In a student journal the idea of mass media being used in a valuable sense was brought up (here). And instead of burying that journal by my long winded ramble on the concept and ideal presented. I figured I’d give a fresh new topic to consider and explore the subject.
Now when you talk to a lot of fans of whatever series you can think of, you find people who are inspired and even aspire. Who admire, who are encouraged to be better, to embrace themselves and simply augment that to be the people they wish/want to be. They seek out new practices which they feel will better themselves. Jedi of course being an example. But really you could use many different fan-bases as an example.
((Also should be noted, that just because someone believes it makes them a better person doesn’t mean that it is always associated with Good, or Light, or Right, or whatever. Sith/Dark Aspect in the overall Jedi Community being an example. LeVey’s Satanism another. Everyone has their own value system, their own idea of what inspires them, of what they believe will make them better. This doesn’t necessarily translate into the White Knight ideal. Just something to keep in mind. I personally choose and prefer the White Knight ideal though. I think the Jedi embody this and truly offer betterment – especially for my own personal growth. Okay – back to my rambling.))
For me I feel the medium of fictional entertainment has long conveyed this idea of exploring our own choices, morality, and challenged what we considered right and wrong action. Often we see that long term, short term, and necessary information is vital to fully understanding a choice. And even with all the pieces – while we can understand it – that doesn’t mean we agree with it.
I thought the introduction to the Morality system in Video Games was a great idea. As it could be this wonderful device which could stir the discussion of ethics and morality. Unfortunately I think it is highly underutilized and too often way to black and white without ethical concepts involved. Games are too focused (as expected) on more core industry issues – controls, combat, etc. Yet I think if used right the morality system can really get one thinking on ethical-decision-making.
One good example off the top of my head is in Star Wars: The Old Republic. There is a quest in which parents ask you to bring back their son – who they thought killed. Turns out, he was drugged, brainwashed, and did very horrible things in that state of mind. He asks that you allow him to escape and go off on his own (to recover) rather than go back to his parents. The “Dark Side” option or rather the option to force him to go back to his parents gives Dark Side Points. Having him go back to people who love him, who will want to help him recover, who have missed him, is considered the Dark Side option. And allowing him to go off on his own gives you the Light Side points. I love that quest, because most do not get it, and I agree with it. Because it considers short-term, long-term in my opinion and if nothing nothing else opens the door for a discussion on ethical decision-making.
Underutilized tool in today’s media. We have hero’s who inspire, character which we are awed by, which we relate too. How they develop, the choices they make, how and why they make them can offer a great vehicle for sound, positive, and beneficial philosophical concepts and ideals (especially concerning ethics). Yet we don’t always get to explore those concepts or ideas. We can’t often relate them to everyday life and just why it is assigned a morality scale.
Is the moral high road, always the light, good, positive option even if it results in pain and loss simply because the Moral Intentions were pure? Do intentions of our choices override the outcome? Does sticking to our own personal morality system justify forcing that system onto others? Does it justify a negative outcome? Do we still get good guy points if our “light side” moral choice harms others?
The Morality Scale System in video games has this potential. But it requires two things to fully work. First you have to take a philosophical stance (as the game designer) on Deontological Ethics vs. Consequentialism. This determines how your morality scale works. Second you have to really dedicate time and a team to this outside of just the writing team.
Fortunately, as shown in the example, Star Wars is rife with morality and ethical issues. Things we can explore, consider, and determine how they might relate to our own everyday ethical decision making process. Now this is lacking in the overall Jedi Community – most couldn’t tell you how Jedi judge morality. What system of ethics (deontological, et cetera) Jedi fictionally and realistically subscribe too. In other words, what our morality system is.
Mass Media can provide, and does at times, a platform for us to explore and pick apart our own ethical outlook. What we hold to when we are faced with decisions from a small white lie to choosing between two bad choices. How do we process that, what do we look to in order to determine our decision, what guides our reasoning, and what reasons do we ultimately hold too to explain our choices.