Darkness in Games

Rather than derail the other thread any further I figured I’d spin off a new discussion on the subject of darkness in games.

I’m just going to grab a few quotes so I can further elaborate.

In Choice of the Vampire, I’m not speaking of just vampires, existing. I think it’s possible to write vampires without them being all that dark. (I’d say Twilight here, but Edward is a creeper.)

In Choice of the Vampire, you’re playing a blood sucking fiend who may or may not struggle with what they’ve become. But that scene, where a group of villagers take one of their own and offer her to you as a slave/sacrifice. I find that chilling, the depths which people will descend to. You’re the monster, yes, that’s your nature. But what’s their excuse? Surely it’s every bit as monstrous what they’ve done. And then the game pulls in the blood-drinking=rape comparisons. There’s war, there’s slavery. Everybody you love dies, generally as a result of knowing you. For me, Choice of the Vampire is dark, as is fitting a vampire game. And since it’s a choice game, you can choose to struggle against that darkness, there are flickers of light, but there’s no happy ending, nothing but just a chance to survive.

Choice of Romance, you start the series possibly falling in love with this charming Monarch, and as it progresses you watch their descent into insanity, until you’re forced into some hard choices of what to do in order to save yourself, your position, and your country. So the game isn’t completely dark, but in that last game it sure did feel that way as I kept trying to find a single good ending without compromising my ethics. But again, it’s not a world filled with complete despair. We barely get to actually see the rest of the world, and we are born into a privileged position.

[quote=“From_Beginnings, post:44, topic:5409, full:true”]

@Suede and @FairyGodfeather.

I think the difference between Eternal and most of the games CoG makes is not the cruelty of the world, but the way that hope is handled within the narrative. My personal view of what makes a world dark is not the exact events that occur, but the message that those event convey. For example, I think the reason Eternal was dark wasn’t because of the rape, and murder. It was because it gave you hope and then kicked you down again and again until you were afraid to stand. It didn’t just give you darkness, it made you fear the light.

That, in my opinion, is the mark of a dark game. There are many cruel and evil themes, but none are quite as powerful as the theme of hopelessness. That isn’t to say that these worlds can’t let you have hope. In fact, I would say that hope is absolutely necessary. However, instead of the unbreakable power that it is in shonen anime, hope is a fragile and tender thing in these worlds. It gives you the courage to see these stories through to the end, but it also the thing that allows you to be afraid.

Because if the world is dark, a happy ending is often whispered but never promised.[/quote]

Well said! That gets me thinking.


Thank you for reposting that.

Also, I agree with you on Choice of Vampire. It isn’t the darkest thing I’ve seen, but I would count it as a dark game. Especially due to the “everyone you love dies and you can never settle down and be happy” thing that the first game seems to revolve around.

I believe that evil/darkness should be defined as people doing some act so horrifyingly brutal that it makes you squeamish while they think that they are doing the ultimate good. I believe that evil is many times disguised as good. Although this does not mean that knowledge of the evil caused can not lead to retribution. The games that understand this are my favorite.

@From_Beginnings and @WulfyK from the other thread pretty much described my idea of a dark game better than I ever could.

Now, I’m looking at that cut quote of yours @FairyGodfeather and it makes me look like a right cruel git. I should of worded that better. Heh.

I think that’s the crux of such a discussion and, funnily enough, @FairyGodfeather your joking mention of Twilight highlights that point. You see, in Twilight, we can see a exceedingly abusive relationship, a boy that epitomizes the grown man child with his demand that his just met ‘girlfriend’ give up friends and family, give up everything that makes her, well, her, just to please him, abandons her, and generally treats her as badly as possible. And yet I think we can all agree that the story is by no means dark.

While compare it to something like Romeo + Juliet (sorry that’s just such a good adaption of the play, but any (not rewritten) version of Romeo and Juliet will do), and sure, shit goes wrong, but that’s sort of the point with stories, if something’s not ‘wrong’ nine times out of eight, the story is pretty boring. However, if we take each point and compare it to Twilight, we see something truly fascinating:

The relationship between Romeo and Juliet is, to be honest, not healthy (kids, don’t ‘fall in love’ and get married in the first act of a play. Let me tell you from experience, it never goes well.), but it is not an abusive relationship, unlike Bella and Eddy. As for their friends: Juliet’s best friend is the nurse, who genuinely tries to help. She knows she’s not gonna talk Juliet away from getting involved with Romeo, so she works on trying to learn if he’s a good guy or not. Bella’s best friend, however, when presented with perfect knowledge that Bella is fine and that Eddy is going to kill himself because he thinks she isn’t her ‘fix’ is to put Bella in danger while simultaneously throwing her farther into a terrible relationship.

Even the villains in Romeo and Juliet are more sympathetic. Sure, the Kitty Prince is an asshole, but he’s reacting at least somewhat sensibly to a perceived insult and threat (note: sensibly, not reasonably, which is to say his reasons for acting as he does are coherent, not that they are good). Twilight on the other hand (from what I can recall) gets the three stooges of evil, who, IIRC, wipe out a few towns worth of people just 'cause, well 'cause bad writing, but also because eeeevil.

Then the ending: Romeo and Juliet ends with, yes a double suicide do to a simple miscommunication, that even the most miniscule amount of patience could have prevented, but also a family blood feud ending, saving far more lives than those taken. Twilight? The major bad guy of the story (Eddy) gives up his one redeeming quality. Now that’s something worth highlighting. Remember (although it would probably be better if you couldn’t because you never read/watched it) that Eddy didn’t want to change Bella because he believed that it was ultimately it was a terrible existence, and you know, possibly cost her her soul. That doesn’t change by the end, he’s just more willing to have her suffer for his own enjoyment. (Sure you can make the argument that she’s consenting to it, but that’s ultimately a high level topic, and I favor SSC to RACK.)

So we have one story, R+J that ultimately has less darkness than Twilight, but I think we can all agree is much darker. Why? It ultimately comes down the topic of yes and no (no, not that topic, a different one). You see Twilight ultimately wants the reader to say ‘yes’. It wants the reader to affirm and desire what is happening. R+J on the other hand, wants the reader to shout ‘no’. It wants them to reject what is happening as negative. And that’s a matter of nuance and writing far above what I’m actually going into at the moment.


In most cases, I think that dark games need at least the hope of something better, even if that hope is cruelly dashed.

If there’s no hope at all, the story turns fatalistic. That’s fine if that’s what you’re aiming for, but if not, it takes away any kind of threat. If there’s nothing to gain or lose, you don’t need to worry about consequences.

Taken too far, this kind of world quickly turns grimderp. Exhibit A- Warhammer 40K. I think the moment it really jumped the shark for me was when they decided that having hope was the domain of Tzeentch. I still like the setting in a campy kind of way, but it’s not dark in the sense we’re discussing here.

Not to mention that there is bestiality, (A human and a werewolf having somewhat of a romance) pedophilia, (a teenage girl dating a man that’s 100s of years old, I think) and necrophilia (Bella having sex with Edward, who isn’t technically living.) And to top it all off, there’s a mix of both pedophilia, necrophilia AND bestiality (or what would eventually become those things) when Jacob the werewolf imprints upon Bella’s undead baby.

The funny thing is I can see readers seeing the story as dark and I certainly wouldn’t disagree, but I don’t think Eternal conveys a sense of utter hopelessness.

While it is true that Eternal is a bit on the “Crapsack World” side, and it does get pretty grim in several branches, the protagonist is at least equipped to deal with it. He can survive and even thrive in such conditions.

Basically he can overcome the adversity and come out even better than when he started. So there is hope and it can be successfully embraced. Probably not in the traditional sense of it, but one can still “win.”

Now Death Song? I feel that’s a much darker story than Eternal and the sense of hopelessness is definitely there.

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Ahahaha, THIS. So much.

But anyways. Twilight isn’t considered dark because it’s promoted as a teenage romance novel and the whole Bella/Edward concept is shown as terribly romantic and cute. Despite all the potentially disturbing elements, it does indeed want the reader to say ‘YES’ and that’s kinda disturbing because when insecure, young teenage girls read it they figure they should always say yes to all the nasty stuff. It is ensnaring, for lack of better word, to young readers - so I think it might be more dangerous than a novel in which there is a bunchload of rape and abuse but it is clearly displayed as something BAD and wants the reader to say ‘NO’.

I would define darkness in games as very gruesome realism - for example, if the protagonist is a soldier they can’t get very far without killing someone. Also some rough choices, like the choice to, I dunno, kill a little girl or watch your entire family die? The fact that the protagonist cannot get to the end unscathed and with too clean a conscience.

Death Song was very depressing. But so good I still re-played it a lot. Eternal was dark, but not hopeless - the protagonist could survive. But @EndMaster, my poor guy loved Semra so much and there was really no happy ending with her and that made me sad. :stuck_out_tongue:

See, for me with Eternal, a long a lot of the paths where the character was surviving, even thriving, I would be extremely reluctant to describe him as winning. I’m thinking especially about the thread where the emperor dies and you wind up in the future. At first I kind of approached that storyline as a fun little power fantasy about taking over the world, but it never managed to play out that way. The further along I got, the more clearly it seemed to me that the Eternal, for all his might and with all his masters long since dead, was still essentially a slave to the worldview that some largely forgotten tyrant had decided to have beaten into him. That’s pretty much the definition of bleak, to me.

As strange as it may sound, I agree. I never claimed that Eternal was utterly hopeless, and I actually advocated against a story that is completely without hope.

What I said was that it made you fear the light, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still choose to embrace it. A person who has lost a loved one may come to fear the light that lead them to love in the first place, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get back on the horse and try again. It just means that it will take courage, and that it will mean something when they choose to overcome the darkness, and grab hold of what had once left them vulnerable.

That, I think, is the realism that dark stories tend to have that others don’t. In many tales there are mighty forces that stand in the way of the protagonist, but victory is almost always a given. In a darker story and in reality though, that promise is not so absolute. If you want a happy ending then you are going to have to carry hope through hell, and do so with the weights of doubt and hopelessness hanging at your ankles. The journey is likely to be long and painful, and the light at the end of the tunnel may just be another false hope. Depending on the story, it might be, or it might not.

There is, in the end, only one way to find out which it is.

(Unless the false hope comes in the form of a train barreling straight at you. Then it doesn’t matter whether you head towards it or not)

Ah, I misunderstood some of what you said. I see what you meant now.

I also see how Wonderboy’s views on the story classify it as pretty bleak due to the Eternal usually being a slave to his training in most paths. I think probably one of the “best endings” is actually one that isn’t one of the “major endings” (more of an unofficial one) and takes the protagonist through the absolute bleakest of the paths, but after it all he gets a pretty happy ending.

In any case, always interesting to see other views and interpretations of the story.