If you played BioWare's wonderful Mass Effect trilogy, you'll be familiar with its morality system.
Ostensibly reflecting "good" and "bad" playthroughs, the Paragon and Renegade system let players choose different lines of dialogue and key actions that each would each contribute in some way to their character's Paragon or Renegade score. Paragon points would be obtained for compassionate and heroic actions, while Renegade points were obtained for being ruthless or, well, a bit of a dick.
Paragon and Renegade each had their own scores, which meant being nice every now and then wouldn't adversely affect a player's dodgy rep, and vice versa. However, a certain number of points in either track would open dialogue options with significant impact (in the first Mass Effect, high scores would unlock high ranks in the Charm and Intimidate skills).
BioWare ditched these skills for Mass Effect 2, leaving Paragon and Renegade scores to unlock extra dialogue options directly. But Mass Effect 2 did have interrupts that would let Shepard take direct action at certain moments in conversations, usually with a big impact on your Paragon or Renegade points (who can forget the interrupt where you punch a reporter in the face?). BioWare changed Mass Effect's morality system significantly for Mass Effect 3, which featured a single reputation meter to which both Paragon and Renegade points contribute.
It turns out around 92 per cent Mass Effect players were Paragon. That's according to John Ebenger, who worked on Mass Effect at BioWare before later working on Assassin's Creed at Ubisoft and, most recently, Star Wars: Jedi - Fallen Order at Respawn Entertainment.
In a tweet, Ebenger lamented the heavy skew towards Paragon among players because it meant a lot of hard work spent on Renegade-specific content went unseen.
Yup. Something like 92% of Mass Effect players were Paragon.— John Ebenger (@EbengerJohn) February 19, 2020
And we put a lot of work in to the Renegade content too :( https://t.co/lywwx7n4Hy
Ebenger's tweet has sparked something of a debate about why Mass Effect players favoured Paragon so heavily - and within that debate some discussion about morality systems in video games more generally.
One issue raised is Mass Effect's morality system incentivised players to exclusively stick with either Paragon or Renegade - an issue Ebenger suggested resulted in the change for Mass Effect 3.
Yup, that's why it was changed for ME3— John Ebenger (@EbengerJohn) February 21, 2020
Another issue pointed out is the Renegade fantasy of Shepard doing whatever is necessary to accomplish their goals felt pointless because Paragon methods always worked with little consequences - something Ebenger also acknowledged.
I hear ya— John Ebenger (@EbengerJohn) February 21, 2020
And then there's the issue that for a lot of people, playing "evil" in video games is hard because it's, well, evil.
Totally understand— John Ebenger (@EbengerJohn) February 21, 2020
The situation with Mass Effect and morality seems to be par for the course, Ebenger said. "The numbers slide around a little but it's super hard to find a game where it's even close to 50/50."
More recent video games have done a better job of encouraging grey moral decisions. CD Projekt's The Witcher 3, for example, often presents no "right" answer - and consequences are unpredictable. But it's clear players are still keen to do the right thing in video games - even if it means missing out on punching an annoying reporter in the gob.
Did you go Paragon or Renegade? Let us know in the comments!