More often than not, modern videogames aren’t really about choices. Yeah, we’ve got branching storylines and local agency, but in pretty much every game there is always a “good” or “best” ending which players will, more often than not, strive for. It’s typically possible to get everything you want in a game without ever sacrificing anything significant. We gain XP and we level up, but we’re seldom forced to make narrative and gameplay decisions which permanently affect our characters for the rest of the game.
I was thinking about this the other day, which (as most things do) made me think about the concept of revenge. What if I tracked him down and planted child porn on his computer, then called the feds? What if I took a plane to her house and burned it down while she’s out? I never would, of course, as I’d probably get caught, I’m not that evil, and my life would be permanently ruined, but one’s mind does tend to linger on the subject of retribution.
These malicious, creepy thoughts of vengeance have probably passed through all our minds at some point or another (hopefully, anyway — otherwise I look like a creepy asshole), and I thought it might be an interesting concept to create a videogame around.
[Special thanks to our own Topher Cantler, who made the incredible Photoshop seen above]
Hatred and Pride takes place in a totally realistic setting: modern day Los Angeles, shall we say. The game could be pretty much adapted to any genre, but we see very few games taking place in modern, everyday settings, so let’s start with that first. Your character has a dayjob of the player’s choosing, an ultimate goal in life, and one archenemy.
The player must hate the archenemy, so the archenemy must not be immediately evident upon starting the game. Initially a friend, co-worker, or lover who ostensibly serves to help the player along in their ultimate life goal, the archenemy will eventually betray the player, intentionally or not, after a few hours play (at which point the player will hopefully not only care about the archenemy and the other characters, but also understand and be comfortable with the other mechanics of the game). A girlfriend cheats on the player and leaves him; a co-worker steals the player’s idea and claims it as his own; a boss treats the player like dog crap and forces him to work unreasonable hours.
After the archenemy has betrayed the player, said archenemy no longer has any effect on the player’s quest to achieve his life goal. If the player wants to become a famous artist but his girlfriend cheats on him, her betrayal only affects the player on a base emotional level; simply because he lost his girlfriend does not mean he can no longer paint, and she will never have any effect on the player’s quest for this life goal.
This is where the choice I talked about earlier comes into play. After the archenemy makes him or herself known, the player can handle every subsequent play turn (or mission, or whatever) one of two ways: the player can either devote himself to vengeance, or to the pursuance of his life goal. There is no way to finish the game having fully avenged your archenemy and achieved your life goal: the more you pursue one path, the more limited the other becomes.
On the one hand, you can harrass your archenemy, destroy their property, blackmail them, ruin them, and (if you’re extra vengeful) kill them, but there will always be a comparable negative consequence to each act of vengeance: you can break into the archenemy’s professor’s office and replace their great essay with a crappy one, but the time you take to do that will result in your missing an important work deadline or neglecting your current girlfriend or boyfriend. Similarly, going for ultimate vengeance and destroying your enemy, then murdering them, will get you sent to prison.
On the other hand, you can devote your life entirely to the pursuit of your own life goal, but you’ll be simultaneously forced to watch your archenemy grow in fame, wealth, and happiness: for every jump you make in your own goal, the archenemy will make a similarly-sized jump in his or her own. Again, their ultimate goal does not conflict with yours in any way, but the player will likely find themselves insanely irritated when, after getting a huge promotion, their archenemy opens their own business and becomes a local success.
Choose between a lust for vengeance and your own personal desire for success. Witness your own malicious capability for hatred and revenge, but suffer as your personal hopes and dreams go flying out the window; stay true to yourself and stay your own course in life, but feel the niggling irritation of having someone you despise feel a similar success and happiness. Or, try to go halfway down each path and damage your archenemy’s reputation without totally destroying it, while achieving a so-so career without achieving true excellence.
The game is about choice, and understanding your own capacity for hate. The more I think about it, the more I think it might actually work as a sort of tabletop game not unlike One Can Have Her, but I’d much rather see this idea fleshed out as a true, virtual, assumedly independent videogame. Or as a mechanic in a larger title.