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    Mar 2nd, 2016 at 00:41:13     -    Prison Architect (PC)

    Two playsessions into prison architect and I've noticed an interesting trend in scripted enemy characters.
    I've just cleared the chapter where the CEO dies and begun the next mission afterward. From mission one to this point there have only been two
    white enemies. The first is the man you execute in the tutorial. The second is the broken man in the mission I ended the playsession on.
    The others are minorities: itialian mobsters and black men.

    The game portrays the minorities differently than the white men. The first is shown to have regret over the premeditated double homicide. The second was partners with Benedict
    until the confrontation that got them both arrested, where he did not fire a shot at the officers. Meanwhile Benedict himself is portrayed as a thug. He is hyperviolent, cruel, and free of remorse
    for his actions. Similarly the Palermo family (including Nico Tamoretti) are mobsters. They're actively smuggling drugs and alcohol into the prison, and running a criminal organization from behind bars.
    The family is of italian descent, fitting with the mobster theme, and completely cold. Nico sets the prison on fire in an effort to kill his brother-in-law, but kills the Don instead. Later he hires another
    prisoner to kill his brother-in-law (Sonny Palermo), and succeeds.

    I found the difference in portrayal interesting. In the current American prison system this seems to be the general reasoning behind most inmates. The current climate, particularly in America, tends to be that minorities
    are viewed as more thug like than their white counterparts. This is fueled by stereotypes and the game does a wonderful job playing off these and portraying them in an interesting way.

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    Feb 29th, 2016 at 23:42:41     -    Prison Architect (PC)

    Right off the bat Prison Architect hits you with an interesting delema: is execution moral?
    The first mission of the campaign is just teaching you the ropes: how to build basic rooms, how to hook up utilities.
    From the art the game looks tongue in cheek hilarious - simple graphics, with music reminiscent of the Tycoon games (Roller Coaster Tycoon, Zoo Tycoon, etc) and Theme Hospital.

    I spent the first few minutes, while the workers were building the new foundation, looking through the prisoners list of crimes, looking for differences in sentences based on skin color.
    I was wondering if the game played to the general trend of people of color getting longer sentences for lesser crimes.
    So far it seems fair, but that is only from the first chapter of the campaign.

    I was calmly watching the workers scurry around while they completed the foundation when the CEO calls.
    He had me build an Execution Area, with an imminent room and electric chair.
    The game still presented the same art style, up until the Polaroid picture giving you the backstory of the man scheduled for execution.
    The photos are similar to a comic book, and are much more serious than the game appears.

    The backstory of the man scheduled for execution was not what I expected. Instead of it being something fantastical, which would have matched my expectations given the art style,
    the story was dark. The man's wife was cheating so he followed her and killed her and her lover. Legally everything is in order and the man is to be executed. Then the priest
    enters. He briefly questions the chief about the morality of the action. The chief responded that we are not to decide whether the action is moral or amoral, the law already decided his sentence.
    To advance the story, the only option is to carry out the execution. This plays another cutscene where you see the priest comfort the man on his way to the chair. Then the guard throws the switch, the screen goes white, and the next chapter loads.

    This related to a story in Oklahoma a few weeks ago. A prisoner was sentenced to death for her role as mastermind in her husband's murder. By the time of the execution she was reformed, held a Master's degree,
    and was a model prisoner. Yet her sentence was carried out. I had to question, is this the best practice? I am generally for capital punishment. There are people who should not be part of this world. But if the reform is successful, which is the goal
    of the prison institution in the first place, should the sentence still be carried out or reconsidered in light of new evidence?

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    Jan 28th, 2016 at 01:40:37     -    This war of mine (PC)

    For the last entry on This War of Mine I went completely against my normal play style for these types of games.
    I generally try to play with some set of moral laws adapted to the world I am in - it is OK to scavenge and kill because that is the world I am in.
    This time though, I tried to play more Utilitarian. I would take what I needed in order to eliminate the greatest sources of unhappiness in order to increase the total happiness of the population.
    With this style, I allowed myself to fight for supplies I would need, kill other survivors, or make sacrifices 'For The Greater Good.'

    Overall I lasted.....5 days before my last survivor was over tired and starving.

    I believe this could have worked out better if I moved slower, scavenging from safe areas enough to build weapons, then challenge other survivors (my first survivor died looting a house) or the military (my second survivor died looting the supermarket).
    By the time the survivors died, I had a level 2 workshop and a level 2 metal work bench and was a single weapon part away from crafting a gun.
    If I was ranking progress on how much stuff I had and could craft, this would probably be the most progress I made over the course of this game. However, this attempt left me feeling...unclean.

    As I said earlier, I don't tend to play these games following a Utilitarian approach. I prefer to follow a stronger rule set for moral and amoral actions - more Kantian.
    What is even more interesting, I would classify myself as Utilitarian over Kantian in my real-life decisions. In the game though I get to step away from my choices into a world I would consider more ideal, with a generally clear set of moral right and wrong choices. While it is nice to imagine a rational system with a universal right and wrong for any action, but to me it is not that simple.
    The real world does not fit well into a strict classification of right and wrong, as there are many little details that are left out. For this reason [Western] society is more Utilitarian, as it allows for circumstances to alter the moral obligation.
    But sometimes it is nice to play a game that has an authority give you a strict set of moral laws - Mass Effect's Paragon and Renegade, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic with the Dark Side and Light Side, Black and White with the strict Actions are Good or Actions are Evil, and so on.
    In these strictly regulated environments I hold myself to stricter, more universal moral standards. In this environment, actions I would normally take have very slim, if any, moral footing.

    So in this playthrough I went off the deep end of Utilitarian morality. Sacrifices would be made so that the total happiness of the survivors was greater than any discomfort I would cause.
    Instead of having strict rules now, I performed the utility calculation as I was making decisions. For example, when I was stealing from other residents I had an end in mind: I needed parts to construct weapons/upgrades. I often found food and medicine in the places I was looting, but I would leave it.
    If I took the food, I would slightly increase my happiness - I had plenty of food this playthough, but would greatly decrease the targets happiness, so I left the food behind. However other items were available. Since I was trying to eliminate a great source of unhappiness (military occupying the Supermarket), and I needed crafting parts to make that possible, I would steal these. Often these materials were very common in the places I looted, meaning taking them would slightly decrease the happiness of the original owner, but moderately increase my happiness.
    So I would take them and leave. Unfortunately getting caught stealing never factored into my equation. When I was caught it greatly decreased the happiness of the person I was stealing from, to the point that they used murder as an equalizing force.

    Overall, I really enjoyed This War of Mine. I would strongly recommend it to anyone looking for something interesting to play. There is definitely more to explore in this game that my three brief playthroughs have accomplished. On my own time I am excited to see what else I can do. Perhaps continuing with my second playthrough rule set, or reattempting the Utilitarian approach to see if a slower, more controlled game works better.

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    Jan 27th, 2016 at 00:07:15     -    This war of mine (PC)

    This playthrough I allowed myself to stand far it seems my fears were unfounded when I believed guarding would kill people. So far I have managed to drive off every raider with only minor injuries to my group, granted I am only using a kitchen knife to defend against looters.

    So far the three rules I set for myself seem to be working out. I have made it through day 9, gained a new survivor (Boris), and have traded enough materials for medicines, that I can then trade to another group of survivors for food at a really good price. Unfortunately success is less interesting to me for this game. If I am lucky enough to be able to survive with my supplies and never have to venture beyond my trading points, what is the point of being in a war-zone?
    Granted, picking up Boris put a strain on my limited resources, but I have managed to stretch my supplies to accommodate. Boris so far is my best scavenger. His 17 item carry capacity more than makes up for his slow running. I have yet to explore high danger areas, but even so I would be cautious my first time there, only running to save myself. The high carry capacity on Boris will also allow me to scout these areas and consolidates materials in places closer to the doors, away from any danger so I can enter over different nights and collect all resources quickly.

    So since nothing interesting happened in the game, I'll reflect a little on the choices I made.
    For example I went to scavenge the Garage and found the owner's son in dire need of medicine for his father, and willing to trade heavily to get a small ammount. I took advantage of this as I scavenged lots of medicine, but little food and other supplies. I was able to trade the medicines over in exchange for lots of materials and food, which kept my people fed, and he got medicine to help his sick father.
    I believe I violated Kantian moral law here. Despite the son offering me the deal willingly to get medicine, he was under extreme duress. His father is sick and he had no means to cure him, so he was offering outrageous trades for even a little medicine. This is not a rational decision as he is trading food to me as well as easily found scrap items. By taking advantage of it I used him as a means to an end, which violates Kant's second formulation.

    Yet the decision may not be completely amoral. From a very short sighted Utilitarian perspective, I acted well within my moral bounds. My not having food decreased my overall happiness as my survivors would start to starve; and his not having medicine decreased his overall happiness as his father was sick. If I set my forward view to the immediate future, my survivors would live another day with the food and his father would survive another day with the medicine.
    By making the trade I gain something that increases my overall happiness, while giving him something that increases his overall happiness, therefore I acted in a way that maximized total happiness and therefore morally.

    I had not intended to play using Utilitarian moral theory until my next play-through, but it seems I got a head start.
    For the final attempt I am going to apply Utilitarian theory. Simply act in the way that maximizes happiness. This is vastly different than my usual attempts to follow laws and avoid violence. With this theory I will try to ease the suffering of people living within the warzone.
    This sets my moral obligations as removal of any people that reduce overall happiness, making it my duty to act violently to kill occupying soldiers or looters.

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