Since the inception of videogames, the classic type of playable character has always been the traditional idea of a ‘hero’. Lara Croft, Mario, PAC-MAN – these are all iconic characters typically associated with being the good guys. The plot is simple, there is a bad force trying to do bad things to you, and you need to stop it (or run away, in the case of PAC-MAN). Even to this day, traditional heroes like Lee Everett from The Walking Dead and Jack from Bioshock are widely championed and adored by players everywhere.
Eventually, the idea of the ‘anti-hero’ also became widely popularised in videogames, reflecting a change in overall culture on heroes. On TV, mafia bosses like Tony Soprano suddenly became the heroes of their own series. And, of course, who could possibly forget the influence of Breaking Bad’s Walter White on the idea of criminality. When it comes to videogames, one of the most popular anti-heroes of all time is Ezio Auditore Da Firenze, from Assassin’s Creed II. Playing as Ezio, your mission is – well – to assassinate people. But you only turn to this after Ezio’s family has been murdered by the people he’s vowed to track down. There’s always some kind of redeeming quality to an anti-hero, whether it’s dying from cancer or avenging your family.
Heroes and anti-heroes are hardly new concepts. The articles have been written, the games have been played. But a recent trend has seen something beyond ‘hero’ and ‘anti-hero’ characters come to the forefront. Now, you can play as a straight-up villain for an entire game. We’re not talking about some multiple character-arc story where you can switch between good characters and bad. We’re talking about games whose entire plot is specifically designed around a protagonist who is 100% bad. And, admittedly, it can be really fun to play a baddie.
One of the more obvious examples of this type of game is Grand Theft Auto. Sure, you hunt down crime bosses and criminals alike, but only because you’re paid to do it. In GTA, you don’t get paid if you don’t commit crime – trying to avoid it can be fun, but ultimately if you’re in it to win it you need to get comfortable with shooting, stabbing, selling drugs and so on and so forth. The level of violence in GTA has been the subject of many a debate, and it doesn’t need further explanation here.
The point of the matter is, there’s something downright exhilarating about playing as a baddie. Recently, there’s been wind of an online casino (of all things) that has centered its entire concept around players, or rather their avatars, looting other players for coins. Very Runescape of the entire enterprise. It’s no surprise the place is called Highroller Casino – you’d have to have balls of steel to loot other people in an online casino.
While the event of ‘playing a baddie’ is pretty much across the board, nowhere is it felt more than in the world of videogames. 2017 alone has seen a number of releases that encourage only the worst behavior from their players, all in the name of entertainment. In Nefarious, a game that’s set-up to be the reverse Super Mario, you get to jump between several different kingdoms kidnapping princesses and defeating heroes in what is basically an anti-boss battle. Having the tables turned like this is intriguing, to say the least.
Aside from Nefarious, Dungeon Keeper has also grown in popularity recently. In the game, you’re given the task of expanding a dungeon. Once you’ve expanded it enough, you start decorating and arming it so that it’ll lure heroes into your evil grasp. Then, you kill the heroes who fall into your trap and steal all their possessions. Eventually, you can also send out your underlings to take over various parts of the locations around you. Dungeons 3, which we reviewed recently, has been described as a cross between Dungeon Keeper and World of Warcraft. It’s also another dungeon simulator, only it’s far more detailed and complex in its evil plot storylines.
Grimm is another fan-favorite, released in 2014, which returns to the sinister roots of the original Grimm brother fairytales. In this game, players must play as Grimm – an evil creature who revisits each of the classic fairytales, like Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella, and destroys their happy endings. Basically, it’s a rewriting of all things good and joyful in a child’s life.
The innovation and creativity behind the gameplay of these ‘baddie’-centric games is impressive, and getting more attention with time. While the same can’t be said for the real world, playing a baddie isn’t always so bad – it can actually be a great deal of fun.