Moral Choices in IF Games? (was: Trouble's a-brewin')

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Jacob Solomon Weinstein

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Apr 30, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/30/96
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I'm cross-posting this thread to rec.arts.int-fiction. For those of you
who missed it when it when it was only in rec.games.int-fiction, I
asked if there were any IF games that explored moral questions in
detail, and I've gotten some interesting replies. (My original post is
reporoduced at the end of this one, for anybody who is interested.)

So far, folks have brought up both lost New York and Jigsaw as
examples. I ought to warn you that I haven't finished either of them, so
I may be talking through my hat, but it seems to me that both those games
beg the moral questions they raise.

[Minor spoilers for Jigsaw (if you don't know the basic premise of the
game) follow:]

Julian Arnold, I think, put his finger on the reason that Jigsaw isn't
the sort of game I mean:
>"Jigsaw" perhaps? Would changing history (were it possible) be morally
>wrong? Certainly, according to the rules of the game it's wrong, but is this
>a moral position, or just necessary to give the game a plot?

As he points out, the rules of the game presuppose that changing history
is wrong. It's something that we're supposed to accept, along with the
possiblity of time travel, when we willingly suspend our disbelief. As
others have pointed out, if we don't accept the immorality of altering
history, Jigsaw doesn't really make a persuasive case for it. The game
shows us the consequences of changing history--but it's sometimes far
from clear that the consequences are bad.

A different game--not a better or worse one, just one more interested in
exploring the question of morality--might give us more freedom to alter
history, and show us the consequences in subtly persuasive ways.
(Imagine a time travel story structured like "A Mind Forever Voyaging."
One might advance forward in ten year increments and slowly see the
consequences of altering history play themselves out.)

I don't see Jigsaw's acceptance of the immorality of time travel as a
flaw--just a choice on the part of the author. But based on my impression
so far, I think that Lost New York _is_ flawed by its handling of moral
issues. (And it's the only flaw I've found so far in an excellent game.)

[Minor spoilers for Lost New York (if you have fewer than 26 points) follow.]

Here's what I mean. Through a speech that one hears early on, Lost New
York draws your attention to the human cost of progress. That speech
provides a moral context in which to play the game; it specificly draws
the players attention to moral issues. Yet in the parts of the game I've
played so far--I'm up to 26 points--I've already been rewarded (with
points) for taking advantage of a helpless drunk, and I expect that I'll
be rewarded for stealing from a poor man.

Were the game set in a mythical, Zorkish world, I might accept the
irrelevance of morality as just another rule of the game universe, along
with the presence of unicorns and magic. But by setting it in a very
believable New York, and by explicitly calling our attention to moral
issues, the author has set me up to feel very uncomfortable about
performing immoral acts during my quest.

Unless...hmm... Unless the player's immoral tactics are meant to echo the
immorality that went into the creation of modern New York. Hm. Perhaps I
really should finish the game before I judge.

All right. I'm going to go play it right now.

-Jacob

>In article
<4m36a4$n...@castor.usc.edu>,
Jacob Solomon Weinstein ><mailto:jwei...@castor.usc.edu> wrote:
>>
>>
>> Speaking of obeying the rules of one's society, I'm going to try
>> desperately to bring this issue on-topic. The issue of when/if it's
>> justifiable to break the law is one that seems to me to be a natural
for
>> Interactive Fiction; IF is a medium that allows the author to force
the
>> player into making a moral choice. A clever game might allow a player
to
>> choose at a certain point to break a seemingly useless law, and show
the
>> consequences of that choice. (Obviously, depending on one's
philosophy,
>> those consequences might be good or bad.)
>>
>> Indeed, as has been noted here before, the conventions of IF games
often
>> involve breaking laws--stealing everything that isn't nailed down, for
>> example. Can anybody think of an IF game that gives real weight to
moral
>> choices? "AMFV" comes to mind. ("Trinity," I think, doesn't quite
count.
>> The question isn't so much whether or not you should stop the nuclear
>> bomb--the question it asks is, "Can you?")


Russell L. Bryan

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Apr 30, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/30/96
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Jacob:

> Here's what I mean. Through a speech that one hears early on, Lost New
> York draws your attention to the human cost of progress. That speech
> provides a moral context in which to play the game; it specificly draws
> the players attention to moral issues. Yet in the parts of the game I've
> played so far--I'm up to 26 points--I've already been rewarded (with
> points) for taking advantage of a helpless drunk, and I expect that I'll
> be rewarded for stealing from a poor man.

I'll jump on this one before Neil gets the chance. If you spend some time
talking to the drunk, you will discover that he is a bigot who happened to get
drunk and lose his wallet. He is not necessarily poor, and my suspicion is that
he lost all his money in the [SPOILERS: Do not read the next word] casino.
There are many unsavory characters in Lost New York. The problem with morality
in interactive fiction is that we too often assume that if we must steal from a
character, that character is a nice person who doesn't deserve such treatment.
Have you discovered what you do with the coat afterwards? Who do you suppose
deserved it more?

OK, I retract that comment -- I can not assume that the random homeless person
is necessarily a good person, either, but if you want to feel bad about stealing
from a poor man, shouldn't you then feel good that, in actuality, you end up
helping a poor man instead?

-- Russ

Nulldogma

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Apr 30, 1996, 3:00:00 AM4/30/96
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[SPOILERS FOR LOST NEW YORK BE HERE]

>I'll jump on this one before Neil gets the chance. If you spend some
time
>talking to the drunk, you will discover that he is a bigot who happened
to >get
>drunk and lose his wallet. He is not necessarily poor, and my suspicion
>is that
>he lost all his money in the [SPOILERS: Do not read the next word]
>casino.

That's an excellent theory, though I must admit I never thought of it.

I actually thought a lot about morality when I wrote the bits with the
panhandler and the drunken man. This was during one of r.a.i-f's periodic
bouts with the subject, and I specifically wanted to write a scene that
could potentially justify theft in the player's mind -- you're putting
yourself in the position of the "criminal classes" the drunken man is
disparaging, and (I hope) getting some appreciation for how stealing a
coat would look from their position.

Actually, in early versions of the game, you had to be perfectly awful to
the panhandler in order to get his coins from him, and it bothered me to
no end. I finally tore up that whole section of the game, adding the drunk
and several other puzzles.

Neil

Jacob Solomon Weinstein

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May 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/1/96
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null...@aol.com (Nulldogma) writes:

>[SPOILERS FOR LOST NEW YORK BE HERE]

>I actually thought a lot about morality when I wrote the bits with the


>panhandler and the drunken man. This was during one of r.a.i-f's periodic
>bouts with the subject, and I specifically wanted to write a scene that
>could potentially justify theft in the player's mind -- you're putting
>yourself in the position of the "criminal classes" the drunken man is
>disparaging, and (I hope) getting some appreciation for how stealing a
>coat would look from their position.

I can understand that, and I think that makes sense. But--based on what
I've played so far--there's no justification for stealing the little
blanket from the hovel. Presumably, I'm taking something from some poor
guy who desperately needs it, and I don't see the justification. Am I
missing something? It seems to me that a simple throw-away line to the
effect of, "The hovel obviously hasn't been lived in for weeks" would
make it much more justifiable..

-Jacob

Russell L. Bryan

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May 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/1/96
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Jacob Solomon Weinstein wrote:

> I can understand that, and I think that makes sense. But--based on what
> I've played so far--there's no justification for stealing the little
> blanket from the hovel. Presumably, I'm taking something from some poor
> guy who desperately needs it, and I don't see the justification. Am I
> missing something? It seems to me that a simple throw-away line to the
> effect of, "The hovel obviously hasn't been lived in for weeks" would
> make it much more justifiable..

Actually, you are missing something. First of all, it's only a scrap of
blanket. More importantly, you don't need the blanket to win the game!
Therefore, if you took it from the hovel, it was your personal choice to
steal it. Who's got the morality problem now? <grin>

-- Russ

Jacob Solomon Weinstein

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May 1, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/1/96
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(Spoilers for Lost New York)


"Russell L. Bryan" <russ...@earthlink.net>
writes:

>Actually, you are missing something. First of all, it's only a scrap of
>blanket. More importantly, you don't need the blanket to win the game!
>Therefore, if you took it from the hovel, it was your personal choice to
>steal it. Who's got the morality problem now? <grin>

Oops. This is what comes of attempting an in-depth moral analysis of a
game when I'm only 26 points into it.

Sorry about that.

I will now shut up.

-Jacob

Torbj|rn Andersson

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May 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/2/96
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All this talk about moral choices in IF games reminds me of an article
I read back in ... oh, I've forgotten the year, but I remember it did
mention "Seastalker" as Infocom's most recent game and Sierra-on-line
as a new exciting company. The author of the article either speculated
about, or said that someone was working on, (I've forgotten which) a
computerized love story, where the player would alternate between the
two characters in the story, i.e. one "chapter" would be played from
one point of view, the next from another, etc.

I don't know if anything ever came out of this. I might be able to dig
it out, but the article was non-technical, and in Swedish, so I'm not
sure how interesting it'd be even if I could find it.

Anyway, I guess that this would be the kind of game where moral
choices would have great impact on the story. Whether or not it's
possible to implement well is, of course, open to debate.

_
Torbjorn Andersson

Jacob Solomon Weinstein

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May 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/2/96
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ne...@godzilla.jpl.nasa.gov (Damien Neil) writes:

>I feel that this is the wrong way to go about adding moral choices to
>a game. By rewarding `moral' decisions, and penalizing `immoral' ones,
>the actual moral dimension is lost; the player is required to determine
>what the author considered to be moral, rather than analyze her own
>opinions on the options available.

This is a good point. It might be worth distinguishing between
fiction that makes a moral statement and fiction that makes a moral argument.

Based on what you (and others) have said about Ultima IV, it makes a
moral statement: it is good to give money to beggars, etc. This, I think,
is how much of IF deals with morality. The author assumes that you will
share his or her moral beliefs, and they are therefore a given in the
game, just like the presence of magic or laser guns. This is what I meant
when I said that many IF games beg the moral questions they raise.

A more effective and satisfying way of dealing with moral issues is to
make a moral argument--to show the player the consequences of actions
that you, the author, consider immoral. I posted earlier that Trinity
begs the moral question by simply assuming that nuclear weapons are bad,
but it occurs to me that it makes a very effective moral argument at one
point. (SPOILERS FOR TRINITY FOLLOW:)

Early in the game, you see a disfigured woman with an umbrella. Later in
the game, you see a child to whom you give the umbrella just before a
nuclear bomb is dropped. For me, it was a very effective moment of
realization when I realized that the child would grow up into the
disfigured woman. Brian Moriarty (the game's author) had managed to
demonstrate to me the human cost of nuclear weapons, rather than just
stating that they are immoral. And, for me at least, the fact that I had
given the child the umbrella made her injuries particularly personal. In
a sense, it was because of me that she had grown up to be that woman with
the umbrella, and I therefore felt strangely complicit in her tragedy.

Think how much more effective this moral argument is than the moral
statement that might be made by the following sequence:

You are above the city.
>drop bomb
Oops. The bomb explodes prematurely, killing you.
*You have been punished for your sins.*

So, I would agree with you that just rewarding the player for behaving
morally is not very effective, but I'd also argue that your notion of a
morally neutral game is not the
best or most interesting way to deal with morality. It's fine to let the
player choose to act morally or immorally--but a clever IF author would
persuade them through the way the story unfolds that the choice should or
should not have been made.

-Jacob

Damien Neil

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May 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/2/96
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[SPOILERS for _Lost New York_. Be warned.]


On Tue, 30 Apr 1996 15:18:47 -0500, "Russell L. Bryan" <russ...@earthlink.net> wrote:
>I'll jump on this one before Neil gets the chance. If you spend some
>time talking to the drunk, you will discover that he is a bigot who
>happened to get drunk and lose his wallet. He is not necessarily poor,
>and my suspicion is that he lost all his money in the [SPOILERS: Do
>not read the next word] casino.

I must confess that I have not yet finished _Lost New York_, in large
part because of this one situation. Being forced to act so far out of
my own character in order to progress in the game fractured my suspension
of disbelief. While the descriptions of New York are excellent, and the
history is fascinating, my lack of identification with the protagonist
has destroyed much of the incentive I had to complete the game.

It seems clear to me that the drunk's speech is intended to assuage
any guilt I may feel at taking advantage of him. (``Why, he's nothing
but a vile bigot! I'll just give him some of this drug, and steal his
coat...after all that beggar needs it more than THIS creep does.'')

I, however, do not feel this way. The fact that I disagree with another's
views does not give me the right to take advantage of them. Drugging
people and stealing their possessions is wrong, plain and simple. It
doesn't matter how much you may despise the person's views; they have
the right (in the country _Lost New York_ takes place in, at least)
to hold them.

I might have been able to accept the puzzle (with reservations) if
_Lost New York_ were a simple puzzle-oriented game, such as _Spiritwrak_.
The fact that the introduction of the game clearly sets up the intention
to deal with spiritual and moral issues (the old man's monologue on
Liberty Island, for example) means, to me, that I cannot fail to look
at the morality of the actions of my character.

Incidentally, I don't particularly like the use for the coat, either.
I never once dreamed that I would need to get the panhandler's coins;
my first thought upon getting the nickel was to give it to him. Were
I to give a coat to someone in real life (I saw my mother do this once,
incidentally...one of many reasons I love her), I would not dream of
taking recompense for it. It cheapens the nature of the gift.

This has much to do with my earlier post in this thread (did I make
that in rec.games.int-fiction by mistake? It was intended to be in
.arts.). If there were an alternate means of getting money, perhaps
with difficulties or limitations not present in the current one,
it would be interesting to see people's willingness to choose one
solution over the other.

- Damien


Gerry Kevin Wilson

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May 2, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/2/96
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In article <4maofh$1...@castor.usc.edu>,

Jacob Solomon Weinstein <jwei...@castor.usc.edu> wrote:
>
>This is a good point. It might be worth distinguishing between
>fiction that makes a moral statement and fiction that makes a moral argument.

It certainly is. :)

>Based on what you (and others) have said about Ultima IV, it makes a
>moral statement: it is good to give money to beggars, etc. This, I think,
>is how much of IF deals with morality. The author assumes that you will
>share his or her moral beliefs, and they are therefore a given in the
>game, just like the presence of magic or laser guns. This is what I meant
>when I said that many IF games beg the moral questions they raise.

Well, the early part of the Ultima series was excellent. There was a
certain amount of biblical imagery, which partially explains where the
morals in it come from. However, those of you who have played Ultima 8
will know what I mean when I say "BAD ORIGIN! NO BISCUIT!" <The spoilers
for the games will be included at the end of this post.>

>So, I would agree with you that just rewarding the player for behaving
>morally is not very effective, but I'd also argue that your notion of a
>morally neutral game is not the
>best or most interesting way to deal with morality. It's fine to let the
>player choose to act morally or immorally--but a clever IF author would
>persuade them through the way the story unfolds that the choice should or
>should not have been made.

Hmm, I dunno about that. It can be done right, like Brian Moriarty does
it (but then, he's the best game writer I've seen.) and then it can be
done wrong, like the end of Shades of Grey (spoilers at end.)


SPOILERS DOWN BELOW FOR ULTIMA 8 AND SHADES OF GREY!

Ultima 8: You are forced in Ultima 8 to pretty much violate all your
codes of virtue in order to return to Britania. This is crap. I worked
so hard in Ultima 4 to become a paragon of virtue, then maintained it in
Ultima 5-6, haven't played 7 yet. But anyways, you are not given any way
to avoid violating your own moral code. I kept waiting to see "Thou hast
lost an eighth!" flash at me. No dice. I say again, Ultima 8 was an
example of how to screw up your carefully established world setting.
Make it into a nintendo game and leech all the morality out of it after
already having established it as a moralistic game.

Shades of Grey: This game was great, right up until the ending. Then,
pow. I am forced to make a moral judgement that is fairly ambiguous. I
do so. I say "The ends do not justify the means." and stop an
assassination of a (granted) evil man. I am told at that point that I
was basically wrong. I go back and try the other choice, and have him
bumped off. Wow, a better win. Hmm, gee, thank you authors for telling
me how screwed up my system of morals is. <Whips out rolled up newspaper>
"BAD AUTHORS! BAD!" At least, I really didn't appreciate it.
--
"Unspeakable glyphs discolor the filth-blackened walls of this
infernal sanctum. Scribed in the center of the room is a blood red
circle inscribed with a silver pentagram."
-An excerpt from "Avalon", a game under construction.

Nulldogma

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May 3, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/3/96
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[SPOILERS FOR LOST NEW YORK]

>I, however, do not feel this way. The fact that I disagree with
another's
>views does not give me the right to take advantage of them. Drugging
>people and stealing their possessions is wrong, plain and simple. It
>doesn't matter how much you may despise the person's views; they have
>the right (in the country _Lost New York_ takes place in, at least)
>to hold them.

Obviously, I disagree. (Not about having the right to one's opinions, but
about stealing always being inherently immoral.) There were plenty of
people in 1880 New York who went around drugging people and stealing their
possessions (or, as a friend of mine likes to cite, dropping sacks of
ashes on their heads and shanghaiing them aboard ships), and I think it's
important for you (the player and the character) to see why that sort of
thing might be considered acceptable under certain circumstances. But I
can see why, if you feel differently, you might be turned off by that part
of the game.

>Incidentally, I don't particularly like the use for the coat, either.
>I never once dreamed that I would need to get the panhandler's coins;
>my first thought upon getting the nickel was to give it to him. Were
>I to give a coat to someone in real life (I saw my mother do this once,
>incidentally...one of many reasons I love her), I would not dream of
>taking recompense for it. It cheapens the nature of the gift.

Well, the idea was that the panhandler, having gotten the coat, was going
to knock off for the day anyway and was giving you his coins as a gesture
of appreciation. (Not in exchange.) I suppose it could be clearer in the
text, though. Anyway, point well taken.

Neil

athol-brose

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May 4, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/4/96
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In article <4marlp$5...@agate.berkeley.edu>,
Gerry Kevin Wilson <whiz...@uclink.berkeley.edu> wrote:
[spoiler space preserved]


>Ultima 8: You are forced in Ultima 8 to pretty much violate all your
>codes of virtue in order to return to Britania. This is crap. I worked
>so hard in Ultima 4 to become a paragon of virtue, then maintained it in
>Ultima 5-6, haven't played 7 yet. But anyways, you are not given any way
>to avoid violating your own moral code. I kept waiting to see "Thou hast
>lost an eighth!" flash at me. No dice. I say again, Ultima 8 was an
>example of how to screw up your carefully established world setting.
>Make it into a nintendo game and leech all the morality out of it after
>already having established it as a moralistic game.

Er... this is one of the themes of Ultima 8. While I agree with you
that U8 was much too video-game like, restricted in movement and
options and just not up to par with the other Ultima games story-wise,
the loss of virtues through everything you have to do in U8 is not
just a random decision...too methodical for that. U9 will probably
have quite a bit to do with the identification of the Avatar, and
whether the new Titan of Ether/Avatar is still the same person after
xis experiences on Pagan.

--
r. n. dominick -- cinn...@one.net -- http://w3.one.net/~cinnamon/
<*> Remember the time I saw a seagull fly out of your lips?
if keys are all that stand between, can i throw in the ring?

Ross Raszewski

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May 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/8/96
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Jacob Solomon Weinstein wrote:
>
> ne...@godzilla.jpl.nasa.gov (Damien Neil) writes:
>
> >I feel that this is the wrong way to go about adding moral choices to
> >a game. By rewarding `moral' decisions, and penalizing `immoral' ones,
> >the actual moral dimension is lost; the player is required to determine
> >what the author considered to be moral, rather than analyze her own
> >opinions on the options available.
>
> This is a good point. It might be worth distinguishing between
> fiction that makes a moral statement and fiction that makes a moral argument.
>
> Based on what you (and others) have said about Ultima IV, it makes a
> moral statement: it is good to give money to beggars, etc. This, I think,
> is how much of IF deals with morality. The author assumes that you will
> share his or her moral beliefs, and they are therefore a given in the
> game, just like the presence of magic or laser guns. This is what I meant
> when I said that many IF games beg the moral questions they raise.
>

Ah. Ultima IV is an interesting point. THe Ultima series actually lists
the eight "virtues" of Brittania in the manuals. Moreover, Ultima IV
actually contains 14 edicts in the instructions (such as "Give half of
your money to the poor") that are legally required in the fictional
world.

Charles Cameron

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May 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/11/96
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Freinds:

There have been a number of very fine contributions to this thread, and as
a newcomer, I'd like to comment on one or two of them before diving in
myself.

Damien writes:

> In Ultima IV, victory required that the character become a paragon
> of virtue. This leads to players amassing vast sums of money,
> and wildly showering it on beggars to gain compassion points.
> There is no compassion involved, however; the player is merely
> purchasing a commodity.

There's a story in the Zen Buddhist literature in which Bodhidharma is
invited to court and asked by the emperor how much merit the latter has
accumulated by building a number of buddhist temples and performing other
charitable works -- and Bodhidharma essentially replies, "There is no
compassion involved; the emperor was merely purchasing a commodity."

From the point of view of the Bodhidharma story, real compassion is not
matter of good deads, not a strategy to accumulate spiritual "points" --
but an inward necessity born of enlightenment, which is itself born of
meditation. Difficult to talk about these things, but the parallel
between Damien's point and the Bodhidharma story suggests that zen might
provide some insights on how games can handle moral issues...

Sarinee writes about *Gabriel Knight 1*:

> actions that garner points in the last half of the game are "moral"
> ones (completing initiation rite, assisting the police, etc) as
> opposed to "immoral" (in this case, also "illegal") acts in the first
> half (stealing official documents, lying to get information, etc).

There's a switch from "immoral" to "moral" point scoring here as a result
of the change in Gabriel's situation, but interesting as the "changing
contexts" idea is, it still doesn't address the issue of the gamer being
easily able to play into whatever morality / amorality / immorality the
writer seems to be faavoring...

A much more incisive approach, it seems to me, is the one Jacob discusses
in *Trinity*:

> Early in the game, you see a disfigured woman with an umbrella.
> Later in the game, you see a child to whom you give the umbrella
> just before a nuclear bomb is dropped. For me, it was a very
> effective moment of realization when I realized that the child
> would grow up into the disfigured woman. Brian Moriarty (the
> game's author) had managed to demonstrate to me the human cost
> of nuclear weapons, rather than just stating that they are immoral.
> And, for me at least, the fact that I had given the child the umbrella
> made her injuries particularly personal. In a sense, it was because
> of me that she had grown up to be that woman with the umbrella,
> and I therefore felt strangely complicit in her tragedy.

That's the story cutting right to the heart of the player -- fantastic. A
good novel can do it, a poem can do it, why not a game? But note that
it's not "moral acts" so muchy as a moral sensibility that is being
addressed here...

*

Finally, on a somewhat different tack, Damien writes of *Lost New York*:

> the introduction of the game clearly sets up the intention to deal

> with spiritual and moral issues...

and then expresses his distress that:

> the drunk's speech is intended to assuage any guilt I may feel at
> taking advantage of him

and writes:

> The fact that I disagree with another's views does not give me the
> right to take advantage of them. Drugging people and stealing
> their possessions is wrong, plain and simple.

Neil replies that he disagrees "about stealing always being inherently


immoral", and then writes:

> I think it's important for you (the player and the character) to see
> why that sort of thing might be considered acceptable under
> certain circumstances.

I applaud Damien's unwillingness to use the drunk's bigoted views as an
excuse for stealing from him... but at the same time I think I see another
kind of morality in Neil's willingness to look through different eyes...
Again, it's hard to put this into words, but here's a stab at it... One
morality is that of the "high moral judgement", the other that of the
"non-judgmental awareness"?

And it seems it's the latter which really brings us back to my earlier
point about Bodhidharma and compassion... because "morality" can
sometimes get in the way of seeing the "other" with sympathy -- itself a
highly moral act, and one which writers in particular need if they are to
portray their characters with mixed light and shade...

My thanks to each of you -- and others -- for the stimulating reading...
much food for thought here.

Cordially,

Andrew C. Plotkin

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May 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/11/96
to

hip...@earthlink.net (Charles Cameron) writes:
> Damien writes:
>
> > In Ultima IV, victory required that the character become a paragon
> > of virtue. This leads to players amassing vast sums of money,
> > and wildly showering it on beggars to gain compassion points.
> > There is no compassion involved, however; the player is merely
> > purchasing a commodity.
>
> There's a story in the Zen Buddhist literature in which Bodhidharma is
> invited to court and asked by the emperor how much merit the latter has
> accumulated by building a number of buddhist temples and performing other
> charitable works -- and Bodhidharma essentially replies, "There is no
> compassion involved; the emperor was merely purchasing a commodity."
>
> From the point of view of the Bodhidharma story, real compassion is not
> matter of good deads, not a strategy to accumulate spiritual "points" --
> but an inward necessity born of enlightenment, which is itself born of
> meditation.

I shall counter with a short story by David Brin, I believe called
_The Giving Plague_. It concerns (SPOILERS) a disease which evolves to
take advantage of modern blood-donation systems. It causes its hosts
to overproduce blood; they then feel logy and bloated until they
donate a quart of blood, which of course carries the disease. But this
evokes a subtle psychological shift; people start to *think* of
themselves as altrustic, simply because they are giving blood so
often. (Everybody wants to believe they are nice people, and, hey,
look, there's evidence! It must be true.) So monetary donations to
charity are going up, and volunteer projects are happening, because of
this totally non-psychological cause.

Another thought that comes to mind is a recent post on rec.org.sca by
the learned Harold Feld. He was describing the classical Jewish
response to the question: "Can one be righteous without following the
Law?" And the answer was "No, the first step of righteousness must be
following the Law." And the reason (I'm describing this from memory,
so I hope I have it right) was that even if you follow the Law with no
compassion, no feeling at all, at least you're *doing* the right
thing. Compassion and morality can grow from that seed, until you
understand *why* that is the way to behave.

(Note: That answer is of course from the point of a devout Jew,
concerning the Law which he believes comes from God. I do not intend
to get back into the piracy threads about modern law and morality.)

Summary: Change in behavior can lead to change in thought. It is not
always the other way around.

A less pleasant example is intensive military training. Drill in the
reflexes, and the trainees will wind up thinking the way you want, out
of sheer self-consistency.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."

Roger Giner-Sorolla

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May 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/13/96
to

In response to the debate on good intentions vs. good works, let me
present this appropriate quote from recent reading ...

'Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian
home is good actions, or Faith in Christ. I have no right really to
speak on such a difficult question, but it does seem to me like asking
which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary ...

'There are two parodies of the truth which different sets of Christians
have, in the past, been accused by other Christians of believing: perhaps
they may make the truth clearer. One set were accused of saying: "Good
actions are all that matters. The best good action is charity. The best
kind of charity is giving money. The best thing to give money to is the
Church. So hand us over L. 10,000 and we will see you through." The answer
to that nonsense, of course, would be that good actions done for that
motive, done with the idea that Heaven can be bought, would not be good
actions at all, but only commercial speculations. The other set were
accused of saying: "Faith is all that matters. Consequently, if you have
faith, it doesn't matter what you do. Sin away, my lad, and have a good
time and Christ will see that it makes no difference in the end." The
answer to that nonsense is that, if what you call your "faith" in Christ
does not involve taking the slightest notice of what He says, then it is
not Faith at all -- not faith or trust in Him, but only intellectual
acceptance of some theory about Him.'

-- C. S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity," chapter 12


In terms of social psychology, attitude and behavior form a mutually
reinforcing system. The fact that behavior can change attitude may seem
surprising to people, but many psychological experiments attest to this
point, apparently recognized by the Talmudic sages centuries before.
If a person performs an act without having a sufficient "excuse" to
explain why the act does not reflect his/her true attitudes (such as
being paid or forced to do the act) then the desire to be consistent will
lead him/her to change the attitudes that conflict with the act. Because
we perform all kinds of acts without fully knowing the motivating causes
behind them, this process goes on a good deal more than we would like to
think.

And back on topic, what does all of this have to say about the way actions
in games influence the /player's/ morality? I'm reminded of the
interactive "Primer for Young Ladies" in Neal Stephenson's recent SF novel
_The Diamond Age_ -- a highly sophisticated game intended to teach moral
and practical precepts to the child ...

Roger Giner-Sorolla New York University, New York, NY
gi...@xp.psych.nyu.edu Dept. of Psychology (Social/Personality)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This scholar, rake, Christian, dupe, gamester, and poet.
David Garrick, "Jupiter and Mercury"

Mark J Tilford

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May 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/13/96
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Ross Raszewski (rras...@skipjack.bluecrab.org) wrote:
: Jacob Solomon Weinstein wrote:
: >

: Ah. Ultima IV is an interesting point. THe Ultima series actually lists

: the eight "virtues" of Brittania in the manuals. Moreover, Ultima IV
: actually contains 14 edicts in the instructions (such as "Give half of
: your money to the poor") that are legally required in the fictional
: world.

It was Ultima 5 that had the laws of virtue, and the were given to show
how the virtues could be perverted.

Mark J. Tilford
mjti...@artsci.wustl.edu


Trevor Barrie

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May 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/14/96
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Ross Raszewski <rras...@skipjack.bluecrab.org> wrote:


>Ah. Ultima IV is an interesting point. THe Ultima series actually lists
>the eight "virtues" of Brittania in the manuals.

Interesting. Since I played it from the woefully undocumented it
Ultima I-VI CD, I didn't know this... I thought actually discovering
the eight virtues and how they related to the three Principles was a
large part of the game.

>Moreover, Ultima IV actually contains 14 edicts in the instructions
>(such as "Give half of your money to the poor") that are legally
>required in the fictional world.

Are you sure you're not thinking of Ultima V here? Part of the premise
of that game was that a tyrant had taken over and was trying to
legally enforce the virtues.


Matthew Daly

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May 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/14/96
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tba...@cycor.ca (Trevor Barrie) writes:
>Ross Raszewski <rras...@skipjack.bluecrab.org> wrote:
>
>
>>Ah. Ultima IV is an interesting point. THe Ultima series actually lists
>>the eight "virtues" of Brittania in the manuals.
>
>Interesting. Since I played it from the woefully undocumented it
>Ultima I-VI CD, I didn't know this... I thought actually discovering
>the eight virtues and how they related to the three Principles was a
>large part of the game.

AFAIR, you're both right. The manual devotes a page to the names of
the eight virtues, but nothing more, like how the virtues tie to the
towns or the Principles or any of the other connections that you
make in the course of the game.

So, the names of the virtues comes from the manual, but the importance
of following them, how to follow them, and all the rest of it come
from playing the game.

>>Moreover, Ultima IV actually contains 14 edicts in the instructions
>>(such as "Give half of your money to the poor") that are legally
>>required in the fictional world.
>
>Are you sure you're not thinking of Ultima V here? Part of the premise
>of that game was that a tyrant had taken over and was trying to
>legally enforce the virtues.

I recall the list of the 8 Laws of Blackthorn in U5 as well (and the
law is more like "Give half of your money to poor or lose all your
money."). Visiting the shrines in U4 gives you 24 edicts, although
there is a little bit of overlap.

-Matthew

Cthulhu

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May 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/15/96
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In article <D91TAN.96...@kobra.csd.uu.se>, d91...@csd.uu.se (Torbj|rn Andersson)
<31825ed3...@wvnvm.wvnet.edu> <4m2p1s$l...@news.multiverse.com>
<4m36a4$n...@castor.usc.edu> <4m3mq5$l...@geraldo.cc.utexas.edu>

<4m50q1$h...@decaxp.HARVARD.EDU> <4m5ic7$p...@castor.usc.edu> wrote:
>All this talk about moral choices in IF games reminds me of an article
>I read back in ... oh, I've forgotten the year, but I remember it did
>mention "Seastalker" as Infocom's most recent game and Sierra-on-line
>as a new exciting company. The author of the article either speculated
>about, or said that someone was working on, (I've forgotten which) a
>computerized love story, where the player would alternate between the
>two characters in the story, i.e. one "chapter" would be played from
>one point of view, the next from another, etc.

Sounds like one of the Leisure Suit Larry games.

>Anyway, I guess that this would be the kind of game where moral
>choices would have great impact on the story. Whether or not it's
>possible to implement well is, of course, open to debate.

I remember reading a review of, uhm, an Infocom game in Compute magazine that
involves prostitues and drug dealers. The review mentioned that it's possible
to interact with them even though you lose points for it. Does anyone know
what game this is? Yes, the game did have graphics.

qb...@brisnet.org.au

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May 22, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/22/96
to

A phenomenon that is noted by actors involves body language. In order to
appear angry, sad, fearful and so on, one must behave that way.
Curiously, if you _act_ angry, you will find things to be angry about. If
you act fearful, you will find things to be nervous or fearful about. Our
body's unconscious expression of emotions (movements and expressions)
work both ways, behaviour can encourage some subconscious drive to create
and justify the relevant emotions. Very likely feedback through symbol
activation mechanisms, but that could be a very wrong assumption of
course.

Dancer

Swifth

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May 22, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/22/96
to

> I remember reading a review of, uhm, an Infocom game in Compute magazine that
> involves prostitues and drug dealers. The review mentioned that it's possible
> to interact with them even though you lose points for it. Does anyone know
> what game this is? Yes, the game did have graphics.

It wasn't by our beloved crew from MIT. It was one of those that was branded with the
Infocom name after Infocom's dessimation by Mediagenics. Something like Circuit's Edge, I
believe.

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