The Karma Flip

| Wednesday, May 29, 2013
People don't like being misled.  Except when it's part of a mystery or thriller or the surprise twist ending, that sort of thing.  But that's beside the point, which is that people don't like being misled.  Shouldn't misleading people therefore count as a villainous action in games that feature karma meters?

There is lying, of course.  [Speech check] is available at times.  Yet it's rarely more than a single event.  Someone's son died and you lie and say they ran away from home.  And that's it.  It's petty villainy.  It's on par with shooting their dog on the way out.  It shows that you're bad, but it's not quite evil.

What we need is truly evil misleading.  What we need is the Karma Flip.  What is that, you ask?  Well obviously I'm going to explain it.

It's one thing to be an outside enemy.  The other soldier is your enemy, but he's polite enough to wear a uniform and sometimes there's a ceasefire and you have tea together.  He's the visible enemy.  You might not know he's coming, but you know he exists and means you harm.  It's comforting when you know who you have to shoot to make the world a better place, or at least to make the world a place with fewer people trying to kill you.

Then there are the spies, the traitors, the double agents.  They're worrisome.  You suspect they exist, but you're not sure where.  Or who.  They wear uniforms, but often they are your own.  They may even appear to be friends.  These are the people that you don't shoot because that's too quick.

For these spies and traitors, every kind deed leading up to the betrayal is no longer a kind deed.  Rather, it is the opposite: it is the deception that allowed the betrayal.  From the post-betrayal perspective, the kitten you petted wasn't you being nice, rather it was you pretending to be nice.  And for all we know you put poison in its fur to kill the next person to pet the kitten.

That's the Karma Flip: the post-reveal reinterpretation of previous positive karma actions.  With this mechanic the karmic effects are not purely additive.  Saving an orphan may give positive karma, but that doesn't negate your decision to plant a bomb in an orphanage.  Instead, the orphan-saving is now a villainous action, part of your evil plan to infiltrate the orphanage.

Conversely, what seemed to be bad actions may be slightly negated by the revelation of goodness.  Maybe you stole that bottle of water (a capital offense in many games), but you gave it to a dying orphan.  Or maybe a child's parents so he'd not become an orphan.  Maybe you insulted your guests to escape a party, but you were the only one who knew and could stop the truly evil plot to release the insane prisoners while showering the city in fear gas.  Of course in that last example it's of no help, because Batman is a hero while Bruce Wayne is just a douchebag who makes fun of Batman.


Post a Comment

Comments in posts older than 21 days will be moderated to prevent spam. Comments in posts younger than 21 days will be checked for ID.

Powered by Blogger.