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Thoughts about morality in inFamous

So there's been a lot of talk swirling around inFamous and morality in video games. I watched Rev's Rant on the subject and it made me have some thoughts of my own.

I bought inFamous the day it came out and have been playing it almost non-stop (with breaks for work, food, sleep and occasional human interaction.) Let me say this first: I enjoy it. I'm having fun playing it.

But! I have some issues with it. A small complaint -- Why can't I climb a chain link fence? Now in real life, I'm no super hero but I can definitely climb a fence.

A big complaint -- morality. There is no choice! All the reviews say how when Cole is debating in his head what to do, both options seem appealing and make sense. They don't. The good option is clearly good because it saves other people and the evil option is evil because it usually hurts others. The only reason I'd choose the evil choice (or have it be appealing) is when I'm consciously trying to be evil.

It would have been so much better if the moral choices weren't clear. I want a morality moment where I don't know what the outcome of my actions will be. Like in one of the earlier missions, the Reapers have poisoned the fountains and Cole needs to turn some valves to shut off the water supply. However, whenever you turn a valve, it breaks and sprays gunk into Cole's face and he hallucinates and sees things. It's annoying when that happens so by the time you're on the third valve, the game pauses and presents a karma moment.

He says -- I could turn this valve myself or torture this civilian here until he does it for me. The way they present that second option doesn't sound appealing unless I'm trying to play as an evil character. If they had just added a little bit more, it could have been a tougher decision.

Cole could have said, "Last time I turned these valves I got sprayed in the face and then ambushed. I could do it myself or I could get this guy to do it for me and maybe because he doesn't have super powers he won't be affected as badly by it. And then when the bad guys show up to ambush me, I'd be able to fight them off and make sure more innocent people don't get hurt because I won't be incapacitated."

See that option even though it will harm an innocent person is more palatable because Cole rationalizes it by saying its for the greater good. The greatest evils are usually rationalized by the way of the greater good. Now, I haven't finished the game, so maybe the decisions get tougher, but I'm halfway through and I still haven't encountered anything that would remotely make me want to abandon my quest for good.

In games like inFamous, you can earn evil points by killing random people and behaving like a maniac, and I have issues with that. It's more like chaotic evil. Why can't I be neutral evil or lawful evil?

Now once I finish my "good" game, I'm going to play and be evil, but really my choices in-game have nothing to do with my karma. I've made the choice to be evil or not before I've even started playing. I want a game where even if I've decided beforehand, I can't stick to my decision either because both options are equally awesome or because I don't know how my choices will affect my karma.

inFamous, you're a good game so far. Full of "powerful moral choices?" Not so much.
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About TriplZer0one of us since 3:08 AM on 03.18.2009

About Me

Age: 24
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Location: San Diego, CA

Hey Dtoid, I'm TriplZer0.

I'm a science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction writer by trade, but aside from writing, video games are my biggest passion. I also write over at Gamer Limit.

The first console my brothers and I ever got was an SNES for Christmas one year. Since then, we've owned an N64, Playstation, PS2, and an Xbox 360. I got a Gameboy Color one year for Christmas, but my brothers are more into handheld gaming than me. Every time they upgrade to the latest system I get their hand-me-downs. That's how I obtained my GBA and my two DS's. Handheld gaming for some reason doesn't interest me even though I know there are great games out there. The first console I've ever been the exclusive owner of is my PS3. The first games I ever played were Super Mario World, F-Zero, 7th Saga (which I've written about), and Out of This World.

My favorite genres are RPGs (Western or Japanese), FPS, action/adventure, and RTS (even though I suck at them).

My Promoted Articles
The Forgotten: The 7th Saga - My First Foray Into RPGs
The Five Stages of Backlog Grief
Dread Space: Why Space Sims Scare Me More than Zombies

The daily hotness featuring my first novel
Communitoid Episode 008 - Mxy liked my book!

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