What sucks about being a hero in inFamous

This is probably more to do with my experience with inFamous and the choices I made (or tried to make) than anything else, but really, this has gotta be said. Also, it goes without saying, this might contain a few spoilers, and this post has doesn’t have anything to do with the sequel, inFamous 2, since I have not played it yet.

For those who don’t know what inFamous is, a brief summary is in order. You play as Cole McGrath, a bike courier caught in the centre of an explosion caused by something called the Raysphere which devastates Empire City and gives Cole electricity-based powers. All of a sudden Empire City catches a strange plague and is quarantined by the government, cut off from the rest of America. From here society collapses, all sorts of havoc happens, and gangs emerge to take over districts of the city. As you’re killing gangsters, you can choose between either selflessly using your powers for the greater good, or for your own benefit.

Don’t get me wrong, I like this game, just not the way it handles morality, particularly, my morality and its choices. With games that allow you to make moral choices, I tend to make choices that correspond with my own morals, or at least with what I would do in a situation. I do it in Shin Megami Tensei, and I do it inFamous. My idea of a hero is someone who is righteous, even ferociously, and pops the bad guys brains out. And in inFamous, I spend my time kickin’ ass, blowing up enemies as a rule, often in the most aggressive ways possible, and try to kill as few civilians as possible. But I like my attacks to be devastating, and often make choices in my own self-interest. Is that such a crime? Apparently in inFamous, self-interest is evil.

Why? Because of their idea of good and bad. “Good” here is basically you being a superhero, saving lives and thinking of others before yourself, while “Evil” is somewhat anti-heroic and mainly involves self-interest. This might make some sense, given that the game often uses a comic book presentation, and I suppose is a darker take on the timeless theme of people having superpowers. On the back it says “Hero or Anti-hero?”. But that’s all missing the point. I kill bad guys (and occaisonally cops because to me, when you consider the first part of the game, they’re part of the problem), I save people’s lives, albeit with a lot more force than usual, and try to avoid killing civilians, and occaisonally help them, and now I’m the bad guy! I’m hated by the public anyway, despite all I do to help them. They’re ingrates. On top of that, the media omits all the good things I do and credits them to the police and government, and some disk jockey called “The Voice of Survival” thinks I’m a terrorist and convinces the inhabitants of Empire City the same, even if I’m good. Though to be fair on him, that was the First Sons’ fault.

Also the evil side has better and more effective powers, and I’m kinda drawn to the colour red. They shouldn’t have given evil a colour I could relate to, and good a colour I think of as cliched when associated with it (blue). The evil powers also seem to fit my style more.

What sucks is that the bad things I end up doing matter more to the civilians in inFamous than what the real bad guys are doing. There’s vicious gangs killing innocent people and ruling the city by fear all over, and all I’m doing is blasting them to high hell, and draining their life for energy. I’m saving people’s lives, and they still hate me. I gave them food and pushed back the cops in the beginning to help them escape (without killing civilians), and after that, they hate me. Even Trish thinks I’m a monster who makes things worse, despite the good I do by killing bad guys and helping her in missions (mandatory though they may be). Even the game seems to think I’m a monster, to the point of altering my appearance to something more evil, but I’m not. In fact, as long as I’m on still the “evil” karma path, the game will treat me that way despite the good things I do in that mode, or the good choices I make, or the lives I save. Those guys really need to get their heads checked. I’m doing them a favour by blasting gangs of genuine thugs, and I put my ass on the line every time, so they should be a lot more goddamned grateful for my efforts.

Finally, the endings. If you take the “good” ending, what do you get for all your good works and self-sacrifical acts? Pretty much nothing. You’re lonely and there’s nothing you can do about it, and you’re an outcast who’s pretty much at the mercy of the government. And what of the “evil” path? No one can stop you. You’re basically master of all you see and the government practically unable to challenge you. Take your pick at which is the better deal.

All in all, inFamous is a great game, but I don’t think it registers my morality, or my idea of being heroic (however anti-heroic it is). Though to be fair, those evil powers do have something to do with it (it’s just my style).