Good to be Bad, Again

Good to be Bad, Again
The Good, the Bad and the Sadistic

Alexander Karls | 28 Aug 2007 07:44
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What do people get out of playing a sadistic character in a videogame? Some videogame protagonists are little more than amoral killers, and yet they've become mascots who've sold some of the world's most successful videogames. Do gamers play simply for the visceral rush of a bloody kill, or perhaps just for the novelty of playing the villain? Or is there a deeper issue here, an issue of choice?

Take, for example, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which lets the player take on the role of a Jedi Knight in the prehistory of the Star Wars film universe. KOTOR offers the player traditional RPG design with a twist: The player can choose to embrace the dark side of the force just as readily as the light.

This choice spirals out to affect numerous elements throughout the course of the game. Although the player can freely switch his morality later in the storyline, this system lets him shape a distinct personality for his character throughout the game. His actions as a Jedi Knight or Sith Lord have repercussions beyond basic appearance, and his choices can even doom some of his companions to slavery or death.

The same morality system is used in Jade Empire, which offered a less-polarized moral compass upon which to build a character. In KOTOR, true evil meant that not only did the player need to ruin lives, but he needed to do so with glee. In Jade Empire, the paths of the Open Palm and Closed Fist weren't necessarily good or evil, just different. Jade Empire again let the player's chosen morality affect the people around him, and even included unique abilities that only a follower of a given path could choose.

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