To: The Game Industry
From: Gen Katz, Editor
Topic: Mortarboard
Date: Aug 2008

I guess it was the mortarboard on the evil Professor Pester on the box of Viva Piņata: Trouble in Paradise, coupled with the images of graduating students still fresh in my mind, and the exposition made by Susan Jacoby's latest book, The Age of American Unreason, in which she traces anti-intellectualism in America, that made me aware of how often we denigrate people of learning and intelligence. Why is it that the villain has to be Professor?

If one looks at games, movies, TV scientists, professors are at best wacky, unreliable, irresponsible and certainly not to be trusted with the worlds safety. At worst, genius is almost always evil and scientists always mad. A quick internet search on heroes and villains leave very few of the highly educated in the good guys column. Dr. Van Helsing, foe of Dracula and Dr. Quack, gadget maker to Spy fox pass (though notice the put-down name), but the bad guys column is long. Some instances:

  • The Professor - plagues Felix the cat
  • Professor Clamitous and the Mad Doctor - in Nicktoons
  • Mad Scientist - in Mickey Mouse
  • Evil Scientist - in Looney Tunes
  • Mad Scientist Baron Roolenstein - in Donkey Kong Country 3
  • Mad Thinker - a Marvel Comics super-villain.
  • Brainiac - an early foe of Superman's, a spin off from computer names
  • Dr. Mephesto - from South Park
  • Dr. Doom - arch-enemy of the Fantastic Four
  • Dr. Nefarious - raging against Ratchet and Clank
  • Dr. Proton - from an early Duke Nukem
  • Dr. Caligostro Loboto - from Psychonauts
  • Dr. Malcom Beatruger - collaborating with forces from Hell in Doom 3
  • Dr. Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik - from Sonic the Hedgehog - whose name resembles the pejorative term "Egghead", connoting being too smart.

Even good scientists like Gordon Freeman in Half-Life are responsible for causing untold harm before attempting to rectify it. Scientists - even well meaning ones - are not to be trusted.

These villains played on fear of new and future technology - things that today are commonplace: robotics, computers, atomic bombs, radiation, cybernetics, miniaturization, genetic engineering, space travel, cell phones, GPS - technology that many are still confounded by and suspicious of. There are people who proudly announce that they do not have e-mail.

We shouldn't be denigrating the fruits of learning when we are trying to get our kids to invest time energy and dedication to learning, to completing high school, going to college, and considering an advanced degree a possibility. How about rethinking the evil villain?