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ok, so what's up with that Nietzsche quote at the beginning of the game?? [BG1 Spoilers]

DorcusDorcus Member Posts: 71
"

"He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster... when you gaze long into the abyss the abyss also gazes into you..." - Friedrich Nietzsche


I've been playing Baldur's Gate pretty much since it was new and I never really questioned it before now. It's a pretty snappy quote, one for the ages, and it SEEMS to fit, but I'm unsure of where exactly it fits into Baldur's Gate 1 thematically and philosophically. I get the general point of fighting monsters could make you become a monster, but couldn't the same be said about any Dungeons & Dragons video game, or most video games? (I'm imagining Mario after saving Princess Toadstool realizing that by in stomping the Koopas he has become the Koopas.) Your whole fate/destiny/birthright is thrust onto you the moment you interact with Carbos and Shank, and even if you deliberately choose to ignore them, your fate/destiny/birthright still catches up to you when you witness the Murder of your foster father. There doesn't seem to be any choice involved in the matter since it pretty much is inescapable if you decide to play the game as intended. There's no other outcome but to fight the monsters and kill stuff and be the demi-avatar of the God of Murder if you move forward the main quest and go from Candlekeep to the Temple of Bhaal. Everybody's out to kill you. It's kill or be killed in this game. The abyss already gazed into you before you were born. Murder is literally in your blood. "No, John. You are the demons." In Baldur's Gate 2 it opens up a bit in terms of Choice & Consequence, but I'm unsure of how the developers intended to tie it together into Baldur's Gate 1. So, yeah, this is just me overthinking things. A lot. Existentialism is for the birds. OK, so what I really want to know is if anybody at Beamdog has any design documents or even anecdotes that explain why this quote was chosen by the original developers. I'm just looking for insight as to authorial intent for that decision, because I think in a broad sense it kinda fits, but in a specific sense to the plot and themes of the game it seems at odds to me, given how fatalistic the combat is in this game. I don't think there's anything at all you can do about not becoming a monster in Baldur's Gate 1. Baldur's Gate 2, maybe, ultimately..? But in BG1 there's nothing you can do to change the course of the main plot. So why was this quote chosen?

Maybe I'm wrong and it does fit? Feel free to disagree. Tell me what you think. It's just a little odd having played BG for so long that now I question it.
Post edited by Dorcus on
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Comments

  • UnderstandMouseMagicUnderstandMouseMagic Member Posts: 1,241
    IMO.

    It's a great quote to be sure and an awful lot of people like to feel superior by nodding sagely and thinking it's just so true.

    But the fact is they only get to make those sort of judgements because there are "men on the wall" risking becoming monstrous.

    In BG you become the "man on the wall" (if you don't play evil) and when it's all over you can bet your bottom dollar there will be those standing around virtue signaling that they are "untainted" compared to you.

    It's actually kind of trite when you think about it too much. Far too easy to spout such stuff when you have never been in situations and always believe there are choices.
    DorcusQuartz
  • DJKajuruDJKajuru Member Posts: 2,552
    edited June 26
    Well, BG is a game and you kill stuff to gain XP while the story progresses, so I agree that the quote fits from a roleplaying point of view but not entirely considering the gameplay.
    However, I do believe that IRL it is an important warning on how much violence can generate more violence, and one can never find truth and justice by resorting to anger. Anger , in fact, is but the second stage of coping with loss and a long way from real enlightement (denial-anger-negotiation-depression-acceptance).
    ThacoBellDorcus
  • dstoltzfusdstoltzfus Member Posts: 280
    The more you use the innate Bhaalspawn powers (or accept it's nature) the more you become like Bhaal and lose yourself to him. At least that's what I gather. As for what Nietzsche meant in general...nothing that pertains to this game for sure.
    Dorcus
  • tbone1tbone1 Member Posts: 921
    edited June 29

    As for what Nietzsche meant in general...nothing that pertains to this game for sure.

    Nietzsche's writings are not politically correct, but that doesn't mean they are not correct. If nothing else, his "Be hard!" is something that a lot of people these days would do well to accept these days.
    Post edited by tbone1 on
  • PaulaMigratePaulaMigrate Member Posts: 767
    Why was it chosen for the game?
    Heed the warning
    This is just a videogame. Don't stare at it too long and don't take it for real life. You might loose your sense of reality.

    The original Nietzsche is pretty general and has been interpreted through the ages in various ways.
    Just an example - some agent with a mission to infiltrate a criminal organisation has to perform one or the other deed to remain undetected. For how long can he still see the thin line until he becomes a criminal himself?
    A soldier in a war - for how long can one fight and kill without being forever changed into someone you never wnated to be?
    ThacoBellsarevok57semiticgod
  • PaulaMigratePaulaMigrate Member Posts: 767
    edited June 29
    tbone1 said:

    As for what Nietzsche meant in general...nothing that pertains to this game for sure.

    Nietzsche' writings are not politically correct, butmthat doesn't mean they are not correct. If nothing else, his "Be hard!" is something that a lot of people these days would do,well to accept.
    Nietzsche died in the year 1900. He was himself not trying to be involved in politics. Some twenty years after his death his writings were *interpreted* to fuel political propaganda. Thus his name got sullied. This is not to defend his philosophy but just to state historical facts. In this he suffered a similar fate as Richard Wagner, who by the way was a friend for many years.
    tbone1semiticgod
  • ArtonaArtona Member Posts: 700
    IIRC, Nietzche's sister was very enthusiatsic towards Nazis.
    And Wagner was as antisemitic as you can be.
    DreadKhanAyiekieStummvonBordwehr
  • tbone1tbone1 Member Posts: 921

    tbone1 said:

    As for what Nietzsche meant in general...nothing that pertains to this game for sure.

    Nietzsche' writings are not politically correct, butmthat doesn't mean they are not correct. If nothing else, his "Be hard!" is something that a lot of people these days would do,well to accept.
    Nietzsche died in the year 1900. He was himself not trying to be involved in politics. Some twenty years after his death his writings were *interpreted* to fuel political propaganda. Thus his name got sullied. This is not to defend his philosophy but just to state historical facts. In this he suffered a similar fate as Richard Wagner, who by the way was a friend for many years.
    Yes, I knew that but decided not to follow that path. If nothing else, it just shows what politics does to ideas. Heck, the French took the American libertarian ideals for the American revolution: freedoms of speech, property rights, self-determination, plus limited government and religious influence ... and turned them into socialism. The hell?
  • tbone1tbone1 Member Posts: 921
    Artona said:

    IIRC, Nietzche's sister was very enthusiatsic towards Nazis.

    I don't think there are many people who would like to be judged based on what a sibling is like.

    Just sayin'.
    ThacoBellsemiticgodBalrog99
  • QuartzQuartz Member Posts: 3,704
    SomeSort said:

    As a standalone quote pertaining strictly to the events of BG1, I agree it's one of those things that sounds cool more than anything, (like Jules' speech in Pulp Fiction).

    Thank you. I loved Pulp Fiction, but seriously...
    SomeSort
  • ArtonaArtona Member Posts: 700
    I don't think there are many people who would like to be judged based on what a sibling is like.


    I don't think anybody had said "Nietzsche's sister was enthusiastic towards Nazis - therefore he was Nazi as well!".
    Just sayin'.

    I am aware that Nietzschean philosophy did not share biological obsession with Nazis (and even if he did, his hostile attitude towards Germans would probably make them choose some other race to be ubermensch), but still, he is exist within certain tradition, tradition of Spencer's sociodarwinism, and not far away - Gobineau's and Chamberlain's "scientific" racism.

    And Wagner was antisemitic in the way most 19th century central europeans were (he died in 1883 - Hitler was born in 1889).


    Sure, his antisemitism was perfectly understandable.
  • SomeSortSomeSort Member Posts: 761
    tbone1 said:

    As for what Nietzsche meant in general...nothing that pertains to this game for sure.

    Nietzsche's writings are not politically correct, but that doesn't mean they are not correct. If nothing else, his "Be hard!" is something that a lot of people these days would do well to accept these days.
    Like most writings, there are things that are correct and things that are incorrect. For instance, he once wrote "what does not kill me makes me stronger", and then before the book was even published and distributed he suffered a mental breakdown that would lead to him spending the last decade of his life unstable, his works left to the care of others, his final few years unable even to speak or to walk. So... whoops.
    ThacoBelltbone1Quartz
  • ThacoBellThacoBell Member Posts: 3,023
    Artona said:

    I don't think there are many people who would like to be judged based on what a sibling is like.


    I don't think anybody had said "Nietzsche's sister was enthusiastic towards Nazis - therefore he was Nazi as well!".
    Just sayin'.

    I am aware that Nietzschean philosophy did not share biological obsession with Nazis (and even if he did, his hostile attitude towards Germans would probably make them choose some other race to be ubermensch), but still, he is exist within certain tradition, tradition of Spencer's sociodarwinism, and not far away - Gobineau's and Chamberlain's "scientific" racism.

    And Wagner was antisemitic in the way most 19th century central europeans were (he died in 1883 - Hitler was born in 1889).


    Sure, his antisemitism was perfectly understandable.
    Then what was the point of bringing it up?
    Quartz
  • ArtonaArtona Member Posts: 700
    Then what was the point of bringing it up?


    To point out that he was a part of tradition that gave birth to Nazism.
  • DhariusDharius Member Posts: 145
    Artona said:

    Then what was the point of bringing it up?


    To point out that he was a part of tradition that gave birth to Nazism.
    I am wearing navy blue underwear today. I think it's important to point that out as well.
    ThacoBell
  • DhariusDharius Member Posts: 145
    edited June 30
    Exactly :) Something about the Nietzsche quote and its relevance to the BG series, in case anyone needed a reminder

    Do that and I promise to keep my underpants out of it
    Post edited by Dharius on
    semiticgodZaghoulQuartzBalrog99
  • semiticgodsemiticgod Member, Moderator Posts: 6,375
    Or at least, create a separate thread for it.

    You know, in case people are interested.
    QuartzDhariuslolienBalrog99
  • ArtonaArtona Member Posts: 700
    Something about the Nietzsche quote and its relevance to the BG series, in case anyone needed a reminder


    Nietzsche did not create in the void, you know.
  • UnderstandMouseMagicUnderstandMouseMagic Member Posts: 1,241
    Would it be innappropriate at this point to say,

    Nietzsche, Nietzche, who the f*ck is Nietzche?

    (sounds better if you know the "Alice" song)

    But it's been buzzing around my head since reading this thread.
    tbone1Artona
  • Papa_LouPapa_Lou Member Posts: 264
    Slightly off-topic, but I first played the original Baldur's Gate as a young child after watching my dad play it. I'd pretty much make it outside of Candlekeep, lose interest, and then restart, so I got to see this quote an awful lot.

    Of course, 5-year-old me had no idea who Nietzsche was, and I didn't really find out until my mid-teens. However, I'd occasionally see people write this quote on Facebook, or something similar, and I'd always assume they were low-key Baldur's Gate fans, until I was maybe 15 or so, and realized that the quote wasn't original to the game... :D

    Perhaps not one of my brightest moments, but hey, I was a teenager when being emo was the cool thing to do. I had a lot more to worry about than where a quote from a childhood video game came from. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
    johntylThacoBellQuartz
  • johntyljohntyl Member Posts: 371
    edited July 1


    This is like in the BG trilogy - you are a child of Bhaal and people tend to judge you for that. The game is about what you do with it. If there is any lesson to be learned from a video game it may be this.

    Agreed. And if you think about it, charname is quite like Naruto. If you are a child of a certain stereotype, how are you going to face it? Will you fight against all who discriminate you and in the process become the very monster that they think you to be? Or would you struggle doubly hard to prove otherwise, against insurmountable odds?

    And if you think even more about it, how many times do we, in real life, have the same discriminations as the masses (Harpers, commoners, etc.) against Bhaalspawns or people who are considered Others. I don't know about you guys, but when I play Charname I suddenly felt the plight of minorities and the marginialized.

    P.S. I love this quote by Nietzsche. I'm currently reading one of his first books The Gay Science and the stuff in there is gold dust.

    P.P.S I'm also enjoying the discussion around Nietzsche as well. I'm just curious about the demography of the BG fans here. Do you guys read philosophy in school or are you people simply modestly sophisticated? :)
    tbone1
  • johntyljohntyl Member Posts: 371

    Would it be innappropriate at this point to say,

    Nietzsche, Nietzche, who the f*ck is Nietzche?

    (sounds better if you know the "Alice" song)

    But it's been buzzing around my head since reading this thread.

    He was a German philosopher, cultural critic, poet, philologist, and Latin and Greek scholar whose work has exerted a profound influence on Western philosophy and modern intellectual history. 15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900. (Wikipedia)
    tbone1
  • fatelessfateless Member Posts: 330
    I'd say the tie in of this quote to BG1 is actually two fold and makes it very fitting. The first is the tie in of Sarevok himself. As you go through the game you can find that in some ways that Sarevok and Char name have some very similar qualities. Reguardless of alignment. Sarevok seems to be quite benign but the further into the story you get the more of the monster that he is that gets revealed. Down to his very plans to basically sacrifice as much of a region as he can in blood and war to fuel his ascension. As you come in and take him on and defeat him it has the subtle implication of "are you as the charname going to take a different path or follow in Sarevok's footsteps and surpass him"? The Duality in the conflict between Sarevok and Charname with their simularities

    The second in a way can be found purely in the character itself. In a game built around fighting creatures and monsters. Some of which are "human" and your rising to power and fighting these creatures. In some ways your walking that fine line of potentially going to far and becoming something else. There's always that potential for going to far before you realize it.
    tbone1ronaldo
  • Mantis37Mantis37 Member Posts: 337
    Nietzsche was a brilliant thinker and writer, one of those authors who it is difficult to remain indifferent to. Love or hate him, his words demand a reaction, texts you have to wrestle with or swim in rather than skim over.

    Oddly as appended to BG they suggest an slightly unfulfilled promise of alternative quest resolutions to me, pitting the powergamer against the roleplayer. While evil players have often been unrewarded, it would be interesting if killing & behaving in a Bhaal-esque fashion in the game gave you mechanical rewards & xp while behaving in a goody-goody fashion may give you the respect of in-game actors. Of course behaving in a too evil fashion for too long may give the Bhaal soul a hold over you... so dialogue trees become narrower and you may occasionally beserk or otherwise lose control even as your stats improve... That seems like one alternative path which the game could have pursued perhaps?
    ronaldoDreadKhan
  • QuartzQuartz Member Posts: 3,704
    @Papa_Lou Dude! I also started playing Baldur's Gate at the age of five because of my mom and older sibling who were into it.

    I was terrible at it. :smile: Couldn't beat it until I was fifteen.
    Papa_LouBelgarathMTH
  • DhariusDharius Member Posts: 145

    Would it be innappropriate at this point to say,

    Nietzsche, Nietzche, who the f*ck is Nietzche?

    (sounds better if you know the "Alice" song)

    But it's been buzzing around my head since reading this thread.

    That's quite catchy, I've started singing it around the house.
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