When I first decided to write weekly pieces for NextLevel, I didn’t really know what I should call it or even what I should talk about. Being a well-rounded nerd, I couldn’t just limit my column to a specific game like Skyrim or even videogames themselves (my Star Wars Miniatures might get jealous). I asked my friends and fellow gamers here at NextLevel and they simply told me, “write whatever you want.” Thus, “Nerd Ramblings” was born.
Ever since we started NextLevel, there’s been a topic that seems to come up repeatedly, RPG’s and the idea of being able to do “whatever you want.” It’s been in our columns, on our podcast, and even in the conversations behind the scenes. I must admit, before joining NextLevel I never really thought about the topic with much depth. I looked at games like Skyrim and thought, “Wow, you can do whatever you want to!” (actually, my first thought was “Dragons!!!”). I knew that you couldn’t do absolutely everything, I mean most fantasy RPG’s don’t take into account that you may want to wield a lightsaber instead of a sword or fly around in an F-16 fighter jet (or a dragon). The programmers just don’t write this stuff in, which is perfectly understandable as Skyrim is not Star Wars. Compared to a lot of games though, Skyrim seems to offer gamers near infinite ways to make a character and there’s almost no limit to the choices that you can make. You can choose to be an honest, upright citizen or you can become a rabid-werewolf serial killer. There’s no impediment to the moral choices a player can make…or is there?
I was actually in the process of giving Fable 2 another shot over spring break (the game conveniently decided to break before I could beat it the first time), when I came to the realization that these games actually do make some moral choices for you. I had just completed the game (as a good-guy, I always play through as a good-guy first or I feel like terrible person), and I decided to see how fast I could get my character from 100% pure to 100% evil. So, I did what any respectable person would do and started shooting people in the marketplace. It didn’t take very long for my purity to do a complete 180, and I discovered something rather extraordinary. I couldn’t shoot the children. They were like little ninjas, un-targetable and completely impervious to any of my martial and magical attacks. It made me raise my eyebrow a bit. I was allowed to kill random innocent people, from bartenders to housewives, but the game didn’t allow me to kill the children. I thought about some other games and realized that Skyrim made similar choices in that some of the characters are un-killable. I understood Skyrim’s choice in making some people (usually those absolutely necessary for the main storyline) invincible, but I also remembered that you couldn’t kill the children (not even the obnoxious lippy ones). I thought it was interesting that you’re allowed to steal from people, slaughter villages, drink the blood of innocents or even eat them, but Bethesda drew the line at killing children. Of course people frown on killing the younglings, but I can’t think of too many people who would be completely comfortable with cannibalism either. I mean, if you’re going to let the gamers do pretty much whatever they want, why draw lines at all?