Well, this post was supposed to be all about how Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition was launching today…Good thing I checked again. The date has been pushed back to Nov. 30th. I’m not too worried about that, but it is kind of odd since they announced it three days before launch. Oh, well.
The point I wanted to make though is that if you like RPGs, games with storytelling, strategy games, fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons or you just own a computer, check this out. In all fairness, I have only played Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn but if it is anything like BG2, than I know it will be a masterpiece of storytelling. Not just of videogames, but any medium.
Jon Irenicus is one of my favorite villains of all time. This is a villain who has murky, self centered motive for all of his behavior. It’s not that he doesn’t see himself as the villain, it’s just that he doesn’t give a shit. He has plans, not even necessarily desires even though it’s halfway fueled by a lost love, but plans. He’s methodical, curious, and amoral. He doesn’t want to rule the world or anything like that either. His plans mainly apply to him. Their personal. I love that in a villain.
Conflict is essential and can be delivered in a multitude of ways. Sometimes you don’t need a villain because your protaganist is facing himself or the world around him, but when it’s someone else, a good villain is essential. For Batman you need the Joker. For Luke you need Vader. For you to have strong hero, there has to be something or someone to face off against him. In a lot of ways the villain will be just as essential if not more essential than the hero. You need a strong hero, don’t get me wrong, but the villain is what fleshes that hero out. All of the things you want people to see in your hero, whether it’s his high moral code, his reckless nature, his thirst for vengeance; the villain is going to be the spotlight that illuminates these traits.
A lot of people have all kinds of formulas for their villains. And there are countless examples of a good villain. Here’s a list of my favorites and why:
- Darth Vader: He’s tragic. Or he was before the new ones when you were just hoping he would shut up. He’s the Fallen Knight, the great hope of the Republic who turned to the Dark Side for power. All throughout the original Star Wars he’s a powerful enemy, a commanding presence, and if anyone around him makes a bad decision, force choke. What else do you need? He is Luke’s father and a foreshadowing of what he could become. He set all these events into motion and provides a perfect counterweight to Luke.
- The Joker: There are a lot of versions, so I’m kind of speaking from my perspective here. You don’t know who he is, and neither does he. He’s so insane that his past has been rewritten a dozen times over and even he doesn’t really know it. He’s intelligent, but not efficient. He plans, but is unpredictable. He’s chaos. He doesn’t care about the money or the fame or anything like that, he just wants to watch the world burn and laugh while he does. And every single time Batman locks him away, it Joker usually got what he wanted along the way and always has the last laugh.
- Hannibal Lecter: He’s scary as hell. He’s not big, he’s not physically impressive, he just talks. About eating people. And then he does it. He is a walking mindfuck who will go out of his way to hunt down, torture, and kill people who piss him off or peak his interest. And what an imagination. Hannibal Lecter is an artist when it comes to murder and that’s part of what’s so scary because while he does all these things that are the lowest point of humanity he is, in all other ways, the peak of mental achievement. So much of Clarice is brought out by Hannibal’s own psychosis.
- The agent from Serenity: He knows he’s a monster, but he thinks it’s for a noble cause. Because of that he’s willing to do anything to see his mission through. In his own eyes he is a sacrifice for the safety of others. He is willing to give his very soul to ensure that millions have a safe place to live. He also has a mathematical morality where he just crunches the numbers and moves forward. He’s eloquent, deadly, and intelligent. Also, when so many villains are brought down by a mistake or a twist of events, the Agent comes by it honest. I mean, what exactly was he supposed to do against a fleet of space cannibals? He is safety through control whereas Malcolm is freedom through chaos.
- Johnny Marcone from the Dresden Files: Similar to the Agent, he thinks he is the best alternative to chaos. He just also happens to make a lot of money doing it. He has a code and he sticks to it. Again, he’s intelligent but couples it with a wicked mind for business and a propensity to surround himself with people who know what the hell they’re doing. Also, eyes the color of worn dollar bills is the best character trait I have ever heard assigned to a character. In the Dresden Universe he serves as both an ally and enemy for Dresden and is the most ordinary in his rogue gallery, yet has been the most permanent.