top of page

The Philosophical Reason As to Why I Play the Bad Guy in Certain Games

Updated: Feb 20

In some games, you see, your actions as the player, have a huge effect on the world of which you are in. Even in my favourite childhood game, you can make certain actions which might seal away certain possibilities for the reminder of the game's plot.

If I, for example, choose to execute someone I could've otherwise recruit to my side, then I will never get the happy ending to the game, until I start a new run in the game (or, otherwise, choose to make a separate save file and make a different choice).

These kinds of games teach you a very important lesson, not everyone might be aware of: That your choices have consequences, not only in the game you're playing but in real life in general.

If you choose to treat someone very badly, then they might never be your friend. Unlike games, you can't restart your life, which means that your choices can be even more impactful than in the virtual world of certain games.

Life in general is a series of choices that either open up or closes opportunities. Some of these possibilities may appear again for you to choose, but others might be too late.

If you're a female, and choose not to have kids, then there might come a day where you'd regret it, simply because females aren't always able to carry children, unlike males, who could always impregnate. Thus, I can at least rationally understand women who feel sad for not being able to carry kids anymore, even though I'm not a female.

However, at least in some games and not in real life, the consequences of your actions don't really affect the game environment, which is a pity in my opinion. It's a pity, because it means that none of your actions actually matter in these cases.

Do you know what "respawning" is? It's when enemies are re-generated in a specific location, as if they were never killed beforehand. That feature is extremely imperative in multiplayer games, because there are other players as well, who also need to play the game.

In such examples, which are many, your actions don't matter at all, because your actions as another player should not affect the gameplay of another player; Everyone in a public game should have the same chance to fight the same enemies you just fought.

Should enemies be defeated permanently, and not come back, then the other players wouldn't have a way to progress like you did.

This leads to many virtual worlds where, unlike in real life, your choices do not matter at all, even if they merely affect yourself or the progress of your own character. Such worlds, while entertaining, are very reminiscent of the philosophical idea of Sisyphus, the one who was punished by having to roll a giant rock to the top of a mountain.

The Sisyphus notion is with great despair, because no matter how much effort you'll put in this activity, the stone could always roll back by gravity, as if you've done nothing at all.

So are some games, if not most games. Even games which aren't exclusively virtual, like chess, are always restarted whether you win or lose a match.

The cognitive effort put into defeating the enemy army, doesn't really matter, because the enemy army will always come back for another match in the future, should you desire to play chess again.

This existential absurdity, where your choices don't actually matter, can easily shake the stability of having a morality code. In one of the games I'm playing, you can be either a hero or a villain. Typical, as them hero's mission is to do good, and for the villain, to do bad.

In one of the areas, you can be in the game, there are two missions regarding the same issue. As the hero, you can save the ill from a horrible disease, while as the villain, you can simply take samples from the same ill people and give them to a certain scientist.

That scientist claims that, they don't care at all about civilians dying, and that taking samples of their disease should be a far higher priority.

If you are a hero in that game, your choices won't matter at all, because even if you save civilians from that disease, more will respawn in lieu of them, after you've finished interacting with them for the quest you've been given. Problems, you see, are there to change the hero, in order for the protagonist to solve these problems.

Sometimes these problems are antagonists such as villains or other misfortunes. But in such games, no matter how many problems you'll solve, how many bad guys you will defeat, they will always come back, as if you've done, absolutely nothing.

This absurdity can easily create apathy towards the virtual world you're playing in, because ultimately, it's just there to entertain you, again and again, until you'll be done for the time being. In a world where no choice has any proper consequences on the environment, there really is no point to try to save, what you can't save, and defeat, what will always come back.

If you choose to be a villain or just a bad guy in such games, you don't really face this absurdity, because unlike proper heroes, you do not submit to the morality of good. Therefore, it doesn't have to matter to you, how many enemies you've defeated, how many crimes you've committed, because there's no punishment in being a villain, while there is no true good making when you're the hero.

Of course, some of these virtual worlds have rules, and are not complete anarchies. Nonetheless, unless you don't actually harass other players or abuse something in the game that shouldn't be abused, you, as the bad guy, can be the greatest criminal of them all, and no one will care enough to stop you from doing evil.

There's a reason as to why you shouldn't be evil in real life -- your choices affect the world, and in turn, yourself. When I kill thousands of people in a video game, nothing necessarily happens to you or the character you're playing, because virtual worlds allow you far greater liberties that are otherwise prohibited in the real world.

You can choose to be the good guy in these games, but your fight against evil will ALWAYS be a fruitless one.

So, if there is no point for doing good, as a means to help and to combat evil, what functionality does be good hold, other than pretending that your character actually does something for the sake of the game's world, and not simply to entertain you, the player.

This is why being the baddie is always a favourite pick for me, because unlike those who choose to play as the good guys, I don't pretend to be either heroic or even contribute. Pretending is not only dishonest but exhausting (the latter applies to me, at least).

There are exceptions, however, but they are not that common, especially not in multiplayer games. I know at least of one game, called Undertale, that remembers all of your previous runs of the game. However, it doesn't tell you that your choices have permanent implications, you discover that on your own.

Basically, if you decide to kill absolutely everything that's in your way, you essentially ruined the possibility of a true happy ending to the game, even if you'll play it again and again. If not wrong, the only way to reset this possibility is by uninstalling the game.

A game that always remembers your actions, is probably one of the most realistic things out there in gaming. Even if you may cancel yourself from an opportunity, you can always make a new game, as if nothing happened.

But this, to never be able to escape from your decisions, in theory, is something that could make one think, that a game like Undertale is like a living, breathing creature, just like a human being or an animal.

But as long as I won't be punished for killing enemies who come back,to kill them again infinitely, there really isn't any moral imperative for being on the good side. That's because MORALITY IS THERE TO BENEFIT AND REDEEM. Not to be pretended or being done dishonestly.

Can a truly moral action be done dishonestly? Are not all moral actions honest, at least in application? Pretending that we are good heroes is a poor substitue when we can actually dedicate our time to be good in the real world. And not in a virtual application. And we regardless may repress our true, darker selves, in real life, in order to survive.

Why not, then, blow off some steam and release the energies we are repressing in the name of social good?

42 views0 comments


Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

צילום מסך 2023-11-02 202752.png
bottom of page