Stellaris

Is it wrong that I struggle so much with playing “evil” runs in Stellaris (read: Fanatical Purifiers, genocide, etc.) without feeling bad?

stellaris 4 - Is it wrong that I struggle so much with playing “evil” runs in Stellaris (read: Fanatical Purifiers, genocide, etc.) without feeling bad?
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Now I suppose I should clarify first and say that this personal problem of mine isn’t just endemic to Stellaris — Fallout 3/NV, BioWare RPGs, Infamous, any game with a karmic system that lets you be either a nice guy or a puppy-kicking asshole tends to — most of the time — invoke this problem with me. And it’s really something I don’t know if I want or not: it’s fiction, people aren’t actually being hurt, so of course it’d make sense that people would find a lot of the options in being a psychopath hilarious. There’s a very good reason why Video Game Cruelty Potential exists for this reason.

And yet… I just can’t help but feel awful whenever I try to play routes in a game by being the bad guy, same with playing other games that has you play as an openly villainous character. Like, the one time I tried to do Fanatical Xenophobe runs in Stellaris, I couldn’t bring myself to continue it and I would up defaulting back to my usual Xenophile playthrough. Same with Hearts of Iron IV or Crusader Kings 2: the former I struggle to play either fascist or communist due to my knowledge of the atrocities both ideologies have committed, and even in CK2 where I’m completely fine with assassinating adventurers, I try my best to be a good, honest ruler. The only games I can think of where I try to hop about the bad guy train is in RimWorld, and even that I couldn’t bring myself to do completely for whatever reason.

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It’s weird. I know it’s not real, but I just can’t bring myself to relax and say “oh, they’re not real people, it’s okay to be a dick to them” without feeling like there’s a catch-22 in that logic and some people actually applying said logic to real people. And that seriously frustrates me, that I’m so cynical that I can’t seem to bring myself to actively disregard even fictional lives without feeling like I’m contributing to a bigger problem; I want to have fun like other people in the community do, and really want to laugh about the Xenophobe memes, but my social empathy is too strong for me to really go up to bat for that. It’s why as much as I know nobody on this sub-Reddit actually stands by being genocidal to aliens (much as I know of), it’s still easy for me to feel like… I dunno, I can’t seem to bring myself to be a horrible person on the grounds of it not being a “real” people, as it feels like I’m normalizing those actions despite me knowing logically that isn’t the case.

I honestly don’t know anymore, and honestly wish to know if there’s anyone else with a similar problem to me. And to that I ask: is this a blessing or a curse to be overtly empathetic? Because lord knows I’m not perfect and I have issues IRL, but actively hurting other people without provocation is generally a big no-no for me. So I don’t know, really; if anyone can’t help out, that’s be great.

Feedback much appreciated. Thanks.

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