A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Two sides to the story

Eliot Lefebvre
E. Lefebvre|07.28.10

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Two sides to the story
I'm pretty excited for Going Rogue. Part of that is kind of inevitable -- I write a column about City of Heroes, I've tried to make a clear point that I'm a fan of comics in general, and quite honestly right now I'm in a bit of a video game drought and could use something new. But there's more to it than that, and it goes right back to my love of BioWare and the motivation to do speed runs of Silent Hill 2 just to see all of the various endings available.

What I'm getting at here is that I'm a big fan of any game that offers me morality or lets the game shift depending on my choices. So when Going Rogue had its two factions explained, I sat up and took notice, because the morals at play are certainly not black and white. No, they're grey and gray -- if not closer to blue and orange -- and that led to the inspiration for what I believe to be two of my most popular columns. And wouldn't you know it, even with both columns written, there's still more to be said.
"Where's the hero?"

I get the feeling that many people were expecting a somewhat happier portrait of the Resistance after the Loyalist piece, but both extolled each faction's virtues and sins equally. The fact that neither column posited that one side or the other was the "bad guys" is kind of intentional and in keeping with the theme of the entire expansion. (Well, both columns posited that the other side was bad and wrong, which was sort of the point.)

Both sides aren't good or evil. They're two different sides, subject to a different moral compass than simple right vs. wrong, and they're inherently not capable of coexisting. The problem is that both sides are extremists in the worst way, and if you're superhuman, you will be forced to choose.

It's not that every anti-Cole fighter would want to blow up buildings and hurt innocent people for no reason -- but some of them will. And your choice is between fighting against them and being forced on to Cole's side, or going along with it and accepting unconscionable actions. On the flip side, not every loyal citizen of the empire will rat out her neighbors for the vaguest infraction. If you don't, however, then you aren't doing your proper duty as a citizen and you will get your punishment.

It's a black-and-white view in a world that is very intentionally not black and white.

And there aren't any shortcuts. You can be either flavor of well-intentioned extremist, but both flavors are equally extremist and equally likely to engage in activities over the moral event-horizon. The question isn't which one is better, but which one is less bad in a given scenario... and sometimes not even that. They set up a false dilemma and expect you to abide by it, whether or not you can see a better solution.

"Can't we all just get along?"

I mentioned above that the two sides are in part defined by their opposite number. I did see a lot of comments asking why there was no option to compromise, to let just some of the world be ruled by Cole and let those who didn't want his command live freely elsewhere. It's a wonderful sentiment, and it's informed from a line of thinking that is directly opposed to what's going on in Praetoria.

Consider, for a moment, that Cole's entire claim to power is that he is the savior of the human race. He is both the greatest champion and the wisest possible governor, and he rules with absolute power because he is absolutely right. While this has the nice bonus of making him appear more than human, it also creates a serious problem in that he can't allow his decisions to be compromised.

Suppose he allowed for a small region of the world to be occupied by whoever did not wish to live under his rule. That flies in the face of his justification for ruling anyone. If it's possible for people to make their own decisions and live without the guiding influence of Praetoria's government... well, what is the government actually doing in the first place?

Cue war, destruction, and collapse.

The government can't back down at this point, not without losing all credibility. And if we assume that the government is doing wonderfully by even two-thirds of the population, tearing it down altogether is a pretty heinous act. Of course, asking a third of the world to be subjugated, oppressed, and functionally enslaved for the majority is pretty heinous as well. The only way to make the majority come to your side is to convince them that Cole isn't actually protecting them... and now we're right back to where we are going into the expansion.

"How can you choose?"

The wonderful thing is that the more we hear about Going Rogue, the more it sounds as if your morality will not be in any way binary. It will be organic, emerging as you make several choices in various missions, sometimes playing loyalty for one group and sometimes for the other. Each choice you make will have an impact, and you could very easily wind up skirting the edge of loyalist behavior even as you want to take Cole out.

That means more investment, and suggests that even if you've managed to keep yourself a bit more detached from your character, the shift in mission presentation is going to force you back into the moment to start making choices. And some of them might be surprising even to you. How awesome is that?

That's our discussion for this week, and I promise that now I'm really done with pre-release discussions of the two Praetorian factions. Questions, comments, or expressions of doubt on the veracity of that last statement may (as always) be sent to eliot@massively.com. Next week is the usual bevvy of community questions, and then we'll find the expansion almost upon us, so I have something appropriate planned.
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