Editorial: The Light Side Is Good, but the Dark Side Is Profitable

Good day, readers. I am sure that a great deal of people who read and write for Lusipurr.com have played at least one role-playing video game with a morality system. This game may have been one of the Fable games, one of the Knights of the Old Republic games, or any other of a number of Western RPGs that have sprung up over the years with a system to determine whether the player is a saintly paladin of justice or a diseased, corrupted Hell-spawn. There are many choices for a player to make in these games, and each decision that the player makes has a direct effect on how the game determines their ethical standing.

It is not that evil weighs more, but that good cheats using its wings.

A comparison of the weights of good and evil.

Some of the consequences of these decisions are obvious; a player who saves a child from a pack of rabid wolves, and then gives her money in order to pay for her mother’s operation, will receive many quantized goodness points. A player who elects instead to kill and eat the child, and then buy the wolves a drink, will slip toward the Dark Side faster than an anvil coated in Teflon down an icy slope.

However, these are rewards that are only worthwhile to a player that desires the satisfaction of being a stereotypical ‘good guy’ or ‘bad guy’. Sometimes, of course, there are benefits to choosing one side or the other. For instance, in Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel game, the two extreme alignments grant special stat bonuses or other similar bonuses depending on the player’s class of choice. But these bonuses are often fairly small in comparison to the rewards that a player might obtain through other choices. Such rewards include new weapons or armor, money, or useful items. The rewards that a player receives for making morally upright choices vary greatly. At times, weapons or armor are given. Other times, the paladin may receive monetary compensation for his efforts. However, more often than not, the ethical player receives the greatest reward of all: nothing. As most have probably heard in their lives, a good deed is its own reward.

In the spirit of this grand new country, I have etched its name in Comic Sans. You are welcome, Lusipurr.

Thank you, hero. Now, about those shops you have visited. It seems you forgot to pay the sales tax.

Therefore, a hero with a conscience will travel from town to town, country to country, or planet to planet and do good deeds out of the kindness of his heart. He will throw a few dollars to a poor, homeless man without even a “thank you” in return. He will resolve a centuries-long interstate feud in the most peaceful way possible and in return will be asked to pay higher taxes in the newly formed country of Screwyouistan. In fact, that homeless man he donated money to? The man used the money to buy a knife and a gun, and now he has stolen the hero’s boat, car, or intergalactic spaceship. But the hero cannot kill him! That would not be a very heroic thing to do. He must let the man go so that the man will serve time in a prison and the hero can repair his damaged vessel in peace. After all, there is literally no one else in the universe other than the hero who would ever do a kind deed.

Evil, on the other hand, is pure, solid gold. That homeless man? He is being beaten by thugs. The thugs have money and weapons on them. The evil player kills the thugs and takes their things. The man thanks the evil player. The evil player responds by telling the man that if he does not give him five bucks right there, he will kill him as well. That evil player just made five bucks. The two feuding countries? Not a problem for the evil player! In the most evil way possible, the player tells the ruler of each country that he will assassinate the leader of the other country. He demands fifteen thousand dollars for this creative solution. The countries agree, the player gets all the money, and he kills both leaders. Then, he takes over the government of both countries and forms the new nation of Evilisfunalia. The evil player rakes in all the dough while the good player sits poor and shipless.

He did not become Supreme Overlord of Evilisfunalia by healing sick puppies.

An artist's depiction of Lusipurr while playing an RPG.

Why does evil profit so much and good so little? It is because evil characters and evil players are self-serving, while good characters and good players are selfless. The good player does good deeds as altruistically as possible. An evil player does whatever he can to make sure that he comes out on top. A good player will put in an honest day’s work in order to earn a wage, while an evil player will connive, threaten, and kill his way to power and wealth. Evil is a direct approach to getting anything one wants. If a player wants something, he need only take it from whatever or whomever is holding it at the time. If the theft results in the death of the holder, then the rest of the holder’s wealth is up for grabs as well. To get the same sort of reward, a good player must do countless good and heroic deeds, because even the most grateful of those saved by the hero are poor or stingy. Even were that not true, the hero would not have asked for a reward.

Even when a player does not want to trouble himself with rewards, there still come times when a decision’s consequences are unclear. In Knights of the Old Republic, there is a man on the planet of Manaan who is in jail awaiting trial for the murder of a Sith agent. The player can choose not to do anything about it, and he will die. If the player decides to get involved in the trial, the man is found guilty and sentenced to death unless the player finds virtually all of the evidence of the crime, persuades a few witnesses to speak in favor of the man, and persuades the judges that the man is not guilty. If the player does all that, the man goes free. Congratulations to the player. He has just allowed a murderer to go free.

Which will it be for you, readers? Good? Evil? Neutral? Pick evil, I say. It is more fun and you will make far more money. –Except in real life. I do not condone evil in real life, unless you are Lusipurr. Even then, he can only be evil a little. Unless it is Sunday. He can be as evil as he wants on Sunday.

3 Comments

  1. Lane
    Posted 2011.05.28 at 12:20 | Permalink

    I always play scrupulously good choices, except in situations where it is organic for my character to be angry (and thus take an angry action) or where humor is called for. I’ve found myself refusing payment for helping innocent people out.

    But you’re right; there should be a way for good deeds to go unpunished. For instance, protecting a town from bandits (instead of helping the bandits loot the town) should gain you factional standing with that town, up until the point that things from shops in that town should be free. Stuff like that.

    The downside is that, as with any mechanic, a certain subset of gamers will do things only to maximize in-game benefit, rather than seeking an authentic role-playing experience. I remember in the first Fable everyone wanted to be evil so that you could keep the evil sword at the end of the first game. Eventually they had to put in an equivalent “good” sword for “The Lost Chapters” because people were tired of not being able to get an ultimate weapon as good.

  2. Slab Bulkhead
    Posted 2011.05.28 at 13:04 | Permalink

    As for one of the more amusing evil choices, I recall a fun situation in KOTOR II where a group of thugs is threatening a commoner for some credits on Nar Shaddaa. For Dark Side points, instead of using your wit to attempt to persuade them or simply killing or ignoring them, you can use the Force Persuade power (if you have it) to convince them to give you all of their credits and jump off the platform to their deaths.

    The Trandoshan responds with something equivalent to, “That seems logical. It is the fastest way to the ground.”

    Then they jump.

    But yes, I feel developers really tend to give one side more powerful benefits than the other, and that it greatly influences a player’s choices. However, with the KOTOR games I’ve found that I really enjoy doing two long playthroughs of each: one light side, one dark side. It’s only then that I feel like I’ve gotten the whole story.

  3. SiliconNooB
    Posted 2011.05.28 at 13:31 | Permalink

    I play a grey alignment, the most neglected alignment of all …