Mass Effect 3 comes out in about twelve hours, and as such I thought I’d try to touch on a subject that is about to confront many of us as we play. Outside of Reaper slaying, one of the core premises of the series is what kind of Commander Shepard you are. Are you a tough talking, no nonsense badass who isn’t afraid to skirt morality to get the job done? Or are you a smooth talking charmer who manages to keep a cool head to get the mission done within normal constraints of the law?
But it’s a question that isn’t limited to just Mass Effect. A moral choice system exists in a huge quantity of games these days, and you usually have to make a decision between “badass and straight edge” but almost more often between pure “good and evil.” The most extreme example of this would be a game like Fable, where if you saved all the orphans you could, a halo would appear above your head. Conversely, if you slay townsfolk like cattle, you would sprout literal horns.
Poor life decisions.
The question I have for you today isn’t just about whether you play as a Paragon or Renegade in these games, but rather it’s why you do so.
I’ve come up with a theory that the way you play a game with a moral choice system says something about your personality. Though it’s probably not the type of psychological study that’s going to get a whole lot of funding devoted to it, I think there’s something to the idea.
There has to be a reason that no matter what, I’m always a paragon in every single one of these moral choice games I play. Yes, I usually play through twice and make all “bad” decisions the next time through just to see what happens. But my first character, the one I identify with, always goes down the “good guy” route.
Shoot Wrex? I would never!
As for me in real life? I’d love to claim I’m some sort of hard-edge badass, but I’m not, I’m a Paragon personality through and through. I get along with practically everyone. I’m always acting as a mediator between conflicting parties. I try to go out of my way to be nice. I almost always stay in bounds of moral codes and laws.
As such, there are rarely times where I can bring myself to go against my personality in a video game that gives me the choice. Contrastingly, I’ve watched my more hotheaded friends start murdering freely in moral choice games, racking up more evil points than Satan himself without even a second thought.
I supposed there could be someone like me who wants to use a video game as a release. To let loose a portion of his aggressive side that lurks deep beneath the surface, and will probably never see the light of day in real life. But crossovers seem like they’d be rare, and I think even more scarce would be real life “Renegades” who suddenly want to button up their shirts and pretend to be straight-edge in a video game.
Though to be fair, some games don’t really give you a choice.
I could be wildly off base here, as my sample size isn’t that great, so that’s why I’m looking to you guys to see if you could support my theory. I’m not suggesting that you’re “evil” if you play that way in a game, but I think it does bring out certain aspects of your personality, some that you might not even acknowledge are there. I never really viewed myself as a goody two-shoes, but self-reflection has taught me that this is the case, whether I want it to be or not.
Now, how about a separate study on those who play opposite gendered characters? Kidding, kidding. Sort of.
Anyway, let me know your thoughts on the Paragon/Renegade debate in the comments, and we’ll publish a scientific journal about it when we’re done.