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#9

Are you still a nice guy if you play evil?

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As always a fascinating article.

I have to admit, I can never seem to bring myself to been the "Bad" guy, so to speak - like in ME2, I will always run PAragon, and in Fallout 3, I would be good.

I tried the others, but, it just didnt sit well with me at all, and my moral compass was going haywire from the thought of it.

So... what about people who always take the "good" choices?

What does that say about them?

I think a big part of it is why you play games. Gamers who are more system oriented and looking to maximze their in-game potential typically don't mind using evil to exploit in-game characters. Gamers who are more focused on roleplaying tend to feel guilty about being evil. Then you have story folks who like to play through twice so they can see the full range of good and evil options.

Personally, I always feel too guilty to be evil.

Steve Butts:

Personally, I always feel too guilty to be evil.

Me too. That is, until the AI breaks and I get completely sucked out of the game, then it can be pretty fun to kill, steal, and burn shit.

But the "role players" label includes people like the... asker (or w/e you'd say), in the article, and I think you over-generalize by suggesting most of them feel guilty about being evil (in game; he obviously does afterward, but it's like meta-guilt). I'd be willing to bet there are lots of remorseless evil doers out there.

summerof2010:
Me too. That is, until the AI breaks and I get completely sucked out of the game, then it can be pretty fun to kill, steal, and burn shit.

But the "role players" label includes people like the... asker (or w/e you'd say), in the article, and I think you over-generalize by suggesting most of them feel guilty about being evil (in game; he obviously does afterward, but it's like meta-guilt). I'd be willing to bet there are lots of remorseless evil doers out there.

You mean psychopaths?

Zhukov:
So... what about people who always take the "good" choices?

What does that say about them?

I'd love to hear this as well, I find it impossible to dehumanise game characters. If they have no character though everything's fair game, I'll happily raise cities in strategy games or slaughter thousands in undeveloped sandboxes.

Well i just played a round of civ V where i invented nukes for the first time and had a blast testing them out on the other players, in this case NPCs. And once i get going in civ i can be quite ruthless and cunning but the thing is i have a hard time being the one that starts the fight, unless i can find some way to "justify" it like "i was about to claim that territory!" and yeah, the AI just making such a bad decision that it pulls me out of the game is also enough to trigger one of my killing sprees.

Obviously, this doesn't mean there isn't lots of actual evil in children's lives outside of fantasy play.

A friend of mine has a novel theory: That most children are inherently psychos, what with the burning ants and tearing wings off flies, and the adults who are severely bent are kids who never gained empathy or respect for society's rules.

I see another pattern to this too, one that puts significant weight on immersion and characterization. Those that ask themselves what they'd do in that situation and those that choose to just have fun seem to have far different experiences. I like to play like I'm living in the game world and often find myself choosing the good path, even in Fallout 3 I found myself racked with guilt at the death of the Megaton NPCs. But in the same breath I can also say that in a game of GTA IV or Just Cause 2 I can kill piles of NPCs without feeling anything. Mostly I'll just laugh and kill some more. So is living out the experience in a game different than just running around blowing stuff up?

I may not have worded this properly, but I think I've gotten my point across. Is there a difference in being evil while being immersed in the game world as compared to shrugging it off and playing it like a game instead of an interactive story?

You just go ahead and keep on doubting my megalomaniacal intentions Doc. One day soon tho, my army of winged machine elves will be ready, and I will conquer the world!

Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

In case you haven't guessed, I always play the evil protagonist. I love doing to NPCs the kind things I can't do to my employees. Darn labour laws!

Formica Archonis:

Obviously, this doesn't mean there isn't lots of actual evil in children's lives outside of fantasy play.

A friend of mine has a novel theory: That most children are inherently psychos, what with the burning ants and tearing wings off flies, and the adults who are severely bent are kids who never gained empathy or respect for society's rules.

This is not a novel theory; it dates back to Jonathan Edwards:

And that little children have a negative virtue or innocence, in relation to the positive acts and hurtful effects of vice, is no argument that they have not a corrupt nature within them: for let their nature be ever so corrupt, yet surely it is no wonder that they be not guilty of positive wicked action, before they are capable of any moral action at all. A young viper has a malignant nature, though incapable of doing a malignant action, and at present appearing a harmless creature.

...Weirdly, Edwards had a bunch of kids.

Steve Butts:

summerof2010:
Me too. That is, until the AI breaks and I get completely sucked out of the game, then it can be pretty fun to kill, steal, and burn shit.

But the "role players" label includes people like the... asker (or w/e you'd say), in the article, and I think you over-generalize by suggesting most of them feel guilty about being evil (in game; he obviously does afterward, but it's like meta-guilt). I'd be willing to bet there are lots of remorseless evil doers out there.

You mean psychopaths?

I should have said remorseless "evil" doers.

in games with moral meters I tend to end up on evil but I don't try to be evil I just think well I have no money or ammunition and I am wondering through a wasteland of course I am going to sneak kill the next guy I see and steal all of his stuff it's not evil it is survival. Also why is it evil not to give the guy that walked up to me asking for half my money because he is poor (only according to him) money I only have his word that he is poor that's why I think a reputation meter is better then a moral meter.

Evil characters are, to me, often the more interesting ones because unless they're completely dehumanized monsters whos dialog could basically be replaced with BLAAAAARFG! *cuts off heads* they must have a reason for doing what they do. Something that society as a whole doesn't appreciate or understand. Are they tormented or out for revenge? Do they think they're making the hard choice others failed to do? Are they perhaps labeled as evil because they're fighting for a different ideal than the generally accepted one?

The all-powerful good character is about as interesting as a book of matches, because they basically come off as flawless stoics who have no real sense of self. Unfortunately, most RPG-stories are geared towards the good path and leaves very little room for the player character to have ambitions of her own.

Normally I pick evil actions as a response when the AI is a bastard with me.

Nobody feels guilty about fatalities, ultra combos, and kicking the corpse of the Karate girl that was beating you up. Having an excuse makes it easier.

Steve Butts:

Personally, I always feel too guilty to be evil.

Yeah, same. I've found in older games it was easier, but now, when so many people react. Especially in Dragon Age. I hate having my party angry with me, so there were moments I did something I didn't want for them. On one hand I really shouldn't care what they thing. On the other I really needed Wynne since she was the only spirit healer I had...

Personally I think alot of the time people know that they can act out what it would be like to be 'evil' in the confinds of a game because it is accessable and can be more fun but without any 'real' reprocussions.

Its basically all the thrill of being the bad guy without hurting anyone for real.

Much of the world is very focused on 'right and wrong', films, TV shows, books, games etc all seem to have a centrally 'good' character, even if they do go around killing people they generally are 'good' at the core.

Most RPGs follow this pattern as well because you have the ability to be nasty to someone or rough them up a little bit but when you finish the game you save the world, so doesn't the end justify the means? If you did nothing then the guy would have died, so surely its better that he had a broken nose than being dead?

When being surrounded by all this 'goody goody two shoes' around us all day it is a little refreshing to break from the norm and do something a little more risky, if anything to just break the boredom of always being the nice guy that saves the world but still has time to help little timmy ride his bike.

Off on a little tangent but I find that EVE online is a game where you can be very evil and its interesting to see how professional some of these 'evil' guy can be. Again alot of the time people know its a game and they CHOOSE to be 'bad' because its more fun / profitable etc and usually not because they are a bad person.

On another tangent its also interesting to see that on MMO / multiplayer games people find it easier to be nasty because the game itself dehumanises the players to a point where you can dismiss other players to be at the same level of NPCs (ie, without feelings) (ie, the greater internet f-wad theory :P)

Surely when playing a sandbox game where you kill large amounts of government officials like police officers, SWAT, FBI and even the army, that's kinda in the evil section.

Any game you play, that involves killing people, you are a heroic sociopath.

In any RPG I've played I've almost never been able to be the "pure evil" character. I always feel guilty doing bad stuff, even though the ones who suffer are all just a bunch of A.I.
But in other games, like GTA, I enjoy plowing through a bunch of people or making a stand on a rooftop and taking dozens of cops down with me.

I've often found that in games that the morality system does not match up to my own. I often find it arbitrary and sometimes even reversed. The most prominent example for me was in Fallout 3 where you could quite literally buy karma from the two churches. Neither church provided any service to the people of the wasteland, and the church of atom seemed to actively harm them. I found this so repulsive that in almost every play-through I ended up wiping out the entire of both churches.

Then to add cream to this pie of moral corruption, there is a side-quest where you get karma for removing someone from the church (In Rivet City). This along with Tennpenny Tower made me abandon the system except to farm it for endings, and do what I felt was right.

In Oblivion I pretty much became 'evil' because the quests for the two evil groups were so much better and gave a sense of accomplishment. I found the thieves guild to be the true heroes by aiding the poor, protecting the beggars, and generally being helpful in word filled with self-important fighters, aristocratic mages, corrupt officials, and shopkeepers fixing prices. The Dark Brotherhood in turn were secretive, violent and cruel, but were self-aware and followed their moral code consistently; leading me to respect them as opposed to the other factions. I guess that says more about me than the game itself.

Mark J Kline:

Are you still a nice guy if you play evil?

Ask any of my friends. ;) And I'm the most corrupt, backstabbing, underhanded SOB in games. Hence the avatar name.

I can also play a Whiter than White character...but being evil is SO more fun.

Hey, I just realised what that strange feeling of Deja V was: Dr Mark totally looks like the Medic from Team Fortress 2! Well, not really, but just enough to remind me of that guy.

Err... anyway. Is it a bad thing if I always (I mean it) play as the good guy in RPGs? I always go for the nicest (and if possible, the funniest) options... well, except that one time I killed the crazy mage in the forest in Dragon Age. But he was actually hiding a bunch of demons and was generally an asshole, so he had it coming.
Maybe I just can't fucking let go.

The_ModeRazor:
Hey, I just realised what that strange feeling of Deja V was: Dr Mark totally looks like the Medic from Team Fortress 2! Well, not really, but just enough to remind me of that guy.

Why did you have to say that now I have the pyro in my head calling out for a medic, Thank you very much!

Being evil is just more fun, it doesn't mean you are a bad person. It just means that the evil team members are more fun. Plus evil people have an easier time in the start of games, while the good characters are taking the high road and not having the money to but gear, I (aka the evil characters) have just bought all the gear with the money they pillage along the villages on the low road.

I mean we get the great deed done that saves all life, we just took a different path, one that includes money, power, and women.

Meh-bic! Meh-dic!

Mark J Kline:
Ask Dr. Mark #9

Are you still a nice guy if you play evil?

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hey guys, i was evil in a video game does that make me evil in rl? you bet, dysfunctional karma meters in failout 3 odviously compare to rl, like blowinmg up a town then giving over 100+ bottles of water to one thirsty tramp to resolve maself of evil.

rlly? someone had to answer this? well, that is a dumb question because, like, on the escapist, games are p.serious and everybody takes everything very seriously. VERY SRSLY.

Personally I've found morality meters to be inherently flawed, because they make it a black and white thing, when morality is usually far more grey. Take Fallout 3 for example there is a quest where you can either aid a group of cannibals ("vampires") in extorting a town, or wipe them out; guess which action gives what karma?

What about Fable 2? Eating meat is a "bad" at but eating vegan is "good"?

Sure there are games out there that give you to the chance to be an out and out psychopath, but most games with a morality system fail to understand the subjective nature of morality; very few "evil" people in real life view themselves as evil, to them they are doing what is right, even if we think they are the love child of Satan and Hitler.

Mark J Kline:

I'm normally a nice guy in real life, but are these games trying to teach me something about myself? Am I secretly evil, or, at least, not a very nice person?

So I think you can learn something about yourself from the fact that you go for the evil actions. As part of the human race, you have the same tendencies as the rest of us. You may well be doing yourself some good by having a safe and contained place to act them out, and this can serve a useful psychological function in helping you continue to be a nice guy in real life.
Or you could be rehearsing evil plots and plans that you will eventually unleash upon the world.

Carl Sagan expressed an interesting perspective that books were a form of telepathy, wherein the reading of a book was effectively providing a glimmer into the author's thoughts, in effect reinforcing synaptic patterns within your own mind that correlated with concepts that the author was attempting to convey. In similar fashion, games like Grand Theft Auto and Postal 2 were criticized because the activity of "performing the crimes" within these games were reinforcing habits of mind that could potentially lead to destructive behaviour.

Mind you, at the same time a game is simply a pastime that serves as a source of recreation, and as a point of common interest with other gamers. It is interesting that Kline touches on "humanity" because in essence we all have an inherent capacity for accomplishing difficult and complex endeavours, moderated by our personal preferences and our willingness to works towards a given goal.

Mark J Kline:
This may also be what compels some religious and political leaders to transgress: they are working so hard to be paragons of virtue, the burden of this responsibility can create overwhelming pressure and perhaps an unconscious desire to let go of being good all the time.

By coincidence, today there was a Cracked satirical article that better expressed the reasoning behind this:

http://www.cracked.com/article_18777_5-scientific-reasons-powerful-people-will-always-suck.html

tkioz:
Personally I've found morality meters to be inherently flawed, because they make it a black and white thing, when morality is usually far more grey. Take Fallout 3 for example there is a quest where you can either aid a group of cannibals ("vampires") in extorting a town, or wipe them out; guess which action gives what karma?

What about Fable 2? Eating meat is a "bad" at but eating vegan is "good"?

Sure there are games out there that give you to the chance to be an out and out psychopath, but most games with a morality system fail to understand the subjective nature of morality; very few "evil" people in real life view themselves as evil, to them they are doing what is right, even if we think they are the love child of Satan and Hitler.

Don't get me started on the stupid Fable meat-eating thing. Rescue slaves, eat tofu - it's all the same morally. Sheesh.

I liked Mass Effect 2 for subtlety - the paragon/renegade continuum seemed to have more substance than the too-usual "save kitten or serve kitten in pie!" I always play squeaky good characters, but I felt pretty fulfilled taking renegade actions like blowing up a fuel tank near a pontificating bad guy or nodding to Miranda to start shooting before a mercenary finished offering us the choice to surrender or die. It didn't seem psychotic, just kind of...smart.

This book did a great job advocating for games as a form of catharsis, also noting that our "violent" entertainment isn't nearly so bad as some forms throughout history. One notable anecdote, the author remembered growing up in the 1950s, all they did was play with toy guns all day long, while in the 2000s, some 5-year-old got suspended from school for pointing his finger and someone and yelling "BANG!" [sigh]

Psydney:
I liked Mass Effect 2 for subtlety - the paragon/renegade continuum seemed to have more substance than the too-usual "save kitten or serve kitten in pie!" I always play squeaky good characters, but I felt pretty fulfilled taking renegade actions like blowing up a fuel tank near a pontificating bad guy or nodding to Miranda to start shooting before a mercenary finished offering us the choice to surrender or die. It didn't seem psychotic, just kind of...smart.

And Dragon Age decided instead to just have different actions gain approval/disapproval with different party members (and some NPCs), which comes close to the "factions" system the Extra Credits guys advocate for in their moral choice video. (Which we used to see more often.)

What about the voices in my head Dr Mark? They tell me that all the angels are dead and I must go out in the streets to reclaime them form the evil people with my great grandfathers wood choping axe. As an aside I would also like to point out that I am available for childrens partys.

The Morale of this story is don't get drunk and post on internet forums kids. It's not big and it's not clever.:)

I find it to be deeply disturbing to play the bad guys. Even when I set out to do so, the cognitive dissonance really makes me change to playing a paladin.

Not sure why, I just can't be bad for anything other than a kick.

I try to take the "evil" side, thinking it will be really cool but I cant quite go on with it in most RPGs. In FO3 at Tenpenny Tower, I had the bomb set up and ready to go but I couldnt pull the trigger.

In the Mass Effect games I go full Renegade, but whenever a real moral choice comes up, I just Cant pick Renegade for it.

Feels bad man.

The closest I get into playing an "evil" role is as Wario.

Psydney:

tkioz:
Personally I've found morality meters to be inherently flawed, because they make it a black and white thing, when morality is usually far more grey. Take Fallout 3 for example there is a quest where you can either aid a group of cannibals ("vampires") in extorting a town, or wipe them out; guess which action gives what karma?

What about Fable 2? Eating meat is a "bad" at but eating vegan is "good"?

Sure there are games out there that give you to the chance to be an out and out psychopath, but most games with a morality system fail to understand the subjective nature of morality; very few "evil" people in real life view themselves as evil, to them they are doing what is right, even if we think they are the love child of Satan and Hitler.

Don't get me started on the stupid Fable meat-eating thing. Rescue slaves, eat tofu - it's all the same morally. Sheesh.

I liked Mass Effect 2 for subtlety - the paragon/renegade continuum seemed to have more substance than the too-usual "save kitten or serve kitten in pie!" I always play squeaky good characters, but I felt pretty fulfilled taking renegade actions like blowing up a fuel tank near a pontificating bad guy or nodding to Miranda to start shooting before a mercenary finished offering us the choice to surrender or die. It didn't seem psychotic, just kind of...smart.

I agree completely, the paragon/renegade system is more better then a plain good/evil system, Shepard is still a "good" guy you just get to choose how he handles things, which helps with the RP part of RPG at least for me; I'm nice to my friends, polite to strangers, and respectful to people who show me respect, but if I'm about to get into a fight at the pub I'm not going to play "nice" I'm going to go for the quick (and safer) path to victory, if that means fighting dirty, so be it.

The Dragon Age system was good as well, you're still the hero no matter what you do, you always end up at the same place, but who is still with you at the end depends on your actions, in fact it was much more realistic, I'd rethink a choice that might cost me a valued party member, the same way I'd act in real life "mmm I want do this, but is really worth pissing off my friends to such a degree?"; it gives you a feeling of consequences that is sadly lacking in a straight morality meter.

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