Playing “Evil” in Video Games

It’s inFAMOUS weekend, guys! I’ve been excited for Second Son‘s release for quite a while, but here’s the thing: I decided to tread the infamous path by being basically evil. And it’s so hard to do. My heart can barely take it. I won’t give any Second Son spoilers here, but that first choice you have to make? Ughhhh.

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So many video games these days let players make moral decisions and choose “good” or “bad” routes, and I once wrote on my blog about how much I love playing the hero in games. The thing is, in games like the Mass Effect series, even choosing Renegade options (the “bad” options) won’t prevent you from being a hero in the end. You might be tough on people, you might punch reports in the face, you might hang up the phone on the Council… but you’re still Commander Shepard, hero of the Citadel and humanity’s last hope.

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When the story is set that way — when your character is fated to be a hero — it frees me up to be a jerk for most of the playthrough. I love going for the Renegade, intimidate, badass side. It’s totally unlike how I am in real life, but that’s part of why I love it so much.

In real life, I’m a nice person. Probably way too polite, sometimes. I like to think most of us who play video games are nice, yet our games let us act out in ways we never would in the real world. That’s the fun of role playing.

I also have fun choosing an alignment that I never would in real life, even if it’s “bad,” and being a generally good person within its confines. For instance, I’m all for playing an assassin and making really tough choices there, as long as my character can be loyal to her friends and believe in her cause. The Dark Side can be fun, and it’s a world all its own.

But for some reason, when it comes to inFAMOUS, I have a really hard time treading the evil route. It feels much more “good” and “evil” than “polite” or “jerk.” And I don’t want to be evil. I can’t just run up to civilians and kick them. I can’t betray the people I care about — even if they’re not real. It doesn’t feel like an alignment choice, either. It’s just straight-up not-very-nice person — unrealistically so.

The funny thing is that I know a lot of people must feel the same way I do. In fact, Sucker Punch devs were surprised to see that the majority of inFAMOUS 2 players chose the heroic sacrifice ending rather than the more selfish ending.

It’s such a silly thing, but there really is a moral line that I have trouble crossing even in a virtual world, which must say something about how deeply ingrained morals can be. I’m trying to do it for this playthrough of Second Son… but it’s making me realize I really do like playing the hero in games!

— Ashley

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14 thoughts on “Playing “Evil” in Video Games”

  1. I’m in a similar boat. I gravitate toward good characters and good scenarios. A lot of the time, however, that’s because games come in flavors of SUPER AWESOME HIGH FIVE VANILLA or I AM STOMPING YOU INTO THE DIRT RIGHT NOW FATTIE CHOCOLATE … I wish the views were a bit more nuanced. I certainly prefer complex characters over Sir McGoodGuy.

    1. Yes more nuanced is always good. I think that’s my problem with some of the moral choices in games — they are not only black and white, they’re unrealistic because of it. Like, I know it’s all just for fun, but seriously, who’s going to go around kicking people on the street or killing strangers for no reason? And then get away with it, too?

      I’ve been reading about The Witcher 3 and how even though it’s open world, it’s not set up for you to run Geralt all over the place killing people for fun. It’s aiming for more realism than that, because that kind of “immoral” behavior breaks the immersion.

  2. inFamous is the worst when it comes to “Good” and “Evil” to the point where its the games trademark joke. The writers know how ridiculous it is and even go so far when writing the descriptions for the choices you make.

    inFamous is pretty much, “Do you want to be an angel and do the morally right thing and save the puppies?” or “Aw fuck those puppies light them on fire and be a total badass!”

    If you want tough grey chracters and choices Murph, then play The Witcher 2 already!

    1. ONE OF US!! ONE OF US!!

      Actually, I’m glad you said that about the whole “good” or “evil” thing being so over the top that it’s the games’ trademark joke, because that makes it way easier to swallow. For instance, I always looooved going nuts in Saints Row because attacking random NPCs was made to be funny. I’ll think about that next time I play Second Son…

  3. I hate playing evil… especially in Infamous for many of the reasons mentioned here in the blog and comments. I basically do it to see the other story ending and more so to try the other powers. I guess it is nice to not have to worry about collateral damage. It was so easy to accidentally kill bystanders in the first two games which made combat a little more of a hassle at times as the Hero.

    I’m going the good route right now in Second Son. I’ll probably go back for the evil route later, but seeing some of the choices already, I’m not exactly looking forward to it… haha. Game is pretty sweet so far though!

    1. Haha yeah, sometimes I’ll do that — play good, and then try evil. With Dragon Age and Mass Effect, I actually did it the other way around. In fact, I prefer to play evil first, because once I go good, it’s hard to go back to playing the “bad guy.”

      Anyway, I totally agree about inFAMOUS so far — really fun! Even though my Delsin is a jerk. =)

  4. I have an extremely difficult time playing as “evil” in any game. I started a play through of Mass Effect going the renegade route and it nearly destroyed my Psyche. I definitely couldn’t play evil in Infamous or Infamous Second Son

    1. I know people who can’t play Renegade in Mass Effect either! That one doesn’t bother me as much, because Shepard is still doing everything for a cause.

      But still, I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who’s a wreck when trying to play “evil.” =)

  5. 100% agree here, I tend to always play the inFamous games on the hero side first. I go back later and play the evil role, but probably due to my personality, it’s hard mainly because the choices are very black and white. The good option is heroic while the evil option usually tends to end in death and mayhem. Generally something overly extreme.

    I’ve always wondered what the series would be like with less binary choices and instead my grey area type options. Sometimes a little chaos/badassery can be good just not to such extremes.

    The Mass Effect example is a great one. Doing renegade stuff won’t lock you out of being a good guy/hero.

  6. Great post!

    It’s interesting to see how people handle being good versus evil. I was on Board Game Geek a few days ago when Upper Deck announced Legendary: Marvel Villains Deck Building Game. It’s basically the exact same game as regular Legendary, but you play as Marvel bad guys fighting the good guys.

    For a game that’s more or less a re-skin, there were many people up in arms about the move, as they wanted nothing to do with playing as the bad guys, even if the underlying mechanics were essentially the same as the game that they’re already fanatical about.

    In certain cases, I can find ways to make “switching sides” easier. I think sounds awesome to play as Magneto or Apocalypse fighting the X-Men in a card game. I play as Magneto, Dormammu and Dr. Doom in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 because I like how they play as characters. I also play as them because I think they’re cool. Also, whenever that reporter shows up in Mass Effect, she already knows she’s getting the business for talking smack about me.

    However, from what I played of the first inFAMOUS, the choices are so black and white that it really forces your hand one way or another, which you noted above. When it gets as blunt as “save these babies” or “kill these babies”, I’m more often than not going to do the right thing.

  7. Loved your post! Haha well you know where I stand on the Renegade/Paragon thing, since we discussed it in length a couple of days before your post went up (hard to believe we actually got to meet in person)! 🙂 But yeah, I haven’t played inFamous yet, but I’m already almost certain I won’t be able to make any of the ‘bad’ choices. I totally agree, there’s a line that’s difficult to cross if you’re not actually a jerk in real life and if you’re invested in the characters, it’s really not easy to just go betraying people or being horrible to them left and right. I tend to prefer games where there’s more gray area, so the choices aren’t just good and evil. Looking forward to trying this game though! 🙂

    1. Yesss this game is so fun! Anyway I totally agree, having moral gray areas and nuanced choices is definitely more interesting than the black-and-white choices. But that’s probably also me just wanting to over-analyze the character, like, “Well, MY Delsin would think about it THIS way, so he would do THIS…” whereas really, the game is set up to just let you go crazy without a ton of consequences.

      Anyway, I know, I can’t believe we got to meet! That was so much fun. We will have to hang out again next time we’re in the same city! =)

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