Exploring morality through gaming is a way to connect the digital world to the physical to create compelling stories that exist outside of the moral vacuum of digital media. In a world of games with violence simply for the sake of winning, players are exposed to a separate reality devoid of moral obligations.
In Baldur's Gate 3, there are multiple paths the players can choose to take and people they can choose to support or oppose. One of the first moral decisions a player can make is to support a group of refugees from their attackers or to help the attackers destroy the refugees; the easier path being helping the attackers. Although the evil path is easier, the opening weekend statistics show that almost 70 percent of players chose to save the refugees. Players are not only rewarded for helping those in need with money and armour, but they are also given the satisfaction of being able to see these characters progress through the story therefore giving the player a sense of accomplishment in doing the right thing.
Humanity Transcending Reality
Good actions are for the most part the more difficult path in Baldur’s Gate 3, but through having the player connect with the characters and learning their stories it becomes morally difficult to ignore their humanity. Hartmann (2017) stated that if players see something social instead of pixels … they should also tend to see them as agents worthy of proper moral treatment. Through speaking with the refugee community we learn of the NPC’s hopes and dreams and unique personalities allowing us to feel empathy towards them. Well-written characters allow the player to feel connected with the virtual and compel empathy towards them. Another way in which the game forces you to acknowledge the characters as beings deserving of the same respect a human would is their agency. Companion characters do not just simply help fight battles mindlessly, but have their own moral codes and will use their freedom to leave you game if the player does something they disagree with.
Baldur’s Gate 3 for the most part encourages good actions through exclusive loot, storylines and companions, but it also creates scenarios to tempt the player and test their morals. One such controversial decision is ignoring the agency of a companion to obtain an otherwise impossible-to-acquire potion which would permanently help the player. Obtaining this potion does not have any major consequences nor does the companion leave the player for the rest of the game, despite this it is an unpopular decision amongst players, due to the player's wish to respect the companion's agency over power.
To conclude, Baldur’s Gate 3 creates a compelling environment for exploring and testing the player's morality. The game bridges the gap between the physical and virtual worlds through unique narrative choices and character design. Discouraging moral disengagement by connecting players with the values and agency of NPC’s Baldur’s Gate 3 establishes a moral framework beyond the one-dimensional violence-driven narratives found in many other games. The game’s capacity to create a virtual world intertwined with humanity contributes to the exploration of morality throughout the game. Players are able to connect with this virtual world by intertwining their own morality through their choices in the game. This exploration of morality is further explored through the companions' unique backstories and layered personalities. Baldur’s Gate 3 not only provides a uniquely tailored gaming experience but also serves as a platform to reflect on the player's own moral compass, illustrating the potential of video games as tools for exploring morality.
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