Good to be Bad, Again

Good to be Bad, Again
The Good, the Bad and the Sadistic

Alexander Karls | 28 Aug 2007 11:44
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By comparison, Manhunt offers the player no incentive to regulate his villainy. In Manhunt, players become James Earl Cash, a death row inmate forced to commit murder to survive while trying to escape from a madman's insane film production. The player must kill others, but he does have a choice as to whether or not to do so sadistically. He still has to kill, however, and the game specifically encourages the player to kill in as brutal a way as possible. Not going for the gruesome kill severely hampers the player's score at the end of each stage. In every way The Punisher didn't force the player's hand, Manhunt does.

And yet the problem can be much the same if morality isn't integrated enough into the game's basic gameplay. Fable offered the player the chance to not just be evil but also look it. As the protagonist journeyed down the path of evil (or good), his avatar changed to reflect his moral character. But with no other real effect in the game, the choice in Fable was a hollow one. Without consequences, being able to play a total bastard seemed pointless.

To say morality systems work at all might in itself be an overstatement. While compelling, these games demonstrate this gameplay mechanic is still in its infancy. As much as Fable offers no real choice at all, KOTOR doesn't do much with what it has.

Still, there is some consolation. Players haven't always had the luxury of choice; the technology just hasn't been powerful enough - until now. The last few years have enjoyed stunning advancements in game technology, and while that hardware makes our games prettier, it'll also allow us to do wonders the likes of which we've never seen.

We should remember games can be more than just toys. In some ways, the fact that we can choose our morality in a game means we should. Maybe there's something good we can learn by exploring this choice. Maybe by playing a villain, you might better understand what it means to be the hero.

Alexander Karls is a professional writer, making a living and an opinion on his blog.

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