Created By: theenglishman on December 14, 2012 Last Edited By: theenglishman on December 14, 2012

Hidden Morality Switch

When a game deliberately obscures a story-driven choice.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
You've Seen It a Million Times. You're playing an RPG with a Karma Meter, and the game presents you with a choice: you're forced to choose one partner over the other with no third option.

Well, This Is Not That Trope.

The Hidden Morality Switch is when video game developers want to have a little fun with the choice system. Maybe they're deliberately playing off your expectations of the genre; maybe they actually wanted to put in a meaningful choice but ran out of time and had to fake it instead; or maybe they just like fucking with their players For the Evulz. Whatever the case, this is when a game presents you with a seemingly obvious and binary choice, then turns it on its head. There are several ways they can do this:

Type 1: Deceptive: This is when a Sadistic Choice is presented to you in a seemingly classic fashion, but you're actually making a completely different choice without knowing it.

Type 2: Meaningless: No matter what choice you make, the results will always be the same. It's usually seen as a lazy copout by game writers, but can sometimes be Played for Drama if done well.

Type 3: There Was a Choice?!: There is a choice, but no-one in their right mind would ever get it on the first playthrough. Perhaps there's a character who is seemingly taken away by The Plot Reaper every time but can actually be saved, and you have to follow a certain set of nonsensical instructions to make sure s/he makes it to the end.

(this probably needs more non-Mass Effect and TWD examples, but other than that I think it's okay)

Examples of Type 1:

  • The first episode of The Walking Dead has a classic example during the Walker attack on the Hershel farm. As per Hershel's backstory in the comics, Shawn will die even if you choose to save him. What the game is actually looking for is whether or not you tried to save Duck first, which affects your relationship with Kenny later on.
  • Played for Laughs in Mass Effect 3 during the Tuchanka mission. About halfway through the mission, there's been significant tension between the krogan and salarians, and after several nerve-wracking conversations you're given the choice to reveal to the krogan queen that the salarians plan to fake a genophage cure to appease the krogan, complete with an ominous-looking dialog wheel. Before you can so much as open your mouth, the convoy is ambushed. You do get the chance to make the choice properly later in the level, though.

Examples of Type 2:

  • There are a few instances of this throughout The Walking Dead, where it's usually Played for Drama. For instance, no matter what you say to the cop at the beginning to warn him of the approaching Walker, he will always hit it and careen off the road.
    • Played for even more drama in Episode 5, when Clementine calls out to Lee when she's trapped in The Stranger's closet. No matter what you try to say, The Stranger puts a gun to your head before you can speak.
  • In Mass Effect 3, if a male Shepard has romanced Tali Zorah you're given a Paragon Interrupt to reach out for her hand if she tries to commit suicide should you decide to side with the geth on Rannoch. It doesn't work.

Examples of Type 3:

  • Perhaps the most infamous example is Cave Story, where Curly Brace will always die unless you don't save Booster from falling to his death and make a near-impossible jump over a cavern with underpowered equipment.
  • A quasi-example in Mass Effect if you want to make sure that Urdnot Wrex survives Virmire without needing a speech check. You need to do a completely random sidequest ( Wrex: Family Armor) which can only be activated by Talking to the aforementioned victim repeatedly.
  • In the white chamber, the only way to get the perfect ending is to put a blanket over the body parts you're assembling. The only indication that this is in fact a good act is that your character tells you so, as it seems "more respectful".
Community Feedback Replies: 10
  • December 14, 2012
    Chabal2
    Type 3: In The White Chamber, the only way to get the perfect ending is to put a blanket over the body parts you're assembling, the only indication that this is in fact a good act is that your character tells you so, as it seems "more respectful".
  • December 14, 2012
    Earnest
    Not to be confused with Morality Dial. =D
  • December 14, 2012
    StarSword
    Type Labels Are Not Examples; it leads to people citing "Type 2" and so forth on other pages. This might work better as a group of subtropes.
  • December 14, 2012
    MetaFour
    • Cave Story also has an example of the deceptive morality switch in the scene with Booster. He falls in a pit, then your choice of going to help him (or not) determines if he lives or dies. He only lives if you abandon him. If you go to help him, he gives you an item and a speech, then dies.
    • Silent Hill Downpour is also deceptive. There are scenes where you're given a moral choice (whether or not to help a character--the cop who's been pursuing you, no less--when they're hanging over a bottomless chasm, whether or not to talk down a suicidal man, etc.) and your choice doesn't have any effect on how that scene ends. Instead, your choice affects a Karma Meter (invisible to the player), which changes your character's backstory to match their morality and determines which endings are available to you.
  • December 14, 2012
    GreatHylianKing
    In Final Fantasy VI, around the climax, there are a few. Shadow and Cid both are set up to die unless the Player does something different; In the case of the first one, if the player decides to leave Shadow to die on the Floating Continent instead of taking the time to go and talk to him (it's a timed challenge), he will miss out on his entire backstory. In the case of the second one, after the climax, if you don't catch exclusively the fast fish, Cid will die, motivating Celes to attempt suicide. In this troper's humble opinion, letting the second happen makes for far better fiction.

    (Add tropes where they're due, I've been off for a while.)
  • December 14, 2012
    billybobfred
    An MSX game called Penguin Adventure has a good ending (you saved the princess, hooray!) and a bad ending (you are too late, she died while you were gone). You get the good ending by pausing the game exactly once.

    (that's the "there was a choice?!" kind if it wasn't obvious)
  • December 14, 2012
    DRCEQ
    @ StarSword

    It is only a YKTTW, so edits and revisions are bound to be made before it gets launched. I would hope that the Type 1 2 3 thing will eventually be changed into folders or headers describing each type.
  • December 14, 2012
    Debatra
    • In Infamous, Kessler gives Cole a Sadistic Choice between Trish and six doctors. Whoever the player tries to save, Trish dies.

    • In Dark Souls, the player is told by Frampt to place the Lordvessel on the Firelink Alter. Attempting to speak to Frampt during this makes the situation appear to be But Thou Must (though you can use a Homeward Bone without consequence). If s/he does so at this point; Kaathe won't appear at all until New Game Plus.
  • December 14, 2012
    Statalyzer
    "I would hope that the Type 1 2 3 thing will eventually be changed into folders or headers describing each type. "

    And hopefully explained a lot better.
  • December 14, 2012
    Statalyzer
    "I would hope that the Type 1 2 3 thing will eventually be changed into folders or headers describing each type. "

    And hopefully explained a lot better.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=y1sx7jherdrhftf3dasyf5l9