(NOTE: The writeup below are based on a presentation by Sam Gilbert and are fairly rough)
Assassin’s Creed as typical of most games’ approach to morality
1. HOW THE GAME APPROACHES VALUES/MORALITY
Game mission: to assassinate nine leaders who have in some way been taking advantage of the chaotic situation of the 2nd Crusade. Provides a “holy” motivation for the player.
Gampeplay primarily to (1) gather intelligence; (2) assasination and escape. Very much a “sandbox” game — lots of exploration.
Moral current running throughout: in each assassination, you learn not just how to kill the target, but also a moral judgment about them. But each kill is accompanied by a conversation where you learn more about their POV. Moral content happens on a narrative level (cutscenes, both conversations w/ target and character’s own reflection)
EXAMPLE: 2nd target, Grandmaster of the Knights Hospitalier. Apparently he conducts unethical medical experiments. As you enter assassination mode, you see him break a “patient’s” legs. But as you stalk him to figure out his pattern of movement, you hear him talking to patients who have very divergent opinions of him. As you kill him, he gives a persuasive case about free will and curing mental illness. Almost a cliche example, rather heavy-handed, but illustrates how the narrative doubles back on itself in terms of interpreting the characters.
Questioning those beliefs that are beyond approach: ideologies that motivate you to do things. The more specifics you learn, the question of who is “right” becomes increasingly unstable.
Ultimately, your fight is against ideological hegemony (assertion of your own perspective over others’)
2. HOW IT MIGHT BE IMPROVED
Rather than only people who are motivated by good ideas, the last “boss” is motivated by power-mongering (more clearly evil). So lack of consistency in theme across the various targets.
Most of the story unfolds in cutscenes. Despite the immersive, sandbox environment graphically, most of the filler characters don’t add any depth to the idea of the Crusades at all.
3. WHY IT SHOULD JUST BE REWORKED
Fundamentally, this all happens at the narrative level: there is no moral choice. You are never given the option NOT to kill; you must do so to proceed with the narrative. At some point, I was killing people to keep hearing the story, not because it was motivated.
A better case could have been built around the premium of killing. You kill quite a few guards and with little choice (saving civilians). A surprising emphasis on killing rather than stealth.
Problematic choice between fun and moral choices.
Ethical choices don’t necessarily resonate with the player — the average player is not even going to engage the narrative that deeply. At best, a good story — people won’t think about these moral issues. And unlike movies, you can be FORCED to deal with the ethical issues presented.
And what of a disconnect between the player and the character? By making this a sci-fi machine interface that sends you back in time, resolves the UI “story,” but it’s not reflected in the gameplay itself.
Contrast the “Door Game” — pushes reflection of the choices you yourself made.