Do you have trouble being a villain in a game?

I’m perhaps too nice in games. I always try to help, avoid fighting, and don’t like to watch something play out if the answer about who’s the bad guy seems obvious or if I’d get some reward for helping one side. . (I also dislike playing as a male created character, but that’s a whole other thing.) Anyone else too softhearted in games?

In most games, becoming the villain only requires a different perspective.

Morgan Gordon Freeman (Half Life) is killing mooks and invading other dimensions to kill leaders of the Xen. Doom Guy (Doom) similarly kills hosts of “demons” and leaders. Corvo Attano (Dishonored) overthrows a government attempting to actually help the people instead of ignoring it like the previous regime. And these are games where your character is unabashedly the good guy. Freeman and Doom Guy are saving Earth, and Corvo is defending the rightful heir of the kingdom.

Factorio, Satisfactory, and Planet Crafter? Shameless colonizers.

Your leader in Civilization? An immortal despot hiding behind “governments” enslaving some - if not all - humans on the planet. Stellaris? Same thing, except sometimes your shadow government suffers ruling setbacks under a “democracy”. You’re still Master Slavelord, though.

That’s not even getting into the RPGs where you have a choice to be actively evil from your own perspective, or puzzle or action games where you play criminals, like the Payday series.

ETA: Recently, games have started to incorporate a lot more moral ambiguity, showing the player the negative impacts of their “moral” choice. For example, maybe not killing that person in your way results in the deaths of innocents later, just because you weren’t sure the bad guy needed killin’.

That being said - I trend towards pragmatic, with forays into sainthood and villainy within the framework of the game. Sports games sometimes throw a story mode in, and then I’m invariably King Asshole.

If the game gives an explicit choice, I’ll almost always play the “good” side first and more often, but I’ll still sometimes do an evil playthrough. Of course, often the “evil side” isn’t even all that evil: You have a choice between “save the world”, or “save the world, but be a dick about it”.

I’ll also play games which only have a “good side”, or where all sides are equivalent (like in Age of Empires, where any way you go, you’re one nation trying to conquer all the other nations), but I won’t generally play games that only have an “evil side”, like GTA.

Generally no, but a lot depends on the style of “villainy”. I actually tend to find the more extreme versions less likely to be disturbing, probably because they don’t feel very “real”. Scenes where my character is just a jerk will often bother me more than committing war crimes will, because being a jerk feels more real.

Yeah, if someone says “Can you help my kid?” I’ll say yes then mow down a bunch of baddies.

If it’s a game where you have a set protagonist who is a bad guy, say GTA or Mafia or similar crime games then I have no qualms about getting into character and causing illegal mayhem while I go my looting. If it’s an open ended game where you just have good/evil choices (Balder’s Gate 3 or similar) then I’ll play as good or my first run (side bonus, that’s almost certainly how the game was intended) and then evil if I liked it enough to explore the extra content.

“Evil” in mainstream games is almost always confined to murder, theft and destruction (or general jerkish behavior). I know games exist that get into sexual assault or other dark things but I don’t play those games and wouldn’t get any enjoyment from them. Running out of a bank with a dufflebag of cash and firing my guns is a fun power fantasy, not… other stuff.

My concern about in-game ethics is almost always on a micro level. Playing a game like Civilization, I don’t feel “evil” for launching a sneak attack or overrunning the indigenous population with my expanding empire.

I didn’t when I played Star Wars: The Old Republic (an MMORPG). I played a Sith Sorcerer who was cartoonishly evil. I would zap people and torture them with electric powers whenever I could. It was just so over the top that it wasn’t even believable. It also helped that the aesthetic was also cartoonish. It also also helped that I did so with a few friends as we were grouped up together, and I reveled in their scolding me all the time. Just made it so much funnier. :slight_smile:

But in general, no. I’m not doing real bad things to real bad people. Nobody is being harmed. It only depends on what is specifically being depicted. There are things that are too triggering to me even when it’s fake that I won’t do, and they aren’t the kinds of things I would talk about either.

Same here. There are still things that have made me feel guilty, though.

  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: ordering Zaalbar the Wookiee to murder his best friend
  • Red Dead Redemption (Undead Nightmare DLC): the mission Birth of the Conservation Movement, committing sasquatch genocide
  • Fallout 3: enslaving innocent people, blowing up Megaton
  • Mass Effect 3: murdering Mordin to sabotage the genophage, watching Tali commit suicide

Once is enough for most of those.

If you are supposed to be the bad guy I have no problem doing it. So far I haven’t played a game with true good/evil path choices where the evil path either didnt make much difference in the end or it was more limiting. I want to hit as many plot points and find all the side quests because I’m probably not going to do a second play through.

Don’t have a problem with:

A main character who’s explicitly wicked, shady, criminal, or morally compromised. Grand Theft Auto, Mafia, Saints Row, Hitman. It’s an old trope (I think the PS2/XBox era is when it really took off) and from a moral perspective no different from accepting a villain role in a movie. It’s fun to play the bad guy!

Doing unethical things that the game is designed to reward. My go-to example for this is Dynasty Warriors 5 Empires, where you can either go for Good Emperor (which takes absolutely forever and costs you astronomical amounts of cash and troops, for the benefit of some feeble peasants fighting by your side), go for Evil Emperor (which nets you tremendous…and UNLIMITED…amounts of cash, goods, and troops, at the expense of a bunch of hapless peasants opposing you on the battlefield), or remain dead-center neutral and be content with King. The only time I took the good path was to unlock the ending. Evil was just overwhelmingly better (and neutrality had an appeal of its own).

Doing wild, wacky, or dangerous things that would be a bad idea in real life. Terrorizing pedestrians in Crazy Taxi. Damaging public property in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Taking all kinds of dubious smash and/or grab missions in River City Girls. Fun! As long as you can separate fantasy from reality, no harm done.

Taking dishonest or unfair actions that are incorporated into the game mechanics and fully intended to be exploited to the full. Blood Bowl could not exist without all the fireballs and lightning bolts, illegal weapons, illegal magical tools, cheap shots, ref bribes, one-off mercenary signups, constantly interfering fans, and on, and on. It’s cheap, cruel, nasty, vicious, and intensely provocative, and that’s what makes it so awesome.

Being able to take truly reprehensible actions, but only with serious consequences (up to and including making the game unwinnable). It’s a very old example, but I recall Pool of Radiance skillfully incorporating these. You’d better not lie to the undead priest about Phlan being free, you’d better not kill the helpless fortune teller living alone with no one to hear her dying screams, and you’d definitely better not raise a blade against the good, honorable protectors of civilization.

Have an enormously massive problem with: Presenting an execrable worldview as normal or even admirable, particularly from the perspective of the main character. I again turn to this bitter journey. Supporting a sadistic butcher and a blood-crazed war dog to the very end, quietly accepting the clan leader’s horrible judgment, condemning a valiant and completely innocent man to die alone and forgotten, doing nothing about the continual acts of injustice and butchery done to those around her, and on occasion herself…Eivor is the absolute antithesis of who I want to be the hero. The worst part is that the overriding justification for all these atrocities is respect for authority, tradition, and structure, which is just daft if you know anything about, oh, pretty much any other AC protagonist ever. (Not to mention the little issue of all the slaves she absolutely had to have gets completely glossed over…I know it wasn’t a bunch of rowdy raiders building all those structures and doing all the work needed to keep the community functional.) She’s a better Templar than any of those Order of the Ancients schulbs could ever be!

I definitely cannot play the villain. I almost never can (unless the game is you playing the villain like “Dungeon Keeper”).

I have played Mass Effect many times. I keep meaning to play a Renegade character. I never, ever can do it. I always play Paragon.

I can’t bring myself to do an evil run in “Baldur’s Gate III”.

And then there’s City of Heroes/City of Villains. Hero-side quests often take the form of “Go beat up that group of Nazis, because they’re Nazis doing Nazi stuff that needs to be stopped”. Villain-side quests often take the form of “Go beat up that group of Nazis, because they’re competition”. Which led to some players complaining that the evil options weren’t evil enough.

To which the devs replied by introducing a new quest-giver contact, Weston Phipps. Phipps lives to raise the hopes of the poor and downtrodden, just so he can crush them even more thoroughly. His missions are things like “Go destroy this stash of school books that charities have donated to the poor”. And of course, players immediately responded “No, not like that!”.

Not yet. I’ve never been that emotionally engaged.

There was another quest-giver on Rogue Island who had a weird quest line and an obsession with a female Longbow agent. It was pretty uncomfortable and made me hesitant to complete it.

IIRC, there’s an option at the end of that quest line that you can choose that gets the contact killed.

I can imagine how that hit way too close to home for some players, but you’ve underscored the big problem with playing a sadistic jerk who preys on the weak and helpless…where’s the challenge? Games are supposed to be about overcoming opposition, accomplishing tasks, getting from point A to point B, turning chaos into order (or vice versa). “Destroy a bunch of defenseless inanimate objects” isn’t a game, it’s a tech demo.

Well, that’s not all there was to the mission; that was just the objective. When you get to the warehouse with the books, there’s a group of good guys there defending it, and so you have to get past them (probably by fighting them, maybe by sneaking past them, maybe by just being so tough you can ignore them, but you have to get past them somehow). That’s the challenge part. Just like how, in heroic missions, before you can destroy the doomsday machine, you have to get past the bad guys guarding it.