It is a question that has plagued man since the dawn of time… it is the eternal struggle… the fight between good and evil. In life of course we all strive to be the hero, the one people look to when they need help. For me however, video games changes that reality in an all too sadistic way. Playing as the villain is more fun than any hero story could have ever dreamed of being. Why stop and help that poor pedestrian when you can shoot them in the head and loot their body? Why just pick the hooker up and have sex with her when you can follow that up by scrolling through a cache of brutal weapons and deciding which to use to make this the last trick she ever turned? Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do!
Anyone who knows me or has read my work knows that The Legend of Zelda: A Link To the Past holds a special place in my heart as not only the 1st game that I played through to completion but the work of art that I credit with my love of video games as a whole. Those who have played the game know that there are random chickens throughout the map which are just begging to be sliced into oblivion. While doing so does not satisfy our ravenous need for chicken blood it does unleash the most coordinated chicken attack in the history of not only Hyrule but mankind itself. While this hardly makes link evil, let alone a villain it does show that even at a young age I had a thirst for blood that would only be fed later on in life.
Fast Forward to 2003 and the Xbox smash hit Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, a truly epic experience… and the 1st time I ever truly felt like the villain. For the 1st time if I didn’t like something someone on my team said I could make them pay for it, I could make the choices that always seemed so taboo in my gaming consciousness. Lying to the elder Jedi, forcing squadmates and friends to kill each other, even turning the Jedi cheerleader Bastilla to the dark side. All of it felt so new and so different, it make me feel powerful in a way that rescuing a princess can only have pathetic wet dreams about. Still to this day one of the most epic ending cinematics I have personally experienced is at the end of the original KOTOR when your sith is standing atop of his perch with the now loyal dark servant Bastilla as you look out upon an army of soldiers fit for a king. You know as Revan that you have a force capable of crumbling an entire galaxy… and that is what being evil is all about.
Killing innocent people is probably the greatest the feeling that an aspiring villain can feel, I mean who doesn’t want to kill old ladies minding their own business on the street. I know that I’m not the only person who has stood above one of these old ladies in GTA wielding a bat and repeatedly bashing her already wrecked and bloody head. Sandbox games really opened up this world and made it possible to spread your reign of terror to wider audiences. Vehicular massacre, chainsaws, fully automatic weapons and even force powers at our disposal to make our evil plots as real as anything we’d ever experienced.
Being that I had a PS2 before I had an original Xbox it truly was GTA that allowed me to truly achieve this feeling. I had bought the game and played through a decent portion and really enjoyed it… it was amazing to steal any car and shoot anyone with the guns i had purchased in a shady backdoor deal or picked up off of one of my many armed victims. Grand Theft Auto changed for me however one night, a friend of mine came over and saw that I was playing, he said to me “you don’t have any of the cheat codes on?” I looked back at him dumbfounded and quickly passed him the controller… “what cheat codes?” after a swift combination featuring the shoulder buttons and a quick spin on the d-pad i was now armed with an arsenal I only thought possible through hard work and grinding. Quickly he pulled out a rocket launcher and started to obliterate everything in his path… 3 stars?? Oh shit I thought this is going to get crazy. After finally meeting his demise at the hands of the military I turned to him and thanked him for teaching me this wonderous code. From that day on I rarely played the missions, I could have cared less about making a back door deal for a rusty pistol… my inner killer had been unleashed and I was heading to the tallest building I could find with my sniper rifle… in-game of course.
There are 2 current generation games that I feel have really brought this idea into the forefront and made it not only a core part of the story but a way to test your own mortality. On one hand you have Cole McGrath an ordinary guy thrust into the role of hero… he didn’t ask for this but with his new powers you better believe he’s going to unleash some hell when I am wielding the controller. Innocent people are not safe and with the powers I have always dreamed of I am going to turn Cole into the most reckless sadistic human being I can… because I can. The story in Infamous does not really draw me in that much, we’ve heard this one all before.
It truly is the power that your character is given that is the draw to the Infamous series, and I am ok with that… in fact I love that power I am given to destroy a world the way I see fit. Cole McGrath to me truly is the epitome of destructive freedom.
In every villains life there comes a time when sacrificing ones personal blood-thirsty goals becomes necessary for the greater good. For me that time came when I was tasked with saving the galaxy in the Mass Effect series. For the first time the evil in me was questioned, it was pushed to the side… I needed the Rachni Queen, I couldn’t allow The Illusive Man to have control of a growing Reaper Larva and Wrex is a crucial part of the Krogan resurgence. It’s fair to mention that I have completed multiple Mass Effect playthroughs and a renegade Shepard is one of the most ruthless and fulfilling characters I’ve ever experienced, but “my Shepard” had to resist the urge.
While some may think that saving the galaxy turned me soft I would warn that one that is turned to the dark side never forgets what it is to truly be a Sith. I will always dip my foot into the pool of evil, I will always make sure that my thirst for blood is sufficiently quenched. No matter how hard I try or how long I pretend there will never be a time where I will be able to resist the villain in me.