Saturday, May 21, 2011

Top 5 Video Game Anti-Villains

Anti-villains are the opposite of anti-heroes. They behave like villains—especially the part where they try vigorously and repeatedly to kill you—but underneath, they have a “tragic flaw” that prevents them from being true monsters. They are motivated by the greater good, or they imagine themselves to be. And sometimes they are right.

That’s the definition I'm going with for the purposes of this post, at least.

And so I present my list of the top 5 video game anti-villains. (Selected mostly from recent games because that involved the least amount of research on my part.)

Spoilers follow for each of the games mentioned...

5. Wheatley (Portal 2)

Can't do it if you're watching...
I just can’t be mad at this guy, even though he tries to kill me many times over and nearly destroys the entire Aperture Science Enrichment Center in the process. He can’t help that he’s simple. In fact, he was designed to be stupid by the best minds of a generation, in order to keep GLaDOS in check.

He’s too funny and sweet in the early parts of the game for me to wish him ill will when he goes mad and tries to kill Chell (your character). Chell seems to agree, as she grabs desperately to prevent him from being hurled into space at the end.

And I believe his coda apology is sincere. He is genuinely sorry. The end.

4. Mr. House (Fallout: New Vegas)

A little bit of Howard Hughes, too
Like his counterpart Andrew Ryan from BioShock (whom he closely resembles), Mr. House seems genuinely interested in making New Vegas a thriving community. And like Ryan, House is a complete pragmatist. He may kill you, but it’s not personal. You just happen to be a danger of some sort to his ultimate goal.

Still, if you side with him, he forces you to destroy the Brotherhood of Steel outpost, which is simple murder. He also forces you to betray the New California Republic, simply because they are powerful and not because they are dangerous.

He’s a brutal autocrat who seems very concerned about the welfare of his city, which is both contradictory and very real. I never felt so bad about killing an enemy in a game as when I destroyed the husk of his physical body.

3. The G-Man (Half-Life series)

Just what the hell is this guy up to?

He hangs out at the edge of the action in both games (and frustratingly never in a place where you can confront or shoot at him), observing Gordon Freeman’s actions. You can see him talking to important people, suggesting that he may be playing a role in the unfolding events of both games. (He almost certainly supplied the crystal that opened the portal to Xen in the first game.)

I have accepted the common explanation that he is acting for the greater good by using humanity to help destroy extra-dimensional tyrants, but I can’t get around the fact that he repeatedly kidnaps Freeman and puts him in harm’s way. And a lot of people die for that “greater good.”

But in the end, we still don’t know what he’s doing. Whatever it is, it keeps Gordon Freeman busy.

2. The Locust Horde (Gears of War series)

Ugly, innocent victim
It’s their planet.

Yes, they make no bones about bringing the genocide of the human race. They’re brutal, pitiless, and ugly to boot. I don’t fault Marcus Fenix and his cohorts for destroying as many of them as they can.

I assume they are indigenous to Sera, but regardless, they lived there long before humans ever arrived. Just because the planet turns out to have a valuable natural resource, that simple fact doesn’t change. They are fending off invaders.

Because it’s their planet.

1. Andrew Ryan (BioShock)

For fully half of BioShock, Andrew Ryan is the villain, but not for the reasons you think. And in the end, you see that he is only trying to protect himself and his city. The real villain, Atlas, threatens him as much as you. In fact, Atlas is using you to kill Andrew Ryan!

Ryan is not exactly a good, moral man, but neither is he evil. He subscribes to a self-centered philosophy (objectivism) and merely seeks a place to practice his beliefs without interference.

Unfortunately, he lacks the vision to see that basing a society on objectivist principles will inevitably lead to an underwater city full of mutants. It’s just science.

A little Howard Hughes, a little Orson Welles, and a
whole lot of Ayn Rand

4 comments:

  1. I agree with the Wheatley part. I couldn't bring myself to hate him, he's too sweet.

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  2. Superficially, Mr. House is similar to Andrew Ryan, since they both speak with absolute certainty in their beliefs.

    Philosophically, though, House (and indeed, the whole storyline of New Vegas if you follow the House path) is really very similar to Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, with House in the role of Hari Seldon, the psychohistorian (science of predicting the future based on sociology) who founded the Foundation which would preserve human science and knowledge after the inevitable self-destruction of the Galactic Empire. Seldon even rules from beyond the grave with pre-programmed holograms, with various human leaders of the Foundation being his proteges/pawns.

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  3. Cool post, I played all those games, especially for me marked bioshok, it was interesting to read, you're good at this.
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