Poll Question 044 – Have any FPS games managed to create moral dilemmas from which you learnt something?

17th August 2007

I remember reading a preview about the soon-to-be released Bioshock. It seems that the player has some moral and ethical choices to make regarding his escape from Rapture and inhabitants of the underwater city. This inspired this week’s poll question.

Have any FPS games managed to create moral dilemmas from which you learnt something?


Personally I don’t recall any FPS games that made me seriously consider morals but I have quite a bad memory.

What about you?


  1. Luke Lanchester

    Splinter: Chaos Theory introduced the idea of your actions having moral implications i.e. kill a civilian and your rating drops to 0%. This really forced you to think about who you killed. In Double Agent they took this even further, if you gave up a fellow agents identity he would be killed but you would remain undercover and thus be able to potentially save thousands of lives.

  2. I have no idea whether the “learnt something” part applies, but, at the least, Deus Ex was an FPS that made you think about whether to kill enemies or not as people comment on your actions (although past the approximate half way point whether to kill was purely up to your morals/evasiveness and didn’t affect the story at all).

  3. Senator33

    FPS games are amoral, unless there is a penalty for an immoral act.

    A good example is in some HL1 mods where you need to kill Barney to obtain his pistol. You might feel bad about it and may be wasting an important ally, but you do him in anyway to accomplish the mission.

    Never knew a crowbar had so many uses….

  4. bkadar

    I’d rather try and provoke barney,give me the gun or else, he shoots smack em. anyway hl2 took some of the fun away by not letting you shoot friendly types-even if on accident like hl1.mostly the moral issue 4 me is time, work or play.good ? though.

  5. Oopla

    I would say that Jedi Knight 1 was a moral dilemma for me, as I as a kid loved TIE Fighter and chose to go to the dark side for more offensive capabilities. Immediately having your character Kyle Katarn murder his closest friend was, well, there is no other way to put it than, off-putting.

    I realized that this game had been a real emotional investment for me. I was running it on a machine barely capable of running it, so I had to expend enormous patenice to get it to play, and It was paying off.

    This game was epic from getting to blast storm troopers (back in the days when they weren’t clones of Boba Fett’s daddy.) to the first Jedi battle where I really panicked for the first time in a game. I had started to break the barrier between my game and myself. I had started to not see the actor playing Kyle in the cut scenes, instead picturing myself, saving the galaxy, while hunting my father’s real killer.

    And I would not have murdered my best friend Jan Orrs. I almost forgot it was a game, thinking about myself, killing my own best friend, whom I have been friends with since 18 months old. This was not the way it was, this was not whom I wanted to be.

    I promptly stopped the level that had started after the cut scene, which was to me, later, one of the coolest in the game. The character was not worth playing in it.

    Instead I opened the nearest save I could find to the choice in the game and replayed the level until I beat it and this time, chose the correct choice to save Kyle’s friend. But, it was still to late, the magic of the game had been broken. Still a tremendously fun game and one of my favorite games of all time, but it never reached mythic proportions.

    I have played evil characters in other games, more toward the “Lawful-Evil” alignment from dungeons and dragons, but never the merciless psychopath. That just isn’t me. I have never gone back to beat Jedi Knight with the Dark Side ending. It is not what I want to do.

    other wise, I am hard pressed to think of any other choice like that in a FPS. FPS games tend to be linear by design and choice of the users.

    My favorite choice was in a non-fps. Metal Gear Solid 1. I didn’t like it implimented in a very hard mini-game, but I did like the darker choice (which most people went with, as the mini-game was damn hard.) better, story wise, it made the story more tragic, and in my opinion, more realistic

    My least favorite one was in the game Advent Rising. I picked up based on the fact I was it was written by Orson Scot Card, and I REALLY liked Enders Game, forgetting the fact that the rest of the series was not nearly as good. In the first act of Advent Rising, your space station is attacked by a mysterious enemy. You have to save both your Fiance and your brother, who has been shot in the leg.

    Well, after you do both, all three of you are at a rendezvous point on your way to the escape pods. The dialog of the scene indicated that one of the “DYNAMIC BRANCHING STORY BASED ON YOUR CHOICES” was coming up, and it was whether your Fiance or your brother lives.

    Well, that choice sucked. I wondered how good the coding on the game was, and If they anticipated whether someone would break their choice system. I went over, picked up my brother, knowing that would signal my “choice”. And then walked the two of us over to my character’s Fiance. I kept walking into her backwards, which cued her character AI to back up each time I bumped her. I did this all the way back to the escape pod hatch, where I backed her into the escape pod first, and then walked into there with the brother. As soon as I did that, a cut scene cued, of the hatch shutting and the fiance, who was now magically outside of the escape pod, getting impaled upon an alien claw.

    To say I was disappointed with the game doesn’t quite cover it. I immediately quit the game, giving a long profanity augmented monologue about the physical, mental, sexual, and professional short comings of of the game designers, publishers and Orson Scot Card as I uninstalled the game. It was quite amusing to my roommates. When the game was uninstalled, I removed the disc with a final suggestions of what Orson Scot Card’s writing could go do with a Nordic Trac and Beelzebub, tossed the disc hard enough to shatter it against the wall.

    A branching story line is not always a good feature to a game.

  6. Memobot

    4 words: It is not real.
    Video games are fiction, and this poll question links with the previous about violence. Video games are a ficticious form of entertainment.

  7. fragmaster

    there are games that effect moral choices which might turn the storyline around.
    Including different endings.
    Or better yet NPCs might fear your or defend themselves if you go down the dark path.
    Fable proved if you get too good everyone (NPCs) will lol love & trust you or the other clock hand they hate & fear you its fate on what u make.
    best games for this are :
    Knights of the Old Republic 1 & 2
    Deus Ex
    Elder Scrolls Oblivion
    & Bioshock which il find out this tuesday actaully does have the Consequence system.

  8. Oopla

    To Memobot:

    You can never discount the power of fiction. Books, movies, and even video games have changed the world, without even having to be based on a literal reality.

    I view video games as another art form. With any art form you can have very good art, very bad art, or anything in between. The really good pieces of art, challenge the view, or in the case of video games, interacter. I don’t think you will see such challenges in games such as counterstrike, but in games with a well told, deeply character driven story, you will definatly see a message, a theme or any other aspect of good art, regardless of the medium.

  9. Memobot

    Don’t get me wrong Oopla, fiction has changed the world, but I would have never played video game and think to myself “Oh. Should I have killed that civilian for his health pack?” or whatever.
    I must also admit that my view has been changed today from what I posted previously, after playing the game “Farehheit’, throughout which I kept making decisions based on moral dilemmas.
    I guess I’ve changed as people often do.
    As for viewing video games as an art form, I have to agree, and I wish people would become as open minded about viewing them this way as I have become.

  10. CeeJay

    In Star Trek : Elite Force (or perhaps it’s sequel – I’m not entirely sure) there is a part where the ship have been severely damaged and you are ordered to seal off a section of the deck by erecting an emergency forcefield to prevent a explosion from cascading and destroying the ship.

    When you get to the place you need to be you have the choice between :
    1) Erecting the forcefield immediately, saving everyone but trapping a crewman running down the corridor on the wrong side of the forcefield (he will be killed by the explosion)


    2) Waiting until the very last second to erect the forcefield (better time it right)
    If you do this, you save the crewman , but it’s hard to pull off.

  11. Manveru

    The only FPS giving moral dilemmas are the hybrids with CRPG or Adventure games. The most known FPS/CRPG with moral dilemmas is probably mentioned already Deus Ex. Otherwise none other game comes to mind since most of FPS games are very linear from the story point of view.

    If all descendents of Ultima Underworld (including The Elder Scrolls series — Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind and Oblivion) can be considered as FPS then they could have some of such dilemmas too, though considering their unsatisfying storylines they do not really count.

    I think that after System Shock and Deus Ex the FPS genre still has to wait for some involving storyline. It makes me think about something on the level of Planescape: Torment, Fallout or a nonlinear Final Fantasy game (though here the Japanese have also a way to go)

  12. I can’t remember any GAME that made me seriously consider or question my morals. Developers can’t yet get out of the idea of “be a noble hero or be a villainous tyrant” and in those cases either you prefer to be a noble hero, or you get fed up with the whole system and be a tyrant just because NPCs aren’t real and so there is no moral reaction to killing them.

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