Morality in video games is a fickle creature, it provides us with the potential to demonstrate great levels of care and protective love towards the various AIs, one only needs to look towards the likes of XCOM and Fire Emblem to see players who can be heartbroken at losing one of their characters; on the other hand however, we also have the option for a great level of cruelty and sadism, simple put how many of you readers have designed houses to torture your residents in The Sims…most of us have, at some point.
Now, this is of course perfectly harmless, it is a game, a fictional virtual world and we know it. This is why we do it, because it affects nobody else and doesn’t hurt anyone, at its worse its black comedy.
But it does bring me to question, the role it plays in our motivation in video games. I will freely admit, I can motivated by very selfish means, commonly those of a kleptomaniac nature.
I first came self aware of this whilst I was playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, now as you may be aware the game offers you the choice of supporting one of two factions in the Skyrim Civil War, be it that of the Stormcloak Rebellion or the Imperial Legion. Now most people probably picked the side that they simply liked, while others based their choice on their character, i.e. a Nord with the Stormcloaks for a free independent Skyrim, etc.
I on the other was motivated by a different reason…fashion.
Yes, I decided the fate and outcome of a civil war sorely on the clothes I could get. I picked the side that would give me the chance to kill the guy with the better outfit, so I could claim it from their fresh dead body.
In this case, I wanted the unique eponym apparel of the Stormcloak Rebellion leader, Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak of Windhelm.
Now this kleptomaniac motivation continued with my acquisition of various unique items within the game, so I could have a virtual horde of items to display. Many of which courted only a small uniqueness due to minor name difference as opposed to anything notably visible to the glancing eye. What can I say, I am somewhat obsessive in my collecting in both the real and virtual world.
It is almost safe to say the characters I play are hoarders.
Of course I couldn’t help but fall prey to this kleptomania again upon the release of Fallout 4, and when I saw Elder Arthur Maxson of the East Coast Brotherhood of Steel and his unique piece of clothing, his Battlecoat, which consists of a black BOS Officer uniform underneath a heavy padded leather coat with the Brotherhood insignia displayed on the right shoulder.
Now I could try to justify my actions in deciding the fate of the Boston Commonwealth on a kleptomaniac obsession towards clothing, by pointing out that the Battlecoat offers formidable protection and once fully upgraded with the Ballistic Weave armour mod, it offers better protection than a full suit of Heavy Combat Armour and weighs less.
Although, I did take it further by also deciding to take the unique Airship Captain’s Hat from Lancer Captain Kells, the Captain of the East Coast Brotherhood of Steel’s airship The Prydwen (Middle Welsh: lit. “fair-faced”, “handsome”).
Nonetheless my defence is arguably nothing more than retroactive justification, still what is done is done, and I have notably overlooked countless other examples of my poor motivation of collecting that may very well rival Marvel Comics‘ Taneleer Tivan, aka The Collector.
Although I am curious to see if other players are so inclined when they play video games to be motivated by fickle things such as collecting or fashion, and if they are willing to overlook their traditional morals in video games to cater to these motivations.
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