Why Are People So Horny for Video Game Villains?

As Dark Helmet once said, “Evil will always triumph, because good is dumb.” Perhaps nowhere is this more true than in the ferocity with which people are rampantly horny for villainous characters in games and other media. This isn’t really a new phenomenon — people have been rooting for gentleman thieves ever since crime fiction became popular in the late 19th century. But even when authors make out a villain to be hideous, corrupt, and vicious, there are going to be people who adore them nonetheless. What’s that all about?

The most obvious explanation here is that attraction to villains is simply a specific manifestation of a more general fascination with evil and criminality. In much popular representation, “good” is boring — it’s about following rules, being nice, and appearing prim and proper. Being “evil” is an opportunity to let our hair down, to revel in what Alan Watts calls the “irreducible rascality” of humanity. Of course, in reality what most would call “evil” is rarely so dramatic. “Evil” acts are often carried out by individuals who are “just following orders,” with a minimum of mustache twirling. Real-life evil is typically banal, though there are exceptions — the cultural obsession with serial killers, for instance.

According to this view, we love villains because they represent something we see in ourselves — something we’d often rather pretend isn’t there, but that is fun to draw out and play with. Alternately, we may see in them someone who represents qualities we’d like to have — charisma, dedication, power. Villains are often bad boys and girls, cultural outcasts who don’t play by society’s rules. The allure of the outsider is so strong that during the late 20th century, antiheroes became more popular in comics than their Boy Scout counterparts — to the point that the brooding antihero became cliché and character archetypes shifted again.

Of course, this is all beating around the bush a little bit. The question is why people are so horny for villains, not why we’re fascinated with them.

One explanation is that villains — the rascals that they are — are probably down for way more stuff. For instance, historically, villains have been depicted as queer as a result of both censorship and homophobia. But these characters nonetheless attracted sympathy, and many queer fans now relish them.

More generally, if you want someone to really mess you up, Captain America is probably not going to fit your fantasy (unless it’s all about egging him on to do it). Here we get into the territory of romance fiction and rape fantasies, the latter of which are extremely common and much more complex than they’re usually made out to be. But the upshot is that if, for whatever reason, you dream about someone treating you like trash in the bedroom, you’re more likely to reach for a Solas Dragon Age, an Emet-Selch, or a Darkiplier (look it up) than a do-gooder hero.

I was thinking about all this while listening to this week’s episode of 99 Potions, in which Featured Contributor Natalie Flores discusses her feelings about the aforementioned Final Fantasy XIV character Emet-Selch and Fanbyte News Editor Imran Khan subsequently roasts her for them. The conversation starts around 40 minutes in — you can listen to it in the player below, or get 99 Potions wherever you listen to podcasts.

Anyway, I just fired up Belial Granblue Fantasy‘s theme song. If you need me, I’ll be in my bunk.

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merritt k

Managing Editor, Podcasts

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