Study Shows Most Gamers Are Goody-Two-Shoes With Moral Choices

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Study Shows Most Gamers Are Goody-Two-Shoes With Moral Choices

gamers and morality

The majority of gamers choose to play the "good" path in games that offer moral choices.

Amanda Lange, a games critic in Pennsylvania, has put together a study of gamers and how they interact with games that offer moral choices. Among other revelations, her research has shown that when given the choice, most of us would rather ride in with the white knights of justice, than become evil-doers.

In Lange's study, over 1000 gamers were surveyed to see how the average player interacts with a game system that allows the player to choose a "good" or "evil" path through a game story. She claims that gamers are most interested in "exploring a character whose moral choices closely match to their own," and in most cases, that leads to them being the good guy.

However, her research did discover that those players who do a second playthrough are much more likely to choose "evil." She claims that players believe the "evil path" is held for a second, lower-priority playthrough after they've played the game "correctly."

As for the statistics, 39% of survey participants claimed to typically play a game only once, and of that 39%, 59% said they set out be a good guy right from the start. 39% said they played the game on a "choice-by-choice basis", and only 5% of single-playthrough gamers made a conscious decision to be evil.

For gamers who plan on two-playthroughs, 63% said that their first playthrough was the good one, 27% said they play on a choice-by-choice basis, and 9% choose evil. For the second playthrough, 49% said they would be evil, 35% said they would be neautral, and 16% said they would be good.

Furthermore, 80% of the two-playthrough gamers said they "always" or "usually" choose their "real" morality for their first playthrough.

Lange's study also asks questions about what role gender plays on morality, and how the morality systems of some games can be flawed right from the start. If you'd like to read the rest of her findings, you can check it out here.

Source: Amanda Lange

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To be fair, few games offer moral choices where evil is something other than 'murder puppies for fun'.

Funny thing, I think that most of the gamers in this study are aware of the bad image painted of video games through research like this, and might deliberately respond in a way which puts them in a better light. It's possible.

But then again, this certainly matches me. I often play goody-two shoes or choose my "real" morality on the first playthrough. I may be a lot more reckless, but that comes with the territory of a virtual experience.

However, even on a second playthrough, I find it hard to be evil unless there's some kind of advantage or alternate reward. I've ranted about Fallout: NV on this subject. Sure, you can be good or evil, but they both get the same reward in many cases, so why be a dick for the sake of being a dick? It's just goes against my way of thinking to do so.

No particular alignment is always the most fun. Just go your own way.

Jadak:
To be fair, few games offer moral choices where evil is something other than 'murder puppies for fun'.

This, pretty much.

I almost always choose the "good" option, because, to steal a phrase, it generally comes down to "Mother Theresa or Baby Eating", and I've no interest in the latter. Pointless cruelty is stupid and fundamentally aggravating for me to witness, so I never choose it. The evil option should be the 'cruel yet practical' solution, while the good one should be the 'virtuous but harder' solution.

Designers for games with a morality bar rarely understand that concept.

Maybe if they stop making the Evil Choices over the top and more Neutral Evil than Chaotic Evil. I don't want to play a Sociopath, I want to play an evil genius who knows where the line is, And chooses to cross it to get things done.

I second both the above posters points, it's hard to play a bad playthrough when all the options are comically evil and often cut off huge plotlines instead of opening new ones.

I always play a thief in the elder scrolls games, and I suspect that the existence of the thieves guild has a lot to do with that.

Jadak:
To be fair, few games offer moral choices where evil is something other than 'murder puppies for fun'.

Boom. This guy nailed it. Evil in games is either so over the top evil that it hurts to play it because it is so unrealistic or makes you be the genocidal son of Satan who gets an erection from murdering orphans, puppies, and kittens. Moderation is needed people.

Good can be just as bad in terms of going above and beyond. Can't I be a mischievous bastard with a kind heart instead of a goody two-shoes stick up his ass guy who can't take a joke?

Jadak:
To be fair, few games offer moral choices where evil is something other than 'murder puppies for fun'.

Headsprouter:
Sure, you can be good or evil, but they both get the same reward in many cases, so why be a dick for the sake of being a dick?

Agayek:
I almost always choose the "good" option, because, to steal a phrase, it generally comes down to "Mother Theresa or Baby Eating", and I've no interest in the latter.

Cecilo:
Maybe if they stop making the Evil Choices over the top and more Neutral Evil than Chaotic Evil. I don't want to play a Sociopath, I want to play an evil genius who knows where the line is, And chooses to cross it to get things done.

Adam Locking:
it's hard to play a bad playthrough when all the options are comically evil and often cut off huge plotlines instead of opening new ones.

Elfgore:
Evil in games is either so over the top evil that it hurts to play it because it is so unrealistic or makes you be the genocidal son of Satan who gets an erection from murdering orphans, puppies, and kittens. Moderation is needed people.

I can't say I'm surprised to see virtually the same response so much. Devs don't get it, and when a person has no reason to choose evil, they won't choose evil. It's not human nature, and it's harder to immerse yourself and become the character when you're acting out of character for yourself.

This is why I enjoyed The Walking Dead so much. So many choices were between "Evil, but safe" and "Good, but dangerous", and the game was simply too unpredictable to aim for a white knight playthrough.

Obviously not every game can get away with quite this level of moral self-questioning, but it would certainly be nice if we were given a choice between good and selfish rather than good and blatantly evil. Evil, in order to be appealing, needs to provide obvious enough short-term benefits that it entices players, and be subtly-enough evil that players won't feel like they're making a huge concession.

Actually, I'd play the hell out of a game where "evil" choices offered an obvious short-term reward but a non-obvious long-term punishment while good choices did the opposite. Especially if individual choices had individual consequences, rather than just affecting your overall position on a 1-dimensional karma slider.

P.S. Thanks

I'm joining the choir of people mocking these "moral choices" because they're just so absurd. Take Fallout 3 for example, with probably the most memorable choice. Disarm a bomb that was probably not gonna hurt anybody anyways, just for reassurance, or detonate it and destroy the entire town for a pitiful amount of pocketchange. For you to choose the latter you're basically either intentionally acting evil or just a psychopath in real life.

Very rarely are moral choices black/white morality yet are tempting. Gonna talk about one of my favourite games again, Spec Ops The Line. No explicit spoilers.

Most of the "choice moments" were rather ambiguous and arguable, but there was one towards the end of the game that was very, very black and white. On steam, the global achievement rate for one of them is 20% higher than the other (for those who have gotten that far into the game that is), and thats the evil choice. There's no real quantifiable benefit to committing the evil act or the good act, so its decided solely by emotion. The emotions got the better of most of the players, about 60% of the ones who reached that point, and it did so with proper context. It made the player like they wanted to commit this evil act, and it worked because they set it up well, and it wasn't cartoonishly evil - its something that people actually have done, and continue to do all the time in war when, surprise surprise, soldiers let their feelings trump their ethics and reason.

Adam Locking:
I always play a thief in the elder scrolls games, and I suspect that the existence of the thieves guild has a lot to do with that.

Not to mention that isn't really "evil". Theft in real life hurts people. Theft in Fallout and The Elder Scrolls never has any repurcussions for the person you're stealing from. You stealing their purse doesn't make them unable to afford rent and get kicked out of their home. Since it in no way whatsoever actually causes harm, I take advantage of the system to the fullest. You'd be stupid not to pickpocket everybody.

I just can't bring myself to be evil in most games. I played Fallout 3 fully through (all DLC) 5-6 times and never once did I chose evil, to this day I've never seen the slaver quest line in that game or had an appartment in Tenpenny tower.

Honestly since good vs evil in games is never much of an option for me the morally grey areas are FAR more interesting. The whole stormcloak VS Imperial in Skyrim was much more engaging for me as was the Pitt DLC for Fallout 3.

Although I do have to say there a some times when you just have to take a brief break from being a saint and give in to the darkness if only for a little while. Who here can honestly say they actually let that Korgan finish his speech on Mordin's Loyalty Mission in ME2 or didn't drop that crate on those Mercs in Miranda's?

I don't buy it for a second. I mean, people TRY to be good, but real life tends to crash the moral structure a little when it's realized that ordinary thinking may not apply. How many tales of people doing horrible things when given the choice are there? We have as much as we have as is while there are consequences. When there are none, then what? I'm not saying that people are automatically shit, but I am saying that people are not automatically good either no matter what the poll says.

I can't play evil. Playing as the pragmatic hero in the Dragon Age series nearly killed me, and as soon as I got a trophy for one choice, I would reload the game and play the good option again. I simply cannot play a game where I am given the choice between good and evil choices and choose evil. My moral compass is too straight for that and I end up beating myself up over it.

After posting I'm already seeing more points being made that I should've been expecting, so I'm going to post an Extra Credits video on the topic of said moral choices.

It also goes over my gripes about the morality gauges in games, saving me a few paragraphs of writing and you reading those paragraphs.

Its usually because evil is done so poorly in games.

Lemme give you an example: KOTOR.

The Light Side in genuinely interesting. Sometimes you'd have to solve a problem diplomatically, or in an unexpected way that doesn't go to violence (of course, a lot of situations simply default to violence no matter what you do).

The Dark Side is literally "Imma force choke all you mothafuckas, and wash your corpses down with the fresh blood of puppies!!!" You're so cartoonishly evil that it comes right around and starts being silly.

The only game I've played where being "evil" (if you can call it that) is interesting is Mass Effect, and even then you're not really evil. You're just changing how you approach a different situation; the goal is the same, but the method applied is different.

My opinion is basically this..
The reason for these numbers has nothing to do with morality.
It's about game design, and a fundamental flaw in how moral choice systems are implemented. You see, the core of the Good/Evil choice system is typically supposed to boil down too: "You can either do something bad and get a bigger reward or bypass challenges, or you can make a good choice and probably invest resources and time for a smaller reward."
It's pretty logical, if the system in question is really that binary, good and evil being the only defined moralities.
The problem however that almost always leads gamers, who are very logical at heart for the most part in my experience, too pick the good choice, is that it's often inexplicably more rewarding than the evil one.
Bioshock is a great example of this, the reward for the good choice is leagues better than the one for the evil choice, and it makes it... -DUMB- to pick the evil choice, because there's simply no benefit too it, and that's what a logical gamers' mind will be weighing, the pros and cons of any choice boiled down too what resources will be gained or lost.

I don't think this recurring situation constitutes -bad- game design necessarily, or that game designers should be encouraging evil behavior from their players, but I will ask this question. If the resource rewards are so lopsided as to make the good choice demonstrably better in all conceivable ways.. why did you even include an evil choice to begin with? It's not a choice at that point, the good choice may as well just be integrated into the storyline as something your character does of their own accord eschewing the evil path entirely.

I only play as a goodie two shoes because I know that it will provide me with the most optimal or favourable long term options / additions. With that said... everyone is the hero of their own story and it is up to the writers to make up good dialogue that can persuade people to play as an "evil" character.

Perhaps if our games started rewarded people who chose practical options while also adding negative effects to the self sacrificing ones, then I think that most people would choose the egotistical / practical options more often than not.

Everything is always so black and white in our rpg's and that is probably the only reason most of us go with the morally correct options.

You have encountered a traveler... what do you do?

1. You offer to help the stranger by sharing your food and water.
2. You kill the stranger because you are evil incarnate.. you then let out an evil laughter as you consider chopping up the body in order to sell the meat at the next town.

P.S. No sane person would ever think themselves evil, morally corrupt or wrong... atleast not unless their "evil" actions served the greater good.

Jadak:
To be fair, few games offer moral choices where evil is something other than 'murder puppies for fun'.

Yeah, when the choices for evil are stupid, it's hard to really feel like it's a choice.

Headsprouter:
Funny thing, I think that most of the gamers in this study are aware of the bad image painted of video games through research like this, and might deliberately respond in a way which puts them in a better light. It's possible.

Considering the gathering of data by developers and/or publishers, I'd be interested in seeing what our actual choices are overall. Polls are nice, but it'd be interesting to see what the real choices we make are.

FalloutJack:
I don't buy it for a second. I mean, people TRY to be good, but real life tends to crash the moral structure a little when it's realized that ordinary thinking may not apply.

The flip side to this is that the real world has actual penalties. It's really easy to be good in a video game because there are rarely serious consequences. In the real world, we make bad decisions out of necessity, out of haste, out of a thousand factors that probably don't play into the video game morality of black and white choices.

It's really easy to take the high road when there's no actual consequences.

"Kill the puppies / Feed the people and get more shit" Yeah... nope, the only time I've found a "moral" system to be really good was when I played The Witcher, other than that one everything else tends to be Red/Blue.

The problem I have with playing the bad guy is quite simple: (S)he isn't likable, so why should I want him/her to succeed?

I'm playing through Mass Effect currently and my first play-through was a Paragon-game. Now I'm on my second play-through and play as a Renegade. But at 5 hours in, I already made a lot of Paragon-choices because Shepard is just a total A-hole otherwise, which in return, makes her less likable and therefore makes the game less fun (to me at least).

Playing a game "neutral" would be more my thing, but then most games penalize you for doing that. Agains with Mass Effect, in the 2nd game you can potentially loose party-members if your Paragon/Renegade meters are to low, so obviously I "can't" play neutral or else I will miss out on something.

Very few games do morality right, imo. Either they make the character unlikable (which is a bit of a dealbreaker for me) or they give in-game rewards for sticking to one side (or rather punish neutral behavior).

Spec Ops: The line did it quite nice in my opinion. the game never labeled your choices and never rewarded you for them with bonus goodies. (Well maybe it did, it's been a while, but I don't recall something like that).

I think the only time I remember consciously taking the "red" (as in: Dark Side / Evil / Renegade) choice was telling the Citadel Council to shove it.

That's me all right... evil on second playthrough because what everyone's already said. And then the icing on the cake is that the evil playthrough is usually the easier one.

I'm going to say that games that do good and evil never do it right, and can never do it right. Bioware 'evil' is just 'dickhead' because if they really let you be evil it would completely destroy the plot. Only good guys cooperate with the script. It's just a fundamentally broken mechanic. Something like Witcher or Fallout where you just make choices and there are consequences is by far the better (and more adult) way to go.

Edit: actually, I take that back a bit about Bioware. The Inquisitor role in Star Wars: the Old Republic Online let you play not as a good guy or an evil dickhead, but as a very cunning, practical, self-centered guy. And that's the way it should be.

what i find interesting is that players can still take the high ground morally as such with their choices yet ignore they have a body count in the hundreds if not more in that same game.

take rpgs for instance.you come across a body of someone laying in the middle of the town, the immediate reaction of most players would be to check said corpse for valuables, an action that is to put it mildy distastful and would be regarded as vile and evil normally

The problem is most games doesn't reward players enough or logically for being evil. Being evil isn't just to do bad things to other npc, it's about getting the best outcome for the player regardless of what happens to the npc.

Alot of games especially RPGs actually punish the player weather directly or indirectly for being evil, take for example for you can kill an npc for their gold which is view as "evil" by the game designer or let them live and get a extra quest for loot and experience. To any self respecting evil person like me, the proper evil thing to do is to get the quest and loot.

Being evil isn't about doing bad things that are dumb and screw ourselves over, being evil is about getting the best rewards and outcome for oneself, in the gaming world that means loot, gold and xp.

I'm always the evil option; have been since I played the first Fable as a kid. I like how comically over-the-top the choices are. Eventually, you become worse than Hitler (not Mecha-Hitler though, that'd be ridiculous)

oldtaku:
I'm going to say that games that do good and evil never do it right, and can never do it right. Bioware 'evil' is just 'dickhead' because if they really let you be evil it would completely destroy the plot. Only good guys cooperate with the script. It's just a fundamentally broken mechanic. Something like Witcher or Fallout where you just make choices and there are consequences is by far the better (and more adult) way to go.

Agreed. But that would take better writing.

Kind of like how I like the games in the SMT franchise that let you choose what you want to do. Shall I kill god today, or side with Him? Shall I be quiet when this one guy keeps talking over me or keep interrupting him? The game doesn't care, do whichever option we give ya.

But that's been my experience. And my experience tells me I can't go evil, no matter which path I take.

I guess I'm the odd ball here then because i pick choice by choice. I mean yeah I tend to learn for the good choices but there are sometimes when the if done right "Evil" choices just fit so much better to be honest. Now also who here hasn't reloaded a save to just see the evil choice and what happens huh?

Jadak:
To be fair, few games offer moral choices where evil is something other than 'murder puppies for fun'.

Honestly, video games already went wrong by defining moral choices as "Good" and "Evil".

I'd like some more choices in the vein of Game of Thrones: comparisons between options such as Ned Stark (well-meaning but unsuitable for politics), Stannis Baratheon ("just", but would cause civil war in less than a year), and Tywin Lannister (Obviously competent, but don't mind the occasional massacre).

Like pretty much everyone has said, most evil options are over the top. However sometimes they're not evil at all and just slightly more extreme.
My example is from Mass Effect 2 during the Archangel mission. You get the opportunity to take a free shot at a mech but this is considered evil, despite the fact that you are shooting a mindless robot operated by evil people. Even the most white knight character would take that shot.
You could argue Mass Effect's renegade options aren't evil but I think punching reporters in the face for asking rude questions is a bit evil.
So yeah, evil options are either hitler or not evil at all and this is why few people play evil.

Jadak:
To be fair, few games offer moral choices where evil is something other than 'murder puppies for fun'.

Unfourtuntly, this is very true. I cant even think of a game I played in the last few years that had a decent evil choice, and by that I mean one that not only was something more than "being evil for the lols" evil choice, but that offered a actual incentive to be evil. For the second, it seems being the good guy pays off more so than being evil, when it should really be the other way...

I always find it strange when people play games with choices as a version of themselves. If given the option to help a traveller get his wife's ring back from the cave o' monsters, my personal choice would be to run away.

I generally think about the type of character I want to play and stick to that. I like to create a different moral background for each character. Like, I played as an Elf in Dragon's Age: Origins. Given how that game starts, I played as an Elf who was racist towards humans.

However, most of that gets thrown out the window if the game clearly intends you to play a certain way. In the situation above, if the only options are to help the person or say something like, "Figure it out yourself," then I'm going to help them so I can do the quest and get the reward/XP. I'm not going to get anywhere if I basically just kill everyone in town. Some games do make those situations interesting though. If you can respond, "Oh sure, I'll find that ring for you!" to get the quest and then have the option to keep the ring. That's especially interesting for both playstyles if the ring is especially powerful. Keeping that powerful ring is a proper "evil" decision. Giving up something that is actually useful to the player with no expectation of a reward would be a proper "good" decision.

The best choices are in game like The Witcher or Walking Dead where all options are, in some light, reasonable. Or if the evil choices are not crazy murderer but more like the D&D definition of evil: they only care about what is best for themselves; they're not just blood-thirsty lunatic.

No surprise here.

"Evil" people don't play video games much as they are serving life in prison or on death roll for stuff like murder.

Unfortunately, the problem is that we all know that the leveling of abilities in games like Mass Effect only reward you for going White Knight or Devil. There is no in between. While I've tried playing through games with choices I would make, there seems to be a punishment (in the form of lack of unlocks) for doing anything where some choices are good and some are bad.

I find myself playing more as a "good" girl in games as the "evil" choice make Dr Evil look mild and restrained.
The only game I enjoy playing where I pick "evil" is Fallout: New Vegas and even that's not really evil, just morally grey.

What the.... Never gonna give you up.... capthcas Rick Rolled Me!

I do usually play a "good" character the first round and I try to play an "evil" character on the second but it usually gets boring because my choices have no weight or evil is just that much of a dick.

The only games I really played through multiple (multiple, multiple) times were Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. I loved that series so much that I truly wanted to roll play myself so I would play my Shep over and over until I maxed paragon and then I would play until I maxed renegade. Only then would I take that save and craft my "porting save". I would just pick what felt right to me in the dialog (having seen all solution at that point) and meticulously craft all of the other choices/actions.

It usually not pragmatic to be evil in games. I need a justifiable reason to do evil things. Drowning a puppy for lols is not valid justification for drowning a puppy.

I am being a psychopath in fallout 3 because it hard to play as anything else when the writing is sucks enough prevent me from caring about most of the ncp's. Sure I could poison the water and kill many people but it will be poisonous to me as well. I get good karma for not poisoning the water but I am not being good and that not even a moral choice. I am being pragmatic and everyone I help is simply a bystander who benefits from my the logical choice I made while only thinking about my self in the game.

I have hard time seeing how someone not plays as a psychopath in bethesda games. To be able to care about any characters it requires good writing. In game with good writing being an evil bastard can be difficult. I have no desire to be abhorrently evil person in planescape torment because some of the things evil thing you can do in the games is horrible and it has good writing back it up.

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