Last week, Daniel Tovrov wrote a piece for Popmatters on the cult of iconic movie “bad guys” (“It Must Feel Good to Be as Bad as Gordon Gekko”, PopMatters, 1 May 2012). Through the characters of Gordon Gekko of Wall Street, Tony Montana of Scarface, and Patrick Bateman of American Psycho, Tovrov argues that, even though these figures are cautionary tales about unchecked power, audiences come to worship them because the idea of relinquishing control to the id is more appealing than the consequences of doing so. Audiences might not want to behave like these villains or even condone what they do, but wouldn’t it be kind of nice if they could?
That left me wondering about how audiences react to similar figures in video games because in a sense they do become these villains. In games, after all,The audience takes control of the sociopath with no limits that Tavrov writes about. This isn’t something that always works all that well in games because—in theory—if the player can’t relate in some way to their on-screen avatar, then there is nothing compelling them to keep playing. But there are a few cases in which the protagonist is a true, rotten-to-the-core bad guy, and—as Tovrov says—it does feel good.