The Personal ULTIMA

RAMBLE for the Week of November 10, 1997

Richard Garriott, the creator of the Ultima series, long maintained he had no personal religious axe to grind in the games he writes. The Virtues, after all, are not moral imperatives for the players, but rather ethical guidelines for Britannian society to follow. Garriott himself is not a religious man, but rather follows a system of philosophy which he calls Ethical Hedonism. Some Ultima fans may have run across this term before, because it is the title of one of the books in Ultima VII, The Black Gate:

"Ethical Hedonism, by R. Allen G. This handbook details a non-religious religion in which people live for the joy of living and make it their responsibility to keep the entire world out of disrepair."

There is also a "book" in Ultima Online with the same title, and a somewhat more indepth explanation.

Garriott gave a somewhat more interesting definition of Ethical Hedonism in an online interview he did for Texas Monthly early in 1997:

"I thought it would be fun to put my personal philosophy of life into my future games, which I call Ethical Hedonism. Ethical Hedonism has the following basic premises: Hedonism, in the sense of one should at least be trying to enjoy ones life, or one wasting the short time they have, and Ethics as the limiting factor one should put on ones hedonism so that others will treat you ethically as well. The symbol for this philosophy that a few friends and I now espouse, looks like a one, for the hedonistic self, and an infinity symbol, for the balance against the fact that we live in a limitless society.In any case, we are having fun with this new "philosophy" and it will likely show up in future Ultimas. As people have added "doctrine" to Ethical Hedonism, which can only be logical, and written much like a geometry proof, I have created silver pendants for them to wear."

As he says, the symbol for Ethical Hedonism is a one, drawn through an infinity sign. Now, think about they symbology in, say, Ultima VI, which came out in 1990. The central principle of the Human Virtues is "infinity". Thecentral principle of the Gargoyle Virtues is "singularity". Hmm.. an infinity, and a singularity, or a one. It would appear that Garriott's personal philosophies have been the basis of the Ultima games for quite some time, after all.

Richard has already made good on his pledge to include the philosophy in future games; Ultima Online's main political conflict is a direct take on Ethical Hedonism. Lord British prefers the Virtues, i.e. man's loyalty to society, or Ethicality. Blackthorn prefers anarchy, i.e. man's loyalty to himself, or Hedonism. The UO "book" mentioned above spells this out as well.

In any case, it wouldn't be at all surprising to see an infinity sign, split by a one, as a symbol in Ultima IX: Ascension somewhere. And it's interesting to think about what implications this philosophy might have for the plot of U9 as well. The Guardian, after all, is practically the Avatar of hedonism. And the Avatar himself is the Avatar of the Britannian Ethical virtue system. So U9 could be the resolution of their two philosophies through some other mediating force. Or try another tack: the Avatar spent all of U7 defending the virtues (Ethicality), but spent all of U8 thinking only of himself and his escape (Hedonism). So U9 might be the ascension of the Avatar himself to chief implementer of Ethical Hedonism. Will the Avatar trade in his ankh for an infinity and a one? Could be.

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