Video Games Can Help Develop Moral Reasoning Ability?

philosoraptor
3 min readSep 23, 2022

Assassin’s Creed has been a top selling game for over a decade. It explores distant landscapes lost to time and archives this to the best of the developer’s ability: with top tier graphics, character animation and most of all immersion into the environment through gameplay. Each installment has its own selected time period that emerges the player into otherwise distant realities. History is hard for most people to put into perspective and contextualize, especially considering the stigma of dusty-books and the looking-not-touching mentality so stereotypical of museums. Even though some parents might be reprehensive towards the violence of Assassin’s Creed in particular, it is just an example being used in this article to discuss a broader theme present in most video games and even transcends all mediums; the extreme scholarly praise towards the patterns that are present in historical role playing as a whole. One great commentary on this is from Post-Doctoral Egyptologist, Christian Casey who has written extensively on the installment Assassin’s Creed: Origins:

“The world itself reflects our current under­standing of ancient Egypt to a remarkable degree of accuracy. The architecture we encounter in the game is often based on the artwork of Jean-Claude Golvin, which is itself based on the re­sults of modern archaeological excavations. 3 In fact, these reconstructions are so reliable that an Egyptologist can solve in-game challenges using their knowledge of the real-world monuments. For instance, when Bayek needs to access the vaults under Djoser’s Step Pyramid, the secret entrance is to be found on the north end of his pyramid complex some distance from the pyra­mid itself, just as it would be in real life” (Casey, 2021).

These historical reflections of times long past go further into the realm of immersion, triggering pretend-play, role-play integration processes which have been studied extensively by psychologists throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Considering the topics explored in all the franchise’s games related to death, evil, hatred, love, moral immersion is another key value to the player. When played whole heartedly, it forces an internal dialogue that removes the player from their own personal lives and struggles, into the perspective of a far detached and (hopefully) more extreme situation. There is extensive research that backs the inherent value of these types of moral role-play situations for facilitating personal development;

“our findings… support the contention that imaginative role-playing games can serve as an enjoyable medium for promoting (and protecting) moral growth. In particular, gaming that involves the encounter of morally relevant situations appears to facilitate a shift away from concern for one’s own personal interests and toward the interests of others, both in one’s reasoning about moral scenarios and in the expression of one’s values. In addition, gaming may also facilitate stronger development in… reasoning, especially for individuals who are developmentally immature” (Wright, 2020).

By releasing oneself from one’s own perspective, a new world of possibilities can emerge to anyone. Some people feel this by meditating, doing yoga, being creative, but even video games can open up this world of openness to their players. This is not justification to spend one’s whole life on the Xbox, but it is encouragement to explore distant pasts through the role playing offered by video games like Assassin’s Creed which often get reductively dismissed as too violent or hurtful to the people who enjoy playing them: often without trying them open-mindedly themselves.

References

Casey, C. (2021). Assassin’s Creed Origins: Video Games as Time Machines. Near Eastern Archaeology, 84(1), 71–78.

Wright, J. C., Weissglass, D. E., & Casey, V. (2020). Imaginative Role-Playing as a Medium for Moral Development: Dungeons & Dragons Provides Moral Training. JOURNAL OF HUMANISTIC PSYCHOLOGY, 60(1), 99–129. https://doi-org.lopes.idm.oclc.org/10.1177/0022167816686263

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