The Portrayal of Male Characters in Video Games.

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I have noticed that while Female characters are a hot button topic when these issues are discussed many male gamers come forward with how they are very unhappy with their male counterparts.

I personally can understand this as male video game characters are often as stereotyped as women. Despite the fact I see this as more of 'Power Fantasy' stereotype rather than how women are often hyper-sexualised I can understand that this is probably just an annoying!

When discussion about female characters erupt discussion about improvements to male characters are often put aside for another time. Well I would like to have that 'other time' So guys what are your current problems with video game dudes.

Personally I think the biggest problem is the portrayal of the action hero stereotype as the be all and end all of the male power fantasy. Characters like George Stobart the intelligent, humorous lawyer from Broken Sword or Max Payne, a guy who actually seems to have some emotional range other than 'lolshootthings' are just as valid as the Marcus Fenixs' (Fenixi? Fenixises?) of gaming.

Honestly I had trouble thinking up characters who break the norm and that is a problem... perhaps you guy can do better with a description of what YOU want from your protagonists (or even villains) rather than what the devs think you want!

I'll post this so no one else has to.

image

Yep, there is hardly much variety when it comes to guys in games, it's a shame. At least Mario is fat, he has that going for him.

Seriously, I want more "dudebros" to show more emotion. Other than the "arg..... why must life be pain" emotions. There are more emotions other than that.

Vanitas likes Bubbles:
Seriously, I want more "dudebros" to show more emotion. Other than the "arg..... why must life be pain" emotions. There are more emotions other than that.

Or how about the "flawed" character who is actually flawless.

"I can't go on, it's too hard!", you end the cutscene and then gun about 30 guys down in 10 minutes without breaking a sweat. Nathan Drake is the main offender.

I agree with emotional range being one of the biggest problems someone said that Lara Croft's trial by fire would be never done to male protagonist perhaps it should...

The Brown hair white male 30 something is annoying too. I'm pretty sure men come in more flavours than that.

Personally I would love a game where you play as a normal guy caught up in some crazy stuff ala Stargate Universe. Perhaps a chubby science teacher caught in a zombie apocalypse.

Not enough chubby guys in gaming beyond humorous side characters.

I also thought up a game about a cynical wheelchair bound guy who gets sucked into a dungeon dimension and makes steampunk upgrades to his chair to fight the lovecraftian horrors. (Not at all based on my best mate >_>)

I think in order for the characters to change the stories being told in games also need to change.

A lot of the attributes of the stereotypical male suit the story being told in most games. Most games revolve around some sort of major threat that requires some sort of super soldier to face the odds and come out on top where nobody else could.

An extremely smart but physically inferior guy wouldn't fit in such a story. He wouldn't face odds he couldn't beat, he'd figure out a way to tip the odds heavily in his favour first whilst laying low and only then make his move.
A socially gifted, pleasant and idealistic guy wouldn't fit in such a story. He wouldn't beat the enemy by something as counter-productive as killing them (meaning their kids will hate you and the whole thing goes on forever) instead he'd seek peace through negotiation and peaceful protest.

With video-game stories being as they are you NEED a jarhead hero. No other type of hero would launch the 1-man assaults on enemy fortifications that we're so fond of seeing in games. No other type of hero would would shoot every single enemy they came across. No other type of hero would go in guns blazing when all logic tells you that single fight is lost and you should retreat.

So yeah, give us a story that doesn't revolve around a lone hero (with possibly a few friends) facing insurmountable odds that can apparently only be beaten by killing just about everyone.

Hagi:
SNIP

Hmm that's very true. Broken Sword allowed George Stobart to beat the enemy through his wits rather than his muscle just due to how the game played out.

My biggest problem, in all honesty, is that people are paying attention to the sex of their protagonist. It's the same with any social issue. It's not that we have too many weak male or female characters, it's that we have too many weak characters. This goes for male protagonists, female protagonists, and side characters. Just, in general, characters tend to lack good writing and solid bases for their personalities, emotions, wants, and desires. Most characters lack any such when taken out of the context of the game.

So, when I see things like this that single out a gender, then I think back to all of those articles a few months back asking for stronger black characters who aren't thieves or criminals. Or the ones that crop up occasionally asking for stronger LGBT role models. Lots of back-and-forth bickering and discussion often comes from them, but they go nowhere because anything that's put in due to a nature of needing to be a strong x lead is going to end up feeling forced.

So instead, we need to start taxing writers with coming up with strong, well-written, highly empathetic characters. That way, it doesn't matter if they're male or female, or gay or straight, or anything, because they're naturally solid characters. People (not just women, or men, or homosexuals, or any other group who feels the need to have a media-based role model) will be able to connect with them.

And for anyone who wants a stronger character, the first step is producing media about these stronger characters. I write what I know, most writers do. So, if you know a certain outlook better, and feel you can make more solid characters under a set of conditions you feel is underrepresented in media, then represent it yourselves. It's not perfect, but the more media we expose to the population at large (and indirectly, the writers who may end up trying to introduce them into newer, wider media forms), the more likely we are to have solid characters who are female, or a minority group, or gay. Instead of having a female, or minority, or homosexual who also happens to be a strong character.

We need more Zhang He's...

Personally I don't really care if a male character is super buff or a slender guy who wears pink armour adorned with butterflies. As long as the character is entertaining and has something memorable about them then I'm fine.

On a more serious note good character development, good writing, flaws and all that stuff apply too but that applies to all characters and not just males.

Moonlight Butterfly:
snip

We actually had a recent, if a tad short thread about this subject. Asked some questions that nicely complements your OP's.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/9.378512-The-Portrayal-of-Men-and-Masculinity-in-Video-Games?page=1

Hjalmar Fryklund:

Moonlight Butterfly:
snip

We actually had a recent, if a tad short thread about this subject. Asked some questions that nicely complements your OP's.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/9.378512-The-Portrayal-of-Men-and-Masculinity-in-Video-Games?page=1

Thanks I hadn't noticed that I will check it out :)

Matthew94:
I'll post this so no one else has to.

image

Yep, there is hardly much variety when it comes to guys in games, it's a shame. At least Mario is fat, he has that going for him.

There are many games that encompass that, but also an equal amount that don't. Its really only a big offender with the more triple A titles to be honest. RTS, most platformers, racing games, mmos, make-your-own-character rpgs, etc don't have this problem. It seems to only be a shooter/action game thing.

Also, I hate most if not all those characters in the picture. We aren't very well represented in gaming as much as people think we are.

I'm personally of the belief that western male main characters don't/can't show emotion because the Japanese characters are hogging it all. JRPG characters alone are so angsty it pretty much makes up for the lack of emotion displayed by every shooter character ever.
(Aside from anger. Western characters have the monopoly on anger)

Matthew94:
I'll post this so no one else has to.

image

Yep, there is hardly much variety when it comes to guys in games, it's a shame. At least Mario is fat, he has that going for him.

1st row:Nathan Hale,Naked Snake,Nathan Drake,Chris Redfield,Mike Thornton
2nd row:???,Norman Jayden,Old Sam Fisher,Commander Shepard,Starkiller
3rd row:Cole Macgrath,Alex Shepard, Tomas "Sev" Sevchenko,Jason Fleming,Max Payne
4th row:Alan Wake,Alec Mason,???,NIko Bellic,Frank West

I'm surprise not see any COD characters like Soap MacTavish or Yuri. Hell I'm surprise not to see Baldur from Too Human that dude screams generic space marine look for a Norse God.

Moonlight Butterfly:

Hjalmar Fryklund:
We actually had a recent, if a tad short thread about this subject. Asked some questions that nicely complements your OP's.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/9.378512-The-Portrayal-of-Men-and-Masculinity-in-Video-Games?page=1

Thanks I hadn't noticed that I will check it out :)

Don't mention it.

On-topic: I tend to find male main characters rather emotionally disjointed and as a result, difficult to root for at times. They respond to their feelings in a rather exaggerated and almost theatrical manner that often goes against their established character.

Conversely, male supporting characters (or even secondary or tertiary main characters) tend to fare a lot better in this particular regard, they often come off as more emotionally wholesome.

I think this is actually a result of pandering to what is perceived to be the mainstream market (depending obviously on what the main market is for the game). The main character has be a safe bet, according to marketers, which in the case of males means emotionless and stoic. But! They must show some kind of feeling lest they be branded as bland.

This in turn leads to taping on jigsaw pieces of emotion that don't really fit with the main personality of the main character. It creates a primarily colorless character with some blips of extremely saturated colors of emotion sprayed on here and there, which makes for a rather garish image of its personality.

...Reflecting on what I've written right now, I realise I've qualified myself rather poorly. Nevertheless, such are my thoughts on the matter.

Hjalmar Fryklund:
snip

Not at all it makes a lot of sense.

Like the writers are trying to put some false character into an otherwise bland brown haired white 30 something bro.

Moonlight Butterfly:

Hjalmar Fryklund:
snip

Not at all it makes a lot of sense.

Like the writers are trying to put some false character into an otherwise bland brown haired white 30 something bro.

Oh, well all right then.

I would definitely say that the real problems with male characters tends to rear their heads when the character takes the role of the protagonist. You look at the supporting cast and you will not find the same problems as bad, if you're even finding a problem at all.

Now, since my system of choice is the DS I do not really find these issues that annoying. As games for the platform were and are quite cheap to produce, writers are often kept on a longer leash.

Funny how many problems in this industry ties back to production costs and profit margins (though the latter doesn't exactly relate to what I am talking about).

Moonlight Butterfly:
I agree with emotional range being one of the biggest problems someone said that Lara Croft's trial by fire would be never done to male protagonist perhaps it should...

Ethan Mars and Lucas Kane begs you to think otherwise. Granted they are both from Quantic Dream, the company which seems to have made it their deal to try and re-shape storytelling in gaming. Still, both of them go through a journey where they have to test their own limits, face their own shortcomings and risk everything. Most importantly, they are both portrayed as emotionally effected by what they go through and their emotional journey is the driving force in both Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain.

If anything Quantic Dream only highlight what NewClassic already pointed out: that the problem in gaming today isn't related as much to gender as it is an all around problem of weakly written characters. The female characters only stand out more because the contemporary discourse has made us more aware of the negative portrayal of women, whereas the male stereotypes hasn't been scrutinized nearly as much.

So perhaps it is time for all these guys that play computer games to start analyzing male characters just as female gamers are deconstructing the female characters. Or maybe it is just time that we started demanding a higher standard in character writing.

Ha, this kind of relates to the conclusion I came to in one of the threads about women in games. The stereotypes exist for literally everyone involved, and quite honestly they suck for everyone. Men don't want to be stuck between brown-haired 30-something white males and extremely effeminate boys, women don't want to be used as something that's just there to be looked at and have no real character representation, black people don't want to just be stuck with the black stereotype... I could go on, but the point is there.

More than anything, I feel the issue that we have now is not one of discrimination but one of poor writing. The writers seem to see it as a kind of "why should I put effort into coming up with a character when there are already pre-established character types I can work with?". You see this attitude a lot in games, and it's actually clear to me that the effort usually just isn't made. There are some exceptions though, like in the Persona series which actually seems to handle minorities fairly well in some ways. The female characters in those games seem really well made, and their dealing with issues of sexuality and such in Persona 4 is apparently really good though I'm yet to actually play it.

Whenever I get the chance to make my own character he always turns out ginger. I have no idea why, but it always looks better.

I think what we're seriously missing from the white 30 something male demographic is epic facial hair. Captain Price's moustache was a good start, but we normally only ever get some stubble or maybe a goatee. Why can't we have a hero with a wizardly level beard, it's not like it'll get in the way.

Yes, my solution to the portrayal of male characters is "More epic beards!". I see nothing wrong with this.

Zantos:
Whenever I get the chance to make my own character he always turns out ginger. I have no idea why, but it always looks better.

I think what we're seriously missing from the white 30 something male demographic is epic facial hair. Captain Price's moustache was a good start, but we normally only ever get some stubble or maybe a goatee. Why can't we have a hero with a wizardly level beard, it's not like it'll get in the way.

Yes, my solution to the portrayal of male characters is "More epic beards!". I see nothing wrong with this.

Epic beards are indeed the way forward, as they can add necessary depth to a character's personality. No, seriously, have you ever seen a character with a beard that isn't interesting?

SpectacularWebHead:
I'm personally of the belief that western male main characters don't/can't show emotion because the Japanese characters are hogging it all. JRPG characters alone are so angsty it pretty much makes up for the lack of emotion displayed by every shooter character ever.
(Aside from anger. Western characters have the monopoly on anger)

I agree with this. Regardless of who started first, western male characters have to be more stoic because if they had a wider emotional palate, they and their games might be compared to a JRPG.

It's kinda like Silent Hill and having characters who aren't sad individuals who are hellbent on finding some lost family member who's probably already dead or something like that. Everyone's kinda just... used to it by now. Even though some characters could stand to take some humility from the Silent Hill bases. Granted, the Silent Hill boys aren't usually ANGRY, but actually kinda emo but not in the sense that makes you think "This reminds me of (JRPG)." Maybe if they made more BLOND or GINGER 30-something-year-olds?

One instance where I can clearly recall the game industry trying to change this fact was Lester the Unlikely. And lookie where that got us. He was so far from "brown-haired 30 something year old" that it actually pissed us off. Maybe they keep them bland because, as it's been mentioned, it's familiar and makes it so that the character doesn't stray too far from typical roots and they avoid any backlash from being "too different" of a character.

I would like to see more age variation and color variation. The one thing I'm not going to back in guys is body type variation, at least not 100%. Honestly, a fat and out of shape middle-aged man is not going to be able to do lots of the stunts that the video game community wants. Neither will a twig, under some circumstances. So you really can't go to the extreme in many games -- the person has to be physically competent, strong, have good endurance, etc.

If you want to play the middle-aged fat guy or the skinny 17-year-old kid, the game has to be pretty much made for that body type. (I could totally see a skinny shrimpy kid in a stealth game, where the whole point is that he *can't* fight, so he has to snipe and skulk. That would be awesome.)

Enthuril:
Ha, this kind of relates to the conclusion I came to in one of the threads about women in games. The stereotypes exist for literally everyone involved, and quite honestly they suck for everyone. Men don't want to be stuck between brown-haired 30-something white males and extremely effeminate boys, women don't want to be used as something that's just there to be looked at and have no real character representation, black people don't want to just be stuck with the black stereotype... I could go on, but the point is there.

More than anything, I feel the issue that we have now is not one of discrimination but one of poor writing. The writers seem to see it as a kind of "why should I put effort into coming up with a character when there are already pre-established character types I can work with?". You see this attitude a lot in games, and it's actually clear to me that the effort usually just isn't made. There are some exceptions though, like in the Persona series which actually seems to handle minorities fairly well in some ways. The female characters in those games seem really well made, and their dealing with issues of sexuality and such in Persona 4 is apparently really good though I'm yet to actually play it.

To repeat myself for a bit, I think in most cases it is a matter of playing it safe, or being forced by marketing to play it safe, as most of the typical male character problems are mostly present in the protagonist, and less so in the supporting cast. So I agree that the issue here is often is just poor writing.

Off-topic: Taking a step back and looking at the broader picture, I am actually kind of wordering if I haven't spotted the reason for why we keep getting locked in these "Female character vs. male character: Whose got it worse?"-debates.

Bear with me being a bit lazy and let me quote another poster out of context from a different thread.

evilthecat:
There's a word the Nostalgia Chick used which I think I'm going to borrow here. The word is linets.

Love interest, non-essential to story.

Okay, so in the typical male-targeted narrative the hero saves the world and gets the girl, but in many cases other than maybe needing her to take a few plot-advancing actions which aren't driven by anything unique about her character and could be performed by any minor character with roughly the same effect, the girl doesn't really need to be there most of the time. She is often literally just there to get some boobies and a perfunctory kiss on screen.

And even if the character isn't a linets, it's often just because she's there to provide secondary motivation. "Oh no, the villain has kidnapped my girl! I mean I was going to fight him anyway because he's a dick and he's building a giant death ray to destroy the moon, but this just gives me even more motivation because now it's personal!" It's like having a support character die, it's a cheap way of ratcheting up the tension by showing that shit just got real.

Ignoring the context of which the quoted post was made in and strictly focusing on just the content what just quoted, I see this as a description of a very prevalent stock female supporting character. Again, note that it is supporting character. A supporting character that is very often derided for reasons you most likely already have heard of.

With the above in mind (and my reasoning for why male main characters tend to be bad) as context, I will present my hypothesis here:

When a discussion about the poor quality of female characters pops up, you will usually see somebody replying that the quality of male characters is just as bad, if not worse. Then cue the fighting where no one can find a middle ground and opinion polarization galore. And I think the reason for this predicament is that the debating parties are arguing from different perspectives.

See, if you approach this from a writer´s perspective you would find a dull and uncompelling protagonist (which in the case of video games is mostly likely a male) a bigger problem than a dull and uncompelling supporting character (which these "linets" often make for).

However, if you look at this from a "portrayal-of-women" perspective, you would find the fact that even female supporting characters (remember that supporting characters are supposedly where writers have some leeway to take more risk with) are portrayed dully a greater cause for alarm, especially when you consider the lack of female protagonists.

The two sides will never reach the aforemention middle ground or agree what to focus on first because of this.

I probably didn't articulate myself properly here, but such are my thoughts.

EDIT: Fixed some poor phrasings.

Hjalmar Fryklund:

Enthuril:
Ha, this kind of relates to the conclusion I came to in one of the threads about women in games. The stereotypes exist for literally everyone involved, and quite honestly they suck for everyone. Men don't want to be stuck between brown-haired 30-something white males and extremely effeminate boys, women don't want to be used as something that's just there to be looked at and have no real character representation, black people don't want to just be stuck with the black stereotype... I could go on, but the point is there.

More than anything, I feel the issue that we have now is not one of discrimination but one of poor writing. The writers seem to see it as a kind of "why should I put effort into coming up with a character when there are already pre-established character types I can work with?". You see this attitude a lot in games, and it's actually clear to me that the effort usually just isn't made. There are some exceptions though, like in the Persona series which actually seems to handle minorities fairly well in some ways. The female characters in those games seem really well made, and their dealing with issues of sexuality and such in Persona 4 is apparently really good though I'm yet to actually play it.

To repeat myself for a bit, I think in most cases it is a matter of playing it safe, or being forced by marketing to play it safe, as most of the typical male character problems are mostly present in the protagonist, and less so in the supporting cast. So I agree that the issue here is often is just poor writing.

Off-topic: Taking a step back and looking at the broader picture, I am actually kind of wordering if I haven't spotted the reason for why we keep having these "Female character vs. male character: Whose got it worse?"-debates.

Bear with me being a bit lazy and let me quote another poster out of context from a different thread.

evilthecat:
There's a word the Nostalgia Chick used which I think I'm going to borrow here. The word is linets.

Love interest, non-essential to story.

Okay, so in the typical male-targeted narrative the hero saves the world and gets the girl, but in many cases other than maybe needing her to take a few plot-advancing actions which aren't driven by anything unique about her character and could be performed by any minor character with roughly the same effect, the girl doesn't really need to be there most of the time. She is often literally just there to get some boobies and a perfunctory kiss on screen.

And even if the character isn't a linets, it's often just because she's there to provide secondary motivation. "Oh no, the villain has kidnapped my girl! I mean I was going to fight him anyway because he's a dick and he's building a giant death ray to destroy the moon, but this just gives me even more motivation because now it's personal!" It's like having a support character die, it's a cheap way of ratcheting up the tension by showing that shit just got real.

Ignoring the context of which the quoted post was made in and strictly focusing on just the content what just quoted, I see this as a description of a very prevalent stock female supporting character. Again, note that it is supporting character. A supporting character that is very often derided for reasons you most likely already have heard of.

With the above in mind (and my reasoning for why male main characters tend to be bad) as context, I will present my hypothesis here:

When a discussion about the poor quality of female characters pops up, you will usually see somebody replying that the quality of male characters is just as bad, if not worse. Then cue the fighting where no one can find a middle ground and opinion polarization galore. And I think the reason for this predicament is that the debating parties are arguing from different perspectives.

See, if you approach this from a writer´s perspective you would a dull and uncompelling protagonist, in the case of video games mostly a male one, a bigger problem than a dull and uncompelling supporting character (which these "linets" often make for).

However, if you look at this from a "portrayal-of-women" perspective, you would find the fact that even female supporting characters (remember that supporting characters are supposedly where writers have some leeway to take more risk with) are portrayed dully a greater cause for alarm, especially when you consider the lack of female protagonists.

The two sides will never reach the aforemention middle ground or agree what to focus on first because of this.

I probably didn't articulate myself properly here, but such are my thoughts.

I completely agree, if I've understood what you've said as much as I feel I have. Lack of willingness to take a risk on a main character causes the majority of characters to feel bland and therefore removes any kind of interesting aspects they could have had. This is the same kind of thing that plagues female representations in some ways, as the writers would rather stick with a pre-conceived format that works than try and make a female character that's not like that because of the fear of some kind of backlash. I feel that neither males or females have got it worse, but that perhaps everyone gets it in a different way. While males are treated unfairly by only having male main characters that fit a stereotype they in no way can relate to, females and many other minorities have the same kind of issue with side characters and the fact that they're not represented as main characters much. Does that mean that men are treated less unfairly than anyone else? No, not really. The fact is that relating to side characters still doesn't provide much for males, as far as I know. I guess that's why I play RPGs more than anything, the ability to craft a main character I can actually relate to and place myself into in some ways.

we want our male heroes to show some emotions but if they do everyone calls them "emo like Cloud"

so it seems like we're stuck we got manly action hero and emo JRPG guy. So which one would yall rather have bland bro-dude or the emo guy everyone hates as the main character

ForgottenPr0digy:
we want our male heroes to show some emotions but if they do everyone calls them "emo like Cloud"

I haven't ever heard anyone call James Sunderland "emo like Cloud".

Matthew94:
I'll post this so no one else has to.

image

Yep, there is hardly much variety when it comes to guys in games, it's a shame. At least Mario is fat, he has that going for him.

I kinda think that Niko Bellic should be replaced on that pic. Yeah, he's a brown haired 30 something white male. But he's also Serbian, which I think makes him more unique than those other dudes. An ex-soviet countryman really stands out against a sea of white american male protagonists.

But yeah, the point still stands.

I think half the problem of male protagonists being quite similar in games is that so many games involve mowing down tonnes of dudes. That kinda calls for tough macho men.

Not that there can't be exceptions.

ChupathingyX:
We need more Zhang He's...

NewClassic:
My biggest problem, in all honesty, is that people are paying attention to the sex of their protagonist. It's the same with any social issue. It's not that we have too many weak male or female characters, it's that we have too many weak characters. This goes for male protagonists, female protagonists, and side characters. Just, in general, characters tend to lack good writing and solid bases for their personalities, emotions, wants, and desires. Most characters lack any such when taken out of the context of the game.

It's not that I can't identify with a protagonist who isn't of the same sex, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity etc, but I wish I wouldn't always have to.

It would be nice having a bit diversity, and instead of saying that I want more female of gay characters, that's what I'd like. Diversity.

A lot of protagonists are dull, because they are sort of blank slates. (which is a one way to tell the story, it's also possible to tell a story where the protagonist has a very strong personality and goals)
So I think that's why there are so many dull male protagonists. Protagonists tend to be male, and protagonists tend to be dull.

Aurora Firestorm:
I would like to see more age variation and color variation. The one thing I'm not going to back in guys is body type variation, at least not 100%. Honestly, a fat and out of shape middle-aged man is not going to be able to do lots of the stunts that the video game community wants. )

Depends on the game.

Eternal darkness, for example, had normal people, including a fat and out-of-shape middle aged man (or two), as it's protagonists, and I loved it.
They were normal people sucked in these weird events. Something like a horror game, or where the protagonist doesn't need to do physical stunts, but fights with magic, for example, could easily have someone more normal as the protagonist.

I don't really care who the main character is in a game, or what they look like. I think that the characters are designed so that they fit in with whatever world they exist in. Gears of War for example, would be a pretty stupid game if Marcus Fenix was a skinny teenager with glasses, so to fit in 's a burly hunk of man with extra man added, and I really don't mind that.

The only games where I project myself onto the character I'm playing as are ones where you create your own, then I make them look like me, and choose dialogue options and whatever that are as close to what I'd say in the situation.

Games are for the most part, a fantasy, and I want my fantasy characters to be fantastical. Whether that means muscley guys in huge suits of armour or attractive girls in revealing clothes.

What I want is developers of AAA titles to a) Play through Silent Hill 2 b) Do what Konami did and make a protagonist with flaws and emotion and c) If they MUST have GRRR Macho Broships do what Army Of Two did and make them fist bump and play rock paper scissors cause that's way mor amusing than stone faced, emotionless seriousness in games like that...

Oh and more Garcia Hotspur... Much more Garcia Hotspur...

Davey Woo:
I don't really care who the main character is in a game, or what they look like. I think that the characters are designed so that they fit in with whatever world they exist in. Gears of War for example, would be a pretty stupid game if Marcus Fenix was a skinny teenager with glasses, so to fit in 's a burly hunk of man with extra man added, and I really don't mind that.

The only games where I project myself onto the character I'm playing as are ones where you create your own, then I make them look like me, and choose dialogue options and whatever that are as close to what I'd say in the situation.

Games are for the most part, a fantasy, and I want my fantasy characters to be fantastical. Whether that means muscley guys in huge suits of armour or attractive girls in revealing clothes.

And this pretty much sums up what is wrong with the lazy writing in games today. Think about, for a moment, why people remember movies like Platoon, Saving Private Ryan or Das Boot. Because those movies took stereotypical power fantasies related to the archtype of the manly soldier and turned them around. Even in its' most flag-waving USA-patriotic SPR is still a movie about the futility of war and how it ruins lives.

Gears of War and Halo (or this) even used the emotionally evocative in their commercials to try and boost their sales. Which means that the gamemakers and/or their marketing department realizes that there's a market for the emotional in gaming. Yet we still get "silent genetically-engineered super soldier" and "muscle bound mountain of a man with a gun mounting a chainsaw" as the main characters.

The capacity is there obviously, since even the two poster-games for "mindless murder" manages to infuse character and emotion ino their commerical, so what is lacking is simply the will. Which speaks volumes for the audience of games today.

Enthuril:
I completely agree, if I've understood what you've said as much as I feel I have. Lack of willingness to take a risk on a main character causes the majority of characters to feel bland and therefore removes any kind of interesting aspects they could have had. This is the same kind of thing that plagues female representations in some ways, as the writers would rather stick with a pre-conceived format that works than try and make a female character that's not like that because of the fear of some kind of backlash. I feel that neither males or females have got it worse, but that perhaps everyone gets it in a different way. While males are treated unfairly by only having male main characters that fit a stereotype they in no way can relate to, females and many other minorities have the same kind of issue with side characters and the fact that they're not represented as main characters much. Does that mean that men are treated less unfairly than anyone else? No, not really. The fact is that relating to side characters still doesn't provide much for males, as far as I know. I guess that's why I play RPGs more than anything, the ability to craft a main character I can actually relate to and place myself into in some ways.

I disagree that both genders have it equally bad. If I would line up the major writing issues that typically afflict the two genders in video games it would look like this:

Male character problems: Poorly portayed protagonists.

Female character problems: Poorly portayed supporting characters. Lack of protagonists.

Not only do females get laden with two problems, but I would also say that the lack of portrayal is bigger a problem than poor portrayal.

On the other hand I would also question the need to actually relate to a character. I know I sure didn't really care or relate much about most main characters I have played as, but I am also not convinced that I would necessairly hold it against them.

I know he keeps popping up in these debates from time to time, but let's use Kratos as an example (again) here. Now I haven't played the God of War games so I am very much speaking from a position of ignorance here, but in any case, Kratos is very, very often described as a typical male power fantasy. And I would actually challenge that idea, to a degree a least. There may very well be kids and man-children who would really like to be him, but for myself (and what little I know of him) I could only really bring myself to care about playing further out of some kind of morbid curiosity to see what new brutality he is going to perform next.

It is for the same reason I kept reading on in Therèse Raquin. I didn't relate at all to the two main characters nor did I care about them as people (in both cases same as how I'd likely see Kratos), but because I wanted to see what boundaries they were going to overstep next. They were just simply fascinating to watch. Same with the Boss in Saints Row 2. In both these cases what the characters do is far more interesting to watch or perform.

Sidenote: While recently playing Dragon VI´s remake on the DS I am kind of starting to wonder if silent protagonists aren't a blessing in disguise, when I consider my own point about pandering main characters.

Finally, I will say one more thing about relating to characters. I do not see why men can only really relate to men or women can only really relate to women. There are some things that only men will experience and something only women will experience, but in most other cases, we share the experiences and feelings. To think that you can only truly relate to someone of your own gender seems like a very pointless, artifical wall between the sexes, and I think everyone needs to take a long hard look at themselves to if there is something they can do to tear that wall down as much as possible.

Hoo boy, that was long. Time to eat!

ForgottenPr0digy:

Matthew94:
I'll post this so no one else has to.

image

Yep, there is hardly much variety when it comes to guys in games, it's a shame. At least Mario is fat, he has that going for him.

1st row:Nathan Hale,Naked Snake,Nathan Drake,Chris Redfield,Mike Thornton
2nd row:???,Norman Jayden,Old Sam Fisher,Commander Shepard,Starkiller
3rd row:Cole Macgrath,Alex Shepard, Tomas "Sev" Sevchenko,Jason Fleming,Max Payne
4th row:Alan Wake,Alec Mason,???,NIko Bellic,Frank West

I'm surprise not see any COD characters like Soap MacTavish or Yuri. Hell I'm surprise not to see Baldur from Too Human that dude screams generic space marine look for a Norse God.

I think your '???' is Jack Slate from Dead to Rights.

Hjalmar Fryklund:

Enthuril:
I completely agree, if I've understood what you've said as much as I feel I have. Lack of willingness to take a risk on a main character causes the majority of characters to feel bland and therefore removes any kind of interesting aspects they could have had. This is the same kind of thing that plagues female representations in some ways, as the writers would rather stick with a pre-conceived format that works than try and make a female character that's not like that because of the fear of some kind of backlash. I feel that neither males or females have got it worse, but that perhaps everyone gets it in a different way. While males are treated unfairly by only having male main characters that fit a stereotype they in no way can relate to, females and many other minorities have the same kind of issue with side characters and the fact that they're not represented as main characters much. Does that mean that men are treated less unfairly than anyone else? No, not really. The fact is that relating to side characters still doesn't provide much for males, as far as I know. I guess that's why I play RPGs more than anything, the ability to craft a main character I can actually relate to and place myself into in some ways.

I disagree that both genders have it equally bad. If I would line up the major writing issues that typically afflict the two genders in video games it would look like this:

Male character problems: Poorly portayed protagonists.

Female character problems: Poorly portayed supporting characters. Lack of protagonists.

Not only do females get laden with two problems, but I would also say that the lack of portrayal is bigger a problem than poor portrayal.

On the other hand I would also question the need to actually relate to a character. I know I sure didn't really care or relate much about most main characters I have played as, but I am also not convinced that I would necessairly hold it against them.

I know he keeps popping up in these debates from time to time, but let's use Kratos as an example (again) here. Now I haven't played the God of War games so I am very much speaking from a position of ignorance here, but in any case, Kratos is very, very often described as a typical male power fantasy. And I would actually challenge that idea, to a degree a least. There may very well be kids and man-children who would really like to be him, but for myself (and what little I know of him) I could only really bring myself to care about playing further out of some kind of morbid curiosity to see what new brutality he is going to perform next.

It is for the same reason I kept reading on in Therèse Raquin. I didn't relate at all to the two main characters nor did I care about them as people (in both cases same as how I'd likely see Kratos), but because I wanted to see what boundaries they were going to overstep next. They were just simply fascinating to watch. Same with the Boss in Saints Row 2. In both these cases what the characters do is far more interesting to watch or perform.

Sidenote: While recently playing Dragon VI´s remake on the DS I am kind of starting to wonder if silent protagonists aren't a blessing in disguise, when I consider my own point about pandering main characters.

Finally, I will say one more thing about relating to characters. I do not see why men can only really relate to men or women can only really relate to women. There are some things that only men will experience and something only women will experience, but in most other cases, we share the experiences and feelings. To think that you can only truly relate to someone of your own gender seems like a very pointless, artifical wall between the sexes, and I think everyone needs to take a long hard look at themselves to if there is something they can do to tear that wall down as much as possible.

Hoo boy, that was long. Time to eat!

I guess half of this was my flaw in wording what I was trying to say. The point I was trying to make is that everyone has it bad, so why focus on one group of people? How about we stop saying "there needs to be better female characters in games so that women are more represented" or "there needs to be better gay characters in games" and just say "there needs to be a more diverse range of characters in both personality and physical appearance"? And your points about relating to characters are entirely true, I just feel that the argument about being able to relate to characters is tossed around a lot which is kind of silly in itself. Being able to immerse yourself in the world of the character and understand the character you're playing as is important, but relating to the character can sometimes do more harm than good in terms of the overall experience.

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