Jon Blyth on: Morality
"I love my friends."
Are you a good person? Simply take this internet quiz, and find out!
1: Are you a good person?
A: Get real. I take active pleasure in the suffering of others, especially if that suffering is delivered at intimate proximity. If it boosts my social status, that's a bonus - but it's really all about the look on their stupid face as the idiots fail to understand how I could possibly be enjoying this.
B: Yes, I am a good person. I'm just really nice, you know? I love my friends.
C: I think boiling morality down to good and bad is unhelpful. Every act is guided by a multitude of difficult-to-scrutinise motives, both selfish and altruistic.
D: I get a flash of satisfaction that comes from friendly interactions and cooperation. I sometimes worry that this is what guides my friendliness, making it somehow selfish: that I'm the beneficiary of some hormonal privilege that means I get doubly rewarded for good behaviour. I mean, if I didn't get any internal rush of satisfaction from pleasure from being nice, would I even bother? How many uncontrolled chemicals away from being evil am I?
Check the end to find out how you scored!
In my last two columns, I've fixed video games. Now it's time to acknowledge how they've helped me: by giving me a set of moral values to live by, in the absence of a god*. As usual, I'll be using a list format, because I'm as easily bored as I am unable to develop a coherent argument.
Peter Molyneux has taught us that morality is best viewed as a set of absurd binary choices. Who can forget the first choice in Fable, where you must decide whether the Hero will return an upset little girl's teddy bear, or restrict effective funding to the NHS in order to give the right-wing press ammunition to discredit it as a public institution, with the intention of paving the way for privatisation*?
But forget his later, unwavering masterpieces: it was Populous that told the most heartbreaking and ham-fisted accidental parable: The Sad Tale of the Very Similar People.
There once lived two identical groups of people, each with similarly humble goals - to live in an abode defined by the area of flat land surrounding it. Life was idyllic, until the two groups met each other, and realised that they followed symmetrical gods with identical powers, and an identical desire to defeat the other. So the two identical groups immediately set about murdering each other in the name of their identical gods, causing identical suffering and destruction to their identical buildings. One day, a beautiful simple child asked if the killing was necessary, but he was murdered by his identical counterpart before anyone heard his pleas. And if this was a TV drama, panning up to reveal his identical murderer's face would be a great way to end an episode, I reckon.
SUPER MORAL HIGH-HORSE TAKE HOME LESSONS TO BE LEARNED
A: If you die before Armageddon, you missed the whole point of existing. Way to miss the point, idiot
B: Enemies are less heartbreaking when they're different, which is why we invented aliens, ghosts, orcs, and foreigners.
EVERY TELLTALE GAME SINCE THE WALKING DEAD
She'll remember you said that. That's the most solemn threat in Telltale's arsenal. That you'll do something, and it'll be remembered. A close-up on the squinting eyes of your judging observer. That silent countdown, forcing your dither into a decision. That regret, when your companion doesn't instantly say 'wa-hey! I'm honestly chuffed to bits you said precisely that'. Then comes the wait: the wait for the payback, that probably won't even come.
I'd like you to meet me, four years old, standing on a stage in a holiday camp in Devon. I've been coaxed onto stage by a charismatic entertainer. He's just whomped the mic onto my chin, after saying 'So where are you from, poppet?'
This is almost too easy. 'England,' I reply.
'England! He's from England!' hoots the man, and the room starts chuckling. I feel like I'm being accused of showing off. That I couldn't possibly be from England - just look at my stupid face. 'It's true! I'm from England!' I insist, my voice buckling into a whine. Why would I lie about this? The laughter increases.
I run from the stage, crying, with snot trailing from both nostrils like a Chinese dragon. My treacherous parents are laughing, too. Their lips peel back into their gums, their teeth freely swinging in their mouths like rotten wind chimes. It is explained to me that given my current location, my answer betrayed a certain charming naivety. 'You're in England now, you daft sod.'
I am 41 years old, and I ask my mum if she remembers this apocalypse, which was so traumatic that my DNA rewrote itself so that I could pass on the fear of public speaking to any offspring. 'I'm not sure,' she says. 'It was a long time ago.'
ETHICAL LEARNINGS TO BE EXTRACTED AND CHEWED OVER WITH YOUR CHIN RESTED ON YOUR THUMB AND FOREFINGER
A: In the real world, just like in Telltale games, no-one is really bothered what you do, even if they pretend they are, and even if you're told explicitly that they do. If you do steal that delicious Kinder Bueno, you'll probably get away with it. So delicious.
B: Why can't we go abroad on holiday like everyone else? You're bad parents, setting me up to fail with these cheap holidays and not saying 'By the way, you're still in England you know'.
C: If Kinder would like to sponsor this column, please approach me directly. Don't go through Eurogamer, as they'll probably want a cut.
Forget KOTOR, Galaxies, The Old Republic and The Force Unleashed. It was the 1977 movie the gave me my first clue that Star Wars was a bit of a soul mirror. While I was trying to decide whether Han or Luke was the peachiest dreamboat, my best friend was concerned with more important problems. If you really watched the movie properly, he said, George Lucas always held back from openly condemning the Empire's activities.
So I watched it again with him, and looked at his face as the Death Star obliterated the peaceful planet of Alderaan. Not a glimmer on him, that this was an unequivocal act of bad behaviour. And did he really just roll his eyes at Obi-Wan's 'million voices crying out in terror' line?
That child, I'm sorry to say, went on to join Facebook groups such as Britain Is Full, And We Need To Catapult Foreigners Into The Sea Until Someone Is Forced To Employ Me, Through An Absence Of Any Other Available Labour*.
EASILY DIGESTIBLE FUN MORALITY NUGGET BOX
A: If your child characterises Senator Palpatine's behaviour in the Trade Federation as 'pragmatic', or ever says that Grand Moff Tarkin is 'unafraid to make the tough planet-destroying decisions', it might be better to give it to a bunch of bloodthirsty foster wolves.
B: Maybe George Lucas did make Darth Vader as a fascist recruitment tool. I mean, he did insert a CGI Jabba the Hutt, and that's pretty much just as bad.
PNEUMA: BREATH OF LIFE
The nascent god-star of Pneuma is a baby: an eloquent baby infatuated with his own effect on the world. A baby who's never met another person, so has never had to consider the possibility that he is not a fixed point, around which the universe shifts obligingly to allow him to explore it.
He's the kind of solipsistic infant that would easily dismiss another sentient being as a corrupt liar because their view of the world is not exactly as he sees it. Basically, he's the kind of petulant dick that leads peaceful castle-building Populous inhabitants into Armageddon.
I enjoyed Pneuma, for all its brevity. But now, I want to play a co-op sequel. I want to hear the conversation between two utterly narcissistic creatures failing to come to terms with the fact the the world exists outside of their perception, and must be shared. I bet two entirely fictional characters like that could probably get a decent Kickstarter going.
ESSENTIAL LESSON OILS TO BE INJECTED INTO THE FOREHEAD OF THE PATIENT
A: Idiocy is not diminished by exposure to sunlight. It is normalised, rewarded with a community, and funded to the tune of $8k a month.
B: I'm a very jealous man who missed his many chances at life, and is now just lashing out.
And now, I'd like to turn this into a blistering case for social justice that'll once and for all unite us all under the common banner of humanity. But I'm already way over word count, so maybe Stanton could do that next week? Cool.
If you answered A), you are not a good person, but it's nice that you seem to be dealing with that. I'm sure you've learned that these desires are frowned up, so I'd bottle them up, at least until you've learned how to mime empathy. If you answered B), you are not only awful, but you're facile and dangerous, deluding yourself that no-one sees the savagery in your eyes behind that grimace of a smile. Why analyse your behaviour? Everything you do is good because you, a nice person, did it. If you answered C), you're more boring than evil, but probably still evil. If you answered D), you're alright. Let's go for a drink and make out in the toilets.
This isn't true. The real source of my godless morality is by imagining whether a pantomime audience watching me on CCTV would cheer or boo.
Take that, David Cameron! See how you like me lampooning your treatment of the NHS in a video game column! I'll wager a chill wind of sombre introspection blows through Number 10 on this, most momentous day!
Everyone needs to have an opinion on Peter Molyneux, these days. I like him, in the same way I like Mike Patton for s****ing in a hotel hairdryer in the 90s.
My facebook group, 'TEAM HAN FOR PEACHIEST DREAMBOAT CLICK LIKE IF YOU AREN'T HOMOPHOBIC', has gained little traction.