Good to be Bad

Good to be Bad
Is Rape Wrong on Azeroth?

SirBruce | 31 Oct 2006 07:01
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Now, while I do appreciate the societal value and importance of the work her organization does, as soon as I heard her proposal I had an immediate sense that it simply wasn't right for the game industry. In movies and television, most of what you see is intended to be a representation of real life; even if it involves characters in fantastic situations, they are usually humans who would be subject to the same sorts of moral dilemmas and consequences as the rest of us in the real world. But when it comes to videogames, much of what they portray is distinctly not real life; indeed, one of the powers of the medium is that it lends itself more easily to conjuring up such worlds. Games are often escapist fantasies where much of their appeal lies in is the very fact that you can do things that you couldn't or wouldn't do in reality.

While a realistic portrayal of the consequences of sexual acts may be appropriate for Beverly Hills, 90210, it's not necessarily appropriate for, say, a fantasy-themed RPG. Did Aragorn really have to worry about catching an ancient elven STD from Arwen? Is the societal prohibition against interspecies sex really applicable when it involves, say, orcs and taurens?

In the end, I believe the true objection many of us gamers have is not that there shouldn't be any morality in games at all; in fact, moral choices, be they with gameplay consequences or without, can actually make playing a game a much more compelling and enjoyable experience. Nor is it because most of us object to the moral guidelines that other non-gamers seek to implement; while some of us may disagree on certain particulars, you will probably find widespread agreement on most general moral principles. The problem we have is when someone presumes to impose an external morality, not just onto one particular game, but across all games as a whole. There is simply no one morality - at least, no one human morality - that applies to all the varied and fantastic landscapes and creatures that comprise virtual realities, be they bits trapped in an electronic computer or flights of fancy confined to the realm of our own imagination.

Bruce Sterling Woodcock is a computer and videogames industry analyst, researcher, consultant and author, focusing on massively multiplayer online games. He is best known for his ongoing tracking and analysis of MMOG subscription numbers on his web site, MMOGCHART.COM.

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