The Games We Play: The Light is Right

A screencap from Lionhead Studio's Fable III of a male playable character standing in a dirty industrial looking city. The character is shirtless, with his arms raised over his head. His skin is extremely pale, and his chest tattoo glows with bright lights. There are glowing butterflies all around him.
I am so good I crap sparkling white butterflies!

The false dichotomy dividing "good" and "evil" into groups represented by light and dark goes back further than my first memories of seeing The Empire Strikes Back at the drive-in. It is a way of looking at the world around us and packing things into neat little boxes, and it has enveloped our popular culture and our mythology.

Religion, advertising, fashion, movies, and even video games rely on dividing symbols into black and white, light and dark, to represent morality. Though this is done for the ease of the viewer/consumer/player, the categorizing can be harmful in one extreme or another. A woman in a swank black dress can be seen as extremely fashionable because black is considered the staple of elegance, but she could also be seen as a slut trying to show off because black is the color of evil or darkness in some cultures. Back to my thoughts of Star Wars (because many things in my mind drift that way), Luke Skywalker robed himself in black in Return of the Jedi when he overcame the seduction of the Dark Side, proving himself stronger than his father, Darth Vader, the symbol of evil in the Empire, also clad in black.

Light and dark motifs have been used heavily in video games as well for almost as long as I remember. Heroes clad in light colors and showered in shimmering light, bestowed sacred gifts by mysterious women clad in unicorn kisses. Villains with dark and sallow features and droopy dark eyes in long dark robes swirling with dark magic feasting on babies' souls.

Screencap from Lionhead Studio's Fable III. Example of a male PC whose morality is extremely "evil". The PC is shown with darker skin that is glowing red. He has begun to sprout glowing red horns and red glowing wings. His tattoos also glow red, and his sword is flaming red.

Lionhead Studios franchise Fable's third iteration displays this spectacularly, using their notorious morality system which changes your PC's appearance according to your in-game decisions. The RPG (role-playing game) has a story that is rather linear, and the combat interface is reasonable (though, if you have pain in your hands, this is not going to be an accessible game), and allows you to combine three different styles of fighting, which I enjoyed immensely. But the further into the story I delved and the more choices I made on my character I began to notice that my character, whom I was playing as a complete goody-two-shoes, was getting pale. Her skin was becoming almost translucent. The tattoos I applied were glowing blue. My partner, who was playing co-op with me (a great feature in Fable III is that you can actually play local online co-op) was running around and slaughtering all the guards and nobles, and he was darkening, and turning red. As his game progressed, he sprouted wings and horns as his moral compass swirled and reached pure evil.

One of Lionhead's most highly rated games ever, Black and White, was pretty blatant in its PC representation. You are a god. You make good decisions or evil decisions for your islanders, and this supposed to be black or white. Simple as that. Great concept, a real "hand of god" situation, wielding mighty power over everything you touch. The title spells the narrative right out, and it gives me a great Genesis feeling.

Blizzard's powerhouse World of Warcraft divides itself into two factions which come together to help each other only when convenient (say, against a Lich King or some Cataclysm). Players choose a team to belong to as the first step in character creation, and the choice of playable race is divided by this decision. Most players would be hard pressed to say that there wasn't some aura within the game play to lead one to believe that one faction was posited as more morally good than the other. I would venture to say that the Alliance, which is comprised of the (mostly) white humans and gnomes, the graceful draenei in their crystal city, or the night elves (the only race associated with something other than lightness) in their gorgeous, dense forests, or even worgens who are really humans who change into werewolves anyhow, is somehow supposed to seem less savage and corrupt.

The Horde, on the other hand, is composed of undead dwelling in an Undercity of abominations, trolls and orcs with tusks jutting from their jaws, green goblins, and the blood elves, who, while pale and living in a city devoted to the sun, have a dark weakness for magic. The Horde is certainly shown to be the less civilized, especially the races with the supposedly less desirable features, and darker or decaying skin.

This dichotomy of using light and dark to express concepts of good and evil being widespread, pervasive, and very old makes me wonder how it affects people who consume video games.

There are certainly examples that flip this idea, I'm sure. Several that are not U.S.-centric or Western come to mind. Certainly, you as readers will be able to think of others. But does that undo the long-standing history of what has been established in cultures where this iconology has become so common?

How do you think that non-white people or people of color might feel when encountering these narratives while consuming video games? When it comes to good vs. evil being represented as light vs. dark, can we really say it's just a game?

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Comments

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Other Cultures

This article reminded me of the cultural color wheel I saw some time back:

http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/colours-in-cultures/

According to this wheel, black = evil in Western/American, Japanese, Hindu and Asian (?) cultures.

White means purity to about Western/American, Japanese, Chinese and Asian (?) cultures.

There are still a lot of questions here, but it's an interesting study.

That's really interesting!

That's really interesting! I've found that a lot of colors (in Euro-American tradition, anyway), often have two meanings that are related. Like, red is passion but also violence, for example. I'll definitely be studying this wheel when I get a minute!

I heard that Resident Evil 5

I heard that Resident Evil 5 had similar controversy when it took place in an African village where the natives were infected with some virus.

But honestly I believe that this was in the real world long before video games were created. Video games are the symptom of these already deep seated beliefs which is why a dark black man may seem more dangerous than a white man of the same economic background to some.

Girl Power & Spice up your life!!!!

I have so much to discuss

I have so much to discuss about RE5. Believe me. It is on the docket! It will not be overlooked! You are absolutely right.

You can do one of two things; just shut up, which is something I don't find easy, or learn an awful lot very fast, which is what I tried to do. ~ Jane Fonda

The RE5 controversey was so overblown, it's ridiculous

Oh sure, gunning down primarily white zombies in every Resident Evil game before RE4 was fine and dandy. Sure, nobody really complained about the Spanish ethnicity of the RE4 zombies. But when RE5 takes place in Africa, oh noes! Capcom is racist! We got to censor the game from the kiddies, because a white man is killing black zombies! In spite of the fact that the heroine helping Chris Redfield is Sheva, is a black female. The moment I saw the first trailer, I knew some idiot would spin that game to look racist, in spite of, well, the other games in the series.

Lord forbid that a game involving zombies include designs that AREN'T the homogenized white faces that are commonface in the genre. Gimme a break.

It's funny because RE5 is

It's funny because RE5 is basically Heart of Darkness with Zombies. That is, it's an anti-imperialist screed that still relies on Dark Continent cliches. The telling moment, for me, is near the beginning of the game when you're walking around a village and come across a group of guys beating something inside a bag. There's no way of knowing what's in the bag and the guy just turn and stare at you menacingly when whatever's inside it stops moving.

That Sheva is light-skinned and has a British accent doesn't really jive with the "Look! It's not racist!" deal.

Trade race with gender

If it were men killing all female sexualized zombies with the help of one masculine female would you still have the same reaction? I don't ask this question as an attack but to help you see why this game is offensive.

Girl Power & Spice up your life!!!!

I can see why you'd be upset

I can see why you'd be upset by that, but I don't see Resident Evil 5 as that. If you want to set a game in Africa, most of your enemies are going to be black. I haven't played RE5 as much as most people, maybe an hour and a half, but since I'm familiar with the series I don't see using Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine as racist, because frankly most of the previous playable characters were white. I'm not sure if all of the protagonists are white- I haven't played all of the games in the series.

If they had invented a black character so that it was a black guy killing black zombies, it'd be more racist because it's saying that white men and women can't mow down black zombies like they can mow down white zombies and brown zombies. Should the design team have tossed a bunch of white zombies in Africa to represent the significant white population? I don't know! Do I think the sidekick was pretty ridiculous and an attempt to stave off controversy? Yup. But zombies are zombies.

On another subject, in WoW the Horde could be, and generally is, considered the morally better faction. In fact, the original horde was Trolls, Tauren, Orcs, and Forsaken. The former faction leader of the orcs is a notable agitator for peace, the faction leader for Tauren is a very moral character, the Trolls I can't remember anything good or bad about, and the Forsaken were pretty pissed about being dead and rejected, with characters that were goodish and characters with very shady or even outright evil. The Horde at the start of WoW didn't want conflict of any sort with the Alliance, wanted peace, and while you couldn't originally be a paladin on the Horde side, they exclusively had the shaman class which was portrayed as a spiritual class that relied on the natural order as defined by the elements. I don't know as much about their opponents, the Alliance, but the reason there's a conflict right now is that the orc leader's advisor is a dumbass and the Alliance king hates orcs and their buds.

On your third point...

I would agree, fully, knowing the lore. It is the iconology and the presentation that I think is supposed to represent a savage faction over a civilized faction (with minor exceptions I've already mentioned). You have to investigate further to see the truth (and you see King Varian for the Orc hating jerk he is when you battle for the Undercity), to see that the dichotomy doesn't apply here.

I wasn't around for Vanilla-Caffeine-Free Wow, but I do remember that they wanted to be left alone. Being a big nerd who likes books about video games she likes, I've contemplated picking up some of the books about Wrynn and Thrall.

You can do one of two things; just shut up, which is something I don't find easy, or learn an awful lot very fast, which is what I tried to do. ~ Jane Fonda

RE5 is further complicated

RE5 is further complicated when you take into consideration the connotation of combining the plotline of a raging, highly infectious virus with the place setting of the African continent, and that the only solution is to blow all the infected people away. That was the first thing that struck me when I saw the game--that it was really offensive when one considered the real-life troubles that many areas in Africa are facing.

Let's just go after GTA: San Andreas while we're at it

Because at the rate we're going, every time developers experiment with environments with a high number of minorities, it'll automatically be deemed as racist. Again, where were all the complaints when Leon of RE4 gunned down an entire village of Spanish zombies overseas? Maybe it would've been better if the black zombies overran an American neighborhood. But oh, that would cast black Americans in a bad light. Sigh.

I didn't really play San Andreas, because GTA3 and Vice City burnt me out of the series, but as far as I understood, the narrative was pretty compelling, and not terribly different from the stuff portrayed on movies like Boys In Da Hood or David Simon's The Wire. In that case, San Andreas is mimicking what movies and TV have done, so they shouldn't be seen as any worse, but of course, the anti-videogame attitudes of the mainstream media twist it (to say nothing of the ridiculous "Hot Coffee" scandal).

I see some of the same things here. To call RE5 a modern day spin of "Heart of Darkness" is as absurd as that one Fox News analyst calling Mass Effect a sex simulator. From what I heard of RE5's, there's no sociopolitical context behind the virus; other than series villain Albert Wesker wanting to go infect some other region of the world. He already tried in America, England and Spain. So an African region it is. I just see it as a bunch of Japanese developers wanting to change the settings a bit, not intentionally antagonize people. If the developers were American or European, well, I still think it would be ridiculous, but at least more warranted, considering how both nations wrecked the continent. Here's another challenging thought. What if the protagonists were black, and the zombies were white? Would the racism claims have equal clout?

The most complaints I hear about RE5 has to do with the strictly co-op gameplay (it's impossible to enjoy the game with an AI partner). Most hardcore gamers I know don't really care, black or otherwise.

I can see where you're coming from, but...

The GTA games left a bad taste in my mouth for other reasons. I understand that the logistics of the game would have to include a lot of dark-skinned zombies due to the place (there are some light-skinned zombies, too, in RE5, as well as other Black African protagonists). Yes, the game, like all games, are fantasy, but I think the point of this post is to look at WHY we have these fantasies. In a perfect world you'd be right: it wouldn't matter what color the zombies and the zombie killers are, but I don't think the subtext of RE5 can be ignored. I only have experience with REs 4 and 5, and I consider them to be on par with Indiana Jones movies; they're fluffy, simplistic stories made for entertainment purposes, and feature over-simplified versions of other cultures (Sheva's "tribal" outfit, anyone?). I don't think the criticism offered here is simply because RE5 features black characters, but because of how Africa itself is treated. Yes, the T virus is fantasy, but as I said before, widespread illnesses are a real-life problem in many African nations, and to me, the game seemed to be somewhat insensitive to that.

The problem is that there was

The problem is that there was no historical precedent with RE4, but there is with a setting like in RE5, and with the theme of a virus spreading through some regions of Africa, with colonization, and with white people brutalizing African people across that region. Capcom should have taken this history into a little more of a consideration before releasing the game as they did.

Like I said, I have commentary coming up later on about this particular topic.

You can do one of two things; just shut up, which is something I don't find easy, or learn an awful lot very fast, which is what I tried to do. ~ Jane Fonda

I really feel that this

I really feel that this narrative doesn't have so much bearing on gameplay or social views. If it is a multi-player game there is certainly social and cultural discussion but that is something dictated by the players and not the developers. I definitely think diversity in character choices helps make all people feel included because I can say right now that I chose not to play the older versions of fable because you could not be a female character. There are quite a few games that don't have female options or have obscenely sexualized female options and that will put me off immediately.

I would say as a hardcore WoW player that the idea that Alliance appeals to more people because it represents good is not accurate. Indeed there are games where choosing to be part of an evil faction is less appealing because it can often put you at a disadvantage but smart game developers make games of this type more balanced to open up both possibilities. In World of Warcraft I see a huge imbalance of more people playing Horde and there are a great amount of contributing factors to that. People choose factions because: their friend already plays a certain faction, they like the way a certain race looks, they like the racial specific bonus in conjunction with the class they wish to play, a certain class can only be played by a certain race, they like the environments for leveling that race, and the list can go on. I honestly played horde because I liked certain race looks better than others and chose to be a troll - everyone looks for that one that appeals to them more and that's the fun of invoking this symbol that represents bravery and strength to you personally and there's something interesting and special about all of them.

I agree that the use of contrived ideas of good and evil are too literal and the better video game is going to obscure that from you, or let YOU define what morality is through the eyes of your character. Games like Oblivion allow for so much more - you can join an evil cult and either take it over and continue running their assassination operations while reaping monetary benefit or...shut them down via literal attack or using bribery and speechcraft.

I would love to hear the opinion of someone non-white about whether this imagery is offensive/discriminatory to them but I honestly feel that more games welcome racial diversity before they welcome women - and I realize as a white person my perception may be very ignorant.

Where did I say that?

I didn't say that the Alliance appeals to more players because they are represented as good.

In fact, I would agree with your assertion that more people play Horde characters (on certain servers, anyhow, and I would argue that it would be PvP servers). I think that, at last examination, which was pre-Cataclysm, when I closely compared stats racially across the board, more Horde races were naturally inclined to be better at PvP. They had slight advantages that gave them little lifts in battleground. Tauren have a stomp that was a great stun, and Blood Elves had that great mana drain, for example. Tauren and Undead have the most popular healers. Most Alliance races, again, the last I looked, didn't compare. The exception I can think of being Night Elves, who have that slight chance to dodge, which isn't an offensive ability.

After Cataclysm, the classes were redistributed, and more races can play more classes (BEs can be warriors, which IMO is silly, but there it is, and Tauren can be paladins), so I don't know how the factions stack now. But my hardcore PvP friends all played Horde because they were better at PvP. We used to joke that all the peeps at Blizzard must play Blood Elf Rogues, because they were my least favorite to encounter on a battleground, or Undead Mages, who had the best animations.

All of that is off-topic, but again. I agree with you. I think more people play Horde. But I stand in my observation. We are meant to see the Alliance as upright, good, and civilized, and the Horde as less so, and it is symbolized, in part, by the iconology of color.

You can do one of two things; just shut up, which is something I don't find easy, or learn an awful lot very fast, which is what I tried to do. ~ Jane Fonda

In general there is a lack of

In general there is a lack of games that don't have a very simplistic system of good/evil. Bioware tried to make it more nuanced in some games, but really they're not that good at it. Also I don't think red/blue makes much of a difference (ME). I think as long as they stay this fond of having two very clear-cut sides, they're never going to get away from this.
It also gets a bit tiresome; you've seen it all before, it would be nice if they made it harder next time. I would like to not be able to tell the villains by their mean sneers, and even before that by their looks.

White/light as good does bother me. And I'm really not sure that games deal better with race/variety than with women/other genders than male. Looking at Dragon Age, I actually *facepalmed*, because I made a very dark human noble, and then when I played the origin I had these pale parents... And of course the dark-haired sunken-eyed villain opposed to the hale and hearty blonde muscled Good Guy King (and his brother).

I appreciate Fallen Earth for having a faction wheel, with many factions that have very different characteristics, some directly opposed to others, but none of them 'good' or 'evil'. So then it depends on what you prefer as a player, or if you RP, what kind of character you play.

WoW factions never made sense to me anyway: they very artificially grouped certain races together just so they could have two sides, when if you look at what kind of alliances would be more natural (also according to the lore), they would end up very differently.

Funny...about the good/bad dichotomy

That reminds me when Ken Levine, the lead designer of Bioshock and the upcoming Bioshock Infinite, said he removed the angelic halo/devil horns from the decision of harvesting Little Sisters, just so it would remove any obvious good/bad implications. Before I was aware of how harvesting Little Sisters affected the gameplay, it introduced a complex decision making on whether to kill little girls for the most ADAM for your abilities or to save them and trade off 2/3rds of the potential Adam you could snag.

Alas, the game's split endings was a big slap in the face to people who made such ambiguous moral decisions. You either were a complete saint (saving all of the Little Sisters) or a complete monster (even if you harvest ONE Little Sister), with little leeway in between.

As for Mass Effect, I do think there are many situations that force you to make a difficult choice, because it's the smarter choice. It's just that the points applied make you look inherently good or inherently evil, even if they were logically sound decisions. Take the "Bring Down the Sky" mission in the first game. At the end of that mission, you have to make a difficult choice to either save a few hostages or let them die, so you can capture or kill the terrorist leader. Keep in mind that this terrorist leader planned to use an asteroid to destroy a planet with millions of people residing in them. The plan was so extreme, even some of his accomplices wanted to help me kill him! So in my head, letting the hostages die, despite being a difficult decision, would be better than risking a mad man get another chance at committing genocide. Of course, the game saw this as the evil decision and rewarded you renegade points.

Likewise, there was a critical decision to save only one teammate in one mission, and there was no real right or wrong decision with who you picked. Also, one of the game's biggest decisions near the end was to either save the Council (who've acted like dicks to you the entire game, especially the Turian) or let them die. Saving them might've resulted in more deaths, and less of a chance to destroy the Reaper ship Sovereign (who had to die at all costs), but of course, the pragmatic decision to abandon the Council in theory was more successful.

So yes, I think it's there, but trying to shoehorn everything as a good/evil action in a world that often blurs the line between the two comes off as rather hollow.

That's much of the problem:

That's much of the problem: even if the decisions are more ambiguous than clear-cut, they still force them to be either good or evil in terms of points rewarded for either side, and really, renaming good and evil doesn't really change how people think about it. I feel like Open Palm / Closed Fist was the best try so far to really get away from good/evil into a territory of *different* ways of thinking, possibly opposing, where neither one is necessarily good or bad (you could also do them "wrong" where you'd actually just be cruel or gullible instead of closed fist or open palm). To be honest I found the neutral/chaotic/lawful good/evil/neutral less simplistic to deal with than their new system in that regard (although I do like that you don't lose points on one side if you gain them on the other side). Of course, it all just depends on how they implement it too (memorably hard AND strange to get to chaotic in Planescape Torment). If it's all colour-coded and in a specific spot of the dialogue wheel anyway, or flashing on your screen, it's even less of a challenge. Although, with the interesting surprises where the dialogue doesn't say what you thought it was going to say... There were also a few problems where you thought an action was either going to be good, aggressive or neutral, and the results were lukewarm or too far into a different direction.

The choice between who lives in ME1 didn't have blue or red points attached, which made it one of the best parts of the game (it also wouldn't have made any sense). I didn't like the save/don't save the council choice, because there's only one thing you can do if you don't want to end up with a human council.

Also, I think ME1 was better

Also, I think ME1 was better about this than 2. Glowy red scars, darkness around the eyes, evil grin.... Ok, so there's the Med-Bay upgrade... still...

After seeing the screenshots, I suppose I have to be grateful ParagonShep doesn't have a blue-white glowing Halo and blue-white glowing eyes or whatnot.

I was just thinking about

I was just thinking about red/blue in place of black/white. As I type this, my boyfriend is playing Populous, considered the precursor to Black and White, and created by the same person who later made the Fable series. In this game, you play as the "good" blue-clad people, and the object is to defeat and conquer the "bad" red-clad people. (Other than the clothing, the people are all identical.) I've noticed in many forms of media that black and red often stand for evil while blue and white often stand for good. My assumption is that both white and blue are associated with purity, while black and red are associated with death, decay and violence. (I'd like to point out that white can often come full circle and represent death as well.) Anyone else have thoughts about this?

I always thought it was

I always thought it was representative of red being linked to aggression and blue being more of a passive and subdued color. You see a lot of pictures of crusaders/paladins with white armor and a red cross on their shield, for example. Villains that are more sinister and plotting tend to be blue and black, too.

Interesting.

It seems that the combination of white and black with red or blue changes the meaning, too. I agree that red = passion/aggression and blue = something cooler and more subdued. I've also seen another variation where the villains wear black and red, which seems to characterize them being bloodthirsty and savage, and the good guys wear white and blue, and often have peaceful, spiritual characters. It seems like there's a lot of material here!

I did notice that too, and

I did notice that too, and wanted to see if it came up in comments (because that did draw out in Fable III, your skin takes on those tints). How often to we see, in fantasy, paladins, knights, (or Grey Wardens) clad in blue over their armor, showing their purity or righteousness? Red is the color of anger, fury, blood (in many Western cultures, anyhow).

I think that red is often seen as a savage, less civilized color (red skins, anyone?), which is partly where I draw my connections from World of Warcraft. The Horde, symbolized by a red flag, is made of mostly tribal dwelling people, and I think they are portrayed as more savage. Trolls, orcs, lead by "War chiefs". We are supposed to see them as better suited for fighting in some senses (if we break some of their races down by stats, they are better suited for PvP, which makes many of the Horde classes more popular of a choice for players on many servers, with slightly better advantages in certain classes). I myself love playing blood elves for that slight advantage to mana.

The Alliance is represented by blue. They have eagles on their flags and ride on griffins. Their castles are pretty, even though their king is a bit of a warmonger and would wipe out all of a race of people if allowed. (To be clear, I am not saying the symbology is true, merely that it is meant to give us a certain feeling).

You can do one of two things; just shut up, which is something I don't find easy, or learn an awful lot very fast, which is what I tried to do. ~ Jane Fonda

Even the prequels didn't erase that...

I read David Gaider's prequels to DA:O, thinking that maybe they would give some depth to Loghain as a not simply evil guy who murdered his best friend's son and was this sallow-looking, dark-haired, guy with a grudge. Nope. He was grumpy, bitter, and mistrustful the whole first book. Downtrodden and grumpy compared to his more bubbly, congenial, and affable, chatty, supposed best friend (who reads more *spoiler* like the bastard son he leaves behind than anyone who hasn't played the game would realize). Then Flemeth dooms him with a prophecy and away they go. He even has to "teach Maric a lesson" because Maric is too nice to be a proper king. Loghain always knew better.

The second prequel, which re-writes all you know about the game characters, Loghain is a horror of a grouch who bosses the King around. There is little doubt that this man is going to wind up killing a king to get his own way out of his own mistrust over all of these fair-haired, lighthearted men who are willing to accept change.

I wonder if the technology exists to make morality systems more flexible. So far, in RPGs, your party members either like you or hate you, and in others you are either loved or loathed as a leader with glowing body modifications of some sort. You can mistreat people in your crew or party, but they never quit or leave, just yell at you (and then it is only some of them in some circumstances). It is one extreme or the other, without actual repercussions.

You can do one of two things; just shut up, which is something I don't find easy, or learn an awful lot very fast, which is what I tried to do. ~ Jane Fonda

There's a simpler explanation

The archetype of light=good, dark=evil is one of the oldest, most ingrained in the human species, stemming from our earliest days when the most prominent source of everything was the sun. The sun brought warmth, it illuminated the landscape and its absence meant it was easier for predators to attack people. When you consider that so much of humanity is visually oriented, it makes sense that "darkness" (night time) became synonymous with obscurity, the unknown, and the "absence of vitality." Hundreds of thousands of years of cultural and biological evolution have led to countless variations on this archetype, but at its core it remains quite similar. The night/day cycle has been one of the few truly consistent natural phenomena throughout all of our history, and serves as a natural touchstone by which we orient ourselves.

Of course, none of this justifies applying any notions of "good" and "evil" (meaningless terms, anyway) to race and ethnicity.

TV Tropes offers a different perspective

There are two tropes that are increasingly prevalent in pop culture, including video games: Light is Not Good* and Dark is Not Evil**. You'll be surprised how much the videogame medium flips the idea of "light" imagery not representing the good guys, and that the guys wearing dark leather and etched in creepy tattoos are more good hearted than the holy ones. In some ways, this trend reflects back onto real life. Some Christian figures (like Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church) claim to be the shining beacon of hope when they're really dogmatic zealots who may double as tremendous hypocrites. Likewise, I know some people who're into all kinds of body modification (including tattoos, piercings and implants) who're kinder than most folks.

My favorite example (and the one that I immediately recalled) involved the Protoss in Blizzard's Starcraft series, particularly the first game. Despite the Zerg tearing the Protoss Homeworld (Aiur) apart, the followers of the Khala (the representatives of the light) are myopic traditionalists who prefer letting millions die than using more controversial methods to exterminate the Zerg. Meanwhile, the Dark Templar don't mind crossing that line, and wind up doing a good bit of damage to the Zerg invasion. Too bad the Dark Templar constantly get harassed by their light brethren. Throughout the first game and its expansion Brood War, the Khala followers declared war on the Dark templar at least three times. The Dark Templar...zero. For the most part, they just want to mind their own business, and despite getting kicked off Aiur generations ago, they want to help defend their homeworld.

Tassadar, the only Khala Protoss who saw how foolish his side was acting, crossed some lines to help unite them and the Dark Templar together. Alas, it resulted in a bloody civil war in the middle of a Zerg invasion that threatened to kill them all. It got so bad, Tassadar turned himself in as a heretic, so both sides would stop killing each other in senseless violence. In the end, they came together, but even after that, the Khala still harbors deep resentment towards the Dark Templar, especially once both sides abandoned Aiur, because the Zerg overran the planet. Even when the Khala Templar made good points, it's hard to root for them when they made so many idiotic decisions when it came to preserving their species in the midst of a war.

Devil May Cry 4 is another great example. Nero, the supposedly "evil" looking character with a demonic arm, is much better than the members of the church that surrounds him. He uses his demonic power to defend the local civilians and the people he cares about. The church? Sure, they have the power to change into angelic figures that represent all that's good and holy, but they aim to commit genocide in the process. Wonderful, heavenly protectors.

I'm sure there are several more, but none really caught my eye like those two.

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Links (disclaimer: TV Tropes is seriously addictive)
* http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LightIsNotGood
** http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DarkIsNotEvil

I like it when the Western theme is flipped...

Though I tend to avoid TV Tropes as a rule (just a personal preference). But you bring up good examples.

Something that is interesting to me, though, is how the biggest example you bring up is the most popular game in South Korea, in a culture where the Light=Good and Dark=Bad would not exist on necessary principle anyhow with the same history it would in the West. In some cultures in Asia, white can equal death, and evil, and dark just the opposite (for instance, red can be a sacred and lucky color to wear at a wedding, and you might give red envelopes of money at special occasions). It is an interesting thought, anyway, considering the phenomena that Starcraft is here.

You can do one of two things; just shut up, which is something I don't find easy, or learn an awful lot very fast, which is what I tried to do. ~ Jane Fonda