When doing some digging regarding Fallout 4, I came across many gamers of past Fallout games who were miffed by the lack of a karma system in the newest game of the series. The Karma system in these games was affected by almost every action done by the player, as good acts cause positive changes, … Continue reading “Moral Code as a Hindrance to Truly Free Play”
When doing some digging regarding Fallout 4, I came across many gamers of past Fallout games who were miffed by the lack of a karma system in the newest game of the series. The Karma system in these games was affected by almost every action done by the player, as good acts cause positive changes, while negative acts invoke negative changes. In his article written about the game series in 2009, prior to Fallout 4’s release, “Moral Decision Making in Fallout”, Marcus Schulzke claims “the Fallout series is unique in giving players an open world in which they can make genuine moral choices. Moral dilemmas are not presented for passive contemplation – they are an integral part of gameplay”(Schulzke).
And having now played Fallout 4 for a significant time, I feel this feature gets lost. Schulzke talks about how Fallout 3’s lack of a moral code is a strength of the game, promoting immersion in the same way that a person is not bound to any particular moral code(Schulzke). In this sense, the game can be played however the operator wants to play it. Whether he wants to blow
up every town and become a “Devil” or save the world and become a “Messiah” (Devil and Messiah, titles bestowed by the game depending on a player’s level and karma, are the highest evil and good titles that one can receive), the choice can be made freely, and the game will adapt around your choices, allowing the player an individual path through the narrative that is influenced by their choices. But this choice is absent in Fallout 4, and instead there is a system where the main character gets “Affinity” depending on how his companions respond to his decisions. Similar, but also very different. And while this is interesting, I would’ve much rather played Fallout 3 and had the karma.
Perhaps Bethesda listened to criticism regarding the game’s lack of morals imposed on a character and decided to invoke a moral code. However, making important NPC’s invincible, or forcing certain important quests and factions upon the player regardless of their choices goes against the fabric of the series, causing a seismic shift in how free the player really is within the game.
Schulzke, Marcus. “Moral Decision Making in Fallout.” Game Studies9.2 (2009): n. pag. Gamestudies.org. Web.
Having never played a Fallout game before, I wasn’t sure what to expect before I started playing Fallout 4. I knew that I was in for an expansive RPG centered around surviving nuclear fallout, but that was about it. But one thing I didn’t expect was the cold-blooded murder of the character’s wife and the … Continue reading “Empathy Provoked in Fallout”
Having never played a Fallout game before, I wasn’t sure what to expect before I started playing Fallout 4. I knew that I was in for an expansive RPG centered around surviving nuclear fallout, but that was about it. But one thing I didn’t expect was the cold-blooded murder of the character’s wife and the theft of his child within ten minutes of the game starting. I was surprised, as to me it seems a dubious decision to start off a very anticipated game with such negativity and sadness. However, as I played on, I started feeling sorry for the guy and I realized that my character was no longer just any other videogame protagonist, there solely to shoot and kill and explore- he was a man on a mission to find his lost child.
The empathetic feelings provoked early on were then tapped into again shortly after escaping the Vault. The protagonist discovers a dog wandering about all alone in the nuclear wasteland, and takes him to be his companion. This taps into the societal norm of a dog being man’s best friend, and you begin to feel the same feelings as before, but in a different light. You begin to feel sorry for the dog that he’s in the situation, but also hopeful that he will help the survivor.
Ian Bogost has a chapter on empathy in his book “How to do Things With Videogames”, and in it he discusses a Zelda game where at the beginning, Link is far too weak to rescue his sister from the Forbidden Fortress, but later comes back much stronger to handily do the job (19). In a sense, Fallout 4 starts the same way. The protagonist’s child is taken from him very early on while he is unable to help, but presumably he will rescue the baby when he has become strong enough. While the games are drastically different in both narrative and mechanics, they both provoke an experience of weakness that fosters empathy, while leaving the door open to finding the necessary strength to succeed in the latter parts of the game.
Bogost, Ian. How to Do Things with Videogames. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2011. Print.