Who knew being bad felt so good? I certainly didn’t because in every game from Mass Effect to Fallout New Vegas I chose the path of upright citizen fighting for truth and justice. I took care of the little guy and defended villages from evil hordes.
But Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) has forced me to be bad, really bad. SWTOR lets you take on the role of your favorite Star Wars icons such as the Jedi, Smuggler, Bounty Hunter and Sith. My first play through I picked a Smuggler. It was fun being a rapscallion with profit as my motive but always with an eye towards doing the right thing. Next play through I was a full on light side Jedi. Yawn. There’s no tension when your only motivation is being good. But for my latest play through I picked a Sith and boy has that been fun.
The back story provided by SWTOR for the Sith character is that I’m a slave forced to be a Sith because I have a knack for using the force. Immediately there’s tension in my character. I’m not really bad, I’m just forced to be bad. But the first time I had to torture someone with my evil Sith lightning bolts I literally paused and thought, “This is f’d up.” I had a revulsion to doing what the game required me to do. Clicking my mouse button made me feel guilty. I tortured someone. Granted, he was fake but still.
In her great article, “Playing the Hero: Why we make good moral choices in video games,” Stefanie Fogel explores the psychology of the choices we make in video games and it seems most of us try to play as we truly see ourselves. Believe it or not, there are actual studies to support the theory and Fogel does a great job of reviewing them. The article is well worth the read.
A small excerpt:
A 2011 study by the University of Essex seems to support Ferguson’s claims. The study, published in an issue of Psychological Science, investigated the idea that millions of people around the world enjoy playing video games because they allow people to “try on different hats.”
“A game can be more fun when you get the chance to act and be like your ideal self,” explained study co-author Dr. Andrew Przybylski. “The attraction to playing video games and what makes them fun is that it gives people the chance to think about a role they would ideally like to take and then get a chance to play that role.”
So now I’m a Sith and I’m acting evil which means at my core I’m an evil person, right? Wrong! I’ve decided that my evil deeds are an act to work my way into the good graces of the Empire. Eventually, I’ll get noticed by the Emperor himself and become his closest confidant only to turn on him in the end winning not only my revenge but the freedom of the galaxy from his evil deeds. I AM GOOD!!!