Fighting the Good(?) Fight

September 28, 2009 at 6:00 am | Posted in Aion | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Pretty soon I shall be playing Aion. Or maybe that should be Aion: The Queue For Eternity…

Now, seeing as I’m a heal-freak the only real investigation I’ve done (apart from is it worth shelling out for?) is what sort of healers are in the game. So I know little about the background world of Aion, apart from the fact that it’s hosting a war between the Elyos and the Asmodians.

Which are most certainly NOT angels and demons. No.

Just like Loremasters aren’t wizards. And Rune-Keepers aren’t wizards. No. No. We’re fine here, all fine…

Personally, I’m only vaguely religious, so I couldn’t care less what a game uses to visualise its “Them and Us” mechanic. I’m also not a 12 year old with angry parents who think a game is going to be just the first step in my route to sexual perversity and satanism. I like to think that I’m smart and savvy enough to separate fantasy from reality. Others might differ. Diversity of thought is a wonderful thing.

Why the waffling preamble?

Well, I need to choose a side. I am a subversive Special Snowflake. Many players might want to choose the cool side, so they can be one of the cool kids. I like the dork side. I want to be the online equivalent of the nerdy kid with the braces and the pocket protectors.

Why?

Easy. I’ve spent so many years being fashionable I couldn’t be fashionable if I tried. The only times I *am* fashionable are when I accidentally tap into the fashion zeitgeist, at which point I feel a bit stupid and self-conscious for a while.

So I tend to overreact and deny fashion. But there’s more to it than that. It’s easier to rise to the top if you don’t have much competition, and I am a lazy slacker. If I’m competing against the hordes of cool kids, I’d have to work at it.

Now for some excessive sweeping statements and injudicious pop-psychology. Sorry.

Spinks is correct in a lot of her statements regarding choosing sides in PvP games.

Players want to be on the badass side, and kicking arse is a bad guy schtick. However. Many World of Warcraft players I know created their first character on a PvE server, and chose Alliance. They then created a second character on a PvP server, and chose Horde. The main reason stated was that they wanted to “see the other side”, but they could have done that on one of the many other PvE servers…

Maybe it’s because when we choose our first character, we choose how we want to be seen. So we choose a “good” guy, a stylised representation of who and how we want to be seen. And for when we want to go and pick on other people, we choose a “bad” guy because we can then divorce our actions from who we are:

“I’m not griefing you because I’m a bad person. I’m griefing you because that’s what undead rogues do”.

I’ve never had a problem with divorcing my in-game actions from who I am. I’ve been role-playing on table top and rubber-swording it for decades now. I’ve played saints and sinners, liberators and tyrants, angels and demons. And all the grey goo in-between.

I think things are beginning to change. Part of it may well be a reaction to the massive imbalance between Horde and Alliance on PvE servers, but I also think that as MMO players are maturing, they’re hitting the rebellious teenage years. Which means dressing in black, unwholesome flirtations with black makeup (most of the blokes I know have no concept of the terms “Cleanse”, “Tone”, and “Moisturise”), and listening to angry music in their room.

I’m pretty sure that this means that the Asmodians will be popular. Heck, all that black spiky armour, the black feathered wings, the smouldering looks from dark glowing eyes; even I’m getting moist.

But. And this is an important but. I shall be choosing Elyos. Playing “bad” is easy. It’s far, far harder to be a genuinely good person than it is to be anything else. It’s easy to pretend to be good but be evil underneath (“I’m doing it for their own good” is almost as good an excuse as “I was only following orders”), and it’s really easy just to be casually evil due to acting in a selfish manner.

But being genuinely good means analysing every possible action and every motive for action, before choosing a course of action. It also means (usually) not looking as cool as the cool kids, because let’s face it, bad is cool.

Popular culture also helps. Fantasy authors are deconstructing your dad’s Good Versus Evil tropes, and giving us a darker, more gritty modernity. George R R Martin and Joe Abercrombie (other authors are available) are taking “real” people, and putting them in moral situations where they won’t necessarily choose good. Heck, The Blade Itself numbers mass murderers and torturers as part of its ensemble cast of anti-heroes.

Personally, if I want evil, I want unremitting evil. I hate the wishy-washy post-modern bad guys that have to be empathised with. I hate the “but loves cats” sort of bad guy. This extends to the backgrounds of the “bad” guys. I can see why games designers want to put a better spin on their evil playable races, but if I’m going to play “bad”, I want honest evil, the sort that can only exist in fantasy, rather than the reality we see around us. If a fantasy bad guy wants to destroy the world, I don’t want it to be a metaphor. I want world destruction.

And I want to play my part in it! So, there we have it. I don’t want to pose as bad. And I don’t want to hang around with the cool kids. In any game. I’d prefer to be dorky but honest, and be a good guy.

Cheers,

Hawley.

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