Defender of the weak or renegade of The Wasteland? The effects of virtual moral choice on narrative processing

Open Access
Ferchaud, Arienne Marie
Graduate Program:
Media Studies
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 02, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Mary Beth Oliver, Thesis Advisor
  • morality
  • choice
  • narrative
  • video games
  • engagement
  • enjoyment
  • appreciation
In video games, complicated stories which can branch in multiple ways are possible, giving the player a great sense of control over the story. The present study’s purpose was twofold: to explore the influence of individual differences on moral choice and to determine how choice and morality interact to affect narrative engagement and entertainment appraisals (i.e., enjoyment and appreciation). A 2 (choice vs. no choice) X 2 (moral vs. immoral) experiment was conducted utilizing a modified version of a video game to examine the role of moral choice. Results indicated that very few individuals preferred the bad option when given a choice. Although there were no significant differences found between conditions on transportation, appreciation, or parasocial interaction, the study revealed significant differences for identification such that those who committed more moral actions identified less with the main character. Additionally, those who chose good actions felt more moral than those who were forced to commit good actions. Finally, contrary to expectation, participants in all conditions reported significantly higher enjoyment than appreciation. Implications of these findings are discussed.