Ultima IV and its Principles and Virtues

Jordan Peterson argues, and I agree, that the most popular stories in our culture are those which resonate with deeper truths about humans and our reality.

Two examples: The Lion King, Harry Potter.

In this blog post, I argued that the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion also contains deeper truths.

So if books, movies and anime series can communicate deeper truths, what about other artforms?

What about videogames? Aren’t they just frivolous fun, only for children and young men in their parents’ basements who are escaping from the real world?

Not at all.

Just like other forms of art, games can tell us a lot about ourselves.


Cover art for the videogame Ultima IV

Ultima IV was one of my favourite games as a child (back in the 80s and 90s). There’s so much about it that I love. It holds a special place in my heart, even today.

I have fully completed the game back in the 90s – it was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my teen gaming life.

Part of me really wants to go back and play it again today. But I’m scared I’ll have rose-tinted spectacles and quickly lose patience with it… some of the game’s systems are really archaic and clunky by modern standards.

Anyway, Ultima IV is all about the Quest of the Avatar. The player controls a character known as The Avatar of Virtue, whose ultimate goal is to master the 8 spiritual virtues. This is so he/she can end the fight between Good and Evil in the world, once and for all (classic videogame trope!)

I really do think that Ultima IV might be onto something very real with its belief system featuring 3 principles and 8 virtues.

Let’s take a quick look at them:

A visual representation of the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom, from Ultima IV

The One True Axiom

  • Infinity

Three Principles

  • Truth
  • Love
  • Courage

Eight Virtues

  • Honesty
  • Honor
  • Valor
  • Humility
  • Sacrifice
  • Compassion
  • Justice
  • Spirituality

There’s also one anti-virtue: Pride.


The 3 Principles and 8 Virtues from Ultima IV. Notice how the 8 Virtues are the intersections of the 3 Principles.

Interestingly, I found myself writing about Truth, Courage and Beauty (which is perhaps similar to Love) in this blog post about sorting your life out. Was I channeling my memories of Ultima IV from my unconscious?


I was curious about how the game’s author(s) came up with this in-game belief system.

“The concept of virtues was inspired by a TV show about the Avatars of Hindu mythology, which described the avatars as having to master 16 different virtues. The eight virtues used in the game were derived from combinations of truth, love, and courage, a set of motivators Garriott [the game developer] found worked best, and also found in one of his favorite films, The Wizard of Oz

Wikipedia page for Ultima IV

For many years now, I’ve been interested in exploring ways to lead a meaningful life. What if I already had a spectacular answer from a videogame (of all places!) from way back in my childhood?

What would my life look like if I attempted to be like The Avatar of Virtue?

What would the world look like if we all strived to be virtuous?

What’s the relationship between one’s personal core values, and Ultima IV’s virtues?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

8 comments

  1. […] I’ll keep going to 12 Steps meetings. I’ll keep focusing on what’s meaningful, not what’s expedient (or fun). I’ll face the dragon voluntarily. And I’ll pray I’ll be able to accept the things which I cannot change. In essence, I’ll attempt to live a virtuous life around the 3 core principles of Truth, Courage and Love. […]

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  2. These are in common with Stoicism and Plato’s works. Take a look. I really like how Ultima IV puts it all together.

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  3. This is very close to Stoicism and I have actually adopted it to help explain the Virtues better. Stoicism only lists 4 but I believe this completes them. This games actually encourages you to become virtuous, it shows you how t do it. Again very similar to Stoicism and Buddhism. We learn from behavior and by doing. This game is a great training in how to attain these Virtues.

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