By now, most of us have seen the video “Evil Races are Bad Game Design”, and we’ve seen Extra Credit’s bold and ridiculous claims on how the morality of a fictional race somehow connotates bad game design. I have but one question – how? Throughout the agonising eight-minute slideshow of shoe-horned politics and virtue signalling, a grand total of zero seconds relates to the concept of game design.
Sure, Extra Credits makes some “valid” claims, such as how the Orcs are painted as evil while Humans are not in Warhammer 40,000, except that isn’t true at all. That claim is completely false and idiotic and shows a complete lack of research into the lore of Warhammer 40,000, where the humans, the supposed “good guys”, are totalitarian religious zealots.
The claim that evil fictional races (from the eyes of the player) is somehow bad is, well, dumbfounded, and ignores the primal desire of command and conquer inherent to most species that band together. Are orcs evil for the sake of being evil? No! Orcs have their stereotypes and traits that are common throughout pieces of lore, and these include their tribal camaraderie and their imperialistic desire to expand land.
In fact, it is often the constant war between Humans and Orcs that make a game so enticing. World of Warcraft’s main selling point is the constant war between Orcs (Horde) and Humans (Alliance). Both are playable, both are nuanced, both believe they are righteous in their actions, and both play a role in an eternal war. Is this bad game design? Is this bad story design? Hell no.
And what if Orcs are born evil? After all, it’s a game, and games are not meant to be crammed full of boring social politics to satisfy a few drones of Twitter. When I play games, the intrinsic and make-believe relationships between Orcs and real-life races are the last thing on my mind, and a total non-factor in what constitutes good game design. And why Orcs? Did Extra Credits forget about Goblins? Or would that make too much sense?
A great antagonist is one who believes that he is the hero of their own story. Extra Credits harps on about the emphasis of choice between good and evil, but that shows lack of nuance in the good/evil dynamic in fiction. All fight for their own ideals, whether it is the philosophic result of higher order thinking, a tribalistic dogma of the environment that they were born into, or the animalistic fight-or-flight response to dangerous stimuli, and neither of them constitute bad design. What does constitute bad design is the belief that people make a choice between the binary of good and evil. And thinking that other races should subscribe to the same views of morality as humans do is, to be fair, a rather colonial line of thinking.
I, like many others, pick up a game to enjoy it. If you want to inject irrational politics into it, do it where no one can hear you. At the end of the day, I’m still going to shove my virtual sword through a fictional Orc’s gut, or is that too racist?