Monday, August 13, 2012

The Problem of (Being) Evil

So, I'm playing back through Infamous and Infamous II. This is a pair of video games in which the main character gains electricity-based super powers after an explosion in Empire City - an explosion caused by a package that he was delivering. (I've mentioned these games before, because the main character - Cole MacGrath - looks like an adult version of my six-year-old's favorite super-hero, Lightning Zapzers.)

As with a lot of more recent video games, Infamous features a system of dualistic morality. Depending on your actions in the game, your character becomes more villainous or more heroic. This isn't just a measure of your in-game morality, either; the choices you make affect the way your powers develop, what missions are available to you, how the ordinary citizens react to your presence, and even your character's appearance.

The first time I played through, I went with the good side. I tried not to damage innocent by-standers, I healed people when they were hurt, I helped the police re-establish order, I dealt fairly with the citizens. Probably the hardest part of all that was avoiding collateral damage: Cole is so powerful that even with the good-side powers, it's easy to destroy things you didn't mean to. On a related note, never get into a guns-versus-lightning battle at a gas station.

This time, I'm playing the evil side. This is mainly out of curiosity: I wanted to see what the missions I'd missed were like, and how the evil-side powers developed.

At least, I'm trying to play the evil side. It's harder than I would have thought - I mean, evil is supposed to be easy, right? But I have to make a conscious effort not to stop and heal injured people when I pass them on the street. Or to pick fights with the police. And it gets really weird when I get feedback from the other characters; there's a very nice NSA agent who disapproves vehemently of my evil actions, and having her chew me out is weirdly uncomfortable.

Does that mean that I'm basically a good person? I don't know, and I'm reluctant to use a video game as any sort of litmus test for morality. But it's certainly an interesting experience.


  1. Evil isn't easy. Practice makes perfect.

  2. Maybe that it. Maybe I just need to practice being evil.

    ...Why do I feel like I'm in an Adam Sandler movie all of a sudden?


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