0

From my understanding, violence or sex doesn't really matter in videogames; it's all about tone.

For example:

  • A game where you snipe people for no reason, simply portraying you as a maniac, would be deemed bad and likely removed, even from platforms like Steam.

  • Conversely, a game where you slice people into pieces, burn them alive, or crush their skulls for a justified reason is considered morally acceptable and embraced by audiences.

In my game, there's a quest, a repeatable one, where an incel psychopath offers you a job: to kill as many men as possible.

You have the option to decline the quest and continue with your day. Alternatively, you can choose to confront and eliminate the incel, or you can opt to accept the job and engage in mass murder and assassinations of random innocent men.

These men aren't guaranteed to be willing combatants; they may fight back, attempt to flee, or beg for their lives.

The rationale behind this quest is simply "it's a job," as the incel rewards you with money and weapons.

Then my question would be, would "humanizing" the incel with a backstory and character development make the quest more acceptable? Similar to how

Tohru Adachi

of Persona 4 is still written as human scum but somehow the author managed to make him feel "human"... even though he is an incel killer yet gamers consider him to be one of the best antagonists

8
  • Sex definitely matters, regardless of tone. Steam allows the sale of games with explicit sexual content, but to my understanding, console manufacturers, most retailers, and even some entire countries do not.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Feb 25 at 9:58
  • Look at the GTA series, I think the second one is especially apt but applies to all. You a free to kill anybody and the game is not removed from any platform. There are indeed missions (or side challenges) where you are tasked with killing as many people as possible. Some times there are restrictions to the targets like "Elvis impersonators" other times to the method (using a vehicle, using a specific weapon). GTA 2 had this a more neutral - you pick up the side-challenge and just start doing it. Later editions try to slightly justify it in-game.
    – VLAZ
    Commented Feb 25 at 10:35
  • 3
    Your game sounds very judgmental and like something I want nothing to do with...
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 25 at 16:56
  • @Lambie " judgmental" ? who is judging who?
    – Xenophile
    Commented Feb 25 at 17:34
  • 1
    Googled name of the game, hid the name of the character, hope this is what Laurel wanted, no @ per request.
    – Divizna
    Commented Feb 26 at 19:59

3 Answers 3

3

Yes...but it won't work.

There are plenty of stories where a character engages in morally questionable behavior. Often these characters have intriguing pasts and complicated motives for their actions. Their backgrounds, though, do not make their actions acceptable.

Here's a scenario: You have a grown man named Bob whose favorite pastime is murdering little kids. From that sentence alone, what would people think? "Bob's a monster!"

Later, you reveal that Bob had a traumatic past where he was abused as a child. This caused him to have a habit of displacing his emotions on others--first insects, then pets, then people. Now what would people think? "Bob's still a monster--he's just a more complex one."

[...] a game where you slice people into pieces, burn them alive, or crush their skulls for a justified reason is considered morally acceptable and embraced by audiences.

I strongly refute this. If you can think of a legitimate excuse for such barbarism, fine. But even so, brutal actions reflect badly on characters. People always have difficulty understanding and sympathizing with psychopaths, or individuals who engage in psychopathic behavior. People might play the game and still hate the character. The availability of a game on a certain platform doesn't mean its quests are morally acceptable.

Solution: Change the premise. You'll fail to morally justify mass murder of innocents with a neat backstory. I would choose an alternative: perhaps you're tasked with eliminating undercover agents that infiltrated the populace...or you're fighting on the front lines of WWIII...or something.

If the point of the game is to disturb those playing, to give them a glimpse of evil, then your premise is spot-on. But if you want to have a humanized, more acceptable instigator...then change your storyline.

1
  • 1
    I just want my game to not get removed from platforms...since I know that some brutally violent games get removed and some don't. Got no political agenda, the incel character is just inspired by dark period of my life when I was 16 yo (10 years ago) and I decided to make that version of myself into a villain/NPC
    – Xenophile
    Commented Feb 27 at 18:19
3

By all means you can give the character some depth, and even character development or an outright redemption arc but don't lean into empathizing with his stance, if anything trying to paint the "evil" quest-giver's motivations as sympathetic is going to give you more trouble than leaving them as just that, evil.

Games offering the player a straight-up "evil" option is fine, and is unlikely to be a reason for removal from the likes of Steam. If you need any evidence of this take last year's Baldur's Gate 3, a game that gives you numerous options to commit atrocities on a level that make your psychopath incel look like a Sesame Street character (spoilers and heavy trigger warnings for the following):

  • Massacre a bunch of refugees (optionally you can give a reason in game that it was to impress a potential love interest)

  • Murder and dismember innocent civilians to gain the favour of the literal God of Murder

  • Murder innocents (including but not limited to children, pregnant women and animals) for no reason at all

  • Sacrifice thousands to gain more power in a profane ritual

  • Sacrifice a pregnant woman's unborn child for a character buff

  • Murder the setting's equivalent of an angel

  • Torture a prisoner - for information that you already possess

And that's not even close to being everything! All of the above is completely optional and while some of the things do have a potential in-universe rationale, that's not really a problem - because the game never tries to sugar-coat them. If you're choosing to do evil then you damn well know that what you're doing is evil. So in your scenario trying to "justify" the psycho-incel's quest risks sending the wrong message i.e. that you think his stance has validity, if your player's character chooses to take the job and murder innocent for the gear and cash then that's a valid narrative choice - ideally you just want the player to feel a little bit dirty for doing it.

Empowering a player to make their own moral choices (rather than railroading them into doing the right/wrong thing because plot) can help bring them into the storytelling process, those that pick the "good" options feel good about themselves because they chose to do that and those that choose the "evil" options can get that rush of doing something forbidden that they wouldn't do in real life.

2

I think you're working with a valid 'question' or 'issue', but I, personally, have an issue with part of your question, and my answer here can be seen as part answer and part (useful) questions to ask yourself about what your actual issue or question is. I begin with the latter.

The Incel

Now, a lot of people reading this question (or anything else involving the term 'incel') may intuitively know what is being referred to. For some readers, their understanding of 'an incel' alligns with yours, but for others it might not. Some may be aware of it being an abbreviation of or originating in 'involuntary celibacy' - others (perhaps younger people) may not. Something I find jarring whenever anyone uses the word, is when they seem to work from an understanding that this is just the way that some people are, and we should hate them for being like this.

I understand that the term incel is associated with all sorts of troubling (illegal, immoral, destructive) behavior, and my point is never to excuse this/that behavior.

What I always emphasize, however, is the very real probability (if you understand human development and behavior), that these so called incels are the sad product of (a) certain environment(s), either on a local or societal cultural level or indirectly through consumption of various types of (global) media etc - most likely a combination of the two.

I'm aware that the term has slightly changed meaning towards referring to "some sad man who hates women and 'men who succeed with women' and the world - and who, then act atrociously", but this doesn't change much about what could be referred to as 'the approach'.

Now, I could go on about various tendencies, trends, movements, liberations and developments in gender-roles (and other societal factors) and how it has left some (many), especially 'men', lost when it comes to living up to ideals - or confused about what these even are. My point, however, is that anyone who solely focuses on a person being an incel, does more damage than they do anyone a favor. Simplifying or reducing someone to 'an incel' is, to me, a destructive act, because it somewhat takes away their humanness. I wanna emphasize, again, that they (the 'incels') may very well do inhumane acts, and that these shouldn't be allowed or excused, but I would highly suggest anyone using such a term, to consider the difficulty of being a human in a world as complex and demanding as ours, especially if one such human doesn't seem to succeed in things that make them feel like they are succeeding or belonging in society.

The scope of bad behavior and the act of humanizing

Now, it seems that you are yourself aware - to some extent - of the humanizing of this otherwise very hatable character. It seems to me, that the approach to humanizing 'bad characters' depends on the type of 'bad' they represent. Please do not takes this too literally, but perhaps you can think of it as sitting somewhere on a scale from 'local' to 'structural' badness.

Local: Some people go through traumatizing, hurtful events and experiences leaving them hateful, aggressive, depressed, hopeless, what-have-you. The more of these experiences a person has, or the more severe these experiences have been, the more likely these people are to act differently towards other people - to the audience, usually, in an unjustified way. They may become very intolerant of people living differently from themselves, of generally struggle to live a fulfilling life. Or, they may 'simply' have a high temper, low patience, lack of trust in relationships or whatever.

Simplified example: Premise; Timmy's father beat him. Result; Now Timmy has a tendency to beat his partner(s).

Structural: Some hurtful experiences are clear to us as individuals and others are more indirect, vague, odd. We as people in a society generally agree that we are all working on improving society, making it a better, more just place. Apart from 'just' and 'right' often differing between individuals, other issues arise from attempts to improve something.

VERY simplified example: Premise; A society has actively worked on countering patriarchal gender roles and tendencies that seemed to leave women with unfair disadvantages or leaving them in unjustifiable relations with partners, and so on. Result; Men now struggle with understanding how to navigate in a society where their actions towards/with women are scrutinized, and lack a clear understanding of 'how to be a real/succesfull man', a struggle leading to many painful and destructive feelings and urges - do they blame women for 'taking the roles of men'? Do they 'get rid of the other men, the ones that they are competing with for the women'?

In either case, local and structural, we often look at a persons experiences/environment in order to understand how they became the way they are. With a locally hurtful environment, the issue or the 'solution' may be clear. Example: Put more ressources into making sure that children are treated well by their parents. With the structurally hurtful environment, the issues can seem paradoxical and therefore super difficult to 'fix'. Example 1; Go back to old-fashioned gender roles to help men 'know their place' in society? (Probably a clear no), Example 2: Create a public space where men can air their doubts, frustrations, insecurities and general feelings about uncertainties in life, without being shamed for 'not being manly'? (Perhaps? Seems obvious to me, but far from everyone will agree.)

How could you go about including and humanizing 'incels' in your story / game

If you want an audience to understand how someone may act 'like an incel', make it clear, that they are the product of an environment, locally, societally, globally, structurally.

Your goal, then, would most likely not be to simply find the story that explains this man's behavior, but instead to have the audience experience the tendencies in general which might create incels. From this, we, the audience, might actually generally learn something.

Heck, building on top of @motosubatsu's answer, we might actually get the best of both worlds: We might get to live out our forbidden fantasies of disproportional or totally insane violence (or whatever), and at the same time undergo a slight change in how we view the causing factors of such, 'obviously' totally inappropriate or unacceptable, behavior.

How is this answer relevant to this and other questions about writing/structuring stories?

It may seem like this answer is very heavily focused on the use of the term 'incel' - and it is, but I want to clarify that the term could be switched out with many other terms painting a person as 'bad'; racist, homophobic, bigoted, violent maniac, asshole, and so on. What I hope anyone who reads this answer takes away from it is; Beware of how your use of a term may play into 'creating a narrative that fuels the issue that creates the problematic behavior' which you want to highlight or work with - do you think calling or referring to people as 'incels' is helpful or counters the issue? I do not. In many stories, bad people are created from local 'issues', but if we look closely, just as many could be seen as the product of structural ones. As a last reminder, the point is not to excuse the behavior, but to shift the focus onto what may cause it, perhaps to make sure it never happens again.

If you are not up for this, I would advise against having an 'incel' in your story/game, but the choise is of course yours either way.

I take away from the other answers (and comments) that others may feel something like this, but they perhaps either do not know how to put in into words as an answer or do not want to spend the time and energy writing it. They also may not find it an appropriate place to write such a response, but I couldn't not do it.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.