morality ethics_fallout3 psfk

What Brands Can Learn From In-Game Morality Systems

morality ethics_fallout3 psfk

“I think gamers get tired of doing the same thing over and over. We’ve slain dragons, beat up super villains, and shot at space marines over and over again. There’s a level of burnout there. So when you throw in something like a morality system, it forces the player to stop running on autopilot, and think about their actions a bit more carefully. ‘Shooting the bad guy’ becomes ‘shooting the guy who may or may not be bad,’ and that in itself adds a unique twist to the gameplay.”

These words from game developer Emil Pagliarulo describe the current state gaming for a maturing gaming audience and the engagement issues associated with the saturation of similar story arcs and experiences.

Interviewing several game developers that have created games with complex moral systems like Heavy Rain, BioShock 2, and Fallout 3, the Gamasutra article suggests two key learnings on how games can create an environment for compelling moral decisions:

  1. Establish a connection with the player
  2. Provide choices with significant moral consequences

Part of the argument proposes that black and white moral situations create less engaging scenarios for gamers.

Outside of games, we’ve seen how moral debates can galvanize a user base in the political arena. The movement of brands towards associations with sustainable ideals are indications of a consumer culture that is elevating itself beyond product benefits. Moral high-ground is the new positioning challenge.

Sustainability has spurred this, because it’s easy to be good for the planet, though we’ve seen brands like American Apparel tackle other issues and clearly verbalize their position on immigration.

The challenge is to fulfill that second learning; create a direct link between the consumer’s choice with significant moral outcomes. Whether those choices are to support or actively avoid it.

Brands that define their moral stances on complex issues have an opportunity to lead. By definition, they’ll alienate consumers that disagree, but the trade-off will be earning a galvanized based of consumers that have been waiting to engage with a brand of similar values.