Once again, I’ve been playing a lot of Fallout 3. I just finished the expansion, ‘The Pitt’ and once again I was blown away. At one point, however, I almost reset my game back to a previous save point. I made a decision I thought was the wrong one.
I won’t spoil the plot for anyone who hasn’t played it yet; I’ll try to keep it vague. I was asked to help some poor oppressed types, and of course, being the goody-goody type, I accepted. Once I came face to face with the big bad tyrant, I tried to play the diplomat and find a peaceful solution. Remembering the quest with the vampires, I thought this would be a safe bet.
The villain of the piece claims to be working toward a better future for everyone, and a little hardship now is a small price to pay. I was convinced and assumed I could talk my downtrodden friends to see things the same way. This didn’t go as planned and they reacted rather badly, leaving me no choice but to shoot some shush into a few people.
I didn’t really like this outcome, but I stopped myself from resetting the game and decided that I would live with the consequences of my actions. Real life doesn’t have any tap-backs, so I’d follow that rule in-game. I also followed my conscience and moral compass. I think in real life, I’d agree with the ‘bad’ guys in this instance. Long term good sometimes means hard times now. Though I did feel guilty for betraying the poor wretches I promised I’d help. Once again, Fallout 3 offers something with moral ambiguity, with enough grey areas to give a few HBO shows a run for their money.
In mmos the game saves as you go along, just as in real life, there are no tap-backs, all decisions are final. Or are they? Well, not really. If you fail a quest, there are no consequences beside occasionally backtracking to pick it up again. If you upset somebody, you only need to grind for a while and you will be good buddies once more.
Will there ever be an mmo with meaningful consequences for your actions? Will we get npcs who are just like regular people, with morals and motivations that aren’t two dimensional? I don’t know if such a game would be successful, but I know I’d like to inhabit a virtual world where I had to live with my decisions for the whole of my character’s life. Maybe the Fallout mmo (should it ever get out of it’s legal tangle) will be the one. I don’t know. But I do know that single player games are reaching a maturity in content and theme that mmos aren’t even attempting. I love my online games, but there’s a lot of growing up to do.