Good or Evil?
So I'm curious to know...
Some games, especially MMOs but also some board games that I have played really like to have that whole are you on the light side or the dark side thing. But I always find there's a MASSIVE imbalance that usually results in one side just dominating the other.
I experienced this a lot back when I played Aion online, and I have seen this time and time again.
And let's face it. Most folks like the look of the dark side, most wanna role play evil. Because it's different. Because you don't get to be evil in real life unless you're Elon or Jeff lol.
But then there's people like me, who wanna play for team baddies but I assume everyone will, so I end up being a good guy (shout out to child's play). But there's others who think this too, and in our attempt to ensure server balance, we eff it all up and now they evil doers are outnumbered.
So when you play games that give you a choice, which side do you pick?
I almost always go with the Evil Guys. Serious reason? The Good Guys almost always have some implication that they're authority figures or maintaining some sort of status quo which rubs me the wrong way. Silly reason? The baddies almost always look cooler!
Really I enjoyed the way FFXIV handled it, with extremely customizable characters and classes being available without necessarily choosing a "side".
I also lean more toward baddies. One reason is that I feel like they're the most likely to be written as neurodivergent or queer, which I relate to much more. They also often have been treated a certain way by society, which caused them to become evil, and I find that thread very interesting to portray and follow. I agree with @SwampCreature that the 'good' side is often authoritarian; even with the Jedi, they were arrogant and lost their original purpose, which ended in their destruction, overthrowing, and almost their extermination. Also, bad guys absolutely almost always have better fashion.
If given the choice, I will usually play a character who is a shade of grey, rather than full-on evil or good. Marvel characters like Loki, Winter Soldier, or Scarlet Witch, or Star Wars characters like Boba Fett, Mando, or Han Solo (I do have a soft spot for Darth Maul as well) are usually my favorite characters in media. My favorite villains in games are Sephiroth and Handsome Jack, but I love Mad Moxxi and often play characters like her. I love playing thieves, rogues, and scoundrels (and no matter how hard I try not to in replays of Skyrim I always end up a thief).
in a video game, i side with good, or at least factions staunch in their ideas. In an MMO, i honestly think it is written from a neutral stance to justify any action you make as neither good or evil, so i don't take MMO storytelling that seriously (tho i do feel bad for all the writers who get their dialogue skipped)
in tabletops, I enjoy playing characters who sacrifice their own ambitions and well-being for their beliefs of leaving something better than they found it. in roleplay, whenever i try to be evil, i end up becoming the parental character by wrangling all the "good characters" away from purely evil choices. I can't be evil, because the cleric is more sinister than I am. So i think it is better to play someone who would rather square up to fight than sucker punch, and that's about the best I can surmise good/evil in a savage world.
and I think about this... WAY too much. There is a narrative in modern media (possibly born in the Soprano HBO days) that makes us suspicious of anything that declares itself totally good, or totally evil, and as such, we reflect that endless justification of our actions in our storytelling and character creation. I feel, personally, while this can make for complex and thought-provoking stories... it is SEVERELY OVERPLAYED and can turn into predictable regurgitate tripe.
Disclaimer: i still catch myself doing it because it's easy and most players don't think that much about it. We abandoned "leave it to beaver" for more realistic stories, but I do miss simpler times.
But for me the "fantasy" part of fantasy is to escape the murky grey lines of reality. I want good to be good, and evil to be evil. I don't need a lesson in political science or social justice while I'm slinging a flail at someone's skull.
But it takes a lot of bravery for an author to not get in their own way, get off their soapbox, and simply declare one thing good and another evil, especially in political intrigue stories. That's why I like monsters. Foreign invaders from other dimensions, who consume like locusts until there is nothing left. Dog eat dog. It's simple... it's not complex... but i gets the people GOING! lol
I'll go even further and say the storytelling zeitgeist of most movies, TV shows, and homebrew roleplay games carry this ick on it, where there is some real-world implication that nothing can be totally good or evil-natured. The king who hired you has an ulterior motive in the third act, or you realize you were an idealistic patsy, and something more nefarious was abusing your goodwill. This is a modern problem caused by disenfranchisement in our authorities. But some could argue rebellion based on pure suspicion is inherently evil by nature.
Or, in media, we see actions taken in a savage world where problems are solved by sword and magic fire, and writers apply their own lens of understanding to them, breaking the fourth wall in the most unsavory ways (when you aren't expecting it).
Oh, the king wants to build a wall and reject the influx of wartorn refugees? How original and evil! The baron would rather enslave the troglodytes to work the sulfur mines than execute them outright for their murderous cannibalism?! Preposterously cruel and capitalistic! lol
In D&D (my frame of tabletop reference) this is sort of negated by everyone playing a capitalistic exploitative opportunistic thief of ancient lost histories. And most published scenarios lack that bravery to declare things in such stark contrasts. But we're talking about Indiana jones here. indy is a good guy... right? RIGHT? lol He breaks laws.... he bends rules... he exploits his benefactors... but he punches nazis. Good guy right? But objectively, we could spin indy to being a selfish, manipulative, and evil character if we remove the heroic soundtrack from the film.
To be good is to be nothing and docile. but nothing and docile isn't a story. And to be bad is to be destructive, and that doesn't always feel good at the table.
So perhaps being mischievous, curious, and undaunted in your goals is the only answer when you are required to deal death to anyone standing against you in order to solve your problems. lol
I get what you mean about certain tropes being overplayed, like... they really finished in the horse... all that being said however....
While I am not always a fan of something trying to teach me a lesson (sometimes I just wanna have fun ok), I will say, it is the stories that keep me interested. Complex characters do it for me. Our collective creative stories are just a reflection of current times, time and time again. Godzilla was invented because Japan feared massive nuclear fallout. So in today's world, or at least the U.S. (I say this because I have not always lived in North America), highly controversial consumable media reflects our highly divided country on basically every topic imaginable.
I know I am going to butcher this next part... and really the whole thing because I am operating on no sleep (yay work!) so keep that in mind...
So I will say, I haven't been a fan of just mindless killing of dozens of destroyer type monsters. Like, unless they are some kind of insectoid beings with no thoughts of their own, I often feel it is unfair to just assume something is evil because it is different, wants different things, and is just following its own nature. The wolf eats meat, the deer eats berries. Neither are good or evil. Basically what I am trying to say is that, in the second and third seasons of the TV series Supernatural, they started to blur the lines between the good guys and the bad guys and that's when I finally got interested. Season 1 was so effing boring.
Complex stories and characters are relatable. I am the kind of person who wants someone else's creation to make me laugh, leave me in awe, inspire me, make me rage, break me down into tears and sobs, and if I am being honest, occasionally make me lustful eyebrows eyebrows. The more boxes a TV series/movie/game/book/manga/anime/rpg can check, the more I will like it. But you can't get much of a range of emotion with the standard hack and slash adventure.
The other reason I have always been oddly bored with the faceless monsters, is that I always think of the argument for using drones in war. If we take the human element (or more to the point, the emotional range) out of war, it would never end. Its harder to kill that which you might empathize with.
What do I know? I am half awake and writing this on the clock at my lab because I don't even need to be here today, but try explaining that to management.
@K-O lol yea this for sure. Us misfits stick together.
well said. and again... i use this in my stories too. I've just played a lot of tables where the DM wants us to be emotionally tormented by the struggles of conflicts my character may have trouble relating to by design.
i think personal development of player characters hits home more for me. be it an insect hack and slash, or a complex motive campaign, i kind of just want to focus on my own bonds/flaws/ideas, and the story lies in the conflict of the party learning that they may be different, but they all want the same thing. When I'm forced to learn a lesson from outside influences, i get turned off. my life and the people in it are complex enough... and I'm pretty empathic, even in real world drama, i can almost always see the justification of both sides of a coin. sometimes i just want roll dice and bask in the glory of victory over my enemies, and it doesn't matter if i am the oppressor or the oppressed. I want to explore the character, not explore myself; the separation of art and artist, performer and performance. does that make sense?