Avatars must be honest with their players. No matter who they lie to over the course of the game, they’re always honest with us. We know our avatar intimately but are also limited by what they know. If they don’t know that they’re a secret villain or hero, then we won’t either until the big reveal. It’s very difficult to have an unreliable avatar in games because he/she is our only connection to the game world. If they are not to be trusted, then what is? No matter what persona they put on for others, we know their true self. We play as their true self.
Consider John Marston from Red Dead Redemption. In the beginning, Marston is a mysterious cowboy, but over the course of the game, we learn about his wife, his son, and his desire to live a peaceful life. Marston says he wants to leave his violent past behind him, but during all the moments that we’re in control, he’s surrounded by and causes violence. This disconnect between his words and his actions reflects the core philosophical question that Red Dead Redemptions asks its players: Can we leave the past behind? The game clearly answers “no.” Marston is not actually a family man—that’s just a persona he puts on among family. The real John Marston is the man we control, the man of violence. The player sees the avatar for who he really is; there are no secrets between them.