Friday, November 6, 2009

The Banality of Evil Characters

I rather enthusiastically entertain the notion of a game that lets you play as an evil character. The concept of strolling into your favorite RPG village and laying waste to all those familiar yokels is appealing. Playing a power hungry megalomaniac also has a nice ring to it. However, when playing an evil character your acts become banal when you've slaughtered the same village 10 times, or chopped the head off of every passer-by, or even gone on several rampages against the authorities(i.e. police, guards, etc...)

For an act of atrocity to truly feel atrocious, it has to be being observed from the perspective of someone who considers themselves good. They also need to see the one committing the act as good prior to the act.

If you go along robbing and killing everyone you meet, everyone will expect that behavior and in time come to accept their plight as the oppressed.

So how do you create a world for an evil character, where the acts of evil mean something? How can an evil character be seen as anything but evil? And how do you create things for an evil character to do that don't become boring after the first couple times the player does it?

The game industry has yet to satisfy these questions with any current games. Maybe you or I can find them.


  1. Eve Online: evil has a meaning when you do it to other players.

  2. Short and easy answer: design a world for goodie-two-shoes, lock the GM-nanny-police in the break room. Make it, and they (the griefers) will come.
    Then rinse and repeat with a new game/instance after the first one goes under.

    Less jokingly, you need a world that's designed for 'good' players to thrive and succeed without forbidding the emergence of deviant types if they're competent and dedicated enough.
    A game universe that offers solid incentives and means for people to play 'good' types in a meaningful context while making provisions for deviant behavior to impact the gamestate and players in interesting ways is the condition for 'true' evil to happen.

    The ebil will self-select in that kind of environment, and the creativity they'll have to display to live up to their sociopathic ambitions will ensure the base griefers are weeded out while the ebil geniuses shine.

  3. @Kirith EVE has the advantage over standard console titles because the players create a unique emergent experience. EVE will probably never drop off the top of my favorite game list.

    @AcD That works very well for online games where there are multiple players. And it's definitely true about griefers getting weeded out. It's just hard to give evil acts context in a single player world, where NPCs define the player's interaction with the game.

    Love the responses