There used to be a time when no gamers cared about the death of some random anthropomorphic turtle beneath Mario's stomping boots, or the potential to cause a blood-soaked 5-lane pile up by making an inordinately massive frog jump into traffic. That's because they were just a bunch of pixels. They still are, and, granted, some games even let you do horrific things with no consequences, but with the introduction of photorealistic models, in-depth characterization, and real-world values into video game narratives, guilt has been born of the prospect of mowing down NPCs with an uzi.
Skilled game writers use this guilt to entertain the player with new and complex moral difficulties during gameplay. This is entertainment value that can only be mined by the game industry, as no other medium gives control of a character's decisions to the consumer in quite the same way. No other medium can make the consumer feel the weight of a character's decisions quite so slowly.
After an already less-than-ideal journey through post-apocalyptic America, life kicks the hero, Lee Everett in the crotch one last time. It turns out he's turning, whether or not he hacked off his bite-infected arm earlier. So he must decide whether to join the walking dead or have little Clem put a bullet in his brain. It's a harrowing task for a bit of girl to undertake, but it's also a valuable parting lesson for her - to survive in this world, these are the things we now must do.
After spending five episodes amongst the good people of Arcadia Bay, making emotional connections and using your unique gifts to help solve their problems, you're forced to choose whether or not to save the town from peril. To do so would mean going back in time and undoing the incredibly brave and remarkable rescue of your BFF from the hands of a killer you performed at the beginning of the game!
In Mass Effect, the Krogans are a particularly nasty and durable species known for decimating planets and reproducing at a whopping 1000-offspring-per-female-per-year rate. This all adds up to a race that could easily conquer and occupy every world in the known universe. That's just what the Krogans started doing before the Salarians deployed the Genophage, a biological weapon that reduced Krogan birth survival to 1 out of every 1000. In Mass Effect 3, Shepard has a chance to cure the Genophage (and potentially make way for another Krogan Rebellion) or be complicit in sabotaging the cure, which also requires you to gun down your good buddy Mordin in cold blood. Moralists will say the choice is clear, but moralists might sing a different tune once they're turned out as sex slaves in the Krogan dictatorship.
It's a long, convoluted story, but the protagonist of Fallout 4 eventually reunites with his long-lost son, who is now older than he is (again, long story) and the leader of an arguably evil faction of synths and their makers. The player can then go the sentimental route and join up with junior or lead another squad against him, burning all that his son has worked for to the ground. Or he can bust a cap in the kid's head. Whatever happens, his son dies anyway because he has incurable cancer, which is pretty messed up in and of itself.
After defeating Matriarch Benezia on Noveria, the Rachni Queen, a giant telepathic bug, is left to be dealt with. She asks for mercy from Shepard, mentions that the violence inflicted by her species was caused by outside forces, and claims her only intention is to rebuild her species peacefully. The player can then allow her to go free, saving the Rachni species from total obliteration, or splatter that bug like it just met the windshield of a speeding semi.
While the Little Sisters of Bioshock are some ugly little buggers who spend all day harvesting ADAM from dead bodies, they're still just helpless little girls once you take down their giant protectors. So what do you do with them? In a show of correct devilish manipulation, the game rewards you with twice the amount of ADAM if you kill them. But, if you do the right thing and save the sisters from the hold of their sea slugs, Tenenbaum will reward you with gifts, and you'll get the extra happy ending of escaping rapture with all of them.
When you play the Game of Thrones, some of your playable characters are going to die. In the final episode, you'll have to choose between the two Forrester brothers: Asher and Roderick. One must sacrifice himself to save the other. Did you think there'd be a happy ending? it's Game of Thrones.
During the player's travels across the wasteland, he might stumble upon a beautiful patch of green amidst the ruin, called Oasis. Grass, trees, water - this place has it all! It turns out, an old mutant friend from the original Fallout games named Harold is responsible. The sapling growing out of his head (Bob) eventually overwhelmed him, rooted him in place, and built this tiny paradise. Of course, Harold is bored as hell and wants you to end his life painlessly. Other folks, however, have different plans, one is to keep him alive and contained in Oasis, and the other being to make Harold blossom and turn the whole wasteland into a hippie commune. You can choose any of these options.
During your spooky stay-over on Blackwood Mountain, both Ashley and Josh are (as far as you know) captured and secured to a Saw movie-style killing device. A moving buzzsaw is set to kill one of them, and you must quickly decide who would be less of a pain in the ass to de-friend on Facebook. Josh is one of your closest pals and not a sociopathic revenge-bent a-hole, for sure. Ashley could be your future sweetie if you can climb your weak ass out of the friend zone.
Not sure you can count this as a real choice since whatever you choose, you lose Trish anyway, but you don't know that until after you've made your decision, so I'll count it. On one side of the district, you've got the woman you once loved. On the other end are a group of six doctors, who could do loads of good for the community. Bombs are set to detonate, and you can't save them all.
There are 11 possible endings to Beyond: Two Souls, but most of them stem from a significant choice the player must make: whether to continue living or go to the great "beyond." Following your deceased twin, Aiden, into the afterlife seems to be the primary motivation for ending it all, other than the relatively difficult life Jodie has led.
After infiltrating Harvey's debate to stop Cobblepott's evil scheme, both Harvey and Catwoman are compromised during the ensuing fracas. Batman only has time to save one of them from being attacked. Harvey is your best bud. Selina is a super-hottie.
It is often said that war is hell, and the same is true of video games about war. Oh, the demoralizing decisions gamers are forced to make! For instance, in Spec Ops, the player is asked to choose between the lives of two men. One is a civilian who stole water for his thirsty family. The other is the soldier sent to catch the thief who wound up killing everyone in the thief's family EXCEPT the thief, somehow, by accident. One of these men must die to get to the task of gunning down dozens of men by the minute on the battlefield.
Heavy Rain is more profound and darker than many Hollywood film noirs, and as such, it is loaded with moral quandaries. For instance, the Origami Killer, the game's antagonist and kidnapper of the protagonist's son, offers the player a clue to his son's whereabouts if he's willing to off a drug dealer. A tough thing to do, no doubt, but for a father, it's a no-brainer. However, before the player can pull the trigger, said drug dealer pulls out a picture of his two little girls and pleads for his life.
In the first season of The Walking Dead, you had to choose whether or not to hack off your arm to potentially avoid infection from a zombie bite. Here, you must make that choice for another. During a messy brawl, Lenny's new squeeze, Sarita, winds up with a walker hanging from her arm by his teeth. Clem (you) must make a split-second decision as to the fate of said arm, as infection will spread immediately. Will you swing away at the gun with your hatchet, despite a lack of verbal consent from the arm's owner?
The Swapper is a brilliant sci-fi puzzler in which you advance through the game by cloning yourself and then swapping your consciousness between clones. At the end of the game, you are destined to be marooned on the lifeless planet that serves as the game's setting. The only way back to civilization is to use your swapper device to put your consciousness into one of the bodies of the departing space crew. It is unclear if this would result in the eradication of the crew member's mind or if your brain would combine with his. Either way, it's a pretty safe bet that you're unwelcome. This is the kind of mind-bending moral conundrum that excellent science fiction thrives on.
Corvo is sent to a masquerade ball at the Boyle Mansion to eliminate Lady Boyle, the evil Lord Regent's mistress, and supporter. Usually, Corvo has only one M.O. - Murder. But here, the player is given another option! You can spare her life. All you have to do is abduct her and give her, bodily, to her obsessively-smitten stalker, who promises she'll never be seen again.
This one is difficult to label as a choice, as there is no way to continue with the game if you don't push the big red button. You'd have to turn off the game and take comfort in the fact that you did the right thing! You chose not to sacrifice thousands of artificial bits of intelligence' existences to save the life of one man. Yep, you decided to throw the money you spent on The Fall down the drain to avoid watching an animated cut scene of fictional characters dying.
Stop right there criminal scum!
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