Patrick wrote an interesting post about an event that happened in a Cyberpunk 2020 game I was DMing. It's about morality. It's a really well written piece that you should all read. But it got me wondering about things that have gone on in games I've been involved in, and whether those things have had real-world consequences for my own sense of myself as a moral person.
I was brought up by Christian parents (a Christian mother, more accurately - my Dad mostly humoured her), and my mother always tried to instil in me the notion that things that we watch, read, or listen to do actually affect our 'souls'; when you watch a violent film it is actually bad for you in some sense. It is corrupting.
I still think I agree with that, to a certain extent, although I wouldn't frame it in terms of the soul or sinfulness - except perhaps in the illustrative sense. I agree with it insofar as I think that movies, music and books can have a coarsening, hardening, and cheapening effect on the way we view the world: the more violence and badness you absorb in fiction (particularly visual fiction), the less you can empathise with others. It's why I'm in favour of some level of film censorship and why I think that films like the Saw and Human Centipede franchises are actually quite dangerous - not because I worry about copy cat-ism, but because I worry about the cumulative effect of all this cruelty on our collective unconscious. I'm aware this is a controversial view that some people reading this blog will not agree with.
But for whatever reason, the games I run are pretty amoral affairs. (I would use the term 'morally ambiguous' but I always think that is a pretty cowardly euphemism.) And I never, ever find myself sitting there as a DM, or later on that night, or the next week, thinking about what went on in the game - the brutal slayings, the casual theft, the complete lack of compassion demonstrated by everybody involved - and fretting about morality. Until I read Patrick's post it never even occurred to me that anybody really would think that way. The game is just a game.
But then again, Saw is just a movie. I believe I have found myself in a moral contradiction. I suppose I'm okay with that.