Adventures in Morality: An Interactive Case Study
Adventures in Morality (AiM) is a first-person PC game and fictional narrative in which the user is the subject of a psychological test. As the user interacts with the test, a scientist named Hank Treadsoft tells the story of how he and his wife, Edith, built an A.I. named, Cybil. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear Cybil is the true architect of AiM and her theory of “sympathy types” is rife with corruption. Like a personality type, a sympathy type is the categorization of how people emotionally connect with others. Sympathy types can range from reserving compassion for a specific community, to extending compassion to humanity at-large. Independently programmed in C# and Unity Engine, AiM playfully blends the genres of gaming and storytelling to produce an immersive and interactive experience designed specifically for the medium of electronic literature.
At its core, AiM invites users to safely interact with different moral values. The medium of electronic literature is optimal for exploring different moral values because it gives the user a strong sense of control. Analyzing contrary viewpoints has the potential to be controversial so it’s important for the user to be able to choose the pace of the narrative and move freely within the 3D world. In addition, unlike a traditional game in which the user’s objective is to defeat the enemy and win, AiM measures the user’s progress based on self-exploration. The user interacts with moral scenarios and then attempts to understand why someone might choose a different interaction. In short, there is no right or wrong way to use AiM. Completion results in a conclusion to the narrative as well as an explanation of the test results.
The test results show a percentage of 3 different sympathy types. All 3 sympathy types fall on a spectrum. The spectrum ranges from short-range sympathy to long-range sympathy. Short-range sympathy prioritizes compassion and loyalty to family and friends. Long-range sympathy prioritizes compassion for larger communities and humanity as a whole. According to Hank, everyone is capable of short-range and long-range sympathy but people linger in a specific area on the spectrum more than others i.e. people tend to lean towards short-range sympathy or long-range sympathy. Hank classifies these 3 areas as Beings, Persons, and Humans. As the user discovers where they fall on the spectrum, they learn about how the broken relationship between Hank and Edith has impacted the thought process of Cybil.
In the end, AiM attempts to explore the dangers of categorizing people as well as dramatizes the relationship between creator and created. Hank and Edith created Cybil with the best intentions in mind and yet much like a child from a broken home, Cybil becomes corrupted by the broken relationship of its parents. Although Cybil possesses near omniscient intelligence, her emotional wounds send her, along with all of humanity, down a dark path.
About the Artist
Daniel Roche is a playwright, poet, programmer, and game designer. He recently completed a writer in residency at Catwalk Institute in New York where he programmed AR characters to interact with live actors on stage. Prior to teaching professional writing courses at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champagne, he lived in Beijing, China where he taught rhetoric, creative writing, and theater courses for the University of Colorado Denver. Daniel earned his MFA in Creative Writing and MA in English from San Francisco State University. Additional information on recent projects can be found at www.daniel-roche.com.