I Wanna Be Bad – The Thrill of Playing Naughty in Games

Options in a game is a beautiful thing to have. If you have read some of my video game related posts, I have professed an absolute love for games that provide an overabundant amount of choices to choose from. Give me a good story with plenty of customizations and options to choose from in a game, and you will find me spending hours getting lost in the world. Add in the bonus of choosing between playing as a male or female character at the start of a game––signed, sealed, delivered and I’m absolutely yours!

Every time I start a game for the first time with an option to choose female, I always choose to play the game from a female perspective. Call it a comfort thing or gravitating to what feels familiar, but I want my main protagonist to save the world or kick some ass as a female. Guys have been having all the fun for years now, why can’t we? When you get games like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, or any game where you can dictate how you want your character to look, act, or feel, it makes the game feel very personal and different for each player. If I am presented with playing a game as the good girl or bad girl, there is something strangely alluring about playing a game where a character likes to be naughty.

At the date of this post, I haven’t gotten around to playing a new game in Mass Effect where my Shepard is a full on Renegade, or where my Warden from Dragon Age: Origins becomes a total backstabbing and conniving harlot of a woman. Getting an experience like that will happen in the future, and I hope to come back to this topic again to voice my opinion on the experience. For the discussion of this post, I am going to draw on my experience of playing default bad girls in the games Saints Row 2 and 3 and Borderlands.

When I’m talking about bad girls, I’m not talking about rotten to the very core villains here. I’m talking about games where you know your character has questionable morals and principles. Maybe they have more than a few too many screws loose in their head as well. But villains? Not exactly.

Currently, I’m in the process of finishing the Saints Row and first Borderlands games. Every time I pick up either game on a slow, lazy Sunday afternoon or any time I have free time, I find myself gleefully embracing my dark side with these characters. In Saints Row 2 and 3, I have been playing as this female badass who gets things done and who everyone looks to for guidance on how to proceed with taking out rival gangs and painting the entirety of Stillwater with the Saints’ signature purple color. My character is a sexy, no nonsense, foul-mouthed Asian girl who has the propensity for classic taste in jewelry, simple tattoos, and wearing clothes that’s sexy enough without erring on the side of slutty in both games.

Only the Saints can make the color purple look so good and badass

Only the Saints can make the color purple look so good and badass

The Saints Row games are an open world environment where you can spend as much time as you want to explore the city of Stillwater or move onto the main story missions. Whichever you prefer, one thing that can’t be controlled is your character’s attitude. Your main character is part of a rough and rowdy gang whose only mission in life is to be the top gang in control of a corrupt city filled with booze, drugs, and stripper poles. Your character along with their posse are unapologetic about their motivations. You as the player are meant to join them for the ride and to bask in their absurdity and debauchery.

This is what makes the Saints Row games surprisingly fun. Whatever shenanigans my character gets into, I play to be as bad as she is meant to be. Moral compass? Oh, you mean this thing right here? Oops! Seems like I have lost it. I crash cars, cause plenty of property damage, steal stuff, and I punch out little punks who try to get in my way. Except elderly and children. I don’t want my female Saints member to be completely crazy. She has to have some limitations here.

Playing as this absolutely horrible person should feel alarming, but it isn’t. I find myself having fun, and seeing how far I can get away with things. There’s also a sense of freedom in playing the ultra naughty girl that the good girls sometimes don’t have. Take Lilith of Borderlands, for example. Lilith can be seen as one of the good guys, fighting the good fight for whatever purpose she and her colleagues have. Again, I haven’t finished the game so I haven’t advanced too much in the story either. From what I have observed about Lilith’s character, she is an overly confident, impatient vixen of a woman who isn’t a damsel in distress who needs saving. She relishes her role as the Siren and the power she wields.

A kiss from Lilith is downright deadly

A kiss from Lilith is downright deadly

I would consider Lilith to be a bad girl because she strikes me as someone who is ruthless and will do whatever is necessary to get what she wants if it means doing dirty and underhanded things to get results. Not the diplomatic sort. During the times I have played the online multiplayer campaign with my friend, her character Mordecai would find himself on the brink of death. As I make Lilith go save Mordecai by pressing the X button, she always has a snarky remark about how Mordecai is either too slow or he needs to stop sitting down on the job once he is saved from the edge of death. Somehow, if Lilith didn’t need Mordecai, she would have no problem leaving his behind to fend for himself in a barren, dusty wasteland. The cackle Lilith has doesn’t give you the impression of sweet, delicate flower either after she uses her power to take down an enemy or wins against a foe. Her laugh calls to mind Maleficent from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. This girl relishes being a bad girl.

Despite what questionable morals Lilith may have, I also feel oddly giddy to show off what she is capable of against deranged humans and wild creatures. Lilith has so much swagger, I find myself affected by her hold over me. I get trigger happy against the enemies and I find every opportunity to use her Phasewalk ability to bring in the hurt. I imagine Lilith blowing a sultry kiss before delivering the final blow.

Why do I think there is a strange joy in playing the bad girl? I think it has more to do with these characters being the exact opposite of who I am in real life. In real life, I have a strong set of morals and principles I have been raised on. I certainly wouldn’t be shooting up convenience stores like my Asian Saints Row gang member unless I wanted to get thrown in jail, or would I lose my cool like Lilith if my partner needed me to have their back. It’s because they are different from me and they are characters in a game where I can channel the naughtiness underneath my typically nice girl attitude that I can have fun, let loose, and not care who I offend or stab in the back. To a certain degree, there is an absurdity aspect to playing bad.

The characters are typically arrogant, are the only ones who are basking in their own self-professed greatness, and they just don’t give a damn about anything but themselves and their self-interests. An attitude like this one is usually free of any self-doubt and insecurities. Nothing is holding them back. They seize what they want and aren’t weighed down. They live in the moment. At the end of the day, you are playing a role. You get to pretend to be someone else and live someone else’s life. You are living vicariously through a fictional character in a fictional world. If I’m gonna be bad, I’m going to be damn sure it’s absolutely glorious.

Do you get a thrill out of playing a character who is more naughty than nice? What are some of the games you’ve played where a character can be characterized as the bad girl or boy your parents have always warned you stay away from?

15 thoughts on “I Wanna Be Bad – The Thrill of Playing Naughty in Games

  1. I typically have to play as a good guy in most games because otherwise I feel this unrelenting grief in my bones, but Saints Row was an exception. The game practically encourages you to be bad with how ridiculous (and fun) the setup is.

    • I agree. I do like playing the good guy or girl in games too, but I think that’s why Saints Row has a lot of appeal for most players. The absurdity in the game is so much fun and you don’t feel guilty at all for running over that hooker or beating up that cop with a dildo bat. It’s more like how far can I go with being bad!

  2. I definitely know what you mean about wanting to play the bad girl (although in my case I usually play a guy, but that’s a story for another day). It’s all about being able to do the stuff that you would never dream of doing in real life or necessarily even want to do. As Tyler mentioned above, for me it’s all about escapism when I play video games and what’s more escapist than being that badass character who wreaks havoc wherever they go? That said, I don’t think I could ever bring myself to play Renegade in ME anymore after playing Paragon for so long. I just don’t think I could do it!

    • As much as I love playing the Paragon in ME, I have to play the other side of the coin which is playing Renegade at some point. An RPG like ME where you can get almost any sort of outcome imaginable is very attractive to me. When you have an RPG with your main character fully voice acted, I really want to know how the actor/actress approaches the delivery of a line if he or she were to play it as the good/bad person. It makes for a different experience entirely.

  3. Wow, Simpleek, you really are a gamer. I haven’t been playing lately… just too busy even on weekends… oh, in fact, I;m busiest on weekends. I haven’t finished Reisdent Evil 5, and I was gifted with RE6 last Christmas. we have Dragon Age: Origins…. Right now, we have almost 200 games, I’ve played maybe just 50 games.

    • Haha! Well, I do game, but I can’t say I’m a hardcore gamer though. These days I find it hard to make time to play all the games I have, whether it’s console or portable. I definitely recommend playing Dragon Age: Origins when you have the chance. The game is long and a bit time consuming, but once you get into the story you won’t want to put it down. Actually, that might make it worse if your time is divided up with other things. XD

  4. Haha great post, I don’t know how I missed this one last week! I agree that it’s fun to make characters act like badasses. When I first started gaming, I deliberated over decisions and played as myself: sweet, nice, tries to do the morally right thing, etc. But as I got more comfortable with games, I started getting into the escapism factor a lot more and playing different types of characters.

    The first time I picked up Mass Effect, I was really excited to play a Renegade. And I’ve tended to go that route with most games since. But like you said about not hurting children and the elderly, it’s good to have limits! I love BioWare games because they let you choose differently each time… so my “renegades” are always tough in demeanor but still try to save as many people as possible and be open-minded when it counts. It’s fun to find that balance in RPGs!

    • I definitely agree with you! I hope to get around to playing as a Renegade Shep at some point, but I’m working on trying to finish my second run with the series as male Shep. The only thing I may not like about doing a full on Renegade route is the glowing eyes and scars. What I have seen on the internet is downright creepy. I can’t see how any love interest will be able to kiss a Renegade Shep without screaming.

      • Ohhh so true! I don’t mind the scars (for the most part), but the glowing eyes are pretty scary and unattractive, in my opinion. My canon Shep (the renegade one) got the upgrade in the infirmary. Finding all the element zero was time consuming, and it would have been out of character for my Shep in real life (who cares about looking pretty when there are Reapers to destroy?), but I just had to fix her face!

        Anyway, that’s awesome you’re playing as a male Shep. I have always wanted to do that too! I actually just started ME3 as a male Shep, but I haven’t been playing lately. And about your post, I totally agree that being able to choose a female character is always a plus, and I tend to choose them for my first playthroughs too.

  5. Oddly enough, I’ve never felt the need to play the bad girl/guy. I usually go for the morally correct route (although such a route isn’t always referred to as law route, interestingly enough). I think it’s because I approach games a bit differently. Rather than viewing it as playing a role, I think of the role as a portrayal of myself. Thus when it comes to choices, it comes down to a very personal, what would I do in this situation and if I’m being honest, I’m a straight arrow through and through so I would do the morally right action. x3 Although, there have been games like The Walking Dead that have really tested me because the choices in those games are so difficult. I’ve made plenty of morally ambiguous choices as a result. It’s definitely an interesting experience because the game isn’t black and white like most choice-based games. :)

    • I know what you mean! When I do play RPGs, I do like to start out by playing it as if I were the character. I try to make the decisions based on what I’d probably do. Still, I like those moments when I can step outside of what I’d normally do and play it as someone different from me. Sort of like what actors do for their roles in TV or film. That, and I like to see all the different possibilities.

      I haven’t played The Walking Dead game yet, but I plan on picking it up at some point because of the great story and the choices you are forced to make. I’ll admit, I don’t watch the TV show, but friends have said I can jump into the game without ever have watching a single episode. Can’t wait to play this soon!

      • They are right. The game is an independent story and honestly the tv series pales in comparison! The game does almost everything right, while the tv series is bogged down by stupid double standards and unrealistic characterization. I’m planning on writing a comparison piece as my return to blogging! :)

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