Are you trying to tie real world morality to in game actions?

Here’s an idea – gamers have real trouble seperating their sense of morality from a games fiction. One example was in a browser game I had played, where the text itself described an option to loot other players as ‘not being very fair’.

Even the designer himself couldn’t really seperate his moral notions from the fiction he had overlayed onto the game.

No,  it’d be about as unfair as checking someones king in chess.

If in a roleplay game you have some ‘rape a person automatically’ power, then it isn’t nasty or unfair or wrong of you to use it. It’s just part of the game. YES, fictionally it’s rather strong, perhaps over powering. This is exactly why as a designer you have to take responsiblity for this yourself – do you want a game with this? It’s no good putting it in with some sort of stupid idea that the players morality aught to keep it’s use in check. Real world morality doesn’t apply to gameplay itself – it’s stupid to think that. Otherwise taking someones rook is like mini murder or something stupid.

Don’t try and apply real world morality to in game actions. It’s entirely missplaced.

On a side note: I thought I’d give a link to a browser game I’m slowly building up :

6 thoughts on “Are you trying to tie real world morality to in game actions?

  1. This may be an issue of some complexity.

    On one hand, if we consider a game as a formal system that is manipulated by players, then certainly morality plays little role in most cases. Most cases? Yes, because you might promise to, say, not use a given option (as a handicap or a challenge, maybe, or to get someone to play, or any other of myriad reasons). Then, using that action certainly has something to do with real world morality.

    But this was not really the issue you highlighted in the post, so let us take for granted that when playing formal games, morality plays little role. It has been argued (see e.g. Saren & Zimmerman 2003) that all games are, to an extent, simulations and means of expressing stories. Stories draw their meaning from their connection to real life and, in particular, to matters concerning moral choices people make.

    Why is it not murder to take a rook in chess? Because chess is considered a formal game. A roleplaying game may be considered as much a matter of artistic expression or a means of experiencing something one can’t, in real life, as a formal game. Hence, I’d be wary of saying that real world morality plays no role in roleplaying games. If a game master creates a very racist portrayal of native Africans in his game (which the rules certainly don’t prohibit), then I will think less highly of that GM. (This is from real world experience.)

    In summary: I think this is a matter of perspective: Formal games are formal, while creating fiction reveals something about the people doing the creating.

  2. Hi Tommi,

    Okay, your basically talking about free wheeling fiction. That’s a subject in itself.

    In my example, it tells you in advance that ‘looting’ can happen in the game. It has basically asked ‘do you give permission to do this to you or others’, by informing you in advance of play.

    Now if you’ve agreed to that, how can it be a moral issue for you if it happens to you?

    I mean, hitting someone with a ball in real life is rude, but in a game of dodgeball it’s fine. Because they ask for permission in advance of actually doing it. Indeed, a person who complains about being hit with a ball in dodgeball is the one being disruptive.

    Or do you want to argue people can wander into a game without really thinking about what that game involves, then complain and think less of other people for doing what the game is explicitly about?

    Your racism example complicates things because really there’s not much prior notice of what could be said, thus it doesn’t really get consent. But on the other hand, the very nature of freewheeling, say anything you like, fiction is that someone might say something you really, really don’t like. That’s what happens when you let ‘anything happen/anything can be said’. To me it seems silly to think less of your GM for using the ‘say anything’ power you yourself handed to him. It should be obvious that if you let someone say anything, that could very well end up being something you don’t want to hear. Yet I suspect a bit of gamblers goggles here, where you think you’ll only ever win and not lose in letting anything be said.

    Or if you want to start thinking of him as a racist in real life – well, it’s another subject entirely. Were looking at the game and what permission you gave him in terms of what he could say.

    Or perhaps I do bring in real world morality myself after all. As in a strong sense of personal responsiblity in terms of what I do or don’t agree to and what happens to me. Sometimes when someone hits you with a ball and you don’t like it, it’s not their fault.

  3. Hey Callan.

    I agree you when it comes to games, and my point is that in this sense roleplaying games share traits of both proper games and of creating fiction.

    Racism example: Yes, I do think of that person as a racist in real life. Playing a game does not make one less responsible for one’s actions, though games typically do make some specific actions permissible.

  4. Thinking he’s racist does not make one less responsible for breaking the agreement you made about what could be said in the game, either. Or atleast in terms of what I work from in judging my own actions, it doesn’t.

    I might tell him to STFU and storm out, but I’d accept that I was breaking an agreement I did agree to, in doing so.

    I think it’s best to stomach the ramifications of ones own choices/actions, before judging the responsiblity of someone elses.

    Not that I think the common notions of race somehow make sense anyway. Why not call people with red hair a difference race? That’d be silly? But someone with black skin is another race? Isn’t skin as cosmetic as hair? Frankly I find the idea of ‘race’, well, racist. What else can it be but to make a distinction? Everyone tries to act like they have this possitive distinction of another race, but racism rides on the very notion of distinction. Everyones harbouring racism, but because they manage to pat each other on the back rather than murder/enslave each other continuously, they think they have somehow moved on. Like a bully who only picks on a little kid some of the time now, thinking himself noble for the relative lack of bullying.

  5. Are you saying that, when agreeing to roleplay, I am also implicitly (it certainly was not explicit) agreeing to let whatever the other participants bring into the fiction to stand without me judging them for their contributions?

  6. Well, do you give any permission for what they can say? Think of it this way, in dodge ball people give permission to be hit by the ball. They don’t go through every single instance of being hit and decide whether they judge the person for having hit them as being bad or good. They give a blank check open acceptance of all hits.

    Similarly, do you give any field of words a person can say at the table, or do you judge every single thing they say? If it’s the latter, it does not sound like what I call a game. It’d be like in dodge ball, where the person might at any hit with the ball start complaining of having been hit – that’s not a game to me.

    Further your mixing up two things – judging the person for their principles, and judging the person for what they actually went and said. I’m talking about ceasing to do the latter, to a degree that’d decided in advance.

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