Male Protagonists

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I'm not sure what exactly the people asking "where does *character-I-Like* fit into what I am assuming is a black and white dichotomized system?" are expecting to hear. Either they're so dependent on the opinions of an internet personality that they're waiting for his permission to continue enjoying something that they've liked up until now, or they know exactly what he's going to say and just want to hear it so they can wander off to feel smug or sulk about somebody on the internet having different tastes than themselves.

In my opinion (because really, all this can ever be is a matter of opinion), "manly" guys are the confident type who don't feel the need to prove themselves, "macho" guys are the ones who constantly go about rubbing their overtly masculine nature in people's faces because they're worried everyone might forget how tough they are otherwise. Being emotional and pandering to women, I probably would not call inherently manly traits. They seem like qualities befitting the hero of the sort of story with Fabio on the cover. A character should display a range of emotions, certainly, but it doesn't mean they're going to have a period about it every time fate deals them a rotten hand. In the words of Conan's comrade at arms, Subotai, "He is Conan, Cimmerian, he won't cry, so I cry for him". Sometimes the most profound displays of emotion are the most subdued.

I feel like what this article largely describes at face value as a "manly" character is the classic chivalrous gentleman type, and I think it's tragically limiting to adopt this as the be-all end-all idea of what makes a respectable "man". Old English gentlemen are not necessarily manly in the same way that successful businessmen, devoted father figures, rough-and-tumble outdoorsmen, soldiers, or any other number of other upstanding male figures are, but that does not undermine the masculinity of any of them.

tl;dr, the article makes a valid point, but I think people who read into it too much in black-and white-terms may be missing it.

Granted, these are just the opinions of a girl who runs a domain called "thepunchlineismachismo". I suppose that as someone who builds their internet presence around poking fun at ridiculously masculine displays of multimedia, people should take what I have to say on the subject with a grain of salt.

Thanks for this. Gah stereotypes are way worse in videogames then in movies. Hopefully we can slowly move past that.

BloodSquirrel:

InterAirplay:
It's less to do with the individual characters and more to do with a mindset behind certian ones. It's just that Marcus has become a sort of catch-all reference to this "insecure unstable mindless 8 year-old with muscles and a gun" even if he is a character who is very different from that perception.

Which certain ones? Reading over this thread, I've noticed that there really aren't any examples being given of these overly macho characters and what behavior they're engaging in. Kratos is the only one I see, but even the people who bring him up seem to be excusing him. My video game collection certainly isn't full of them. So who are all of these characters that everybody is complaining about?

Complaining about there being too many macho men in games is just one of those things that has become fashionable.

I suppose there isn't a character which personifies it, it's just something that is present in many of them. It's entirely possible to see a macho character alongside a manly one. And ever think that things become fashionable for a reason?

*backtrack backtrack backtrack*

I guess judging by their weapons all Japanese protagonists are "macho"? Do not let the spiky hair and constant whining fool you.

Interesting article and always happy to hear FSG:TG has not been abandoned.

Rect Pola:
You already talked about female characters before, but what is the terminology for female variants of manly and macho?

How about ladies and bitches? Though I guess those are nouns and not adjectives.

This discussion reminds me of Righteous Warrior Temple, and the discussions therein about the difference between a warrior and a punk motherfucker. Well worth reading, in my opinion.

Interesting discussion on the two archetypes of male characters. I agree with the above discussion on Kratos as a macho man, but another interesting thought - wouldn't Nathan Drake, that "smug unlikeable tosser," qualify as a manly man as well? And where do most of the mewling weaklings that make up JRPG protagonists fall? I think a third category is necessary.

WaderiAAA:

Rect Pola:
You already talked about female characters before, but what is the terminology for female variants of manly and macho?

How about ladies and bitches? Though I guess those are nouns and not adjectives.

I think having a terminology would require there to be more than one kind of female protagonist in a game. The only kind I've seen is the Bayonetta/Lara Croft/Rubi bad-ass action girl template, the ones who throw around their sex appeal shamelessly and don't need a man unless it's someone to toy with. Farah from "Sands of Time" is probably one of the closest examples to something outside of it, but she's an NPC and doesn't really count.

InterAirplay:

I suppose there isn't a character which personifies it, it's just something that is present in many of them.

Present how? In which ones? If nobody can given me any example of something that has supposedly taken over the industry, than I'd have to say that my original assertion that the complaint is baseless stands.

It's entirely possible to see a macho character alongside a manly one. And ever think that things become fashionable for a reason?

Fashion is, almost by definition, largely arbitrary. Something being fashionable means that whatever initial reason, if any, that existed for something has been forgotten any is now only being followed for the sake of following.

At the risk of gratutious, pathetic and predictable Yahtzee flattery (maybe I should offer to help the ever-delightful Rebecca Mayes with her love song!), I'm tempted to say that one of my favourite gaming protagonists of all time is TRILBY from the incomparable Y.s "CHZO mythos" games...

I mean the guy is well dressed (how often can you say that about a game protgonist), witty without being smarmy OR unconvincingly Joss Whedonesque and generally able to be slightly heoric without ever having even the slightest dose of predictable macho doucherie.

I mean, I know games are fantasy, and that at least according to stereotype most gamers ( could stand either to gain or lose a few pounds: but doens't the whole 'let's make every game protagonist a neckless poster-boy for steroid abuse' smack of over-compensation?

I mean, you'd -think- that playing characters marked by the possession of fully automatic weapons or planet-shattering spells would be enough to make us feel tougher than the bullies of bygone schooldays without needing to give all male avatars the kind of pectorals that make them look like a condom stuffed with walnuts...

(Note: that last line was once, famously used by Clive James once said of the present Governor of California...but you get the idea...)

Well I love big macho men with mustaches (handlebars and muttonstaches are sohohoho attractive! Look at Lemmy Kilmister!), and I also love the amount of puns you put in the review for the game, and this article was excellent too, along with the fact I recognize my overusage of commas but at the same time always forget to use other punctuation marks.

Reading this and was suddenly reminded of this amusing comic:

nicodeemus327:
What is Commander Shepard? Manly or Macho. Maybe both depending on Paragon or Renegade?

...Commander Shepard is a girl.

I think "manly" and "macho" are both bullshit. Just give me a likable damned character.

I see what he means about the manliness I mean c'mon you can't walk two feet these days without tripping over a game with the male prtaganist with biceps biggar than his face!

Commander CAN be a girl. HA HA!

Namewithheld:

nicodeemus327:
What is Commander Shepard? Manly or Macho. Maybe both depending on Paragon or Renegade?

...Commander Shepard is a girl.

Ha! Touche.

An interesting topic.

People seem to want a protagonist who is either relatable or admirable. Unfortunately, what is relatable or admirable differs from person to person and worse, they seem to have forgotten all about the relatable part most of the time. Also unfortunately, the industry seems to have taken 'admirable' to mean extremely sexualised (macho men, effeminate teens, voluptuous women,) callous and deadly.

There are very few games out there which allow you to play as a relatively normal person thrust into circumstances that force them to become something different. Those games do stand out, such as the Fallout series, which I personally find far more involving. Most games go for simple character archetypes, which is great for admirability and/or style, horrible for relatability and/or immersion.

On the other hand though, it really does depend upon the game. If I'm playing the game equivalent of Commando (the old Arnie film) it would only make sense to play as a human hamburger. If a game has any pretense of any depth of plot however, all your Master Chiefs and so on tend to hinder rather than help the experience.

Though I guess at the end of the day, if a character isn't at all relatable, they might as well be good to look at. More effeminate males and muscular females please... that's how this Geordie lad rolls. z: )

Finally, I particularly sympathise with the comments regarding equipment and attire. Ridiculous costumes and weapons are fun in their own way, but there just aren't enough games that go the sensible route. I'm afraid I have to lump the main character from the first Assassin's Creed in here... it did kind of bug me that you were playing a stealthy assassin whose every slightest movement was accompanied by the creak of leather and the jingle of sharp shiny metal.

HERE'S THE BIT I HOPE YAHTZEE CASTS HIS EYES UPON:

I fully support Space Game the Game. Speaking as a disabused space-sim player (my freaking joystick has gathered freaking dust) I'd love to see even one more decent game come out, though I hope you will look after the fluff. The sci-fi technical fluff is important you know.

Stuff quickly freezing really isn't all that likely to happen in space. Space is a vacuum. There's nothing to conduct the heat away. In fact, by all accounts, one of the biggest forseeable problems with spaceship construction is preventing the damn thing from overheating. Not that this is a big problem for the system proposed - you just make mention that the cooling system is f**ked and is always on full blast.

I just hope you mention something like that. Otherwise you'll have a bajillion geeks squealing at you with the voices of tortured rats. In your soul at night.

Yahtzee's right. However, I'd like to point out that there's a difference between making a character relatable, and realistic.

I'll illustrate with Gears of War. Marcus Fenix was raised in a dictatorship during wartime and after years of service was rewarded by being sent to prison for saving a loved one. Then after being intentionally abandoned there after all other prisoners were pardoned is let out to save the people who put him in there in the first place. By the way said relative is dead now so he did all that for nothing. Said protagonist is now openly resentful towards the leadership and mostly indifferent to everyone else. I had a math teacher that was a Paratrooper in Vietnam who was similarly shouty and cross in a similar way.

Don't get me started on Kratos.

Relatable? No. Realistic characterization? Yea. Pretty much.

This makes Kratos a very macho man...
And yet, I still love him.

Where does Batman go?

Rect Pola:
You already talked about female characters before, but what is the terminology for female variants of manly and macho?

One's called "a female character" and I think the other one is called "bitch".

I'm probably the minority but I prefer option C: the unrealistic female lead.

Sure it's unfeminine to kill loads of people without remorse and rip people's arms off without breaking a sweat, but it seems refreshing in a genre dominated by aforementioned men.

And of course as the gamer we get to admire their backside for 10 hours or whatever the going length is these days [much longer in FF13's case].

Deofuta:
I love the fact you put Niko (Spelled right?) into the Manly men characters. Althougth there is a lot of dislike for GTA4, I think they did an awesome job on the characters, Niko(sp?) and the characters from TBOGT especially.

Haha you spelt* it right :) It is Niko, and I do agree with you friend :)

So, is this because you're feeling insecure as a man and now you're taking it out on perfectly entertaining video game characters?

That's the only point I could see to this article.

WHOOO!! More news on Fun Space Game: The Game!! Oh, man, I want to play it so bad, I can taste it!! Otherwise great article as usual, love that someone notices the difference between a good beefy character and a bad one.

I like where Space Game is going, with having the engine start to freeze and all. Action/Reaction: the ultimate balancing agent. Not enough games are actually balanced (in fact, almost no games are actually balanced); designers just throw hit-points at the problem until it feels right. Things need to have consequences that have real trade-offs, so that you're making an actual choice, rather than a calculation.

LesIsMore:

WaderiAAA:

Rect Pola:
You already talked about female characters before, but what is the terminology for female variants of manly and macho?

How about ladies and bitches? Though I guess those are nouns and not adjectives.

I think having a terminology would require there to be more than one kind of female protagonist in a game. The only kind I've seen is the Bayonetta/Lara Croft/Rubi bad-ass action girl template, the ones who throw around their sex appeal shamelessly and don't need a man unless it's someone to toy with. Farah from "Sands of Time" is probably one of the closest examples to something outside of it, but she's an NPC and doesn't really count.

Let's count them as bitches then. I don't have any examples of ladies yet. I'm hoping Samus will be portrayed more like one in Other M - as opposed to the silent, next to no personality character she has been before.

Anchupom:
This makes Kratos a very macho man...
And yet, I still love him.

Where does Batman go?

Wherever he wants.

Yer man o'er yonder:

Seneschal:

Anyway, nice to hear FSG:TG is progressing. Piloting a faulty ship and making it part of the gameplay sounds like a good way to introduce a sense of urgency. Only, the freezing thing isn't believable without some further elaboration - space isn't really cold (despite what The Phantom Menace tells you). If the ship had a faulty cooling system, with the coolant unable to stop circulating, you would have to run the engine to avoid it being frozen. But, if it's actually more intuitive for the average player to have space be an Antarctica-like environment where ships get hypothermia, it's a valid choice.

On the contrary, space is quite cold. Otherwise comets would't form being big balls of ice and such.
Anyway it is nice to hear about FSG:TG again.

It's very cold, just above absolute zero, but being a vacuum theres no convection so things in space take a long time to cool down. Keeping cold is a bigger problem in space travel than keeping hot.

An excellent article! Coudln't say it better m'self. Gaming could certainly go with more manly men (or women) and less macho-men. Hell, I'd take a silent protagonist like Gordon or Nameless Black Man (would have a name aside from "rookie" really have been all that hard, Rebellion?) from the new AvP over Fenix or such.

Anchupom:
This makes Kratos a very macho man...
And yet, I still love him.

Where does Batman go?

Macho-men are acceptable in certain settings as with Kratos - the game's very much aware of his flaws, as he's a Greek Hero and Greek Myth is very much about murder machines who are deeply flawed in oh so many ways. Hercules or Ulysses, for instance - one killed his family in a blind rage, the other's hubris got all his soldiers killed in a variety of horrible ways and made his wife wait twenty years for his return.

As to Batman; all over the place. He changes so much depending on who writes him.

To combat this, I restored the Brake function that allows the player to come to a complete stop. But wait, I hear you cry, surely that negates the constant speed solution? Well, I also added an Engine Temperature system. When the protagonist's ship stops, the engine begins to freeze, which eventually saps shield power. This creates a frugal limit on how long they can spend in cover, allowing for more tense and effective gameplay while implying that the player character's spaceship is in severe need of a tune-up, which helps the story I have in mind.

I am reminded of an essay by James Ernest where he compared game design to carving a statue of a horse out of a block of marble by adding clay to it.

Love the article Yahtzee. I was so disgusted by the Prince's character in Warrior Within (not to mention the dreadful voice acting and stripperiffic female characters) that I couldn't even bring myself to finish it. Loved The Two Thrones though.

Manly or Macho?

Personally, i would have to say bitch. I've never had fights with mythological gods and/or creatures whilst wielding MEGA swords.

More pity me. :(

Many video games really fail to demonstrate any kind of depth in their characters, male or female. Because of the pacing in games, it's rare to see a character outside of some kind of action-oriented mindset, and so often the characterization falls to the few emotions demonstrated while operating a flame thrower. Which is honestly preferable to games that shoehorn emotional content into the dialogue where it ought not to be. It's also kind of rare to have the soulless creatures of the uncanny valley convincingly show real emotion.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Extra Punctuation: Male Protagonists

Are you a manly man or a macho man?

Read Full Article

... but where would we be without kratos?

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