Sincere & Positive Leftism In Games


Sounds like a similar problem to Bioware’s KOTOR, where the light choice on the wookie planet is not to kill every single slaver piece of garbage you meet until the end. Also has an additional outsider savior narrative (not strictly white since your character has a lot of race options) where the wookies don’t even seem to seriously consider just killing the sith until you come by and are all like “hey what if you just killed the sith.”

Both Obsidian and Bioware are good at making games that respect player choice, which often leads to them fumbling when it comes to tackling politics. The difference is that Bioware often weasels out of the real world implications or just uses it for set dressing so not to distract from the big bad and maybe evil thing (depending on the game) coming to do a genocide or omnicide. Obsidian tries to engage with political ideologies, resulting in a spotty record due to how uneven they are when it comes to denouncing things. They do it a lot, but respecting player choice so much can undermine the themes at play.

Alpha Protocol probably has this worse because you can side with the most nakedly evil faction in the game, the one based VERY much in real world politics the developers clearly despise. The game makes it clear is is a genuinely evil choice, but Thorton is still shown off as a cool guy (but now bad) so it doesn’t really gel with the core message about the evils of arms dealers, political corruption, and capitalism run amok.

1 Like

You know that’s wrong right? Karma is gained by killing anyone with very evil karma in the Legion. The only interaction with the legion which gains you negative karma is killing some slaves via bomb collars.

I mean of all the weird moral standpoints in NV wouldn’t being rewarded for killing Boxcars after healing him be more apt?

1 Like

I seem to remember receiving negative karma after fighting a camp of them.

Regardless, they’re overtly villains, and it’s weird how little the game systems were willing to admit that


This was mentioned in another thread by someone a while back (I swear like every other thread on this forum has a little bit of bioshock infinite/new vegas critique its…fascinating) but the game very much does have systems in place to punish the player for siding with them. Whole entire sections of content become unavailable, and the player character is loathed and distrusted in a wide variety of areas. Legion playthroughs are barely worth your time imo if you even want to see a lot of what the world has to offer. If making things entirely unplayable and basically getting spit on by NPC’s everywhere you go isn’t a condemnation of pledging allegiance to Caesar I’m not sure what is

1 Like

Color me wrong then


Technically as far as the game is concerned Caesar isn’t evil at all. Lanius is his dog of war who is heralded and proven as much worse.

None of the main factions leaders who you interact with in game (House, Yes Man, and Caesar) have karma other than neutral.


I remember, yeaaarrrrs ago, like 2012 or something, when asked about this Josh Sawyer (I created a twitter and tumblr account to follow Obsidian devs NV was so revelatory for me,) said the logic was that Ceaser hadn’t actually personally committed too many atrocities. He ordered lots of them, but his karma as neutral was apparently because he lived in a bubble insulated from all the nastiest shit his army does. Vulpes Inculta for instance has Very Evil karma. This doesn’t make a ton of sense for a whole host of reasons, but that was the logic he gave.

As far as NV’s messaging broadly goes, there’s a recent No Cartridge episode with Josh Sawyer where he said that he feels that stepping in and saying what he thinks is the best ending or whatever would close off the discussions about it, and thus close off the possibility of those discussions becoming discussions of real world imperialism, neoliberalism, fascism etc. which with all do respect I think is kind of nonsense. I’ve followed Black Isle/Obsidian people around for a long time and even in cases where their sympathy blatantly does not lie with a group or character in a game they have this weird culture of refusing to weight in and for the most part they say it’s because they feel it undermines player choice blah blah.

If you were to ask me, all the most sympathetic writing in NV blatantly lies with the various independent peoples and the Followers of the Apocalypse. I have around 1000 hours in that game, I’ve seen every inch of it at least once, and that was always what I came away with. But that doesn’t really matter when it comes to its reception outside the game. Lots of people’s fascist politics were catalyzed by the Legion, I know because I’ve been following discussion of this game for almost 9 years, my first internet community was the NV boards on the official Bethesda forums. I don’t think any number of devs coming out and saying that the Independent ending is their preferred (pretty sure Avellone did that one time at least,) would change that, but it just feels irresponsible not to.

I have a lot more words to say on the politics of NV in particular and also of this whole set of RPGs and the only reason I haven’t talked about this stuff before is because I’ve thought about it so damn much for like almost half my life at this point I have a lot of thoughts and that post will be Big so I’m leaving this here in hopes that I’ll come back to it later.


I’m pretty sure the Warrior of Light in FFXIV led to the formation of a worker’s union in Ul’dah.


It’s interesting as Josh Sawyer has stated that the Legion themselves are clearly evil and totalitarian in nature as well. It established order via force not by anything else. That’s why it’s seen as “safer” in their territory as nobody is actually free most just keep their head down to avoid the legion.

I’m pretty sure the Followers are designed to be sympathetic same with the Great Khan’s, both don’t support the NCR but they’re two opposite ends of the spectrum in means to survive.


The ending slides make you feel like garbage if you help a single faction leader, especially with Caesar and House. The best ending, with the most people ending up in a good situation, revolves around rejecting each faction and taking over the middle one.

At worst, there’s minor mechanical dissonance between narrative and design, but it’s nowhere near the level of the utter shit show that is the entirety of Bioware’s TOR MMO.

This is mainly because karma isn’t a morality score, it’s a faction popularity score. The what goes around comes around nature of the system is less based on being good or bad and more on how much a given faction is likely to help or hurt you because of how you’ve interacted with them. Thus, karma is based on the given uniting philosophy of that faction, but it doesn’t represent the morality or philosophy of your player character. Do a thing the faction agrees with that helps them, gain karma, and you lose it if you do the opposite.

I think if the karma term was dropped, the system would make a lot more sense. The same can be said for the Shadowrun games, which reward karma for impressive feats and less for any sort of moral action.


I think it ties with the reputation and karma system being at somewhat operating at different scales. Karma operates on weird logic you can gain it from killing ghouls but you can do bad things but gain positive reputation within a town such as Novac where you can kill Jeannie May but still gain a room.

Though karma itself does reward you for not being an awful person outside of factions themselves via karma for caps (which is an interesting commentary in itself), giving meds, freeing prisoners etc. Karma in NV doesn’t matter (as much) as reputation which is again another aspect why it seems to be reinforced by the actions you take with factions.


You also go into those mines and murder a bunch of giant slaves that were buried underground for thousands of years because they dared to revolt. All so some Uldah company can reopen the mine and keep making that coin.


The Total War games actually are surprisingly pretty critical of capitalism, imperialism, and tons of history that ‘glorifies’ those time periods when you read about the units, buildings, technology, factions and so on in the ingame encyclopedia.

It is a shame that the actual gameplay doesn’t systemize these systemic issues like how Victoria 2 (by Paradox) as its basically about taking over the world militarily and not going bankrupt in the process.

But still props to whoever wrote the encyclopedia to debunk the Rose tinted glasses people have about empires and authority.