A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

For the Sake of Chaos


There’s a bunch of games now where you can be either a “good guy” or a “bad guy”. Like in Dragon Age or Mass Effect where you can treat people pretty poorly or in Star Wars: The Old Republic where you can fight for either the Republic or the Empire and then choose to be either Light Side or Dark Side with your conversation choices.

What an odd age we live in where we can consciously choose to be good in conversations and then walk a few feet away and hack innocents to bits in the name of a few gold pieces and some experience points.

I was playing DC Universe Online last night as a villain working for Circe (initially) and part way through the game I started to wonder why the “bad guys” were still being bad when there’s a supposedly global invasion by Braniac going on that threatens everyone. I mean, I understand the whole power struggle going on between the goodies and the baddies, that’s pretty straightforward, but why is Harley kidnapping Robin when there’s obviously more important things to do? Are the villains just more willing to take advantage of any opportunity for personal gain over the heroes? Furthermore, why are the heroes spending so much time dealing with the villains? I can totally understand the Gotham City PD asking for help with drug dealers by the docks, but why are the “main” characters so involved?

I suppose a fair portion of the game is building up your powers so that you’re on par with the major threats the heroes want you to deal with eventually. The occasional run in with the heroes is just them going about their business and responding to situations and “hey, you’re new so I’m going to give you a hand with Bane” or whatever. The villains though just boggle my mind. Circe takes on Doctor Fate and the Teen Titans in order to break Trigon out and unleash him on the world… but why? Is Trigon going to contribute more to fighting Brainiac than the heroes you beat up to free him? Can his contributions even be guaranteed? Or is this because Circe just loves to mess things up and really doesn’t care about the welfare of the world as a whole? If the world is a smoking ruin, would she still have any interest in it or does she have somewhere else to go to muck about?

It’s possible that I don’t really fathom chaos for the sake of chaos. I see the point after a fashion, but I’m limited. I enjoy rules and restrictions (after a fashion as well) but chaos at the expense of everyone and everything is wasteful to my eyes. It’s like the self destructive nature of the Sith Empire. When you sit down to play as an Inquisitor or a Warrior in SWTOR, you can see the issues at their core: you have an elite order who considers everyone but themselves expendable and, even then, considers anyone in power to be useless the moment someone else apparently exceeds their power. It’s exceptionally depressing to wear the mantle of a Sith only to realize that you can’t ever just kick back and enjoy life for a moment lest someone decide that you’re entertaining a weakness and has you killed. I feel like that’s the only reason I never truly enjoyed playing as my Inquisitor: all her “friends” feared her or were plotting to kill her once she let her guard down and so weren’t really her friends. I didn’t get that personal attachment to my companions that I had as a Bounty Hunter or a Smuggler.

Maybe I’m not supposed to understand it. Fear for the sake of fear? Chaos for the sake of chaos? I can comprehend causing fear as a tool. There’s that fear of punishment to keep people following the laws after all and in D&D, intimidate is a skill that can be a great tool in a variety of situations and relies primarily on fear to get things done. I can get behind a little chaos since 100% order is infringing and irritating but 10% order just isn’t enough.

Maybe it comes down to that adage about everything in moderation. A little chaos here and there isn’t too bad, but in the DC Universe you have these people dedicated to a life of making chaos for everyone: poisoning the water supply, stealing the money from the bank, blowing up the train tracks. They see it as amazing good fun, all that chaos, never seeming to recall that they also drink the water and deposit money in the bank and rely on the train for access. In Star Wars you have the Sith offing people just because they’re irritated or what-have-you. It’s certainly not as extreme in Star Wars as it is in DC and mainly because DC characters are exaggerations of these things. Superman is a paragon of do-gooding and the Joker is the king of chaos. Or probably more like the trickster god of “putting something toxic in your drinking water just so you’ll die with a smile on your face”. He’s niche like that.

Is it the whole “live fast, die hard” thought process? Living in the now, with zero considerations, for tomorrow we die? I don’t know.

Anyway, I’m not sure what my point was with all this, but these were some of the thoughts going through my mind last night as I was converting people labeled “innocent” into demons for Trigons’ army. Their screams really bothered me (as do all screams of pain), but I pushed past it so I could get onto other things. Regardless of my personal qualms with the goals set before me, I’m having fun with the fairly visceral gameplay of whacking things with a giant two-handed weapon.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “So that was Gotham’s East End. It’s a dark and dismal place… and I hope you enjoyed touring it!” – Booster Gold

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