woman, you managed to preserve life.
And this man does wind up pulling a karmic Houdini and running away.
Being evil, of course, is rarely any better. Baring the evil points you get for wanting money, you're stuck being a jerk ass or a sociopath the entire game if you want to taste some dark side. There's never a chance for the suave, sophisticated villains. You're always a raging lunatic with a big gun who shoots people for asking your name, spits in the faces of sweet old women, and kicks puppies while they're on fire. Very very rarely is it ever otherwise (though this is explored magnificently in Planescape: Torment).
In fact, now that I think about it, Planescape: Torment among the few games that let you be evil without murdering a city.
As a whole, however, Karma Meters and the like are welcome to video gaming. I personally believe that acting one way in a game should reflect on how the world perceives you. But I'd much prefer to be the guy who can be good without forsaking rewards or be evil without being a baby eating, puppy kicking murdering machine.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be reinstalling Planescape. read