Our thing for evil

“The Joker” by jossielara

Humans are bizarre creatures. Through the ages, we have established a set of rules regarding “good” and “bad”. No matter how abstractthose ideas are, we have done our best to come to an agreement of what is okay, and what just doesn’t fly. Love is great, but loving someone so much that you follow them everywhere they go is considered rather creepy. Being ambitious is also something our society considers good, but once you go over corpses it’s a completely different story. We do our best to enforce these ideas on every member of our society, and yet the people from fiction who defy these ideas are the ones that fascinate us the most.

Take exhibit A, Heath Ledger’s potrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight Rises. Actually, just take any portrayal of the Joker. One of Batman’s most famous enemies is everything we as a society despise: he is chaos incarnate, and a sociopath to boot. He blows up hospitals just because he wants to lure out a single caped crusader, and burns mountains of money just to “send a message”. He even treats his greatest fan like shit, caring nothing for her emotions. The Joker does steps and spits on our moral and ethic codes, and then sets them on fire. And still, we deem him to be one of the greatest fictional characters ever.

This bizarre fascination we have for what we consider “evil” can also be found in RPG’s of every kind. In recent years, it has become a trend to integrate choices into the gameplay of many single-player RPG’s. In Dragon Age: Origins, we can use our digital alter ego to doom an entire race, or put the man who has hindered us for so long to the sword. Even MMORPG’s are starting to incorporate this kind of choices, as Star Wars: The Old Republic gives every class a story with compelling, ethical questions. From the birth of the genre, using role-playing games as a way to give expression to our inherent darkness is something that has been done in many ways.

The question remains is why we are so enthralled by evil, when we are taught to stray as far as possible from it as we can? I can’t provide you a hard, scientific answer, but this isn’t a hard, scientific question to begin with. Personally, I believe that this is a typical “forbidden fruit”-situation. The world we live in expects us to resist the allure of everything evil, and that is good. Imagine a society without any moral code! However, no man is a saint, and we all have our moments where we let dark thoughts cross our mind. No person goes through his life without feeling hate and anger, and sometimes we ask out loud if what is deemed bad is not actually the right thing to do. For this reason, we admire characters who have the means and the guts to show their dark sides, to ignore what society wants from them and to be the anti-thesis to our establishment. A part of us wants to be like them, a part of us wants to experience this total anarchy and destruction they exist in, even if it’s just for a moment. That is why we love these dark heroes, and that is why we emulate them in our RPG’s.

And you know what? That’s alright. That’s perfectly alright. Fiction (and RPG’s are just that) is the right place to give shape to all our feelings, even the bad ones. As long as it helps us to keep on the right and noble track in real life, there is nothing wrong with admiring and even playing the bad guys in a fictional universe. Embrace their cruelty and darkness, as long as it is only while you read their tales or play their stories.


One comment

  1. Awesome question. I’ll probably make a follow up post in a few days, now that you have the idea churning around in my head. As a former MUDder, my fondest memories come from roleplaying all sorts of alignment quirks, from a thief princess of an evil city of demons to a completely neutral ranger who’d sell her concoctions and poisons to anyone, be they templar or vampire, as long as they paid her well. I’m intrigued by that range of morality and I think fantasy games give us an interesting way to explore things, almost as an interactive thought experiment.

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