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Playing The Villain

by Nate Paolasso on 12/26/12 12:27:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


This article was originally poseted on N4G.

The Silent Protagonist. The Brave Heroine. The Sarcastic Anti-hero. The Regular Guy. All of these stereotypes have been portrayed in most video games. These characters are the good guys; whether you're Mario, stomping Goomba's to save Princess Peach, Nathan Drake cracking one-liners and jumping cliffs, or Ethan Mars, a normal dude who just wants to save his kid. These games are great, and being a hero is great; everyone likes the feeling of doing something noble and brave. I love the heroes that have graced my gaming life, and I can't imagine a world without them. 

There are times though, when I just want to be bad; not the kinky kind of bad either. I mean the 'get in a car in GTA IV and mow down pedestrians until I have a six star rating,' kind of bad. While this is satisfying for the moment, it's got me thinking. Why aren't there more games with the player playing as a villain? Not an anti-hero such as Kratos or John Marston. I don't mean some sort of karma bar either, like in inFamous or Fallout. A full blown dastardly, malicious, evil, twisted, sick bad guy. I think there are definitely some difficulties with creating this experience, but if it could be pulled off, it'd be one hell of an interesting outcome. 
The issues I see with this are probably the same as the issues anyone sees with this. If a game puts the player in the shoes of a terrible person, then a lot of controversy will surround the actions the player performs while they're this person; which makes sense. Imagine Far Cry 3, but instead of being Jason Brody, you're Vaas: possibly one of the most villainous characters to emerge this year. Slave trader, psychopath, murder; all of these words describe who and what Vaas is. Some of the crimes that Vaas commits are extremely brutal: outright murder, burning people alive, and even torture. But, really, is it any different from being Jason Brody? I mean, I, as Jason, spent countless hours killing people in Far Cry 3. Yes, they were pirates and slave traders and probably deserved to die. But killing people is killing people. And yes, at first I was doing it to save my friends. The thought of being inside of Vaas' mind though, absolutely fascinates me. I think that is one of the big draws, for me at least, to play as a truly twisted villain. It's hard to compare this idea of being a true villain to Far Cry 3 because that was one of the games main themes. The player was supposed to question whether or not what they were doing was wrong or right, justifiable or unwarranted, real or fake; part of what made the game so great.

Another huge, unavoidable issue with being a villain is obvious. The villain, almost always, dies. Very rarely does the villain ever succeed and plunge the world into darkness. The hero wins, rescues the damsel, and conquers evil. I think that this is okay though, for some games. In games like Red Dead Redemption though, I can't imagine it ending without John Marston dying, even though I tried frantically to keep him alive. When Red Dead ended though, I didn't feel as though evil prevailed. I felt that my anti-hero had lost and that neutrality had won. Which, when all is said and done, is still not an evil ending. I've always wanted a game that ended with evil prevailing over good. Games are at their best when they conjure up strong emotions from the players, and I think it would be extremely interesting to play as a villain, or even as a hero, and have evil completely win. I'm not sure how I would feel, and to me, that's an exciting possibility. 

I want games to strive for new things. Instead of using the same old recipes, mix it up; experiment. I want them to pull on my heart strings, and make me question whether what I am doing is right or wrong. I want an experience that makes me feel angry, not because it offended me, but because it did something that was inevitable and horrible. Games are beginning to push boundaries that no other medium could ever dream of reaching. I don't know whether a game will ever do what I am imagining, or if any of this even makes sense to anyone else. I can only hope that games continue to evolve and surprise gamers everywhere.

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