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    Morality in Gaming – Infamous: Second Son

    Posted in Research on Friday, 04 April 2014

    Released in early 2014, Infamous: Second Son takes the Infamous franchise to the Playstation 4, enhancing graphics, physics, and general gameplay. Sucker Punch Productions attempted to use the more advanced PS4 controller to further immerse players into the game by using the touch pad as a way for the player to pick up objects or absorb powers from a source. Second Son takes places 7 years after the events of Infamous 2, and moving the player’s playground to Seattle. The protagonist of Infamous: Second Son is a character named Delsin Rowe, a young delinquent with a few misdemeanors on his record. The story starts with Delsin defacing a billboard and being pursued by a cop, his older brother, Reggie. A few minutes into the game, Delsin ends up absorbing a power from an escaped “Bio-terrorist”, this moment brings players into the world that Infamous is set in – showing players how afraid the civilians in the game are of people with superpowers. Within the first 10 minutes of the game players are introduced to several key characters, given superpowers, and offered a choice that sets the tone for the rest of the game. This choice is presented as Blue, protect others at the cost of yourself or Red, protect yourself at the cost of others. This choice is one of few in the game as the revamped, returning “Karma” system now relies on players to act rather than choose. If a player wants to go down the Infamous (red/evil) path, rather than picking the red option every mission or so, they must perform actions throughout the game; killing/injuring cops, harming civilians, breaking up anti-conduit (“Bio-terrorists”) protests and the like. These options were available in the previous two games but now, Second Son places more importance on them. The game is not without its red/blue choices, at several points players must make key decisions about other characters thus changing how the game plays and ends. Second Son moves further towards using the other characters in the game as a way of informing players of the outcomes of actions and decisions; keeping the karmic spectrum as a way of adding variation to the core powers that Delsin has. Without spoiling the plot, the characters in the game end up being the biggest driving force when it comes to the bigger choices. There is a point towards the end of the game where I actually had to place the controller down and take a minute to really decide which choice to take even though I had already decided that I’d have specific playthroughs of the game for each path. The game focuses on several societal issues as the treatment of Conduits – humans, family who only differ in the fact that they can control smoke, or other “elements” – is continually brought into question whenever Delsin runs across another conduit. Infamous: Second Son is set up so you don’t need to have played the previous games in the series to understand what is going on, it helps but isn’t needed. The controls are much more refined than those in the previous games, as well as it offers players more than just one power as the focus of their character (Delsin gains the ability of more than one “element” compared to Cole only having electricity). Second Son has a well-developed set of human characters with the ability to make rash decisions based on your feelings; the only drawback is that power variation is still locked where you stand on the spectrum. If you have a Playstation 4, I highly recommend playing Infamous: Second Son its story and human characters are unlike most of the games out there and give a very one of a kind experience.

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    Sykusi created a new blog post, Morality in Gaming - Infamous 2

    Morality in Gaming - Infamous 2

    Posted in Research on Wednesday, 02 April 2014

    The 2011 sequel, Infamous 2, keeps players in the electrifying role of Cole McGrath shortly after the events of Infamous. Cole is on the hunt for ways to become more powerful in order to protect people from an evil hinted at, at the end of Infamous. While the story is focused on obtaining more power, Cole is only doing so for the greater good. Infamous 2 introduces additional characters to the returning two from the previous game, while moving the location to New Marais, a New Orleans-esque city. Just like in the previous game, players take the role of Protagonist and given two paths to follow which path is chosen becomes reflected in the supporting characters and the city itself. Infamous 2 returns with its “Karma” system, and the hidden spectrum behind it. Building off the first game, the supporting characters add a voice to either side of the spectrum and comment on the choices and representing character for that extreme. Each advocate for the good and evil paths is given their own set of powers. Ice and fire powers are added to the game and, at one point, one of the two may be added to the player’s repertoire of skills and powers. The powers that are added to the game are used to merge gameplay with the moral choices in the game; Cole with ice powers is suited to subdue enemies while Cole with fire is a wild, destructive force. Infamous 2 makes good use of the supporting characters to bring moral choice as a game mechanic to a new level, not only do the choices players make affect Cole, but also the characters immediately surrounding him. Infamous 2 takes all the good parts of the first game and builds upon them, making consequences more apparent and immediate. The focus on the player deciding on a path to take emphasizes player agency and the paths players choose demonstrate a good comparison of how being selfish or selfless can impact those around you. I recommend that people play Infamous 2, and it’s prequel (if interested in the whole story) as they do a wonderful job of merging gameplay mechanics and moral choice.

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    Morality in Gaming – Mass Effect 2

    Posted in Research on Wednesday, 26 March 2014

    The next game in the Trilogy, Mass Effect 2 was released in 2010. Continuing shortly after the events of Mass Effect, the player retakes the role of Commander Shepard. Shepard’s crew and squad (provided they lived through the events in the first game) return in addition to several new characters being introduced. The majority of returning cast members take on roles less involved with Shepard but remain very integral to important plot points. Introducing these new characters opened up more of the galaxy to explore and giving players more opportunities to learn about the diverse species within the Mass Effect universe. Most of Mass Effect 2’s improvements are in its refined shooting mechanics, and graphical improvements. Overall, Mass Effect 2 is a more immersive and engaging experience due to these new refinements and building on players involvement with characters in the previous title. Bioware stuck with the two bar system from the first game but made several changes into how it affects conversations along with several new features. Taking advantage of players choosing a Paragon or Renegade path a new system, dubbed “Interrupts”, was implemented. During certain conversations, while Shepard was listening to an NPC, an on screen prompt with the Paragon or Renegade symbol would appear. Taking this prompt the player would cause Shepard to interrupt by different means: shooting monitors, pushing a person out of the window of a skyscraper, hugging someone, and giving medical attention, to name a few. This new interrupt system brought more immediate reactions and consequences to the player and in the long run changing the outcome of the game. Sticking with the extreme and polar opposites continued to create an exaggerated character out of Commander Shepard as the player would be forced down one particular path from the beginning to gain all the benefits. Players would be unable to see the humanity within Shepard as it wouldn’t be any type of moral decision, but rather the lack of an alternative option, keeping the players on a set path. Mass Effect 2 has the ability to import save data from the original game, keeping track of the player’s choices and decisions. Any characters that died in the first game would have certain ramifications in the second. Additionally, romantic interests would be able to continue through the entire trilogy allowing for the player to pursue different partners should they choose. These “smaller” choices are arguably just as important as maybe of the choices made in the story yet aren’t indicated as such. Choices like these aren’t brought to the attention of the player by any increase to a type of bar, nor are they informed of the possible consequences. Any deviation from an original love/romantic interest is ignored until the third game which briefly touches on the deep subject. The scope of the story is slightly less impressive but presented to the player with a greater sense of urgency. Commander Shepard must once again save the universe, albeit mostly just the human race (which is a societal quirk which I believe is worth talking about after morality), and with her/his crew of multiracial aliens goes about doing so putting all of their lives on the line. Mass Effect 2 does a wonderful job at placing importance on the people surrounding the protagonist because should the player not take the time to get to know their strengths and weaknesses the end of the game could be with crew and/or Commander Shepard taking their last breath. Most of the moral decisions in this title go unnoticed by the two bars depicting “good or bad” by once again placing weight on the lives of the citizens and crew members in the game. Interaction is large part of Mass Effect 2 and how the player interacts is done with a simplified system. Once again, game mechanics and marketability take precedent over the nuances and intricacies of the human condition. This doesn’t stop me from being near head over heels for this game and the trilogy in which it resides. Mass Effect 2 is a more accessible game for people to start to take a look at how: morality, romance, life and death, and choice can be presented within the video game industry.

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    Morality in Gaming – Mass Effect

    Posted in Research on Monday, 24 March 2014

    Mass Effect, Bioware’s 2007 space opera, is a third-person shooter with major focuses on story and player choice. You take on the role of Commander Shepard, a soldier in the human alliance, tasked with tracking down a specific bad guy and bringing him to (space) justice. That’s about how the story starts but it quite quickly evolves into saving the entire galaxy from a threat no one believes exists with the only help you can get being a varied cast of characters. During the story you are sent to investigate planets for information on the main antagonist, Saren. While investigating you find out he is in league with a mythical race of sentient robots called “Reapers”. Throughout the galaxy, Reapers are spoken of as something akin to a bedtime story to stop people from creating artificial intelligences. The player can take two main paths throughout the course of the story, Paragon or Renegade. Though the general outcome of the story will be the same, these paths tell it quite differently. Paragons take every rule seriously and do their best to help others as they attempt to save every intelligent life form in the galaxy. Renegades, on the other hand, have a goal in mind and will go through anyone or thing that gets in their way.

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    Morality in Gaming – Mass Effect

    Posted in Research on Monday, 24 March 2014

    Mass Effect, Bioware’s 2007 space opera, is a third-person shooter with major focuses on story and player choice. You take on the role of Commander Shepard, a soldier in the human alliance, tasked with tracking down a specific bad guy and bringing him to (space) justice. That’s about how the story starts but it quite quickly evolves into saving the entire galaxy from a threat no one believes exists with the only help you can get being a varied cast of characters. During the story you are sent to investigate planets for information on the main antagonist, Saren. While investigating you find out he is in league with a mythical race of sentient robots called “Reapers”. Throughout the galaxy, Reapers are spoken of as something akin to a bedtime story to stop people from creating artificial intelligences. The player can take two main paths throughout the course of the story, Paragon or Renegade. Though the general outcome of the story will be the same, these paths tell it quite differently. Paragons take every rule seriously and do their best to help others as they attempt to save every intelligent life form in the galaxy. Renegades, on the other hand, have a goal in mind and will go through anyone or thing that gets in their way.

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    Morality 101 - Intro to Game Morality

    Posted in Research on Thursday, 20 March 2014

    Morality in Gaming This is the introduction to a multi-part series covering a couple different games in which the “moral” choices made by the player are one of the main focuses of the game. While many games have some way of conveying morality only a handful focus it as a mechanic or plot device, and of those I will only be covering: Mass Effect (1, 2, and 3), Infamous (1,2, and Second Son), and Spec Ops: The Line. In the many years I’ve spent playing games of all kinds, these select few are ones I’ve played extensively, thoroughly, and multiple times. Each game will have its own separate article covering: game mechanics, a brief spoiler free summary of the plot, how morality is shown, how the games focus on “morality”, and how each moral mechanic compares to the other games referenced in these articles. While all three series of games are of the same genre; therefore, have similar game mechanics, these articles will breakdown how each game differs. Does the game use the mechanics to forward the plot or vice versa? How do the mechanics in a series change in each game? Does the focus of gunplay change the way the narrative is delivered? Would a game with more refined mechanics make any difference to the plot? Each blog post will cover these questions before going into the morality mechanics. As “morality” is the main focus of these blogs, deep comparisons between games will be drawn. Any questions about how these games morality that are asked in the comments will be addressed at the beginning of the next post or in an additional post in between games. The first article, addressing Mass Effect, will be posted at 2:00pm Pacific on Monday, March 24th. As this is my most replayed game and one of the first games to bring morality within video games to my attention, I will be talking about the story more than in the other reviews. Any and all spoilers for story elements will be properly marked with a SPOILER/SPOILER END tag surrounding any crucial plot points that will be mentioned. The other blog articles will go up on Wednesday the 26th, Friday the 28th, continuing the Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule until completion. After all the blog posts about the individual games are up, the following Friday will be an article condensing, comparing, and contrasting the morality mechanics alone. Without context of the mechanics or the morality within the game the mechanics are, objectively, easier to criticize and compare. As these games are among my favourites, I will be doing my very best to stay objective and fair, as to do the games developers justice when critiquing their works. I’ve played each game between two and ten times to completion, putting several hundred hours into them collectively. These blog articles are my own personal look into something I value within the video game industry and would like to share with gamers, teachers, and parents who are concerned about this particular theme.

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