Continuing the theme of posts inspired by Life Is Strange, I’ve been thinking about the concept of evil, as in, the propensity to do bad things.
In the game, every single character is explored in depth. While she might seem like a bitch and he might seem downright evil, over time, their personalities are revealed to be more complex, and they all seem to be suffering or struggling with some internal struggle. Or, they are the product of some outside influence that kind of makes you go “Hm, I guess I understand why he’s such a dick after all.”
By the end of episode four, I was left really disturbed by some of the things that were taking place in the game. The game gets really dark, and because it does such a good job of exploring people’s backgrounds and explaining or hinting why the “bad” characters do the things they do, I was left a little unsatisfied.
The bad characters can come off as victims of their own circumstances, and even though they are doing terrible things, you wind up showing them a little too much empathy.
For a few days after finishing Episode 4, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I felt frozen, unsure of what was right.
It relates to the way people often talk about ISIS. On the one hand, it is easy to look at them as a group and see the things they are doing and simply cast it as evil. They are evil and there is only one way to deal with them; elimination.
On the other hand, there are real circumstances that lead men and women to gravitate to a group like ISIS. They can be seen as victims of circumstance.
I am left very unsatisfied, though, at simply explaining every terrible thing that is done by people as a symptom of poverty, mental illness, social upbringing, peer pressure, or whatever. While these things all play into actions, by constantly searching for the “why” we are robbing people of the real agency they have over their own actions.
Ultimately, people make their own decisions, and what you are left with is the sum of those choices.
And while there are certainly exceptions – the truly mentally ill, for example – many people who choose to do wrong know exactly what they are doing. They know it is wrong and they do it because they choose to.
In this instance, empathy doesn’t really have a place. People need to be held accountable for their choices.