The Plight of the Mary Sue Character in Games

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The Plight of the Mary Sue Character in Games

Tragic figures in games are nothing new, but their skills almost always outweigh any visible flaws. Yahtzee examines the Mary Sue-style character in games.

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*Scribbles down extra notes for Yahtzee's psychological profile*
Fascinating. This is a colourful picture of majestic despair somehow spiralling upwards.

Usually the Mary Sue character (why that name?) would grate with me, though by now i may be desensitised to it, however, Geralt at least this time conveys some humour and the weird odd human moment now and again. Made I chuckle once or twice too. That already puts him above the seas of undeservingly praised other protagonists.
But it is annoying to be loved without reason in these fictions. It is immediatly suspicious. Like some sinister cult of smiles just waiting for you to lower your guard so they can smother your soul and devour your skin. Fuck off, happy people! I know what you are! You won't have me!! Er but yeah, knowing that the author is probably getting off to their totally amazing creation that can have all the exotic sex their crushingly isolated real self could never have, is...a little off-putting to say the least. In the very extremes, we get 50 shades of projected fantasy grey and, well...almost all bad male action movies.

Dude, this is why you (EDIT: Yahtzee, not any other posters) needed to play more of the first game - Witchers are generally reviled because they literally kidnap children, then train them to death Spartan style.

I don't know how they come across in The Witcher 3, but certainly in the first game a lot of relatively ordinary people disliked or distrusted Geralt - including a fair share of hypocrites and bigots, because the whole point was that everyone is a hypocrite or a bigot one way or the other.

Geralt is also famous for saving a princess, so he's about as liked as Witchers ever get. He is the rockstar of Witchers - young ladies love a bad boy but their parents all want to keep him at arm's (or pitchfork's) length.

You know, this part made me think:

But in a video game, the plot revolves around the protagonist by necessity

Could a game ever work where you are not the star of the show? There's someone more competent than you, around which the story revolves, and you are an observer or support. I'm curious if this could work, although it'd definitely be difficult to justify it to the people asking "Wait, why am I not playing as him?"

This is the possibly the most nitpicky quibble I've ever committed to the internet, but fuck it.

Geralt is a master swordsman (who uses two swords 'cos he's so great)

He carries two swords, he only ever uses one. To use Yahtzee's plumber analogy, it's like calling a plumber a cocky nobhead for using a wrench and a plunger (alright, alright I know nothing about plumbing). They're different tools for different jobs.

Anyway, agree with the rest of the piece. Witchers are pretty Mary Sue as is - and Geralt's the mary sue-est of the mary sues, given that the biggest witcher drawback - lack of empathy and emotion - doesn't seem to stop him from showing a ton of both where Ciri and Yen are concerned. But fuck it, it makes for an entertaining video game protagonist. Games are all about letting the player do things they can't do in real life. May as well double down and let the player do all the things they can't do in real life.

EDIT:

The Almighty Aardvark:
You know, this part made me think:

But in a video game, the plot revolves around the protagonist by necessity

Could a game ever work where you are not the star of the show? There's someone more competent than you, around which the story revolves, and you are an observer or support. I'm curious if this could work, although it'd definitely be difficult to justify it to the people asking "Wait, why am I not playing as him?"

I don't whether you think this counts, but arguably (as far as the main story is concerned) you are not the main character in Oblivion. Martin "Sean Bean" Septim is the destined hero who saves the world, not you. You're basically his sidekick.

Of course, you can also literally become a god so maybe that's not the best example.

I've found that if I like a character, I have no problems whatsoever if they're a Mary Sue. Conversely, if I don't like them, their Sue-ness only increases my hatred.

So I guess it all comes down to likability.

Pretty interesting article.

I also read that the books imply that Witchers are becoming less needed because monster attacks are tapering off. So you have weird, for-hire monster-hunters that kidnap kids, and what they ARE good for is becoming less and less needed anyways.

That aspect works pretty well in Witcher 3, I think, as the major cities don't have monster problems, so most of the populous has the 'ew, a freak' reaction, while the people out in the middle of the swamp that DO still deal with monsters are more than pleased to have a witcher show up and fix the problem properly.

There's also quite a few characters that see Geralt and just think he's weird, but otherwise indifferent(interestingly, these seem to be characters in relatively high positions, such as the one Nilf general you meet, or the one head witch-hunter guy).

UrinalDook:

The Almighty Aardvark:
You know, this part made me think:

But in a video game, the plot revolves around the protagonist by necessity

Could a game ever work where you are not the star of the show? There's someone more competent than you, around which the story revolves, and you are an observer or support. I'm curious if this could work, although it'd definitely be difficult to justify it to the people asking "Wait, why am I not playing as him?"

I don't whether you think this counts, but arguably (as far as the main story is concerned) you are not the main character in Oblivion. Martin "Sean Bean" Septim is the destined hero who saves the world, not you. You're basically his sidekick.

Of course, you can also literally become a god so maybe that's not the best example.

Would Halo 3: ODST count? You're the chump rookie that got knocked out on your first major deployment and then spend the rest of the adventure trying to catch up to your seniors who were actually getting stuff done while you were unconscious.

You only really help the main events towards the end when you meet back up with everyone.

The Almighty Aardvark:
You know, this part made me think:

But in a video game, the plot revolves around the protagonist by necessity

Could a game ever work where you are not the star of the show? There's someone more competent than you, around which the story revolves, and you are an observer or support. I'm curious if this could work, although it'd definitely be difficult to justify it to the people asking "Wait, why am I not playing as him?"

Go play White Knight Chronicles.

Spoilers: Doesn't work very well.

The Almighty Aardvark:
You know, this part made me think:

But in a video game, the plot revolves around the protagonist by necessity

Could a game ever work where you are not the star of the show? There's someone more competent than you, around which the story revolves, and you are an observer or support. I'm curious if this could work, although it'd definitely be difficult to justify it to the people asking "Wait, why am I not playing as him?"

That might be able to work... I can think of one example, but it leans heavily on competent AI.
You can see it in MMO's, which rely on teamwork, and where AI incompetence isn't a factor (due to the multiplayer nature)

OK, so by design an mmo party is intended so no one person stands out.

But boiled down to it's essence, it is basically a 3 man team. (larger teams are just multiples and variants of this)

Dps, tank, support.

Thematically, the tank is usually the hero type. (though not always Star Trek online follows this model closely, and the 'tank' is an engineer in this case, which is not the typical hero in that setting)
However, mechanically you see it pretty clearly.

The DPS person is the one doing almost all the damage. They are the one doing the actual 'work', and they are what end up taking down the bad guys. (and thus potentially taking all the credit, if they are jerks).

The tank's job isn't to defeat anyone. Rather, it's to distract the enemy, and draw their fire. They are there to protect the others, and keep the more fragile team members alive, by virtue of taking the hits for them,

The support... heals and buffs, and generally keeping everyone else alive, and making what they do vastly more effective.

The support especially rarely gets much of the credit for anything. But if you look at this model, I would argue you could still build a viable game around being the support. As long as the 'hero' ai is competent enough to avoid just being a frustrating, useless thing.
Could be interesting, actually...

On topic, I would say the nature of a video game protagonist often leads to them being a mary sue by design. Even if story-wise the character isn't, by virtue of their role in the world, how the actions of a player look in context, and even the fact that, in a quite literal sense, a game world revolves entirely around it's players...
A player character can't help but be a mary sue no matter how the character itself is portrayed.
To portray them as anything else is in fact just going to create various degrees of narrative dissonance, and make the gameplay and story seem more and more disjointed.

UrinalDook:

I don't whether you think this counts, but arguably (as far as the main story is concerned) you are not the main character in Oblivion. Martin "Sean Bean" Septim is the destined hero who saves the world, not you. You're basically his sidekick.

Of course, you can also literally become a god so maybe that's not the best example.

I think the fact that Patrick Stewart Uriel Septim just needs to look at you before saying "You! You are destined for greatness" is a bit of a shot against it as well.

Thanatos2k:

Go play White Knight Chronicles.

Spoilers: Doesn't work very well.

Who's the main character in that one? Reading a plot description it sounds like it's Leonard (who I'm guessing you're playing)

EDIT:

CrystalShadow:
*snip*

That's kind of what I was imagining myself. I like support roles a lot, and I think that could actually be rather fun. However, as you said, it relies on AI being a whole lot less shitty than it currently is. Plus there's the issue of coordination being really difficult when you're just dealing with computers.

Huh, I don't know why I'm implying that's not the case with people

The Almighty Aardvark:
Who's the main character in that one? Reading a plot description it sounds like it's Leonard (who I'm guessing you're playing)

The game starts you off letting you create a custom character. But your custom character isn't the main character, he's the main character's mute generic pal that decides to tag along on the adventure.

Thanatos2k:
Go play White Knight Chronicles.

Spoilers: Doesn't work very well.

It fails in White Knight Chronicles for several reasons, but the concept could still done properly. It doesn't work here because there's really no incentive to play as not the main character when you can also play as the actual main character, and frankly the game had a lot of other flaws not related to the presence of a distinct avatar character at all.

Ideally, a game where you play exclusively as a secondary character would do a few things:

  1. The true hero of the story is not always (or even usually) around. They can be off doing something that impacts the story in a significant way, and you have to find out after the fact, once the consequences of his actions impact you.
  2. When you and the hero are fighting together, you play an active support role, not just an extra party member. This could mean playing healer, or disabling enemies so that the hero can get hits in, etc. Not too different from how teams play in an online game.
  3. The game's major plot revolves around the big hero, but the emotional story and themes revolve around the player character. Perhaps a focus on feeling powerless compared to the hero, or annoyed at being dragged on someone else's quest.

I think the idea of two at-odds stories running at once, one driven by an external conflict and observed almost as an outsider, the other driven by internal conflict and human growth of the player character, could be really interesting. I've actually been thinking about this a lot lately as an idea for a novel or movie, but it could work especially well as a game if done right.

P.S. Thanks

P.P.S. But seriously, White Knight Chronicles isn't all that good and doesn't even attempt something on this level; its storytelling style is pretty bog-standard, and the avatar concept it employs feels like an afterthought. It's hardly an example of the "you are not the main character" concept being used to anywhere near its full potential.

UrinalDook:
Anyway, agree with the rest of the piece. Witchers are pretty Mary Sue as is...

Well, if you don't count Lambert, he doesn't give a damn about anything or anyone and is a pretty horrible, remorseless, cruel person. However, he still manages to be a cool character, and I actually liked him, so kudoz to the game writers and the actor.

The Almighty Aardvark:

That's kind of what I was imagining myself. I like support roles a lot, and I think that could actually be rather fun. However, as you said, it relies on AI being a whole lot less shitty than it currently is. Plus there's the issue of coordination being really difficult when you're just dealing with computers.

Huh, I don't know why I'm implying that's not the case with people

Party-driven RPGs have kinda already tackled that problem.

Particularly Dragon Age and Final Fantasy XII, where you can set up exactly what you want the AI to do and when they should do it. And even then you can still manually step in at any time.

Not that it helps with the "playing a game where you're not the star of the show" thing.

I suppose in a way the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare games did that, though it's a pretty thin line between secondary protagonist and supporting character.

The Almighty Aardvark:
You know, this part made me think:

But in a video game, the plot revolves around the protagonist by necessity

Could a game ever work where you are not the star of the show? There's someone more competent than you, around which the story revolves, and you are an observer or support. I'm curious if this could work, although it'd definitely be difficult to justify it to the people asking "Wait, why am I not playing as him?"

Technically speaking, we observe this in Final Fantasy X. Tidus isn't so much the person the plot revolves around as he is the trigger for change - the outsider in a world full of people that don't ask questions. He sparks change, but it's Yuna that ultimately carries it out and is the one whom the plot revolves around. For all his talk of it being his story, Yuna is truly the star of the show, while Tidus takes on the role of protagonist purely for the sake of exposition. Tidus is a bit of a Mary Sue as well; his perfect hair, body, blitzball skills, and natural talent with a sword are the only reason he's along for the ride, but he's definitely not the star of the show.

OT: I'd kind of been bothered by this about Geralt for a while now, but as Yahtzee says, almost any video game protagonist fits this role. Especially in RPGs, where the main character has inexplicable ties to all the world's major players and villains. This is especially obvious in games like Mass Effect or Dragon Age, where being diplomatic means being really, really nice.

Geralt kind of reminds me of a fantasy version of Solid Snake - bearded, handsome to all the ladies, repeats most things said to him, narrates out loud pretty often, and has the dark, rumbling "you can tell I'm a badass because of how gravelly my voice is." I don't think it makes him a bad character, since I haven't read the books, I just take it for what he is a drive him around as my vehicle for the plot.

Geralt has a pretty damn good reason for having two swords - the silver sword is good for most monsters, but it'd be a pretty poor weapon against humans and more mundane kinds of monster, hence the steel sword - AND HE NEVER USES THEM BOTH, ONLY ONE AT A TIME. He also constantly gets ripped off, framed, lied to, cheated, used, abused and screwed over - and he's not without his own sins.
Of course, to know that Yahtzee would actually have to play the bloody games.

Xsjadoblayde:
..Usually the Mary Sue character (why that name?)...

Here is the parody that originated the trope name:
http://www.wiccananime.com/amslt/amslttrekkiestale

The Almighty Aardvark:
You know, this part made me think:

But in a video game, the plot revolves around the protagonist by necessity

Could a game ever work where you are not the star of the show? There's someone more competent than you, around which the story revolves, and you are an observer or support. I'm curious if this could work, although it'd definitely be difficult to justify it to the people asking "Wait, why am I not playing as him?"

It kinda reminds me the cutscenes in the Ghostbusters game (the one in the XBox, PS2 and Wii). You're a new addition to the ghostbusters team, and gameplaywise you're still who owns the show. But you never participate in dialogs (your character is silent), and in most cutscenes you're just background decoration or off-screen.

Sheo_Dagana:

The Almighty Aardvark:
You know, this part made me think:

But in a video game, the plot revolves around the protagonist by necessity

Could a game ever work where you are not the star of the show? There's someone more competent than you, around which the story revolves, and you are an observer or support. I'm curious if this could work, although it'd definitely be difficult to justify it to the people asking "Wait, why am I not playing as him?"

Technically speaking, we observe this in Final Fantasy X. Tidus isn't so much the person the plot revolves around as he is the trigger for change - the outsider in a world full of people that don't ask questions. He sparks change, but it's Yuna that ultimately carries it out and is the one whom the plot revolves around. For all his talk of it being his story, Yuna is truly the star of the show, while Tidus takes on the role of protagonist purely for the sake of exposition. Tidus is a bit of a Mary Sue as well; his perfect hair, body, blitzball skills, and natural talent with a sword are the only reason he's along for the ride, but he's definitely not the star of the show.

Yeah, that was the example I was thinking too.

Tidus is the first character you control, is in the cover and the first line of the game is him saying "this is my story". But once the real adventure beings, he turns into The Watson and demoted to a sidekick that tags along with the real protagonist (Yuna) and her entourage.

Apropos of asking about a game that has the player take a secondary role to another character, I can think of one example in Diablo 2.

You spend the whole game chasing after Diablo and Marius, the latter being the main character, and simply cleaning up after them. Indeed Marius is the one who ultimately makes the most important decisions in the game, leaving you with a case of fashionably late syndrome. However Marius' value is exclusively narrative, he does not act in any way through the mechanics of the game and never appears outside a cut-scene.

Actually if I think about it you could argue that Diablo is the main character of Diablo 2, which fucks up my thought a bit. but at least it is something to think about.

Surely there are other games where you take the secondary role? I mean we have old school adventure games that see the player character basically bumbling their way to success; but this is a genre that has waned recently so I dunno if it counts anymore.

hermes200:
Yeah, that was the example I was thinking too.
Tidus is the first character you control, is in the cover and the first line of the game is him saying "this is my story". But once the real adventure beings, he turns into the sidekick that tags along with the real protagonist (Yuna).

This is rather poetic. His story, his life, is to remain a sidekick to someone who is vastly more important than himself; his purpose is to remain in the shadows of those around him so that they might do important things leaving him to simply fade. The joy of his memory eclipsed by the joy of the adventure in trying to "find" him in X2. Makes one somewhat stoic if you think about it too much

A couple of hits, and a couple of misses in this article. Most people covered the mistakes (like swords - there IS a reason to have two for the witchers), so instead I'll ask this - I wonder if Yahtzee actually managed to get far enough in the game to meet Lambert and Eskel. I believe those are the characters you would actually want to study in case of how witchers work, and how they are trained (Lambert's quest in Kaer Morhen is full on mentioning how horrible the training was). And then the actual Grass Trial shown on screen. I would say, witchers have full right to say boo hoo on this one, they were extremely lucky and/or resilient to survive. Also, they can't have kids, and them becoming witchers was not really their choice. That's pretty boo hoo worthy if you ask me.

I wonder that, because Yahtzee clearly has a "Geralt = the typical witcher" point of view, when he's really not. In fact, he's kinda special even for his kind (I believe he is a son of a sorceress, which IS special, as they are supposed to be sterile, and that also factors in his ability to be good at everything), so yeah... He IS Mary Sue'ish. No doubt about that. I even felt that while reading the books, years before the first game even hit the shelves. But the whole paragraph on the witcher profession just seems to be tackled from a wrong angle, using the worst possible example.

The Avatar in Fire Emblem: Awakening is a blatant Mary Sue (They are ludicrously powerful, intelligent, kind, and attractive to others.), but that's sort of the point. They're the player's way in to the ensemble cast as an outsider, and while the lot largely revolves around them, their position is one of right hand man/woman to Chrom; you watch the story of Chrom through the Avatar's eyes. Thus, the game gets away with it.

This is what happens when you don't play the games all the way through.

Geralt isn't a Mary Sue character at all. There are things he's not good at at all. He only knows simple magic spells, some alchemy and bomb crafting. He can't craft his own weapons and armor, he can only repair them if damaged and only if he's got the tools with him. Which he can't craft. Characters react differently to Geralt. Some people see him as just a professional, some as disgusting and some are simply scared of him because people fear what they don't understand. Some aren't even scared of bothered by him at all. There was a loathsome racist character in The Witcher 2 who didn't give a fuck that Geralt was a mutant. He considered him just as human as he was. He even told Geralt "I have my prejudices, but I'm not blinded by them". Geralt often needs help of other characters to accomplish his goals, so he's definitely not good at everything. And how much he cares about justice is a choice that players have to make. Such is the nature of RPG's.

As for Geralt always meeting high ranking officials and even monarchs, that stems from his relationship with Yennefer. He's close to a lot of sorceresses and sorceresses are usually royal advisers. So when a king or someone of importance needs something done (like when Foltest needed help with his daughter's curse) Geralt was an obvious choice. Things don't happen in The Witcher for no reason.

There are also plenty of important things that happen off screen too. Things that Geralt doesn't even get the chance to influence in any way, and conflicts that Geralt cannot resolve. You can even fuck up royally in The Witcher games thanks to the morality system in those games and fail quests simply because you've not been paying attention. Sometimes your honesty will work against you. In one witcher contract I was tasked with killing a dragon. It turned out not to be a dragon, but an overgrown wyvern. I told the contract giver that when he asked me what was the dragon like, and because of that he decided to pay me only half of the money. I could have lied to him and get payed full price. It's the players choice.

I kinda agree but there is at least one choice that kinda impacts Geralt's ability to be a mary sue

There isn't a perfect choice there, there isn't even a lesser of two evils since without prior knowledge your likely to pick the worst one.

The Almighty Aardvark:
You know, this part made me think:

But in a video game, the plot revolves around the protagonist by necessity

Could a game ever work where you are not the star of the show? There's someone more competent than you, around which the story revolves, and you are an observer or support. I'm curious if this could work, although it'd definitely be difficult to justify it to the people asking "Wait, why am I not playing as him?"

In Final Fantasy XII, Vaan and Panelo really had nothing to do with the plot. You could replace them with virtually any generic characters and the plot wouldn't have changed at all. IIRC this was a fairly common complaint about the game though

Sheo_Dagana:

The Almighty Aardvark:
You know, this part made me think:

But in a video game, the plot revolves around the protagonist by necessity

Could a game ever work where you are not the star of the show? There's someone more competent than you, around which the story revolves, and you are an observer or support. I'm curious if this could work, although it'd definitely be difficult to justify it to the people asking "Wait, why am I not playing as him?"

Technically speaking, we observe this in Final Fantasy X. Tidus isn't so much the person the plot revolves around as he is the trigger for change - the outsider in a world full of people that don't ask questions. He sparks change, but it's Yuna that ultimately carries it out and is the one whom the plot revolves around. For all his talk of it being his story, Yuna is truly the star of the show, while Tidus takes on the role of protagonist purely for the sake of exposition. Tidus is a bit of a Mary Sue as well; his perfect hair, body, blitzball skills, and natural talent with a sword are the only reason he's along for the ride, but he's definitely not the star of the show.

OT: I'd kind of been bothered by this about Geralt for a while now, but as Yahtzee says, almost any video game protagonist fits this role. Especially in RPGs, where the main character has inexplicable ties to all the world's major players and villains. This is especially obvious in games like Mass Effect or Dragon Age, where being diplomatic means being really, really nice.

Geralt kind of reminds me of a fantasy version of Solid Snake - bearded, handsome to all the ladies, repeats most things said to him, narrates out loud pretty often, and has the dark, rumbling "you can tell I'm a badass because of how gravelly my voice is." I don't think it makes him a bad character, since I haven't read the books, I just take it for what he is a drive him around as my vehicle for the plot.

That brings me to what I think is the game where you don't play the "real" hero: Metal Gear Solid 2. For most of the Plant Chapter, Raiden is getting strung along a phony bomb-disarming and hostage-rescuing plot that covers up what's really going on with Solid Snake (a.k.a. Iroquois Pliskin) getting stuff done elsewhere. Raiden's character-changing arc really kicks in once the whole truth is revealed to him.
The same can be said about Booker from Bioshock:Infinite, since I thought the true star of the show was Elizabeth, the reality-warping orphan.

And Man:
IIRC this was a fairly common complaint about the game though

Vaan was never intended to be the main character. Balthier was. Vaan (rightly) comes across as a late addition to the story, and the game never really acknowledges this.

If such a trope were attempted on purpose and done well, the fact that the main character isn't really the main character would be really important to the storytelling. FFX sort of attempted this, but was not nearly as successful with it as it could've been.

P.S. Thanks

It all comes from the books. Geralt built himself a huge name during the course of the books - not among the people, but among "big guys", all because of his affairs with Triss, Yennifer, and direct responsibility for brealing about half dozen plans of kidnapping and breeding off Ciri.

Areloch:
I also read that the books imply that Witchers are becoming less needed because monster attacks are tapering off. So you have weird, for-hire monster-hunters that kidnap kids, and what they ARE good for is becoming less and less needed anyways.

Nope, witchers have no problems with emotions. It was in stupid TV series which has nothing to do with the books. In the books witchers are just a bunch of old grumpies who have no possibilities to grow in numbers, and it is hinted that while Kaer Morhen was ruined, there actually are other witcher groups left, possibly still able to make new witchers, but if they are, they're far away from area described in the books. Also, again, in the beginning of the books witchers got much less needed, but after two wars with Nilfgaard monsters started to spawn everywhere.

Xsjadoblayde:
*Scribbles down extra notes for Yahtzee's psychological profile*
Fascinating. This is a colourful picture of majestic despair somehow spiralling upwards.

Usually the Mary Sue character (why that name?) would grate with me, though by now i may be desensitised to it, however, Geralt at least this time conveys some humour and the weird odd human moment now and again. Made I chuckle once or twice too. That already puts him above the seas of undeservingly praised other protagonists.
But it is annoying to be loved without reason in these fictions. It is immediatly suspicious. Like some sinister cult of smiles just waiting for you to lower your guard so they can smother your soul and devour your skin. Fuck off, happy people! I know what you are! You won't have me!! Er but yeah, knowing that the author is probably getting off to their totally amazing creation that can have all the exotic sex their crushingly isolated real self could never have, is...a little off-putting to say the least. In the very extremes, we get 50 shades of projected fantasy grey and, well...almost all bad male action movies.

If you're wondering why the Mary Sue's called that, it's the name of a sort of Porto-Mary Sue character from a piece of Star Trek fan fiction in the 70s called 'A Trekkie's Tale', where Mary Sue was universally loved and respected by the entire crew despite being way too young for her post. The word Mary Sue sort of mutated from there.

I found this article quite hyperbolic.

The Witcher series is a series of epics. You can think of him as an Odysseus on a quest against impossible fantastic forces, but no matter the challenge, he has the strength and wiles to overcome them. Compare that to a character like Superman, who is the embodiment of perfection and whose plot must always center around his one weakness - kryptonite. Even Achilles, who had but one weakness, was kind of an ass and a fool. Superman is just too perfect to be interesting. Something he doesn't share with Geralt.

Geralt is a special case in that the player gets to decide his morality. Want to give that woman a potion? Might cause a fate worse than death. Might also save her. Want to help the Bloody Baron? There might be unexpected costs. Want to trust that specter? Might be an evil entity. So might that tree spirit. You never know. If you make the "right choice" (assuming there is one in this game), it's not because Geralt is perfect - it's because you want to play a game where you do good (or try to do good) and the game allows you (with some limitations) to do so. The narrative has to offer other ways to fail other than dying and reloading. It also allows you to be a total ass. You can be Achilles or you can be wily Odysseus. You can't be Superman. So, I don't see what this article is really complaining about.

A better case might be made against characters like Gordon Freeman, Master Chief, or the Inquisitor. These are unstoppable forces with no (or almost no) personality that just serve as a conduit for the player to take control of a game world. They're closer to the Mary Sue character than Geralt in a dozen ways. If anything, I think the Witcher series excels at making the main character feel more embedded and at the mercy of the world in which he lives than most other games (or even fantasy settings).

Xsjadoblayde:
Usually the Mary Sue character (why that name?)...

Mary Sue refers to a character originally called "Ensign Mary Sue" from a long-running Star Trek Fanfic from the dark and early days of the internet. The character was, in many ways, a spoof of the self-insert characters people were (and still are) writing into their fan works.

Through her career, it is revealed she is half-Vulcan, half-Klingon, half-Romulan, and ultimately a member of the Q Continuum. Throughout her story, every character she meets falls in love with her, and all challenges are victories for her through no effort of her own, usually because her opponent considers her too awesome/great/beautiful to fight. In her final story, all of the disparate governments of Star Trek elect her Queen of the Universe because of her grandeur and poise, and her great beauty.

Her name became synonymous with the characters she was lampooning, hence the phrase "Mary Sue."

Eh, I've always laughed when other posters around here call game characters Sues or Stu's. Because it's almost always ridiculous, and almost always a misuse of the term.

I was getting ready to write a lengthy response as to why, but Yahtzee hit on it at the end. These are games, not books or movies. No matter how much some people hate that, and seek to change it

The term loses it's meaning significantly when understood that the player is controlling the character. The world itself is crafted to react to the player and what they do. That's in the design of the game. It's one thing to watch a character like Geralt muck about the world and dabble in his Sueness. He'd be rightly criticized by quite a few critics, I'm sure. (As an aside, I've not read the books, but I might pick them up since I'm enjoying the game so much. I'm guessing he's not such a Sue there?)

Sure we can all lament the *ahem* "power fantasies" that these games could be called. Where we all play the hero, and whole thing revolves around us. Sure it could be nice to be a peddler in a game, or a merchant. Or some other menial blue collar person. But... thing is, that's really hard to pull off. And the majority of games that try don't succeed, and end up being shit.

I'm withholding judgement on whether or not Geralt really comes across as a Sue until the end of the game. As it stands now I haven't played the other games, and haven't finished this one. He's certainly got the vibe, but he's not really all powerful. I think one of the things that make people immediately scream "SUE!" while wanking each other off over their vast knowledge of literary terms, is the cool factor.

Geralt is cool.

- Tall, imposing physique, strong
- Scars, but not hideous ones
- Mutations, but only giving him cat eyes of all things (that even gets an eyeroll from me)
- Two swords on his back (because of course)
- Monster hunter, but suffered no debilitating injuries. (No lost eye, finger, ear, hand etc)
- Magic, but not tossing fireballs, just cool enough to use without a staff or wand, like Yahtzee says in the video

All of these things are warning flags I guess. But there is more to being a Sue than just that, as Yahtzee said.

The Almighty Aardvark:
You know, this part made me think:

But in a video game, the plot revolves around the protagonist by necessity

Could a game ever work where you are not the star of the show? There's someone more competent than you, around which the story revolves, and you are an observer or support. I'm curious if this could work, although it'd definitely be difficult to justify it to the people asking "Wait, why am I not playing as him?"

I remember a game where you played as a security guard trapped in a booth telling a person what to do what to do by watching cameras and speaking into a microphone.
Don't remember the name of it though.

And Man:

In Final Fantasy XII, Vaan and Panelo really had nothing to do with the plot. You could replace them with virtually any generic characters and the plot wouldn't have changed at all. IIRC this was a fairly common complaint about the game though

Actually, I think you're right here about this game being an example of it. I think the problem was that he didn't have any affect over the plot (as well as the fact that he is more boring than most voiceless characters I've seen), as opposed to him not being the center of it.

On that subject, I've heard that the reason that was the case in FF XII is that Baasch was originally supposed to be the main character, but they ended up changing it to Vaan last minute without really changing the plot at all.

Damn, ninja'd. Worse yet, the ninja actually got it right.

Sheo_Dagana:

Technically speaking, we observe this in Final Fantasy X. Tidus isn't so much the person the plot revolves around as he is the trigger for change - the outsider in a world full of people that don't ask questions. He sparks change, but it's Yuna that ultimately carries it out and is the one whom the plot revolves around. For all his talk of it being his story, Yuna is truly the star of the show, while Tidus takes on the role of protagonist purely for the sake of exposition. Tidus is a bit of a Mary Sue as well; his perfect hair, body, blitzball skills, and natural talent with a sword are the only reason he's along for the ride, but he's definitely not the star of the show.

I think that FF XII was a better example. The thing is, that Tidus is still the one directing things and dragging them along. I'll agree that Yuna (in most regards) was more plot important, to me she felt more like a device. Kind of like applied phlebotinum personified. Not that she didn't have any character, but her importance was a lot more based on who she was than anything else.

Admittedly though, it's been some time since I played the game, so my memory might be a bit off on it.

The Almighty Aardvark:
You know, this part made me think:

But in a video game, the plot revolves around the protagonist by necessity

Could a game ever work where you are not the star of the show? There's someone more competent than you, around which the story revolves, and you are an observer or support. I'm curious if this could work, although it'd definitely be difficult to justify it to the people asking "Wait, why am I not playing as him?"

Well Blizzard sure as hell been trying with WoW as of Cataclysm. No matter what your player accomplishes, no matter who you defeat (that isn't retconned), as far as the story goes you're just there for the ride.

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