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Do the Wrong Thing: Subjective Evil

"How many men have you killed? How many, just today?"

This, not from a cop or a judge, but from a genocidal maniac at the end of a recent game. It may be cliché but he's right. Where is the difference between hero and villain, good and evil? They use the exact same weapons and tools (often literally), they both kill anyone who gets in their way. The only difference is their motivation: One wants to destroy/control the world while the other wants to, at the very least, stop the first. In games the ends must justify the means because the means are generally murdering a bunch of dudes so you can kill a specific dude or break some irreplaceable thing.

The thing that bothered me most about this month's musing was that evil is a vague term, one of the most difficult to pin down, and having so many exceptions. Any given action can be evil depending on it's intent: Killing in self-defense is different than murder, just as shoving someone to the ground is different than pushing them from the path of danger. The protagonist of a story often has to recover some plot item, usually one that belonged to an uninvolved party at the start of the story. They also get to trespass, kill, and steal from the enemy and supposed bad guy to further their cause. Recently it seems that you are able to do this to anyone with impunity. Some games have a karma meter or some such, but even if you are as bad as you can be you are still the designated hero of the tale.

Making this more confusing still is the increasing popularity of anti-heroes and anti-villains. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of anti-heroes, think Max Payne: A man seeking the truth behind the murder of his family and justice for drug-peddling criminals. To do this he will take on the mob, killing any follish enough to get in his way. A prime example of an anti-villain is Wander, from Shadow of the Colossus: He seeks to bring his love back to life, but to do so he knowingly makes a pact with a dark god and slays sixteen creatures who had lived in peace until his arrival. Both have the same core concept: A noble goal by questionable means. Where is the difference in these two characters? It is only in who they choose to harm. But is Payne a hero simply because his victims are bad guys? Is Wander a villain because of the lengths he's willing to go to?

What it comes down to is this: Games almost require a villain protagonist. RPGs have you breaking pots and barrels to claim the loot with in. That belonged to someone. Someone put that there. Action/adventure games have you slay scores of foes in the grounds that they're evil and in your way. Any game putting you in the service of good has you slaying evil, rather than trying to redeem it. I don't remember where this quote is from, but:
"No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks."
"Even when you think you're doing the right thing, you may be going about it the wrong way."

That's all for now, I suppose.
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About Undeedone of us since 5:47 PM on 08.31.2009

I am a people, I am a college student, I am a gamer. I am also rather new at this blogging bit, and decided that Monthly Musings seemed like a not bad way to acclimate to writing things that people will read. I'll add more as it's relevant.
Xbox LIVE:Undeed
PSN ID:Senzig


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