Moral Games: Games that encourage moral thinking and action
By Thomas Gail Haws
As a father, I am frequently searching for games that will encourage moral thinking and action in my children. Please comment here if you find a game that isn't listed.
Elements that make games morally harmful include:
- Violence includes any aggression against humans or intentional aggression against other living things.
- Irreverence includes flippant attitudes where respectful attitudes should prevail. Common targets of irreverence include the feelings of other people, respected institutions and practices, and private activities.
Elements that make games morally helpful include:
Natural realism as a morally positive element is present when a game does a good job of modelling the moral law of cause and effect without resorting to contrived consequences.
- Good works
- Good works might be present in a game as narrative elements or as over-arching themes. Good works might include actions in game play that benefit other people or world as a whole.
- Moral dilemmas
- Moral dilemmas are choices in the course of game play that reward moral choices. Dilemmas pit a temptation against a good work.
WildfireWildfire by Global Star Software, a PC game fire-fighting game that requires good PC hardware (2005) for its 3-D graphics, is a perfectly morally benign game. In 2012 available here.
Negative elements. None.
Positive elements. An over-arching Smokey the Bear good works theme. Great natural realism modelling of wildfire behavior provides a good backdrop for innumerable moral lessons such as resource management and dealing promptly with problems.
King's CallKing's Call, an on-line narrative adventure game, has at least one strong example of a moral dilemma that I wish were more common in game play. The game has a strongly Calvinistic Christian theme and message, so there may be people who aren't comfortable having their children play it. It also is not the greatest game play; there are parts of it that just seem like bugs or mistakes. But given the sparseness of the moral games field today, I feel King's Call is a pioneer in the way it offers and rewards difficult choices.
Negative elements. Irreverence mars this game. Some of the dialogue is flippant. And the game pokes fun at non-Christian perspectives.
Positive elements. Two moral dilemmas are what makes this game stand out. One dilemma makes the player give up the world for another person; another highly dramatic one makes him give up himself for a higher purpose.