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Bias in Gaming

Bias in Gaming: Predetermined Moral Choices, Empathy Gaps, and Victims

Playing a game like inFamous, Bioshock, Dragon Age, Star Wars: The Old Republic, or any game that has a morality system built into the game has been a bit strange for me. They build stories where you get to choose how your character’s life should play out, with dozens of opportunities to piss off the wrong people because they have punchable faces or act like skidmarks on your underwear where regardless of how clean you’ve been they still appear, moments that make you want to change sides because your emotions get in the way causing you to ally with a faction with a sympathetic background or because a character that you’ve grown fond of was killed by one’s hands.

But all of those opportunities are useless. Not because I’m so detached to the struggles that the characters in the story exhibit, nor because the storytelling did a crappy job of getting me attached to the characters within the story so actions against them wouldn’t cause some emotional reaction.

It’s because when the game started, I decided that this playthrough my player would be the Paragon, always choosing the morally “right” thing to do.

By picking a side and sticking to it, my actions are predetermined regardless of how bad the situation got to the characters in the game. No matter what kind of emotional response I would have because my favorite ship was getting tortured, chaos the villain was causing, betrayal that my best-friend would cause.

InFamous_Second_Son_Karmic_Moment_-_Hank

The emotional stress that any of this would cause me normally would be completely disintegrated because I knew that my actions were already predetermined. I would be the Predetermined Paragon for this run of the game.

But why does choosing this even matter? Does the canonical story assume that the player would be a Paragon of goodwill, ethics and morality pulling from an infinite pool of patience and persistence until they succeed? Perhaps.

A question as important: why does it cause such emotional stress in the first place?

More after the break.

Continue reading “Bias in Gaming: Predetermined Moral Choices, Empathy Gaps, and Victims”

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Bias in Gaming: Pre-Orders, DLC, Valuation and Pain of Paying 

Big Boss’s Dismembered Arm. Jacob’s Hidden Stabby Knife. Pipboy Wristband for a phone that won’t fit inside. A statue of a dragon that will never see the light of day. Another year goes by and more toys begin collecting dust, trying to match the shade of grey as the collectables next to them. A Street Fighter 4 duffle bag, with matching 4gb USB stick. Travel Chest housing a Nathan Drake Statue. A lie of reselling at mark-up that will never be true. Things that I’ll never use, nor had any intention of using.

Books filled with in-game pre-order bonuses that will never be redeemed. Enough digital bow and arrows to build a small log cabin. A digital black market of goods that will never be offloaded. Ships whose cargo never reaching their destined port.

Why do we fall for preorder bonuses every time when we know they are money sinkholes? Are these toys really that enticing? Do we feel like we’ll be missing out on some grand revelation by not getting the ultimate collector’s definitive edition boxset? (super turbo world champions)

Continue reading “Bias in Gaming: Pre-Orders, DLC, Valuation and Pain of Paying “

Bias in Gaming: Defaults and False Choice. 

Legend of Zelda has always had some interesting design choices; from its gameplay, to its level design, to its enemy creation and how it chose to inform the player of how to progress. Oversimplifying its weapons to make sure that they are intuitive to use and easily instinctual in recognizing when to use it. Enemies with only a single mechanic to perform makes them easy to deduce means of dispatching them; and the difficulty comes when mixing placement with variety with terrain forcing you to take into account more variables and manage more moving parts. It shows that they put at least some attention to how they create the experience in their games.

That doesn’t mean that the Legend of Zelda is a perfect fleet and even its best ships have a few holes in them. The one that comes up time and time again is how they handle dialog.

Paragraphs of dialogue being spit at you. Line after line, given 10 words at a time. You sit there hitting the “next” button for minutes at-a-time. At the end of it you’re asked “Did you get all that?”

zelda-owl-gif

And the default placement of the cursor is on the “No.”

You hit “next” and you scream and storm away from the TV, incredulous to wasting your time for twice the length.

A game actively keeping you away from the action by forcing you, the player, to slow down and pay attention. Why would the cursor be set to “No”?

Continue reading “Bias in Gaming: Defaults and False Choice. “

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