The Impact of Morality in Video Games

  • Jan 9
The Impact of Morality in Video Games

Have you ever faced what seems like an impossible choice? I’m not talking about deciding what to have for dinner or where to go on vacation. I’m talking about something a bit more… ethically demanding. Of course, we have all had to make those kinds of decisions at some point or another. And while no two peoples’ moral dilemmas are the same, the human experience is one fraught with ethical quandaries. But did you know something as seemingly mundane as gaming can help inform our ethics? In fact, morality in video games might be a prime way to grow.

In college, one of my majors was in philosophy. So, I spent a good deal of time writing papers and slogging my way through some rather-dense texts. But I always seemed to find breaks to play video games. I’ve had a passion for them since I was a child, and it continues even as an adult. Of course, I appreciate games for their ability to entertain. But lately, I’ve had a more scholastic interest in them.

What Is Morality in Video Games?

Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, taught that the key to reaching ethical maturity is learning the correct emotions to express and feel in various situations. What’s the main downside to this type of thinking? It’s not ethically justified to participate in heinous acts just to know how you should feel about them. I obviously shouldn’t suggest that you assist in a murder just to know you should feel disgusted. But this is where art can help. And yes, I am considering video games a form of art, but that’s an argument for another time.

A video game, much like stage play, can portray the murder of a beloved character and, in so doing, help the audience to feel what they ought in such a situation without having to actually commit such an atrocity. In fact, many contemporary games have introduced an element of moral choice to the mechanic, so that the outcome of the story, itself, is highly dependent upon the player’s choices. A prime example of this is Bioware’s Mass Effect 3, wherein the player must choose between the annihilation of two races – one sentient and the other artificially intelligent.

By presenting this type of moral dilemma, Mass Effect lends itself toward greater moral development in the gamer by means of mimicking potentially real-life situations and rendering narrative-centric consequences.

A child playing a game on the television, showing a need for morality in video games

Moral Dilemmas

But what does all of this have to do with business education? Like most areas of life, there are certain ethical decisions which must be made – should bribes be accepted in order to do business in certain foreign countries? Should employee welfare be minimized in the effort of maximizing shareholder return? These are only a couple of questions which might come into play, and there are far more complex issues that business people face on a daily basis. So, if it is true that people generally learn to be more ethically mature experiencing various morally-demanding situations, then it stands to reason that business education can benefit from gamification which allow the learners to encounter those types of situations. Or if nothing else, representations of those situations.

This is why we at VTR believe that story-based learning should serve as the basis for education. People learn through stories – they grow through them. And because of this, each of our unique courses is designed around a central story, generally rife with tense, ethically-convoluted situations. Ethical maturity really is a part of business & culture.

Article written by Braden Norwood

Last updated October 11, 2023