Can you play the villain in RPGs?

I love a good RPG. Give me a game where my actions can shape the world around me, where they can change how NPCs perceive and react to me, and (most importantly) let me customise my character’s appearance – and I’m putty in your hands. But, whilst playing through Fallout 4, something struck me. I’m always the good guy. I’m always the guy you can call on to run a casual errand. I’m the guy who will waive a fee if there’s someone in need. I’m the guy who will make the morally correct decision, even if it’s to the detriment of my character. Why? Because I’m emotionally incapable of playing the baddie.

Trust me, I’ve tried. I’ve tried to be the guy that refuses to do a job without being paid. I’ve tried to side with the people who will be of the most benefit to me, rather than the side that’s in the ‘right’. Heck, I’ve even thought about killing people in the game that bug me – I’m looking at you, Preston. Yet, eventually, I always end up conceding. I’ll do a job for free, I’ll side with the underdog and I’ll listen to Preston jabbering on about settlements that need my help. All because doing the wrong thing feels, well, wrong.


Recently, I tried to play through KOTOR II as the bad guy. I was unnecessarily mean to people, I was selfish, I was petty… I was downright evil. But I only managed to do it for a few hours. Eventually, I just felt like a dick. Even though the characters weren’t real. That my actions have no impact on the real world, or the people that I love. Or that it’s no real reflection on me, as a person. I still felt all icky inside. It still felt wrong. Man, I’m such a pansy that I accidentally killed a community on Fallout 3 by mistakenly activating a nuke, and I actually reloaded a previous save (resulting in a lot of lost XP and gear) to right the wrong.

I think that it shows the emotional connection that we can have with video-games. In movies, we can connect with the characters, with the emotions they’re portraying and in the moments on screen. In video-games, we are the characters. We create and act out those moments and we’re often the source of those powerful emotions. We’re the vessel, rather than the observer – and this is especially true with RPGs.

So yeah. I struggle to be the bad guy. Unless I’m playing GTA… then it just seems natural.

How about you? Can you be the bad guy? Let me know in the comments below!