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Teaching ethics with the Walking Dead

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The walking dead lee and clem

Darryn likes to disparage TellTale Games’ The Walking Dead, calling it a “choose your own death” game. You guys know I love the game, and now it is being used for more than just awesome entertainment – it’s teaching school kids lessons.

All the way up in Bergen, Norway, a teacher is using The Walking Dead in class to spur discussions about morality and ethics. Here is a video from NRK showing the use of the game in the classroom (with subtitles enabled):

For the non-video people among you, essentially the teacher lets students vote on the moral choices found throughout The Walking Dead. They choose as a group how the player will progress through the story, discussing the difficult choices and moral ambiguity. This helps them to understand ethical theories, and also debate the choices. Awesome teaching tool – well done.

We actually had an office debate about this. You may remember Darryn telling us about Infamous: Second Son letting you be a jerk. It led to a debate about how we all play games, and I was arguing that I’m always a paragon (referencing Mass Effect here), and it’s the same in The Walking Dead – I always tried to make the best decisions to protect Clementine and maintain as much humanity in the face of the apocalypse. Darryn, on the other hand, argued that video games aren’t real and he always acts like a completely immoral character.

Are you a paragon or renegade when you play games with moral choices? And don’t take the cop out approach of saying that you play multiple times – let’s just talk about the first (main) play through of a game.

Finally, looking at morality, anyone else notice (and enjoy) the fact that racism played such a small role in the Walking Dead? The main character is black, but it’s all about who he is and what he can do – not the color of his skin. Is that a sign of changing times, a utopian view of humanity, or a realistic sign of how we’d cope in the apocalypse?

Last Updated: January 20, 2014

65 Comments

  1. VampyricSquirrel Monk

    January 20, 2014 at 09:26

    Ethics? What’s that?

    I’m really happy someone is doing this with a game, can prove to the world that games don’t create homicidal maniacs… and can help find the little shits that have the tendency early on.

    Reply

  2. Alien Emperor Trevor

    January 20, 2014 at 09:30

    I always play the “good” side in a game if it allows for both, because I consider my character to be a reflection of myself. Sometimes, in something like Hitman, it’s more of a challenge to not kill people as well. That said, I’m not shy to get medieval on a “bad” guy either. In Dishono(u)red the only people I actively hunted down were the Overseers & Weepers – normal guards I left untouched.

    Reply

    • VampyricSquirrel Monk

      January 20, 2014 at 09:45

      That’s where I’m different… I TRY to be “good” but end up going totally evil. Black and White for example… my creature was a shining light of joy and good nature, while my hand was black and dark with evil… I still don’t know how that worked though.

      Reply

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        January 20, 2014 at 09:51

        Sim games might be my one exception. When I played Alpha Centauri I was nice & peaceful up until the point where I’d stockpiled enough nukes.

        Reply

        • VampyricSquirrel Monk

          January 20, 2014 at 10:03

          Sounds like me on Red Alert 2… playing soviet πŸ˜›

          Reply

        • Anon A Mouse

          January 20, 2014 at 10:11

          That’s how my Civ games usually went as well. Then I nuke absolutely everyone.

          Reply

          • VampyricSquirrel Monk

            January 20, 2014 at 10:12

            You become like Oprah… “You get one! And you! And you too! EVERYONE GETS ONE!!!”

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            January 20, 2014 at 10:14

            lollll

          • TiMsTeR1033

            January 20, 2014 at 10:20

            So nobody feels left out!

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            January 20, 2014 at 10:21

            Especially you!

          • TiMsTeR1033

            January 20, 2014 at 10:22

            they pretty fireworks!

          • VampyricSquirrel Monk

            January 20, 2014 at 10:21

            They won’t be feeling much after all those nukes…

      • TiMsTeR1033

        January 20, 2014 at 09:51

        You would be a good politician then!

        Reply

        • VampyricSquirrel Monk

          January 20, 2014 at 10:05

          LOL! SA would be even more screwed if I was a politician.

          Reply

          • TiMsTeR1033

            January 20, 2014 at 10:09

            I would be a great deputy president! we could take over! The admiral could be Minister of defense. Trevor Fiance, Rince education, Avoman health! what could go wrong!!!

          • VampyricSquirrel Monk

            January 20, 2014 at 10:13

            LMAO! And we could make Kensei the Chief of Police.

          • Kensei Seraph

            January 20, 2014 at 10:17

            I’d fix the striking problems, although I may need access to the army.
            Oh and you may end up being called a dictator.

          • TiMsTeR1033

            January 20, 2014 at 10:18

            We can live with that!

          • TiMsTeR1033

            January 20, 2014 at 10:18

            see we got it all covered! now just need a party name…

          • VampyricSquirrel Monk

            January 20, 2014 at 10:21

            LGCP… LazyGamer.net Community Party… if Gavin gives us permission to use it

          • TiMsTeR1033

            January 20, 2014 at 10:21

            I was thinking of being called NOOB but what would it stand for! >_<

          • VampyricSquirrel Monk

            January 20, 2014 at 10:22

            Nationally Observing Outstanding Boobs?

          • Admiral Chief in Vegas

            January 20, 2014 at 10:22

            Not Original, Overly Badass

          • VampyricSquirrel Monk

            January 20, 2014 at 10:27

            Could always try something like NCOOBAG… National Community Of Overly Badass Gamers… lol

          • HvR

            January 20, 2014 at 10:39

            People’s Organization for E-Sports.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            January 20, 2014 at 10:18

            But I don’t want an arranged marriage πŸ™

          • TiMsTeR1033

            January 20, 2014 at 10:19

            Well good thing they I wont be for education, the country would really be screwed then!

          • HvR

            January 20, 2014 at 10:26

            Only problem I see is that Darryn would want to be president and then have himself on the money in his “manly” ION pose.

            And Rince in the education position would push his Ginger Ethnicity Superiority Propaganda.

          • VampyricSquirrel Monk

            January 20, 2014 at 10:27

            All I got out of that was Ginger Propaganda… which is bad.

          • Admiral Chief in Vegas

            January 20, 2014 at 10:21

            Minister of Defence nogal

          • TiMsTeR1033

            January 20, 2014 at 10:32

            Would you prefer Agriculture?

          • Admiral Chief in Vegas

            January 20, 2014 at 10:39

            I believe the botany and herbs are your speciality?

            Strange that you think I should defend, so I am thankful for the compliment, I guess

          • TiMsTeR1033

            January 20, 2014 at 10:41

            The Admiral just calls out for Military!

          • Admiral Chief in Vegas

            January 20, 2014 at 10:55

            Actually Navy, but I’ll take em all tx

  3. Hammersteyn

    January 20, 2014 at 09:40

    Meh, the game nor the series didn’t do it for me. Mulch for the brain this is. I mean it’s a good story being told but it’s QTE mostly. The laziest form of gameplay design in my opinion. Getting real tired of zombies too. Damn you Admiral for sucking me into L4D2.

    Reply

    • Umar Break Dancing Cyborg

      January 20, 2014 at 09:41

      More PnC than QTE really

      Reply

      • Hammersteyn

        January 20, 2014 at 10:10

        Yeah sorry. I was referring to the action sequences though they also aren’t really that much QTE.

        Reply

  4. Kensei Seraph

    January 20, 2014 at 09:43

    On a completely unrelated note, does the Contact Us form at the top of the page work, does it work only during business hours or do I need to resend the message I sent Friday evening?

    Reply

  5. Admiral Chief in Vegas

    January 20, 2014 at 09:46

    Speaking of Walking Dead / Zombies / Infected……..

    Is anyone aware of the title John (JJ) has unlocked for himself Saturday night?

    Reply

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      January 20, 2014 at 09:52

      Is it, “It was dark & I thought the zombie was in to it John”?

      Reply

      • Admiral Chief in Vegas

        January 20, 2014 at 09:58

        Hahaha, no, its….

        PAN-GIRL

        Reply

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          January 20, 2014 at 10:06

          How did that happen? lol

          Reply

          • Admiral Chief in Vegas

            January 20, 2014 at 10:11

            He was obsessed with a frying pan and he played as the chick

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            January 20, 2014 at 10:29

            Did it give him the “I’m in character” excuse for eyeliner?

          • Admiral Chief in Vegas

            January 20, 2014 at 10:54

            hahahaha, where were you?

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            January 20, 2014 at 11:12

            Sat night? Funnily enough (for sadly) I can’t really remember lol. I was either watching TV or playing FF8.

  6. hairyknees

    January 20, 2014 at 09:46

    It doesn’t matter if its just a game… I feel like utter shit if I make a decision that negatively affects people xD I always go the good character route!

    Reply

    • Admiral Chief in Vegas

      January 20, 2014 at 09:47

      Good Guy MattyFeeg. Pity about a certain addiction he has…

      Reply

      • hairyknees

        January 20, 2014 at 09:48

        Pffft addictive hobby? πŸ˜› at least I’m getting through some other games now! Halfway through Bioshock Infinite ^_^

        Reply

        • Admiral Chief in Vegas

          January 20, 2014 at 09:50

          I saw you start Dota just after I even mention your addiction!

          Hehehe, at least you are a Dota expert!

          Reply

          • hairyknees

            January 20, 2014 at 09:52

            hahaha “Dota Expert” πŸ˜›

          • Admiral Chief in Vegas

            January 20, 2014 at 09:58

            Sure not Dota Noob

  7. Admiral Chief in Vegas

    January 20, 2014 at 09:46

    Yeah man, Walking Dead had me searching myself for answers, and I am quite pleased on how I reacted. I am Chaotic Good πŸ˜›

    Reply

  8. Kensei Seraph

    January 20, 2014 at 09:51

    9 out of 10 times I play Paragon on my first playthrough.
    On those rare times I play Renegade on my first playthrough I generally start a new game about half way through and go a Paragon route, I have no idea why I do this though.

    Reply

  9. loftie

    January 20, 2014 at 09:54

    I play to get the best quest rewards or the outcome I want, who cares if it a good or bad choice. My mass effect was half paragon, half renegade.

    Reply

  10. Bryan McCann

    January 20, 2014 at 10:05

    Always used to play as a good character with moral and just decisions until I was introduced to DayZ. Try to be nice there and you receive an axe to the back of the head. Now its bandit all the way, in all games. Humanity sucks….

    Reply

  11. Anon A Mouse

    January 20, 2014 at 10:08

    It depends on the game really, but most of the time I play the Paragon. Just finished Dishonoured this weekend and ended with a low chaos rating. In Black & White my people suffered under my vengeful hand. Dungeon Keeper my minions were slapped around the whole time. Mass Effect I went all angel. Command and Conquer I played the Soviets.

    I think for me it depends more on how I feel when I start a game than actually sitting down and making a conscious choice of how I will play.

    Reply

  12. Rags

    January 20, 2014 at 10:15

    I played a quite a few walk troughs of Mass Effect, a few times intended to do the renegade path, but I apart from once playing a different gender. I don’t think about the choices deeply, I just do what I would’ve done because I love to immerse myself within a game.

    Other games it is a lot easier to be renegade because the immersion is not quite there.

    Reply

  13. Mike

    January 20, 2014 at 10:17

    In the Mass Effect games my character was for the most part closer to neutral. I like to play for the greater good and sometimes that requires me to make the renegade decisions. Games tend to be too much black and white. I prefer the grey area. I did the same in the Walking Dead.

    Reply

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      January 20, 2014 at 10:20

      I go that route quite often too.

      Reply

      • Mike

        January 20, 2014 at 10:25

        Except in some RPG games where the greater good takes second place to shiny armour or pointy sword reward. I would feel guilty afterwards, but the sword takes care of that.

        Reply

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          January 20, 2014 at 10:40

          If it means another character will “suffer” because of that I won’t do it. I’ll stick to getting the good loot from murdering monsters heh.

          Reply

  14. Mike

    January 20, 2014 at 10:20

    I play most of the games with a moral decision on the “What would Jack do?” decision model. As in Jack Bauer.

    Reply

  15. Alex Hicks

    January 20, 2014 at 10:32

    I tend to play the “paragon” type, more than the evil side – simply because I’ve found that it’s harder work for me to choose evil decisions the longer a game goes on. Particularly a good RPG … I often find I want to play evil; and halfway through I subconsciously break character and end up making “good” choices.

    That said, I’ve played some pretty badass evil characters in my time.

    Reply

  16. Kromas

    January 20, 2014 at 11:57

    Paragon with a sadistic streak.You could say Chaotic Good πŸ˜›

    Reply

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