Hidden Morality Switch
When a game deliberately obscures a story-driven choice.
Needs Examples Tropeworthy? Better Name

(permanent link) added: 2012-12-14 11:54:43 sponsor: theenglishman (last reply: 2012-12-14 23:42:53)

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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 1 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".
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