Study Shows Most Gamers Are Goody-Two-Shoes With Moral Choices

VanQ

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Oct 23, 2009
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Steven Bogos said:
Among other revelations, her research has shown that when given the choice, most of us would rather ride in with the white knights of justice, than become evil-doers.
What you did there, I see it. And it's the best laugh I've had all day. "Research shows: Most gamers are white knights." Perfect.

Joking aside, I always preferred to play Lawful Evil or True Neutral than Lawful Good or Chaotic Evil or any of the other combinations of morality. I found that the willingness to do whatever I need to accomplish my goal, while at least attempting to minimize casualties was a more fun approach to games.

Not that I didn't enjoy the occasional killing spree in The Elder Scrolls or Fable.
 

Dandark

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Sep 2, 2011
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I feel more gamers would choose non good choices if they were actually interesting. Usually you have the good choice of helping somebody in need or the evil choice of murdering everyone nearby then laughing manically before you head to the nearest orphanage with a can of gasoline.
 

Kahani

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May 25, 2011
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Jadak said:
To be fair, few games offer moral choices where evil is something other than 'murder puppies for fun'.
As with most others here I agree, but I think it's actually worse than that. Too often the evil choice isn't just something silly and over the top for no reason, but the game actually punishes you for doing it. The classic Infinity Engine games, for example, mostly had evil as an option, along with evil companions if you wanted to make a whole evil group. But being good meant more XP and store discounts, while being evil meant a pathetically small bit of cash, not being able to talk to some NPCs, and constantly being attacked when in town. Even in games that don't punish you quite so blatantly, there's almost always the problem that there's absolutely no reason for an evil character to accept the vast majority of quests, so they will always inherently fall behind a good character.

That said, I don't think it's fair to blame developers entirely for this, because there are obvious reasons why it's the case. Firstly, society is, on the whole, not evil. Most people do not spend all their time murdering people and taking their stuff, or even doing more low-key things as simple as stealing. Criminals exist, but they're very much the minority. So a game world in which evil is just as viable and common as good just isn't going to feel at all realistic. The IE games may not have had much of a good/evil choice in terms of gameplay, but in terms of the game world it was actually pretty accurate - if you constantly murder people, others will refuse to talk to you and call the guards instead. PnP D&D ended up with pirate cities and the like for precisely this reason - it allowed people to play evil characters without having all their games immediately devolved into a running battle with the police.

Secondly, developers are, on the whole, not evil. This is a point usually made in regards to bad portrayal of scientists, geniuses, and so on in media - it's not easy to write things that you don't know. How do you write things a genius would say if you're not actually a genius yourself? In addition, it's very easy to spot flaws after the fact, but it's much more difficult to actually fix things yourself. Take sport, for example. It's usually very easy to see what a given sport person/team/whatever did wrong in a given situation, even though those of us sitting at home watching couldn't possibly have done any better ourselves. Combine the two and you have the situation where writers struggle to come up with realistic evil because they have no real experience of it themselves, but at the same time it's easy for us to look at what they have come up with and say it's all wrong.

So while I would love there to be better and more interesting moral choices in games, I can understand why there generally aren't. Some villains become iconic, but most of them don't because writing realistic evil just isn't that easy.

Covarr said:
This is why I enjoyed The Walking Dead so much. So many choices were between "Evil, but safe" and "Good, but dangerous", and the game was simply too unpredictable to aim for a white knight playthrough.
While it did better than most, if you look at the stats showing how most people played it still had the vast majority choosing the same "good" options. It was a good effort, but I think it was flawed when it came to moral choices for the very simple reason that it was an adventure game and everyone knew that a choice would never make them lose. Unpredictable consequences, sure, but you always knew that no matter which option you picked the game would carry on. I think the choices could have been a lot more interesting if occasionally the "good, but dangerous" option was actually just plain wrong and got you killed.
 

BarkBarker

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Depends, after a total trek of 50 hours through a goody two shoes JPRG, the second I finished I jumpe dot Infamous 2 and shot the shit out of EVERYONE, I wanted to drop a car on a passer by without worrying about their feelings, I wanted to see people popping in the distance with a headshock, the mood reflects the gamer, and usually we start off pretty willing to be nice.
 

DarkhoIlow

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I usually am placed into the category of "goodie two shoes" because I hate playing evil in video games in general. I just can't stand to see people suffer by my own hand or otherwise.

There are some exceptions of course, but that is why I really love games that have an ambiguous morality (shades of gray) such as the Witcher series. You don't really know if the thing you did is good until you finish the chapter and you get a small cutscene about what your actions have wrought. I really love those games for that reason.

It's also a bit ironic because I levitate towards Chaotic good (rebel) if given the choice. I want to be good but following the law to the letter? Nope, not in all cases if given the choice.
 

man-man

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Given that the problem is often "It's too black and white" between "Save the puppy" and "Burn the puppy alive while cackling", it seems ironic that one game to do this kind of choice moderately well was Black & White.

The "good" path was more difficult - I always found it much easier to convince people to believe in me as a god by lighting their house on fire than by summoning a flock of doves overhead (not to mention it was an automatic takeover of a village if you killed every inhabitant then sent a few missionaries), plus if you were ever running short on miracle power, one little human sacrifice would top you right up, the younger the better... although I wasn't above 'sacrificing' corpses either.

So yeah, every time I played that game I ended up with the Evil Black Temple of Death instead of the Shining White Temple of Good. I guess the part where it fell down was making those consequences matter - there was never a downside to being bad that I was aware of; no-one ever called you out on it or refused to follow you because of it or even really commented on the matter.
 

Vzzdak

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May 7, 2010
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Looking at this article, the "study" appears to be a waste of time because they didn't take into account whether the games in question were actually developed to be fun/interesting for all the possible playthroughs. If the alternative "evil" path is being a jerk in such a way that merely limits your quest options (as opposed to opening up new angles on the game, then there's no point in playing the "good" path.

A better measure would be to study how aggressive players are when completing tasks. For example, how many players "clean house" versus killing only enough to accomplish objectives. Unfortunately, you then need to discount games that more-or-less expect you to "clear house" because they've designed the gameplay to force you to encounter everything.

I always think back to the original Deus Ex, where you had sprawling maps and always had choices about what enemies you were going to face, and whether you were going to kill or rendem them unconscious.

But then Deus Ex Invisible War, the maps were designed in such a claustrophobic way that you were often forced to encounter enemies. And though you could gain favour with factions by completing their tasks, the other factions had no problem accepting you as a full-fledged member with no consequences, regardless of how many of their minions you'd rendered into dust.

Mind you, with DX:IW I *did* do an entire playthrough where I imagined that my character was wholly supportive of the Templar philosophy. In other words, I artificially constrained my quest choices according to what I felt a supporter of the Templars would do. I found that enjoyable, but there was nothing in the game actually structured to recognize what I was doing (aside from, he is a Templar ally, so don't attack him with Templar troops).
 

red ant

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May 18, 2009
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I honestly do not care too much about moral choices in games I just care about which items look better and are more useful.

If you get better items being evil, then it is what I would do. The same would happen if it was for good, but if the stats are equal then I would get whatever item looks better if all else was equal. Most games do not allow you to be neutral and if you do the items are often worse than going off to either end.

I am 95% confident that you need at least 10k people to have a 99% accurate survey assuming 70% of the players account for the 5 largest global markets and they play specific game offering the choice of good or bad. Mmm numbers are bad
 

Caiphus

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Mar 31, 2010
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Headsprouter said:
Funny thing, I think that most of the gamers in this study are aware of the bad image painted of video games through research like this, and might deliberately respond in a way which puts them in a better light. It's possible.
I think you might be onto something, although not necessarily because people think that gamers are painted in a bad light. There could be a little of that, but if you're signing up to be studied as a gamer, you probably don't mind being recognised as one.

There is, however, a factor that studies should prepare for, especially studies with moral decisions like these. It generally falls under response bias (I think, a statistician may end up correcting me). What could very well have happened is that a gamer who would normally have picked an evil decision may have chosen a good one when being watched by the person running the survey, or may have answered that way. Again, probably not because they might have felt pressured to put gamers in a good light, but because they might have felt pressured to put themselves personally in a good light.

Small distinction, barely a difference, so yes I agree with you. Just wanted to elaborate.

Edit:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Response_bias
http://www.ehow.com/info_8106730_types-response-bias-survey.html
 

Gary Thompson

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Aug 29, 2011
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Good choices in video games often have no real repercussion.

Like in Mass Effect, being paragon never bites you in the ass, hell, in Mass Effect 3 you turn a freaking terrorist to your side in a cameo. Said terrorist who in ME1 presented an actual moral choice, but no, if you chose the renegade choice you killed some scientist, if you chose the paragon choice you saved the scientists and turn the terrorist to the good side.

It's dumb, because it basically makes the "evil" choices "you're a complete psychopath" at their worst or "you're a dick" at their best.
You can't be a manipulative mastermind who tricks and exploits people for their own advancement, but still is able to fool people into thinking they're good.

Some of the most evil people in history often thought they were doing good.
 

Strazdas

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May 28, 2011
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i always chose the good option, or at least what i think a good option is. im just... that kind of a player. i tried a "pure evil" playttrough in fallout 3 and i felt bad about killing npcs in town and it didnt really work the way i wanted it. sigh. Its good to know that at least for once i am not a statistical minority.

funny thing is, i dont try to emulate myself. im an asshole in real life and would probably save myself way before helping others save thier kids. so i would likey be into the good category in first one and rarely in second one.

worst games in my opinion are those that reward bad behavior far more than good one. if you want to suceed in the game you kinda have to chose bad side or you artificially inflate your difficulty level without game acknowledging that.

red ant said:
I am 95% confident that you need at least 10k people to have a 99% accurate survey assuming 70% of the players account for the 5 largest global markets and they play specific game offering the choice of good or bad. Mmm numbers are bad
Lets count.
I could not locate the numbers of worldwide gamer population so ill extrapolate based on US data [http://www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/ESA_EF_2013.pdf]. 58% of US population play videogames. Lets assume this is the same in all developed world, and less in developing world, while very low in underdeveloped world.
for simplicity sake we totaly exclude africa population and half of Asia (india, kazchstan, middle east are hardly gamers). We consider it is around half of population elsewhere. this gives us roughly above 2 billion population size. for simplicity we round it to 2 billion.
we take a condifence interval of 99% (99% certain) and we take 5% error margin to account for your 95% confidence. then we use the determined sample size formulas used in statistical survey to determine the minimum amount of people needed to survey to get 99% accurate results on this.
The result is 666 people needed to be questioned, so not even close to 10.000 people. you would need a 1.3% or lower margin of error to reach that number of people. you can use this online calcualtor [http://www.surveysystem.com/sscalc.htm] to check such numbers in the future if you want.
 

Headsprouter

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Caiphus said:
Headsprouter said:
Small distinction, barely a difference, so yes I agree with you. Just wanted to elaborate.

Edit:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Response_bias
http://www.ehow.com/info_8106730_types-response-bias-survey.html
No problem. The reason I didn't go into more detail, myself is because it's a while since I've studied research methods, so similar to you, I was cautious because I didn't want to get any of the terminology mixed up. That, and I didn't want to seem like a conspiracy theorist for pressing too hard on the idea. :L
 

briankoontz

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Many of us miss a basic point as we play games - they are fundamentally ridiculous and unrealistic.

I would never put myself into a situation similar to that of any main character in any game I've ever played. Therefore the "moral choice" amounts to very little - it would be like roleplaying an alien from a world you've never visited and being asked to make "moral choices".

The "good guy" in video games kills thousands of "monsters". In the real world, the one I live in, there are no monsters and I try to avoid killing most living creatures, including insects. So I'll never be in a situation where the "good guy" option is murdering thousands.

The "bad guy" option in games is still killing those thousands of "monsters", except doing so more meanly and with mean side choices.

If I was a "monster" in a video game I would hardly be more terrified of the "bad guy" than the "good guy" protagonist. Either way I'm dead.

The best moral choices, true moral choice, is when the choices reflect not role-playing but OUR OWN choices, reflect our own character, and that simply can't happen in a mythological world of monsters, damsels in distress, and lots of murder.
 

Raikas

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As plenty of people have said, I have no problem with an amoral character - but I don't necessarily want that character to be evil for no reason.

I liked that quite a few of the renegade lines in Mass Effect (reporting-punching aside) were actually less asshole-ish when spoken than the short forms on the dialogue wheel implied - I thought that was a nice touch. I similarly liked that the snarky options in DA2 were frequently more asshole-ish than the dialogue wheel implied, because that felt more original ("this character isn't evil, he's just as ass!").

GoodNewsOke said:
Playing a game "neutral" would be more my thing, but then most games penalize you for doing that. Agains with Mass Effect, in the 2nd game you can potentially loose party-members if your Paragon/Renegade meters are to low, so obviously I "can't" play neutral or else I will miss out on something.
I actually liked that element of the game (and thought the the absence of certain characters actually made ME3 more interesting as a result).