The Morality of Lightmatter

Dylan Whiteman
2 min readMar 3, 2021

Lightmatter is an indie game developed by Tunnel Vison Games and released in mid January of 2020. Light matter covers a number of moral topics, inclusive of sunk cost fallacy in relation to utilitarian humanitarianism. there are also tinges of other theming, such as the moral quandary of: is evil to prevent evil justified? Strikingly, these moral expressions and there contemplation makes lightmatter a rather textbook example of “videogames… increasingly becoming a forum for artistic expression and,… social expression.” (Bogost)

One of the earliest introduction we have, as a player in Lightmatter is the introduction of our primary source of exposition Virgil. His initially introduction is helpful in nature and generally quite collected. This becomes slowly revealed to be inaccurate as his perception of the player’s character becomes progressively more confused and even hostile. throughout the game it is revealed that the invention of Lightmatter, the substance in which the game gets it’s name, is causing a worldwide harm and could potentially end humanity. The juxtaposition to this is that Lightmatter is an infinite power source that Virgil intend to use to remove all human suffering, poverty, starvation, etc. This paints Virgil, by the end of the game as an individual, hellbent on good, gone too far. Ultimately clouded by his sense of helping others Virgil justifies sacrificing those same people to reach his ultimate goal of ending human suffering. As the player, this leaves a complex and unsettling feeling clear opposition, muddled with empathy, cumulating in the ultimate quandary of: “…At what cost”.

While less spoken of, there is the questionable actions of Virgil’s business counterpart, Arthur. Arthur is conveyed to the player secondhand, through the recorded words of an employee, Ellen. Arthur’s motivation are made considerably unclear until near the final stages of the story. His actions are frequently described as unsettling, stalker-like, somber, and in opposition to Virgil. His actions include terrorizing employees, poisoning said employees, falsifying business research and leaking said information to media, as well as explicit sabotage of scientific research. By the end it’s made clear that Arthur’s actions were to cause a halt to Lightmatter research. Arthur knew of Lightmatter’s extreme dangers and the risks associated with it’s very existence. Despite trying to convey this information, research was made to continue under Virgil. This results in extreme desperation by Arthur to try to prevent the events that unfold for the player in the present. Again the player is presented with the moral question of: “at what cost”. In Arthur’s case, unlike Virgil, it’s conveyed that there is a begrudging acceptance of Arthur’s actions being justified, but still morally unsound.

Bogost, I. (n.d.). View of playing Politics: Videogames for politics, activism, and Advocacy. Retrieved March 03, 2021, from https://firstmonday.org/article/view/1617/1532

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