Dark, Dangerous Stories

James O’Barr’s CrowTerra Nova ran an interesting post today: Kiddification. In it, Ren Reynolds makes the point:

“Let’s face it – we play games of death and destruction. Virtual worlds are replete with tropes of war, violence and sexuality. But what they will admit to is another matter. They just won’t go quite that far. They are neutered. Like so many guitar bands these days they have the ink and the piercings but the music formulaic, simple-melody, boy-band pop. It’s all fit for 12 year olds.”

That is true, and I feel that there is a certain depth lacking when everything has to be covered by a moral issue, a reason for existing. You’re a soldier, so you kill people – but they’re the enemy/aliens/whatever, so they’re automatically the bad guys, and it’s ok. In Warcraft, and many other MMORPGs, you have countless quests where you have to go out and kill xx amount of animals, rinse and repeat. But there is usually backstory about the population exploding, or them eating the questgiver’s crops or whatever…so it’s not just cruelty to animals, it’s a public service.

Why can’t we have dark games, where you can just choose to be bad? And I’m not talking about mindless Grand Theft Auto bad. Dark choices that change your character, change what events come his way, change the world that he lives in.

I think the World of Darkness MMORPG has potential to be a dark game, if they’re not afraid to run with it. Characters prey on humans and engage in bitter power struggles against each other. Characters go mad based upon what happens to them in the game. It’s not all moral good guys-against bad guys sanitized violence.

Perhaps you would actually learn moral issues from the game, if you were allowed to explore what darkness really meant. As he says in the article, “…a world where black magic felt, well, a bit black”. What if your choice to be a necromancer or black magician actually changed your world, made it a darker place where evil beings walked? What if you could rule the world at the expense of your soul? What if those choices allowed you success in certain areas, while others were slowly barred from you, so you shut yourself off from a  lighter/happier world, and created a different version of the game for yourself?


2 thoughts on “Dark, Dangerous Stories”

  1. You mean like Fable? Where you could actively choose a light or dark path, your appearance would change as a result, and so would the citizens reaction to you. Fable 2 looks to expand on this – with even your sidekick dog becoming more Old English Sheepdog if you’re a nice guy, and more Doberman if you’re not.

  2. I like that – and plan on playing Fable 2, just for the dog if nothing else. :)

    Game mechanics like that would relate to the concept that “if you’re good, good things happen to you”, so if you made a decision to be evil, the game you experience would be a substantially different game than it would be for someone who had chosen a different path. Maybe those demons and elementals are always there, but the vanilla types never see them…as you become darker, though, the shadows become populated with eldrich things that give you new questlines, mobs, etc., leading you ever deeper.

    And what if you grew bored with that version of the game? perhaps with work you could redeem your soul and return to the light and another version of the game. :)

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