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Black and white

September 28, 2006 ・ Blog

I interviewed Rebellion Games head Jason Kingsley today as part of an article I’m writing for the New Statesman about videogames culture in the UK. It went pretty well, and he seemed a nice guy. I wanted to talk to him because he and his company bought that quintessential bastion of British popular culture, 2000AD, a few years ago.

Anyway, at the end of our talk, he said something that I’ve been idly mulling over too. He said that the thing he was least proud of about videogames culture is its depiction of evil. “It’s portrayed as darker and malformed, but evil is deeds, not appearance,” he said. “That simplicity is disappointing and alarming”.

I totally agree, though of course it’s not restricted to games. Film is particularly guilty of this lazy and offensive visual shorthand. The frustrating thing, as Jason hints, is that both videogames and film are adept at showing deeds.

Sadly, a couple of the worst culprits, mainly because they depict characters transforming into good and evil forms, are Fable and Black and White. Apart from their visual aspects, they’re actually pretty sophisticated in their treatment of notions of good and evil, allowing players to play in the grey of neither. So why don’t they have the same imagination and latitude applied to the way they look?