Drunken Thoughts – The Thin Grey Line

WARNING: The following posts contains spoilers from games that you may have not played it. They will be discussed for the purpose of this post.

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In games, the sides of the stories tend to be very clear about who is good and who is evil, be it because of the back story or the actions taken during the game. Almost never is the villain painted in a good light, but at what point do we praise the evil and shun the good? Let’s take a look at a few examples of where that clear black and white meet in the middle, and sometimes cross.

In Warcraft III, Prince Arthas, in an attempt to save the citizens from turning into undead and infecting more, go through the city of Stratholme, slaughtering those sick and well alike. While his intentions in the end were good, slowing the demon’s wake of destruction, this was the point at which the prince began to fall. Arthas almost hesitates purging the city but to him, it is the only way to keep the scourge at bay. Through his actions, his mentor, a fellow paladin, and his best friend leave him, unable to bring themselves to do such a heinous act. During that mission in the game, there is a high sense of urgency due to the fact that you have to kill 100 citizens before the demon does while fending off attacks from him, leaving you little time as the player to actually feel remorse for slaughtering the citizens of the city. Once done, though, I remember thinking back at what I did, killing those who were infected and those that weren’t, and knowing that things were only going to get worse.

Taking a slight side step, let’s look at protagonists that have a choice of being good or evil. One of my favorite games (and series) is inFamous. Here we have Cole MacGrath, given the ability to absorb electricity and then shock the hell out of anyone or anything he wants. It’s a karma based story; doing good will give the praise of the people while doing evil will have the city throwing rocks at you. Three major points in the story stand out though let’s tackle two with this part. First is the very first choice in the game you are presented with: Do you share the food that you just rescued with those in the area or do you zap a few to scare them off, making sure that your best friend, girlfriend, and self are able to eat for weeks? In a city that is in a massive quarantine, survival of the fittest is key so it would make sense to take the food for yourself, do good for your friend and girlfriend, but do so and both of your companions will frown at your actions. The other major story point is where you have the option of destroying the thing that gave you your powers in the first place to make sure that the devastation first wrought by the sphere is never seen again, or use it to gain more in order to make sure that you can defend (or enslave, whatever floats your goat) the city that is your home, but take out several blocks nearby, including anyone caught in the blast radius. You’ve been told during a significant part of the game that some monstrous enemy named “The Beast” is more powerful than you and you need to be stronger in order to defeat it. Both options seem viable, especially to a good character, but only one guarantees that no one else dies to the sphere’s power.

Now, that third major point that doesn’t quite fall under the protagonist focus. During the game, Cole’s girlfriend Trish is captured and the big baddie Kessler tells Cole that he as two options: On one side of the city hangs his girlfriend off of a building. On the other side, six doctors; He can only save one group despite his tremendous abilities and has to choose. Doing the “right” choice, you save the doctors, especially since they are valuable to a city in lockdown, which leads to Trish being dropped to her death and a heartbreaking moment between the two. Doing what is considering the “evil” choice, which it really is just a selfish choice, you find that Trish isn’t the one hanging but someone else, and she is with the doctors. Blinded by love (and greed in a sense), Cole not only lost his girlfriend, but five doctors who could have done so much for the city. Now why kill his girlfriend when she had nothing to do with any of this? Kessler turns out to be from the future, a future where Cole marries Trish and have two kids, never knowing about The Beast. When it does show up, instead of staying and fighting, Cole whisks his family away to safety, leaving his city to be destroyed. The Beast hunts Cole day and night, leveling anything and everything in its way, and soon Trish and their children are killed in its wake, leaving Cole with nothing. By Kessler taking Trish away from him, he was attempting to prevent his timeline from coming true, and, in the canon story, it does work.

Another villain that is first thought to be evil due to not understanding his whole story is Magus from Chrono Trigger, a man seeming to be hellbent on summoning Lavos, the being that would bring about the destruction of the world. Initially, it seems like that Magus trying to create Lavos but in fact, he states to the party that he was trying to summon him. Most would think it was still an evil act but his motives are purely revenge. Anyone not familiar with Chrono Trigger, time travel plays a massive part of the story. Magus, in his timeline, is a young prince named Janus whose only family member he was close to was his older sister Schala. When Lavos was summoned by their mother, he is thrown into a completely different time line from his sister. Taking measures into his own hands, he travels to the past and becomes his mother’s own advisor, waiting for the moment where his mother can summon Lavos and so he can destroy it before his younger self goes through what already went through. He even can join your party later on (when he fails to kill Lavos) if you refuse to fight him.

 There are many other examples where evil is the actual silver lining on a dark cloud and that friendly face is nothing more than a mask hiding a monster. With these twists, be it good or bad, many stories have gone from meh to great, and good to amazing. Keep an eye out for that unsuspecting character that has reason unknown to you.

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