Cover Story

Virtual good and evil: The moral complexity of video games

Isabella had abandoned me. I was in shock. She was my ally, drinking buddy, even lover. She knew the stakes: if we did not return the Tome of Kuslun to the Qunari, the entire city of Kirkwall would be razed to the ground. She had agreed to aid me, to give up the tome and help defend the city, and yet here I was, left high and dry, with little chance of saving my adopted home and every chance of dying while trying.

I pushed myself back from the computer and let out a deep breath. Dragon Age II was taking a toll on me.

Over the past two decades, video games have reached a level of technological sophistication that enables them to immerse players in complex stories and relationships. The games require players to draw not only on their hand-eye coordination skills and puzzle-solving prowess but also on their moral imagination as they navigate complex relationships and their consequences. Today's video games are light years away from Pong and Asteroids, and they have the potential not only to offer richly textured narratives and fantastically realistic-seeming worlds but to aid in forming us as moral beings, for better and for worse.