Thursday, October 8, 2015

[OE011] What We Could Do: The Goal

Previous: [OE010] The Game Mechanic: Your Precious Eyes

What We Could Do 

Make games that aren't juvenile pap. 

Ha ha, but seriously. I don't want to leave anyone with the impression that Oedipal dilemmas are the only option for mature, morally thoughtful games. What we need to do is explore our options - Oedipal dilemmas being one of the mostly overlooked options. 

The goal of all this was hopefully to broaden vocabularies and ideas. As spell-check is all too eager to remind me, "Edenian" and "Pandoran" are not real words. By providing some tentative labels, I hope to open up how we think about morality in games. 

There is no reason why morality systems in games have to be terrible, even games with binary moral systems. The answer is not that games should never talk about morality or even that it should be confined to the narrative level. 

Morality, and formal morality in particular, is nothing if not a mutually-agreed upon system. Games, as systems, are perhaps the perfect medium for representing and recreating moral systems for criticism and contemplation. Traditionally narrative mediums such as books or movies can generally only present one sequence of events (the most post-modern examples notwithstanding). By gamifying moral systems, we can examine them from multiple angles.  

Oedipus Rex the play can only recount the events of Oedipus' life from one perspective with one series of events. We weep for Oedipus, but his choices are scripted by the playwright as much as by the gods. Oedipus DX: Jocsta's Revenge the video game might also have scripted dialogue, but it can also have a scripted (that is to say, coded) moral system that allows Oedipus to make alternate decisions within the same moral framework.  

It is this subtle difference between scripting the words of a play and scripting the rules of a game that should excite us. Eve, Pandora, and Oedipus can teach us a lot as stories, but they could have even more potential as games. 


  1. It occurs to me that one sees Oedipus-style moral problems in Call of Cthulhu, especially in the modern-day Delta Green setting. Kenneth Hite has said that Call of Cthulhu is the only morally adult roleplaying game.

  2. Thanks for the tip - I'll look into Delta Green for ideas.