Why it’s hard to play the bad guy

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I never realised before how much of a nice guy I am. Not in real life, obviously, but in games like L.A. Noire and Dead Island, I’m a ruddy Saint. I’d write a strongly worded letter to the developers if I wasn’t worried it might offend, so this will have to do.

There is always a necessary degree of disbelief when it comes to getting immersed in games. In the event of a real-life zombie apocalypse I’d be the guy crying softly and defecating into a cereal box rather than the buzz-cutted protagonist wielding a modded baseball bat, I’ve come to terms with that. But in a video game, I can attempt to marry the two stances; grow the buzzcut out, stifle the tears and swap the box for a tupperware.

However, when it comes to so many modern games, the easiest way to inject a degree of character seems to be to underline the word “badass” in any brief notes and run with it. Sure, it’s a quick way of making someone look “cool” and marketable, but it’s also a bit of a quick fix that doesn’t translate well when inhabiting an entire personality.

In the BBC series Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe, Graham Linehan highlighted the problem when it appeared in Call of Juarez: Bound In Blood. The game saw you inhabit the roles of Ray and Thomas McCall, two brothers with remarkably different specialties for siblings who were likely exposed to the same resources and upbringing. At one point, after breaking into someone’s bedroom, one of the brothers barks at a bonnet-wearing missy “don’t move, bitch.” To quote Linehan: “why are you talking like that to her? I don’t want to play you!”

The same feeling applies to L.A. Noire. About halfway through a game that essentially boils down to “mummy what’s wrong with that man’s face?” there is no preventing a significant act involving a certain lounge singer that irrevocably alters Cole’s life. That’s not my Cole. My Cole is a hard-charging, loud-shouting maniac who wields accusations like his guns – one without time for lousy dames, least of all a Kraut! My Cole is still a little bitter about the whole “war” thing.

It extends even into Mass Effect 3, one of the pinnacles of choice and customisation. Several hours in, and having reached the Purgatory club on the Citadel, you’re guided into a casual conversation between Shepard and your (homosexual) pilot, Steve Cortez.

After Steve offers his general opinion that “you don’t have to get all hot and bothered to appreciate graceful dancing” and that “some of the eye candy in the crowd isn’t too shabby” you can choose one of two options: “I’m eye candy too” or “I’ll be watching the ladies.”

Smooth.

That’s my Shepard, deftly waving away a man’s general observation with a blunt “hey, wait! Eyes up here, fella. I ain’t no homosexual thank you very much, ho hoo no way.”

Forget video games making children in pathological murderers, video games are going to make children into assholes who spend their time interpreting everyone as homosexual and using derogatory terms. Imagine if these people made up gamers on Xbox Live or somethi-

By God we’re too late.

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