Sunday, 9 October 2011

Playing the Bad Guy

Like many people in a civilised society I have been brought up, to borrow a phrase: "Lawful-Good". I've also been brought up by prerequisite of an XY set of chromosomes Male, and by want of stellar placement: Human.

Because of this I have a habit of siding with the humans when choosing a character, and usually plump for male characters... that said this is role-play so I sometimes like to be a little more creative, dive into fantasy races and cultures... I have a fondness of stout tech friendly, ale quaffing Dwarves, and I've been known to try female characters when the class lends itself away from lumbering meet heads; mage, healer, or stealthy type.

So why do I have a real problem, it seems, suspending disbelief when it comes to playing the bad guys...

Warcraft of course is very good at establishing that there are virtuous heroes and treacherous asshats on both sides, and that life will dump on both factions equally (but Blizzard totally love the Horde child more...), with both sides often uniting against a common foe.

Still, there is the subtle feeling that the Alliance are good, and the Horde are the baddies... right... Or is that just me? I see the same in the player base, The Alliance definitely have more mature and sensible players, who pick lawful, good toons, who focus on bettering the world around them and are polite to one another in interactions. Whereas the Horde are all younger, anti-establishment teens who want to be the bad-guys and do evil things. Weeeeelll except those mature immersive gamers who chose to play the misunderstood, displaced, tribal and honourable non-human with a kind warrior's heart and a connection to the spirits.... and excluding those people who just play alliance because they have the pretty races, or play a human because it's the default and who cares about race and lore we just want to get to the pwning teh n00bs already!

Okay okay... so maybe it's not so black and white after all.

So how does this work when the game comes from an existing IP?

Games such as Lord of the Rings: Online have a very clearly established good and bad line, Similarly DC: Online and Star Trek: Online are coming from franchises that have existed in print, television, and feature films, the latter of these media being extremely unforgiving with its demand for a black and white good/bad. Similarly Super hero games like Champions online and DCU have the hero / villain line as their very theme.

Guess who's on the side of goodness here... 

Now different games have dealt with this in different ways: LotR:O have all players uniting against the forces of Sauron, in DC:U while players are heroes or villains, they are pitted against each other and a common enemy, and in ST:O the preconceived alliances and premises of peace have been thrown out the window in a move that felt a little out-of-character to some, for the genre that was always about space exploration, rather than war across the stars.

Personally I find myself drawing all kinds of blanks when it comes to playing characters not motivated by at least neutral goals, and can't bring myself at all to play some types like the undead or demonologists. In Warcraft, Blizzard is careful however, to explain even these extremes, could actually be morally neutral (or even good) and simply making the best of their lot in life, doing the wrong things for the right reasons, or victims of circumstance. They are free to do this because it is their universe, and they have spent decades refining lore to make the two factions more than just "War between orks and humans". As I touched on however, if you're coming from an IP with good and bad enshrined in it already, you run the risk of polarising the player base.

 Because of this I find it emencely satisfying when I do stray over the fence into the dark and sinister "evil faction" in games that have such divides, and yet still have rich enough stories to pull me in and make me empathise, or even like being a baddy for a while.

Maybe I'm not as imaginative RP'er as I like to think, or maybe I'm a goody-two-shoes who needs to live a little?  Well... I'm getting out of my comfort zone in a few games recently, I can see myself liking a villain in DCU:O when it goes free to play for instance, oh sure I'll have my star spangled heroes, but with comic villainy it comes in more flavours, there isn't just the 'evil side' - take over the world side of things... How did The Joker put it:

"Introduce a little anarchy, you upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I AM AN AGENT OF CHAOS. And you know the thing about chaos, Harvey. It's fair"
Why so square?

I might not be able to make summoning demons sit right with me, but I can see myself enjoying some 'dog chasing a car' chaos now and again.

It's good to get out of your comfort zone now and again, and if there is story to entice you into the darkness and actually make you question just who the bad guys really are, then that's the sign of a well written world.  It's something I hope we see more of in games, revelling in their stark good and evil or blurring the lines till black looks white.

But that's in other games... While in Azeroth

...Swear Allegiance 

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