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Article - 'Villainy; Cause and Effect' by Faust

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Aug 8, 2003

Blurb

A quick look at villains in RPGs; their motives, reasons and the meaning of "evil"

Body

Villainy, Cause and Effect

You are the hero. You are good. He is the villain. He is bad. You must stop him. *yawn*. *Delete from hard drive*.

That is the process I go through when playing a lot of games and, lets be fair, many of them are "professional" games. When I look at the storyline for a game, I don't want to see "Good versus Evil", or I DO but not in a traditional sense. What is the point of a villain who wishes to destroy the world? Is part of his plan "Erm...not THIS bit", or does it encompass everything? Such drivel hurts the eyes of Faust!

As far as I know people aren't born evil. Theres generally something that forces them along a route, or at least makes the route more appealing to them. Not including Daemonic characters, who are made "evil", a villain should have some logic to his actions. This is not to say you can't have a chaotic lunatic villain, it just means that he should have a reason for BEING a lunatic. Luca Blight from the Suikoden Series is seen as evil throughout the game. Pure evil. He kills thousands, destroys a unit of children as an excuse to make war and generally raizes villages to the ground. Not to mention the fact that he sacrifices people to a large Daemonic force. But why does he do that? I discussed with some friends a few days ago the reasoning for it. Most of them missed out the fact that Prince Luca had watched his mother being raped, defiled and murdered by the Jowston soldiers while his Father looked on, and that Luca had most probably been disgraced himself. They instead chose to point out his actions rather than the reason. A traumatic event can make even mild mannered people into killing machines, and there is nothing possibly as traumatic as seeing your mother raped and killed in front of your innocent young eyes. The reason for Luca's fury towards Jowston was such, and it seems, after evaluation, pretty reasonable to want revenge. Obviously it isn't a very moral act as he is suffering from a mental affliction and a pig-esque fetish, and while the actions can't be justified, they can be explained. Evil without reason falls short of being evil. It is random acts of mayhem, which aren't fun to behold.

Evil characters should also be human (and I use that term loosely). Neclord from the same game for example. Neclord the vampire does a number of spiteful, and above all human, deeds during the course of suikoden2. He first baits Viktor by pretending he doesn't remember the town he destroyed (which Viktor's girlfriend was murdered in), he attempts to seize control of an area by force and threats and, the most human of all, he panics when faced with a situation he may die in. His quote "No! I can't die! Me? ME? I'm going to live FOREVER" shows his fear of death, having to reassure himself that he is in fact going to win. When this proves untrue he begs for his life, meeting requirements so that the "heroes" wont kill him. This is in vain however as he does die, but it shows that even great bad-guys can know the meaning of fear. After all a person who lives a longer time is more likely to fear death than a person with a human lifespan.

Morals are also an issue. Many people portray characters noted as evil as "omni-antagonistical", i.e. ultimately evil and against the heroes. However the fact is that everyone has good traits, whether they be loyalty, love, selflessness, faith, belief in a cause, protection of children and so on. Delita from FFT who manipulates people the entire game and causes countless deaths does achieve an era of peace and harmony. Barbarossa acts as a silent partner and continues with his "evil" due to his love for Windy; Ain Gard defends him due to his Loyalty. Even Adolph Hitler wanted to achieve greatness for the German people (but killed millions upon millions to do so, not exactly balancing out via utilitarianism _).

The theory of Good and Evil is a coin with two sides. Unfortunately humanity is on the coin's very edge. The suikoden games illustrate this well, with there being no actually good or evil if closely viewed. There are many evil or beneficial actions in the games, but everyone fights for what they believe in, for the "summum Bonnum", or "greater good". There are many areas of grey and nothing is black or white. When its hard to tell where the line between good and evil begins, then you know your game is a success and you've cracked it.

Remember: Humans. Human nature. This should be reflected in all works.