The final value in Schwartz’ category of “achievement” is self-respect. I tried to get a definition to work with, but ended up in a recursion between “self-respect” and “dignity” in the online dictionary I referred to. My computer’s dictionary says “pride and confidence in oneself.”

The number one most interesting thing about considerations of self-respect in Fallout 3 is the general issue of a “self” in the game. As I’ve noted before, there’s not much self to go around for the avatar – you’re only given the barest shreds of a history or personality. Glimpses of babyhood, a job-placement exam, a hallway confrontation – these aren’t the self-shaping experiences we might hope for in coming to an understanding of the avatar.

Instead, then, the avatar must become a “self-made woman” (or man). We decide, as the player, who the avatar’s self is, weaving in their meagre history if we so desire. As such, then, we also determine ourselves the level of self-respect the avatar has. To the extent we would like to, we can at least role-play a character who has no self-respect, or buckets of it. The dialogue trees allow for a bit of this, at least in the sense of being able to play a rather cocky character, for example.

As to our own self-respect as a player, this would seem to come down to how well we think we are playing the game, our capabilities as a player. A high level of self-respect would imply we think we’re rather good at it, presumably. Of course, confidence doesn’t mean much in this virtual world – everything you do is evaluated immediately: experience points are gained and lost, as are karma points, in much the same way the guns and ammunition are. There’s a sense, then, in which you don’t need to be confident or develop a strong sense of self-respect, you only need to act and see the results. Self-respect, then, would seem to come down more on the “pride side” of things.

Looking at it negatively, we might ask what can be done which shows a lack of self-respect – are there any particularly debasing activities you can engage in? Depends a bit on your moral compass. Some people might think sleeping with a prostitute in the game would show a lack of self-respect. Others might say murdering a camp full of people would. But again, we’d have to ask whose self we’re referring to. As a player, I don’t feel that my personal self-respect comes into it much (except, perhaps, for a little self-hatred on playing for too long). And as an avatar, I feel I have no particular self to respect in the first place. Thus, there’s no obvious vessel for this respect to reside in.

If I had any self respect, I probably wouldn’t hit publish on this post, because I can see that it doesn’t make all that much sense. But it’s latish, and I don’t feel the urge to spend another half hour working out how to be more succinct or coherent. So…

10 April 2010
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