Sometimes, Bad Guys Don't Need the Extra Push to Make You Hate Them


#1

I recently started Iconoclasts, a big, beautiful 2D platformer by Joakim Sandberg. The game is packed to the brim with colorful sprites, fun platforming and exciting boss fights, but it’s starting to lose me a bit on its writing.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/vbpg4a/iconoclasts-lore

#2

Kinda reminds me of the main bad guy in Heavenly Sword. Like, it wasn’t enough that he was a war-mongering tyrant, they also had to make him an abusive father and lecherous creep, too.


#3

Fwiw, that scene is the only time Iconoclasts really gets like that. It would still be better without it though.


#4

the Iconoclasts segment is very embarrassing, made even more baffling by how comparatively good the rest of the game is with its writing. it’s frustrating as hell but that trope of “needlessly villainous villain” is still incredibly common in games writing imo. i can’t really think of the last AAA game i played that didn’t lean into that a bit too much (Dishonored comes to mind right away)


#5

Gonna repeat what others have said about this being an unusual lapse in writing for the game, and how the named antagonists are, for the most part, fleshed out and loathsome because of just how human they can be.

To go in a bit deeper on this scene I think part of the issue is length and static tone. The scene loops if you do not sneak fast enough and that changes the framing from a couple of gross comments to a barrage of sexism. It does do a good job of making the player feel trapped, I’ll give it that.

We don’t know the identity of the guard who makes the comment about the boy’s abs (because they’re faceless mooks), so it’s hard to draw conclusions about intent or the lack of the response and so it’s easy to assume the worst intent either on the part of the character or on the part of the author, particularly since the player isn’t left with anything else to do except think about the scene and doubly so when it starts to repeat.

Specifically I reckon this scene should have been about half as long and had specifically ended once the dialogue had progressed to a certain point. Having the guards start fighting or arguing (for instance) could have given them a bit more depth and added additional framing to their conversation or recontextualised it, in addition to letting Robin escape reliably so the player isn’t stuck there listening to, and thinking about, the same comment multiple times.


#6

I had a hunch and checked the Alpha Demo of Iconoclasts that Konjac released many, many years ago (I think it was 2012) and that scene is in there as well, so I think the reason it kind of isn’t in the same tone as the rest of the game is because it’s never been changed since then. Obviously he still could’ve changed it (considering that he reworked some other parts of the early area), but I thought it might be an interesting piece of information.


#7

The first line out of this cut-rate Liam Neeson’s mouth is so cartoonishly disgusting that I have to wonder if it was written in attempted jest. Nothing actually happens, but his dialogue doesn’t get any better from there.

TW: prison rape, the “r” word


#8

Final Fantasy XIV has always had an unfortunate tendency to lean on sexual peril in its side plots, but with the most recent expansion the writers (or localizers, it can be hard to tell) decided to bring it to the main story in a big way. Previous storylines involving the imperial Garleans kinda put them in cartoon villain territory, but in Stormblood they’re written as full on brutal fascists. Part of this though is that just about every time something bad needs to happen to a woman, it involves rape or threats of rape, or being forced into sex work. A child gets threatened at one point. It’s just so fucking nasty and soured me a lot on that game.


#9

That pretty bad if the dev didn’t do a proper finish of the game cause would had caught that and would had tune it up. Have to wonder how many dev also do the same thing?


#10

You know, I was thinking about this during the Waypoint 101 on Wolfenstein: The New Order. The villains in those games are not just, you know, literal Nazis, they’re also constantly doing detestable and despicable things that don’t seem to have to do with their Nazism. At first, it kind of feels like, “Why do you need to convince me as a player to hate these Nazis? You already made them Nazis.”

When I thought about it, it occurred to me that these gratuitous displays of villainy are not outside of their Nazism, but directly informed by it. Sometimes you need to show the actions from their ideologies to vindicate that understanding. I think this extreme despicability, particularly for people who are, well, on the fence about these kinds of things, helps you realize that these people are villains not because they’re just “the bad guys”, but because they’re awful people. They’re villains because they’re racists, because they’re misogynists, and because they’re terrible. Too many people miss those threads.

In other news, I oughtta pick up Iconoclasts at some point. I remember back when the demos came out, super heartening to see it finally released to praise.


#11

I think it leans into this person is bad so they have to be bad in all ways. It’s not enough for them to be doing one outlandishly horrible thing, every fibre of their being and every stance and every belief has to be bad. In most cases, save for the pulpiest of pulp, I find that lends to poor world building. Like what if magneto wasn’t just this extremist revolutionary but just some guy who could move metal and was Hella sexist and racist. Who would follow him?

There’s a way this could be interesting (note: haven’t played the game); what if you saw one of those guards later and they were really uncomfortable with what was said. The whole ‘locker room group of guys are assholes but some dudes know better but are too scared to speak up because of social repercussion’ uh trope.