Video Game: Black & White

"A land of innocence has no need for gods...until fate intervenes. When people pray, a god is always born. That god is You."

A Simulation Game released by Peter Molyneux's Lionhead Studios in 2001. Sequel released in 2005. Much like the rest of Molyneux's offerings, this game scored superbly with mainstream critics, sold well and left an awful lot of gamers cold when they got their hands on it. The core concept of the game has you taking on the role of a god, represented by a disembodied hand, ruling over various tribes on various islands. You can pick things up and move them around, and cast miracles by making gestures with the mouse. You also eventually acquire a Creature, a somewhat autonomous giant animal that can learn various tasks and spells from you.

But the really cool part about this game is that the environment changes depending on what sort of a god you are. A god who sends rainclouds to the fields, heals the sick, builds homes for the people, and gently converts neutral or enemy villages with cute doves will eventually rule a land suffused with light, where rainbows arc the sky and trains of sparkles follow the god's hand, and your Citadel, or temple headquarters, becomes a white Disney-esque tower of beauty and joy. For a god who decides to sic wolves on neutral or enemy villages, make your subjects worship you until they die, feed the corpses to your Creature, then throw around a few fireballs for light relief... the sky will start to grow dark and threatening, the hand will become demonic and followed by noxious smoke, and the temple will grow spikes and generally look really badass. Interestingly, you can train your Creature to either follow your morality example to the letter, or be your complete opposite. The Creature's appearance will change, too, with its behavior (for example, a horse trained to be good will become a super-sparkly unicorn, while an evil horse becomes dark-colored and monstrous-looking.)

At least, this was the idea. The major complaints about these two concepts was that players found if they wanted to be good gods, they had to do absolutely everything for their worshippers, who couldn't even wipe their own behinds without divine intervention. Evil gods had to be constantly spreading fireballs and terror all over the place; they had to be the meanest, most fearsome gods in the land and couldn't be nice for even one moment to anybody. There was little middle ground; being anything inbetween resulted in not being nice enough to be constantly loved, yet not being fearsome enough to ensure worshippers were too scared to worship anybody else. Additionally, if you took your attention off your Creature for more than five minutes, it started defecating all over the place and even chowing down on it.

The sequel, Black & White 2, added a significant wargame element where players could decide if they wanted to be defensive or offensive rulers, defending their cities from oncoming attacks or taking the invading armies head-on, in lieu of the usual god-game elements. The sequel also addressed many of the most vocal complaints about its predecessor, such as the unwieldy building interface.

Not to be confused with Pokémon Black and White or the Michael Jackson song "Black or White," or the 2012 film This Means War (which is titled Black & White in Japan). There is also a Taiwanese series by the same name: the link is here.

The game contains examples of:

  • A God Is You / Gods Need Prayer Badly: Key elements of the core gameplay; your power as a God is defined and limited by how many villagers you can convert (or breed) and your ability to look after (for Good Gods) or use (for Evil Gods) them well.
    • Your influence, the area where you can directly affect the world, is defined by how many followers you have in your villages, how many buildings (this is more prominent in the second game), and how much they believe in you (in the first game).
    • Your ability to create Miracles depends on Mana, which is created by worshippers dancing. Worshippers also have to be looked after with Food supply and sufficient rest or healing (for Good Gods). Evil Gods can ignore their hunger and tiredness, and/or directly sacrifice them for Mana to power their Miracles.
    • Villages can be impressed with Miracles or other supernatural actions, to convert them to your control.
  • Adult Fear:
    • The original game begins like this with a couple desperately crying out for divine intervention after their child ran off into shark-infested waters.
    • The sequel begins with you saving a handful of villagers while their city is being invaded and burned, everyone they know is killed, and even the once-familiar landscape is rent asunder by "natural" disasters.
  • A.I. Breaker: AI Gods always fireball or lightning your Creature if you send it into their territory. Your Creature can easily counter this with a Rain Miracle (and will do it instinctively if it knows the spell; it doesn't even need to be taught). The enemy villagers aren't so lucky, if you place your Creature in a hostile village.
  • Anti-Hero: In the sequel, the player character, if you decide to be evil. This is because your main mission is to rescue humanity from a Religion of Evil (Mayincatec in the original, and an army of zombies summoned by an evil god in the expansion). This is compounded by the fact that any deviation from dyed in the wool pacifism is considered evil, to the point that even attacking enemy soldiers in defense gives you evil points. Which means that a player relying on military force to defeat evil will risk being branded as evil according the Karma Meter. This is averted in the first installment, as your enemy, Nemesis, is portrayed as being well intentioned (albeit violent and power hungry), if you choose to be evil yourself.
  • The Assimilator: Partially invoked in the first game, where dropping people into a specific village made them change their clothes to fit the village. Played perfectly straight in the second, however, where the immigrants will maintain their own clothes but otherwise adopt the Greek civilization as their own - to the point where having their original civilization's buildings will cause serious unhappiness and makes you more evil!
  • Automatic New Game: The game prompts the player for his deity's name and symbol, then sends him straight into the Tutorial level, which is necessary since the menu system consists of an in-game building that's only constructed as part of the tutorial.
  • Being Good Sucks: Maintaining a Good alignment in the first game is hard, not least because it requires the player to kowtow to the villagers' constant needy, short-sighted whining. note 
    • Inverted in the sequel: being good is by far the easier option, with its focus on building up a Shining City at the heart of the player's godly power. Since evil play involves sending large armies deep into enemy territory, playing as an evil god is a Self-Imposed Challenge.
  • Bolt of Divine Retribution: Both the Mega-Blast and the Lightning Miracles.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Done so very often in the sequel by your guides, who will slam themselves against the screen, stand on top of their own text-box and helpfully point out whatever things you need to pay attention to in their tutorials.
  • But Thou Must: Used numerous times in the tutorial, of both games. "No, let's try rotating first."
    • But pointedly averted with the Silver Scroll Side Quests and some few Gold Scroll Main Quests, most of which are deliberately designed and scripted to have multiple solutions, ranging from helping out as instructed/requested, to just ruthlessly taking what you need, to killing everybody involved For the Evulz and then taking what you need.
    Evil Conscience: Hey, I gotta plan. Why don't we trash the house? We can get the Gate Stone that way!
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Explicitly stated in the manual - each adviser will try to persuade you to take a good or evil path, but they'll never deceive you in order to do so.
  • Circle of Standing Stones:
    • In the first game, one of the first quests you can do involves building a stone circle. If completed, the stones begin 'singing' a magical song and create a miracle generator that you can use to create food or your village.
    • The Celtic Wonder in the first game and the Norse temple in the second take the form of a henge.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Your people's belief in you decides your power and the size of your Citadel. You have to convert other villages to gain more influence, or make your main village so absurdly powerful that you can reach across the map.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Mostly averted in gameplay, aside from scripted events. However, it can reach implausibly far outside its influence (see below). Additionally, the computer players often have more favourable & powerful Miracles provided by their villages, and (much) stronger starting conditions.
    • In the sequel's final land, the Volcano Miracle the Aztecs use to destroy most of your initial city is scripted, and the AI can fire it off even if the respective building is destroyed.
  • Computers Are Fast: Mostly averted. You can see the AI Gods move; if you watch them, you will see that you in fact do most things faster than them. However, they don't lose any time thinking. However, it is subtly played straight in the case of manipulating objects outside your influence. A player can manipulate objects outside their influence with a time limit proportional to the distance from their territory. The AI can do this over (much) longer distances, due to its higher speed and precision making the time limit less restrictive.
  • Cosmic Keystone: The Creed, which is the source/concentration/embodiment of divine power. It's split into parts which you must collect, so see also Gotta Catch 'Em All.
  • Cutscene Power to the Max / My Rules Are Not Your Rules: Khazar. Nemesis. Spare Creed piece. Every other God besides you can seemingly create a Vortex, but you can only use the Teleport Miracle, a pale imitation. Also, many, many scripted events ignore influence, otherwise break the rules of the game, or are flat-out impossible to replicate in gameplay.
  • Divine Parentage: In the second game a villager accuses you of knocking up his daughter and demands a dowry, but it actually wasn't you (despite being a Greek god) and you follow the girl and take her father to her real lover's house.
  • Dummied Out: An Easter Egg that causes phone booths to appear, but that don't do anything else.
    • It was possible to play the audio files for the first game independently, which revealed quite a lot of bits that never wound up in the final version of the game. For example, some sort of Fountain of Youth mishap that caused all your worshippers to become kids, some bits about collecting types of Creeds that didn't exist, and so on.
  • Easter Egg: In Black & White 2, a text file controls the names of your villagers. You can edit this,note  but by default, it's filled with Lionhead staff names.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: On the second Japanese land in the sequel, your opponent is a warmonger who scorns you for almost everything you do and states several times over he will do terrible things to your people. However, when building a Nursery he exclaims "We shall spare their young. We are not monsters after all."
    • It's more of a standard Proud Warrior Race Guy trope when it comes to the Japanese. After you defeat them, they pledge themselves to your cause, and provide their city in the final land for you to start from. Same thing with the Norse: Just after the Aztec leader wipes out half of said Japanese city with the volcano miracle, the Norse show up with a massive army in Big Damn Heroes style.
  • Evil Is Easy:
    • To an extremely annoying degree. You'll be hard-pressed to win over a village just by being nice, and the game will (karmically) punish you for any evil act far more than you are rewarded for good. You can spend the entire first and second levels being as good as possible, and yet manage to get yourself in the low evil range by burning down a village (and not even entirely). Your subjects are terribly whiny and fickle, which means being good is more likely to alienate them than evil is. In short, evil is in almost every way more rewarding than good is. The only advantage good has over evil is that a good god can get truly terrifying range for their miracles by building up villages to massive proportions.
    • Evil was quick, but it was also wasteful. The "evil" methods, like destruction of buildings, poisoning villagers, human sacrifice, etc. wasted the resource in question, leading to you having to burn up the finite supply of wood and slow-building supply of food to rebuild what you trashed instead of reinvesting it in your power base. Taking the high road on the optional puzzles also yielded miracles that were terribly useful. The Dev Team must have had Yoda's quote in mind. The Dark Side is quicker, more obvious, and yields great results in the short term. It utterly sucks in the long term.
      • A *lot* less so in the second game, which boiled down to "Good gods build huge impressive cities that make people want to come to them; evil gods go out and take over the towns with an army." Unfortunately, because of some... undesirable placement of resources, a "good" player often had to not only have a huge metropolis, but one that was absolutely *sprawling*, with long highways featuring individual buildings here and there that just screamed "this is where the edge of my influence used to be" before getting to the next forest/mine. And never mind trying to keep yourself walled in... Oh you COULD, and just build up skyscrapers, which were pretty good for housing and sent your "impressive" meter through the roof (helping your goodly score.) But "people don't like living in them," so the easiest way to build up good points MAKES YOU MORE EVIL TOO!
  • Evil Is Visceral: If you are an evil god and build a windmill for your people, the blades will be made of stretched flesh, complete with veins.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Nemesis has a voice that'd make Tony Jay shiver.
  • Fertile Feet: Your Creature's, if you train it to be nice.
  • Fisher King: The landscape in your territory changes depending on whether you're a good or bad god.
  • Forced Tutorial: The first 30 minutes of gameplay (and by extension the entire first island) are basically this - this is particularly annoying when starting a second game from scratch, until Lionhead released a patch to let players skip the tutorial on subsequent playthroughs. The second island is likewise about half tutorial/half actual gameplay.
  • For the Evulz: AI Gods generally don't. You can.
    • For the player character this can run into Stupid Evil territory when completing story scrolls. Sometimes taking the evil option grants the same reward or an equivalent one as the good option (e.g. gaining a lightning miracle instead of a heal miracle), but often you get no reward but the Evulz. Or an ornery hillbilly setting your town on fire.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: The wolf creature was entirely unobtainable in the first game's initial release due to a bug in the quest that unlocks him. A later patch remedied this.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: Unless they're either evil or antagonists. Lampshaded in the second game backstory (if you buy the university books) where it's told that the player god apparently took a sabbatical after defeating Nemesis, and humans took over the land while the player was gone. The missionaries were said to turn into drunks.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Your guides in the game, an old man who floats on a rainbow-spewing cloud and a wisecracking little demon. They use the same actor, strangely enough.
    • Actually makes sense. As those two *are* the same person. Or rather, pieces of the same person. They're your conscience.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Just because a god or creature is good in nature doesn't mean it isn't just as capable as an evil god at throwing various kinds of destruction at things that displease them.
    • Battle of the Gods adds a miracle that turns your enemies into fuzzy lambs and bunnies. Permanently. Your villagers might then use those animals for food...
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the first game, your consciences believe that this is what your Creature is doing to unlock the third Creed Fragment.
  • Hide Your Children: Averted. In fact, you can sacrifice them, which gives you more mana than adult sacrifices. And you can kill them in a variety of other ways for your amusement.
  • Human Sacrifice: Drop a villager onto your altar for mana, evil points (see Karma Meter below), but curiously not blood.
  • I Need You Stronger / Not Worth Killing: Implied by Nemesis, mostly as a Hand Wave for why he didn't kill you earlier, when he was capable of easily disposing of Khazar remotely.
  • It Was with You All Along: At the end of the first game, You and your conscience are confused and afraid, since they have only two out of the three required Creeds in order to defeat Nemesis. Turns out, the last Creed is in your own Creature.
  • Karma Meter: The world is your Karma Meter, and we mean that quite literally. The game offers numbers if you go menu diving, but the way the look of the entire game changes is a much more immediate indicator of your god's moral standing.
  • Lighter and Softer: The Creature Isle expansion is definitely a lot less serious than the initial game.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Hilariously, the turtle of all things is this in the first game. It wasn't very fast when moving around on the map, but in battle it was a speed demon.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: You can only recruit men to your armies. This is also the default behaviour in the second game. However, you can manually place women into a recruitment tent to turn them into soldiers.
    • It's possible to repopulate very quickly with nothing but women and a few male disciple breeders.
  • Miracle Food: Summon Grain is one of the most basic miracles your god can perform, and is a fairly useful way for a good god to keep their own villagers healthy and convert villages to their religion.
  • Mordor: If you play as an evil god, the land within your area of influence turns black and barren with volcanic fissures and the sun seen from inside is dimmer.
    • Moreso in Black and White 2 as you can (and usually will) surround your dark land with imposing walls and black gates that would make Sauron proud.
  • Mythology Gag: The main antagonist in the first game is someone of your own profession who hides behind minions, also of your profession, and he goes by the name "Nemesis". Sounds awfully similar to a certain game by Peter Molyneux's old Bullfrog Entertainment studio now doesn't it?
  • Pet Interface: Your Creature.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Most AI "Evil" Gods love this trope, spending most of their time feeding, housing and providing for their people (with a little overpopulation and excessive worship on the side). There's just no point in killing your own people; Card Carrying Villainy to your own people For the Evulz only costs you human resources and wood to rebuild your own damage.
    • Similarly, their Creatures (when not tied up by scripted events) spend so much time on the Leash of Compassion that they usually end up at 100% Good. Lethys' shining purple wolf from the Land Two is more than a little at odds with its master's arrogant taunts in that same scenario and its Cold-Blooded Torture of your own Creature in Land Three.
  • Obviously Evil: If you decide to be evil, it shows.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: In the final island of Black and White 2, when faced with the massive Aztec city and army, your consciences do this. The good conscience advises you that the Aztecs hate the Greeks with a passion, and that you may well need to build massive armies and attack them, something he would never suggest. The evil conscience states how they're going to "slay us all like pigs." He's normally never afraid of enemy armies.
  • Revive Kills Zombie: In the Black and White 2 expansion, performing a life miracle on undead characters will kill them.
  • Savage Wolf / Noble Wolf: The wolf creature can be either of these or something in between, depending on what you train it to do and how you play the game in general.
  • Save the Villain: Island 3, where the Island's antagonist begs for mercy.
  • Satan Is Good (or Insane Troll Logic): If you become an evil deity, Nemesis is the embodiment of Good, despite having killed all other Gods, cursed an island with disasters, and did things that don't seem that Good.
  • Sealed Army in a Can: The Ghost Legion from the sequel.
  • Secret A.I. Moves: Subverted with the Megablast, which early on seems to be part of Nemesis' Cutscene Power to the Max. However, late in the Campaign, and rarely in Skirmish, you get the ability to use this powerful, destructive Miracle.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: The good conscience is the sensitive guy, while the evil conscience is the manly man.
  • Simulation Game
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: One villager does this in Land Three, who is also invincible. The Pied Piper in his quest also No Sells any attempt to pick him up with a smarmy "Prod me! I don't care. I don't believe in you."
  • Spikes of Villainy: Your temple will grow them if you follow The Dark Side.
  • Themed Cursor: Your pointer is pretty much your own godly hand, which you can use to pick up and drop stuff, throw things (including people!), and even pet or slap.
  • There Can Be Only One: The villain, Nemesis, has spent some time killing off all the other gods so that he can wield supreme deital power.
  • Those Two Guys: The two sides of your conscience.
  • Title Drop: Seen in the early beginning of the game, when your advisers are telling you that they represent good and evil. Yin and yang. Black...and White.
  • Veganopia: In the Black and White 2, dropping animals into your food supply will score you evil points, which means that the people of a truly good town only eat grain.
    • Well considering that you can't make shepherds, and the food stockpile is explicitly depicted as a giant pile of grain...
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Almost as incredible as its opposite:
    • In the first game, with its ability to transport objects from previous lands, it's entirely possible to bring along Important-NPCs-Turned-Villagers from the first island all the way to the last one.
    • The first game lists more statistics than the second, and one of the things it says is that no matter how Evil you are, or how differently-aligned you and your Creature are, it always loves you and thinks you're Good.
    • In the second game, just realizing that (as a Good God) you're able to meet up with the allies of the people who tried to commit genocide, convince them to adopt your way of life, and ultimately side with you against their former Lords is heartwarming. As is seeing a massive crowd from a city gathering everything they've ever owned to make a long, dangerous trek to your city.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Incredible.
    • A few examples (second game): Force people to live in cramped hovels, throw them into buildings, crush them with rocks, Roast them with lightning, or a fireball, offer no luxuries and keep them absolutely miserable, sacrifice them for mana, sacrifice them in a torture pit for no real reason, litter the ground with corpses, causes people to openly mourn, have your creature actively eat your people for sustenance, use them as weapons, set them on fire, poo on them, attack their homes. A bit more severe is the fact you can display severed heads on spikes everywhere, intimidating your people to work harder, or you will kill them, make them worship a giant monument to cause large scale devastation, pick up 50 of them and throw them all off a cliff into the ocean, where they drown, force them into the army, where they will probably all die and generally make their life suck. All of this is actually pretty fun to do, but your villagers will beg for mercy for like 10 minutes. Also, you can train your creature to poop on the villagers.
    • Not to mention the way you can treat your creature. You can give it a little slap to scold it for doing something you don't like, or you can viciously beat it non-stop for several minutes, leaving it covered in bruises and open wounds.
  • Video Game Players Are Morons: If you're ever talking to someone who played the first game and was seriously let down by what was released compared to what they expected, there's solid odds that they will talk about how they couldn't make their Creature stop eating their own poo. While the game's Creature AI certainly wasn't all that it was cracked up to be, avoiding coprophagia was not very hard at all. Hell, the game would tell you HEY, YOUR CREATURE IS THINKING ABOUT EATING ITS POO, JUST SAYIN.
    • This seems to be the idea the design team for Black and White 2 rolled with. The two main "conscience" characters are specifically there to spout the obvious constantly, and there is absolutely no way to turn them off.
  • Walking Wasteland: Your creature corrupts the ground if it is evil.

Alternative Title(s):

Black And White