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How do you make being a moral person a challenge? A look back at Deus Ex

Being good in the real world isn't easy, but video games tend to laud you with praise for doing it. But Deus Ex has some design choices that may help you create moral ambiguity in your next game.

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the Gamasutra Twitch channel, you may have noticed we’ve been doing some streams of Deus Ex alongside our regular interviews and examination of newly released games. Today, in our continued effort to learn as much as we can from classic game titles, we skipped ahead a few levels in Deus Ex to examine two of its most surprising moral choices which haven’t been as widely adopted as other innovations from the game. 

If you’re not familiar with the Deus Ex series, you should be sure to watch the full video above as we play through two key choices that come later in the game. The key reason these choices were worth examining is that from the player’s perspective, they aren’t necessarily choices! Unlike modern games from the likes of Telltale or BioWare that fix the player in place and ask them to make a decision, Deus Ex has the NPCs give an order to the player, but allows them the space to disregard that order. 

Our playthrough ran for a full hour, but if you’re interested in one key highlight, we were surprised to re-discover that Deus Ex goes out of its way to make the most morally correct paths out of these decisions the hardest to perform in the game. It isn’t even a consequence about the lack of a reward, it’s just simply that doing the wrong thing is easy, and doing the right thing is hard, just in the same scale of difficulty as most other actions in the game. 

If you found this video helpful, or just want to listen to the dulcet tones of the Gamasutra editorial crew, be sure to follow the Gamasutra Twitch channel for more gameplay commentary, developer interviews and editor roundtables. 

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