Who Are You?

Who Are You?
Are You Evil?

Greg Tito | 11 Sep 2007 08:19
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Despite the temptations of evil in games, most players follow the good path. Some express their guilt or disdain for having once chosen to do an evil act in game. Player Revan1 states the sentiment succinctly, "It makes me feel horrible to cut down someone who didn't deserve it or be nasty to my party members for no reason. Even their reactions to my Dark side choices pricks my conscience." This is echoed throughout the internet, the breadth of bad feelings associated with killing major characters or cheating good NPCs in games seems to be fairly constant. If players do choose evil, they regret it with great emotion.

Sometimes gamers are neutral on the morality present in the game, but want to play evil just to experience more content. These players usually play through the game once as a good character, then switch to evil the next time through. Occasionally, it'll be to explore the role of an evil character, to take a dip in the evil wading pool.

One of the criticisms of the Stanford Prison Experiment was the guards and the prisoners were merely roleplaying. For example, the prisoners referred to the most sadistic guard as "John Wayne." After the experiment, he admitted that he was actually emulating a character from the film Cool Hand Luke. In addition, a prison consultant for the experiment, Carlo Prescott, an ex-con, has written in The Stanford Daily that Zimbardo actively encouraged the sadistic behavior exhibited by the guards. While the accusation may not be true, there is a clear difference between choosing to roleplay evil as opposed to committing genuine sadistic acts. Therefore, it's hard to claim that players who only play evil as a replay are inherently malevolent or corrupt.

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In the search for true evil, I discovered a man known as Mordred. Taking his name from the traditional Arthurian villain, Mordred told me he only played villainous characters. To him, it wasn't a challenge or a task, he merely chose the dialogue or actions he felt he would say or do. "The first time [playing through] is always how I, personally, would react in that situation, and I always end up evil at the end. No surprise to me, though," he said. He was the only gamer who admitted to having sadistic tendencies outside of the game. "I like to torture and manipulate in real life as well as in videogames. If I lived during the middle ages, I would have definitely been busy as an interrogator for some despot king. I'm a sadist by nature, and I enjoy inflicting pain. Luckily, my wife is a masochist." Yikes.

Still, there are gamers who think the evil options written into games like Knights of the Old Republic aren't diabolic enough. The complaint is the dialogue for evil characters is actually more like being an annoying prick rather than a truly wicked individual. Finishing a quest to save someone's daughter only to demand outrageous payment from the father isn't really that evil. As Mordred puts it, "I seriously doubt Vader ever ripped off a plate from a widow, and I can't imagine that Palpatine would have bothered threatening a group of hunters inside a Tattooine hunting lodge." Playing a scheming and truly threatening villain within the framework of one story is nearly impossible.

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