I’m Lawful Good. In the grand spectrum of the Dungeons & Dragons alignment chart, I’m the alignment that some people find the most boring, or the most annoying, and sometimes the most frustrating. Lawful Good is often attributed to the annoying paladin who insists on taking the bad guy in alive despite the rest of the party really, really wanting to kill him. One particularly frustrating Lawful Good character (to me) was Galad from the Wheel of Time series – a white knight in all senses of the phrase. But Lawful Good is also attributed to popular characters like Luke Skywalker and Superman – characters who uphold the law and believe in the good in people.
A Lawful Good person is not always strictly following every law. Luke, of course, joined the Rebellion and fought against The Empire – despite the Empire being the ones enforcing most of the laws in the galaxy. Here’s an excerpt from a handy-dandy reference website: “Lawful good beings will not want to lie or cheat anyone, good or evil. They will not stand for treachery and will not let obviously dishonorable people use their own honor against them, if they can help it. They will obey the laws and customs of the area that they are in, but will attempt to find legal loopholes to disobey a law which is clearly evil or unjust.”
It took a while for me to accept myself as a Lawful Good person. I, of course, would rather fancy myself as Chaotic Good with roguish charm like Mal Reynolds, or maybe the True Neutral genius of Gregory House. But I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket because I always follow the speed limit of the roads. I have an obsessive-compulsive problem of checking to make sure my car is parked within lines or close enough to the curb, and I will get back in my car to fix it. I get pits in my stomach when I have to lie for board games (like Avalon or Secret Hitler) and don’t ever consider cheating on anything. I find myself following the structure of the law to the best of my ability at all times – however when things like the recent possible government action regarding transgender people are brought up I want to make sure those laws don’t come to pass because I view them as evil.
I’m confident I’m a Lawful Good person and could probably list many more ways why I believe that. But because this is a gaming focused blog, I’d like to take a little time to talk about how being Lawful Good affects how I play video games.
When I was growing up, one of the biggest arguments a group of friends could have was over whether or not screen-looking was considered cheating. Before the internet, whenever you played a multiplayer shooter like Goldeneye or Perfect Dark, all four players would be playing on the same TV. Accidents happened, of course, but some people believed it was fair game to take your attention off your own character to figure out where your friends were hiding on the map. I am in the camp that it wasn’t in the spirit of the game to do so – unless you’re playing the more recent game Screen Cheat, where everyone is invisible and you have to look at other people’s screens to figure out where they are.
Screenshot from the game Screen Cheat – the game where the rules want you to ‘cheat.’
I believe that as long as it’s within the rules of the game you can play as dirty as you want. Example – when I was younger I used to play in online Survivor games where lying and manipulating other people was sometimes necessary to win. I would mostly feel bad about doing it (but not always – some people I played with were jerks) but I would still do it because it was allowed within the confines of the game. But if you cheat – by altering the game, going outside the rules, or giving yourself an advantage other people don’t have (like looking at someone else’s screen) – that’s wrong and I don’t appreciate it.
Take for instance aimbots and game hacks in multiplayer games. I’ve never used either and have never been tempted to. I also feel disgust at people who do. Some streamers will publicly use hacks in games like PUBG or Overwatch – and I have never understood why they did it. It wouldn’t give me any sense of accomplishment to beat a bunch of other people if I knew I was being assisted by an aiming tool nobody else had. I wouldn’t feel right.
On the other hand, I could not care less if people use hacks or mods in single player games. I rarely mod games myself (because I prefer to play most games as they’re designed – playing within the laws of the games as they were created) but I see no problem if people want to hack an Assassin’s Creed game to give themselves infinite health or create Iron Man in Grand Theft Auto V. That’s because what’s being done isn’t affecting any other humans – if a person gets more enjoyment out of a game with a few modifications to it, it’s no skin off my back. I know when I was younger I IDFKA’d my way through Doom and used my Game Genie on many NES games to make things a little easier.
I have no interest in glitch or tool-assisted speed runs. A lot of speed runs in large, open world games involve glitching through specific areas you’re not supposed to be able to get into and activating cut scenes that propel the game forward – and all that matters is time from start to seeing the credits roll. Tool-assisted speed runs are often nearly perfect runs done by frame-by-frame inputs that humans could only do if they had inhuman reaction speeds. Neither of these appeal to me as a gaming enthusiast – however I spent a lot of time several years ago watching Siglemic try to beat the full 120-star speedrun of Super Mario 64. Because even though he did use tricks to move through places faster, he was still competing within the actual laws of the game – collecting all 120 stars – before finishing it and not doing any sort of sequence breaking.
It’s weird to think about how my ingrained respect for rules and laws affects how I enjoy video games. Often times players will use known bugs or exploits to get infinite health or infinite ammo or level up characters really fast so the game becomes easier. None of that appeals to me now – I want to play the game the way the developer intended. I wouldn’t mind in-game rewards once I completed certain tasks, or codes built into the game (like the good ol’ Konami Code) that I can mess around with once I’ve beaten the game. But I don’t like purposefully breaking (or finding ways to break) the game just so I can finish it quickly.
A variant on the Konami code gave access to this option screen in TMNT 3 and I used it all the time.
That isn’t to say people who do enjoy these sorts of things are wrong and I’m right. But I wonder if a study could be made to see if people that enjoy breaking games and finding loopholes and glitches for speedruns also find rules more ambiguous in real life, too. I like rules and structure and strategy to follow both in games and in my actual day-to-day life. Part of the reason Breath of the Wild didn’t mesh with me is because it’s too open world – after the initial plateau area you can pretty much go anywhere and the lack of guidance frustrated me a little bit, I’m not going to lie.
And then there’s the fact that being Lawful Good affects my morality choices in video games that have them. I won’t be able to bring myself to do a Genocide run in Undertale ever. I rarely play outright evil characters – I often try but they end up being at worst a Han Solo-type brigand with a heart of gold. I don’t think I ever went full Renegade Shepard in Mass Effect. I try to save the lives of all good characters no matter what. I saved the Little Sisters in Bioshock even though that gave me less ADAM. It goes on and on and on.
Always rescue, never harvest.
In Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, you’re often given moral choices (sometimes by Sokrates who’s the most frustratingly accurate character in the game). I’ve been playing mostly good (as per usual) but as Kassandra is a misthios (Greek mercenary) I play her as good but with her own moral code. I’ve strayed away from killing anyone that isn’t necessary for me to kill – except for one particular sidequest that got under my skin. In one area, you come across a young woman who wants a man to pick her as his bride. A worshiper of Hecate offers to help with a love potion that will make her irresistible – and asks you to get the ingredients. It turns out, though, that the love potion is actually not that at all – instead it makes all the hair of the young woman fall out, and so the man ends up choosing the Hekate witch as his bride instead.
This is, of course, Greek tragedy at its finest. However the Hekate witch was so arrogant, off-putting, and downright evil as she gloated in her victory, that as soon as I was given the chance to I ran her through with my sword. And then I slaughtered her guards too for good measure. So far she’s been the only character in the game I was eager to actually kill and I guess that says something about my own personal moral code. In all the 50 hours I’ve played so far, that five or so minute side quest was the one that riled up my emotions the most to the point that it will probably be the story that sticks with me long after I’ve stopped playing AC: Odyssey.
And that particular quest reflects how I approach good/evil choices in most games that give you a morality spectrum. I won’t hesitate to kill someone I perceive as evil, but more often than not I opt to give people the benefit of the doubt and go for the “good” selection. I don’t usually antagonize characters unless I feel they deserve it and have performed actions I consider to be outside my personal morality.
I don’t know why I felt compelled to write this – but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while and figured I would throw it out into the blogosphere void. I like thinking about things like D&D alignments and how they apply to people and games, and I felt it was a topic worth talking about. And now I don’t know how to end my post, so, the end.