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Article - 'Cruel Intentions V' by Xanqui

An item about Game Design posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

With Power Comes Destruction. The FIFTH article in Xanqui's Cruel Intentions series, this time focusing on the effect power has on characters. Look for a sequel to this article soon!

Body

Just as evil people inevitably come back for a sequel, I’ve inevitably come back WITH a continuation of the Cruel Intentions series. Can you believe that this is the FIFTH one? The first few were what made me staff in the first place! So, if they really were that good, then why not, I thought to myself, write another? Anyway, onto the important stuff!

If you’ve been around long enough, you’ve probably had the chance to read the old Cruel Intentions articles I wrote nearly a year ago. If not, then click on the text box thingy on the upper-left side of the screen and type in the word “Cruel”. Then click “okay”. It will bring up all of the old ones. I don’t feel like providing links.

Now, if you’ve already read them, then you would know by now that most evil villains are evil for a purpose. They are striving for a goal of some sort. This could be complete destruction, total rule, or simply ending the lives of thousands. The possibilities are endless. But what about the villains who start out as the good guys? Characters such as Cipher from the Matrix, that guy from the movie SWAT, and even Bill Gates were once good people, but eventually transformed into viscous bastards.

But what do all three of them have in common? They all became evil when they knew they had power. Simply having power can turn even the nicest of people into the most terrible. Ancient rulers with good policies and morals realize that, as soon as they have total control over their people, and all of the wealth in the land, they can do whatever they wish.

Let’s look at the king from the old tale of Robin Hood. Not much in terms of background on him is mentioned in the stories, but he was indeed an evil man. He stole from the poor to give to the rich. But let’s say he didn’t become king because his father was. Let’s say he became king because he was full of morals and excellent policies. But at the moment the crown was placed on his head, and the gold poured into the vaults, he realized “I want everything.” So he took everything.

However, Robin Hood posed as a threat to his power. So what would any evil person do when his gold is threatened? He would fight back, of course. Basically, there’s a formula for these evil bastards:

Guy is nice
Guy becomes well-liked
Guy gets wealth and power, because people think he will take care of them
Guy realizes he has total control
Guy uses control for his evil purposes that he just suddenly had
Other Guy poses a threat
Guy fights back
Other Guy fights too
Other Guy wins

Now let’s take a look at some people who had good intentions, but went a little extreme when it came to performing these good deeds. Namely: Adolph Hitler.

A lot of people liked Hitler when he was younger. He was handsome, loyal, and a war hero. But when WWI ended, Germany was thrown into a major depression. Someone had to do something about it. Anyone. Hitler wanted to restore Germany’s national power, but when he realized that he was coming closer and closer to total control of the country as dictator, he decided to go all out and kill the Jewish people and attempt to make Germany the ruler of the world. Of course, other countries fought back, and we eventually won.

While I may have been mistaken in a few parts of that, for the purposes of explaining the formula, let’s just pretend for this moment that what I said was true.

But let’s take it to a smaller, more personal scale. Cipher from The Matrix is a great example for this. Cipher was part of Morpheus’s crew originally because he had good intentions. He wanted to fight for the human race. But as time passed by, he grew sick of the crappy ship and food, and wanted to return to the reality that he preferred. His power came in when he had the deal with Agent Smith. But he refused to lose that power, which resulted in the deaths of several innocent people. It was like a small revolution, almost. When his goals were threatened, he killed.

Did you catch that last sentence? “When his goals were threatened, he killed.” Perhaps villains aren’t quite as evil as you or I thought. The villain simply wants to achieve a goal. However, with this immense power, of course, comes destruction. The more power a villain gains, the greater the destruction to himself, as well as innocent lives is caused.

Now let’s change the formula around a bit. Not all people with power are evil. “But how,” you ask, “can you write about the good guys in a Cruel Intentions article?!” Well, it’s easier than writing an entire other article. Firstly, here’s the new formula:

Guy is nice
Guy becomes well-liked
Guy gets wealth and power, because people think he will take care of them
Guy realizes he has total control
Guy and everyone else live happily ever after

In a perfect society, this would always be true. We know that not all leaders are evil. Theodore Roosevelt stole from the rich and gave to the less-rich, and you as the leader of your Sim City try to do the best you can to take care of your people. But this, of course, results in sacrifice.

It’s very difficult to have a highly-populated city with low taxes and plenty of recreational centers, as well as a subway system. At least, it is for me. But for me, I realize that I can do whatever I wish with the city, and no one can do anything about it. So I enjoy smashing buildings, raising taxes, and lowering payments towards road maintenance. I might even throw in a disaster or two. Why? Because it’s fun.

But another player, on the other hand, decided to be patient with the game. He’ll try to keep the taxes steady, and increase the size of the city slowly, because if he does it too fast, the city will eventually collapse. This requires a sacrifice of time and effort, as well as income. But in the end, the player will receive plenty of money to build the fun stuff later on.

So in the end, it’s the good guys who get the most power. The evil leaders will inevitably fail eventually, but will do so at a great cost.

While intentions may be evil in the end, many intentions start out as good. But with the realization of the immense power, intentions can become quite cruel…