Dr. Emory Stephen Daniel Jr., from Appalachian State University's Department of Communication, publishes research on morality in gaming.
Many contemporary video games incorporate decision-making mechanics that can alter a game’s narrative experience for players. Often, these decisions challenge players to engage with questions of ethics, morality and empathy. Much of the previous research on moral decision-making in games assumes that players utilize real-world moral frameworks to make these decisions, without accounting for the way that game spaces function as unique sites for this type of decision-making. Video games can uniquely incentivize or punish players for their in-game decisions, shaping the way players engage with issues of morality. This study examines factors that influence how players approach moral decision-making in video games. Using semi-structured interviews with 24 individuals, we explored how both players’ real-world moral foundations and in-game constraints guide their moral decisions. Findings include how customizable avatars, subsequent playthroughs, in-game rewards and the manner in which a moral conflict is presented to players all influence their choices.
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