OK; I'm obsessed with Toonami and their event Trapped in Hyperspace features the computer virus antagonist Swayzak, who I base almost all my computer virus characters on.

Swayzak behaves like a one-dimensional, stereotypical, over-the-top villain. He laughs, says cliche lines, etc. Yet people don't like him and I don't know why. His personality is just fine. All the action in the TIE was in the online game, which I'm very close to finding (after an associate of mine repaired the corrupted beta a developer gave me, and said developer will look on old CDs for the full game) and Swayzak had a New Zealand accent and infected TOM in. Now TOM's always dying; this game was the first time we ever saw him become evil, and Swayzak having a New Zealand accent was a nice, unique touch to an otherwise "stereotypical" character. (Never mind the fact that now I give all my computer virus characters New Zealand accents because of that.)

The reason Swayzak does what he does is in the first place is "for fun." I like to think of this as an equivalent to viruses being programmed to be bad. Because they were programmed to be evil, they act like the most overwrought villain imaginable.

But Swayzak is self-aware, so he can make decisions for himself. Why is he evil for the sake of being evil, then? Simple: he finds it amusing. I've written a few scenarios where he reforms, but I always follow the status quo and make him evil again in every Toonami fanfic I write. He finds being evil something he enjoys. Or maybe it stems from his programming, what he was intended for when he was first written or something. However, we never see his origin; so finding being evil amusing is what I'm going with.

I know there were a lot of sentient computer virus characters before Swayzak but I consider him the archetype for his kind. Will computer virus characters tend to act like over-the-top villains? Is this the most likely way for them to act? With reasoning or not?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Cyn, Morfildur, Galastel, sudowoodo, JP Chapleau Dec 3 '18 at 19:52

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I'm confused by the question. Are you asking whether an over-the-top-villan is the correct way to portray the archtypal over-the-top-villian? I immediately think of Jane from the Ender's Game series, which is effectively a virus, but the complete antithesis of this character (no surprise: she's a protagonist) – Cort Ammon Dec 3 '18 at 4:54
  • Seeing that you originally posted this on WB, I can give a sort-of worldbuilding opinion: Eliezer Yudkowsky is one of the premier AI minds of our time, and he has spent a great deal of time studying the safety of AIs (e.g. will AI's destroy human existence). His opinion is that it is unlikely that our problem will be that someone creates an "evil" AI. What he is worried about is that we may be able to create the AI without any moral compass (or concept of morality at all) just a few years before we can create the "good" AI. We may destroy ourselves that way. – Cort Ammon Dec 3 '18 at 5:44
  • 2
    I'm not going to mod-hammer this shut, but to me, this feels like a "what to write" question. We can help you get your ideas out and onto a page (or into a file on the computer), but we can't do your writing for you. Please review our subject scope as well as writing.meta.stackexchange.com/q/397/2533 and writing.meta.stackexchange.com/q/535/2533 and to a lesser extent writing.meta.stackexchange.com/q/878/2533. You can Edit your question, but please do take care to not invalidate existing answers. – a CVn Dec 3 '18 at 10:45

Basically anything that is a virus is infecting a host in order to reproduce and survive, and by its nature doesn't really care what harm it is causing the host. Just like we don't care (not enough to stop) if we are destroying plants to eat them, or even destroying animals to eat them, it is part of our survival, and most of us actually enjoy eating, and meat eaters (including me, but in general animal exploiters, including non-meat eaters that will still eat eggs, honey, milk, cheese, etc) still enjoy their meals.

Our own human sentient enjoyments are often directly linked to survival skills or traits; nearly all adults (of any gender or sexual orientation) enjoy sex and find it fun. Our sports and games are competitions and often thinly disguised, formalized warfare or pursuit. Childhood games like "hide and seek" and "tag" are correlated with hunting behavior, a survival skill. So are most physical games. Mental games are about strategy and planning, also (for humans) survival skills.

I think perhaps your sentient virus finds "fun" in things related to their original purpose, infecting hosts, taking control and manipulation. These come across as "evil" but are just its nature, doing these things activate its pleasure senses, built to reward its success in replication.

Kind of like sex IRL, for most people it is fun and it feels good even when we know there is zero possibility of it resulting in reproduction.


I'll try to answer your question:

Will computer virus characters tend to act like over-the-top villains? Is this the most likely way for them to act? With reasoning or not?

Eh, no. There is no reason for every "viral" character to behave like the "Swayzak" you are referring too. I understand you like the character and the archetype, but that's all there is to it. The evil AI has been done already ad nauseam, but there is no reason why it should stick to the "over the top, one dimensional, chaotic villain".

Other media have portrayed evil virus-like AI differently (e.g., Agent Smith in the Matrix or Ultron in Avengers 2, even if I would not take the latter as a good example).

As CortAmmon mentions in the comments, "evilness" may rather stem from the lack of a moral compass, rather than a sentient choice of evil over good. Another widely used trope is being evil due to "an excess of logic".

In the end, we're still in fiction. You can characterize your character however you like, if you are consistent about it. It's fine if you want to keep characterizing your virus that way, but I'd ask myself: if he does it for "fun", what is his definition of fun? It would be nice to see an evil AI who does it for a innate sense of curiosity (e.g. "I want to see people react to bad things") rather than for being evil per-se.

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