Types of gaming main characters...

Over the years, there have been many thousand games. Many of these said games had main characters, or heroes. However, over the years, the demand for better plots and more original ideas have radically changed the concept of the hero. As far as I care to explain, there are four kinds of heroes in existance, although more categories may exist.

  1. Flawless Hero: The Flawless Hero is like something pulled out of a storybook fairy tale. They are usually handsome young men or beautiful young woman, and often come from high social ranks (many times being princes or princesses). They seek to bring justice and peace to the world, and seek to drive out the evil villains.

Nearly all modern games no longer feature these kinds of heroes, mostly because they’re dull as hell. They have absolutely no flaws (physical or character in nature) AT ALL. Their quests are usually no more than rescuing their true love or stopping some great evil for no reason. However, the 8-bit and 16-bit eras of gaming are flooded with these characters, so be careful where you tread there.

  1. Flawed Hero: This is another hero, determined to fight on the side of good. However, this kind of hero has some deep problems, either deep in his past or in the present, and thus has a personal reason for going after evil. It is a battle against the evil forces that have ruined his or her life.

This kind of main character is more interesting than the Flawless Hero, mostly because they seem more human. We can identify with people that have problems more than we can with icons of perfection. These kinds of heroes are used in many games up to the present day.

  1. Antihero: This is similar to the Flawed Hero, only much darker. Antiheroes do not have an actual side; they simply have an agenda, and seek to get it accomplished by any means necessary. Often, they are misunderstood, adding to the drama of the situation. They are often portrayed as violent, boardering on completely insane.

This is THE most often used main character type in modern gaming. Every action game and RPG- hell, every genre in existance- needs an antihero nowadays. They are fairly easy to identify with, because we can see ourselves in their shoes; they are reacting to incredible problems with force.

  1. Villain: Most games have you playing as a good guy of some kind. Some games, however, put you in the shoes of an actual villain. The villain’s aims may not always be evil, but unlike the Antihero, the Villain doesn’t care about what happens along the way; he or she just wants something, and will slaughter everyone in his or her path to get it.

This is, sadly, the most underused category, and frankly, it’s one of the most interesting to work with. Often, if an evil character is playable, he or she’s part of the Antihero category. Villains are almost always nothing more than bosses or enemies to face. Outside of the Legacy of Kain and GTA series, virtually no games let you play as an actual villain.

So, was this better than my last tripe-filled essay, or was it just a waste of time?

I agree that the villain is a very underused type of character. There was always something incredibly fun about playing Kain in Blood Omen, and getting to be evil in the game. I think it is becoming more common now that games developers realise where the success of games like GTA stem from. There were a couple of GTA rip-offs last year like The Getaway, and one where the whole purpose was to start riots (I forget the name), that only really sold because the main characters were villains. I hope that there will be more games developed like Black and White where you can effectively choose between being good and evil.

I disagree, many open-ended games that allow a certain degree of freedom allow you to play your Main character as a villain. I remember I made about 60K gold in Romancing SaGa 3 when I started making all the “bad” decisions, but then abusing those decisions to my advantage. Other games, Morrowind for instance, also allow said playing. I think the problem is that most people are so morally ingrained against taking villainous actions, that even if they’re able to, they won’t think about doing it. It’s only games that emphasize the villainous aspects that people seem to think can be played as villainous.

Originally posted by Green Mage
I think the problem is that most people are so morally ingrained against taking villainous actions, that even if they’re able to, they won’t think about doing it.

Fortunately, I suffer from no such handicap. :-p :mwahaha:

And I have to agree, being a villain is fun- as a hero, you have to be… well… heroic. :thud: While it’s fun for a while, it does ultimately suck. Flawed heroes are good, mainly because they actually have depth of character. Usually, the only depth in a flawless hero is in their man-cleavage. :thud: More games must put people in the roles of the villains- who’s the most fondly remembered character from FFVI? Kefka. Who had all the cool lines and scenes from FFVII? Ol’ Sephy. It’s quite simple, really.

There’s one other type that should be considered - Green Mage and Angel kind of touched on it.

  1. Avatar: The avatar is a blank slate. Almost always without a history of importance before the beginning of the game, this character’s personality is created by the player as time goes on.

This hero is usually seen in MMORPGs, D+D games, and the Sims.

First of all, no, your essay wasn’t a waste of time, d. I found it interesting, and quite honestly, I prefer threads like this to “LOL!” or “FLAME YOU!!” threads.

Personally, I don’t like playing villains or antiheroes… being the bleeding heart I am, I cannot empathize with them. But, I admit you CAN write interesting stories with them, as in your example of Kain.

I do prefer the tragic hero to the flawless hero, as well… more interesting. BUT, you CAN write good stuff even with “perfect” heroes… I have enjoyed many stories with Superman, for example.

But I think you left out ONE type of hero:

THE NORMAL GUY: This guy is just like most of us. Oh sure, he MAY have some superhuman power, or some special destiny to fulfill… the thing is, inside, he doesn’t consider himself better (or worse) than most. He WILL help people because “well, that’s what most people do, right? I just couldn’t let her die! But, what do you mean, I gotta SAVE THE WORLD NOW?? ME??” I think many RPG heroes fall in this category. The hero from TALES OF DESTINY certainly did. He was pretty much a lucky fool. : )

I like this kind of character because it proves that, if put into the right situation, most of us would do the right thing- and that winning isn’t always due to virtue, brains or power… sometimes its luck!

I think the categories are too broad and need to be explained more. As you pointed out the Flawed Hero and the Antihero have similarities.

The “Avatar” guy mentioned before can also be kinda clumped here.Take for instance, Cloud from FF7, he can be categorized by all three depending on the time of the game, even “villain”. I’d also like to mention that a villain is not necessarily bent on slaughtering anyone, a villain can wreck havoc in most other ways. Don’t confuse villain with boring character :stuck_out_tongue:

Of course, few examples can be provided for these sub categories, but Im just putting my imput in.

It’s good to have a “flawless hero,” in, even if just as a supporting character. Without one, you don’t really know where you are heading, or what you are fighting for. Without one, the story seems to be bad guys vs. worse guys.
These usually end up being my favorite characters because they give the party true direction, like Sturm in DragonLance, Lavitz in LoD, Cyan in FFVI, and Mareg in Grandia II.
(Flawless heroes can have problems, too).
The only problem I’ve found with them is they usually die. They are heroes that are truly good, so they end up making the noble sacrifice.

I’d like to add something - a subcategory to Villains.

  1. Big ugly Monster: These are big baddies that have a personality only half the time. You see this in 16-bit and earlier. Today, you only see it in kids’ games. It is extremely rare to see this in any T or M games, with the exception of sci-fi games where you fight giant bugs.
  2. Pretty-boys: These guys are never interesting in video games. They have no personality, and no logical backstory. Their popularity is only due to looks and usually a big sword. You see this in a majority of video games today. The “Big ugly Monsters” that a pretty-boy turned into also fits in this category.
  3. Kefka: The transition between big ugly monster and pretty-boy.

Being a villain may seem interesting, but it’s also very off-putting. Coincidentally I just downloaded Blood Omen today and played it for a few minutes, at which point I got so disgusted with it I just deleted it out of hand. Having to suck people’s blood to restore HP is ridiculously nasty and really rattled me. Games that have you playing a villain are those that will have everyone up in arms against the VG community (see GTA Vice City), and I can see their point in that you’re basically being rewarded for doing very bad things.

Maybe it’s okay to have one or two games a year with this kind of main character, but I’d rather stay away from it.

Also note that it’s not just games that have to have heroes. Regular stories, TV, movies, etc. also have them - and very rarely will you have a villain in the starring (protagonistic) role even in stories which you don’t control. That’s because villains are supposed to be punished; that’s how morals get given to us.

Originally posted by Dark Paladin

3) Kefka: The transition between big ugly monster and pretty-boy.

Kefka was niether really ugly or pretty and he was damn interesting.

He didn’t really do anything aside from becoming a cliched psychopath. His character had no depth, really, so I don’t understand any of the Kefka-love :\

Actually I found him pretty funny.

Originally posted by StarStorm
Kefka was niether really ugly or pretty

Hence the word “transition.”
His final form looked kind of like a pretty-boy, but he was a clown, and automatic ugly.

Fallout 2 is the perfect example of a game where everyone here can be satisfied. Most people probably went the goodie goodie route and became the shield of hope. I however went the opposite route and became known as the scourge of the wastes. Prostitution, blackmail, random homicide, drug addiction, and being a porn star were all great touches to add. Hell you could even be a slaver in the new age. Or you could go kill the slavers guild and be paid a handsome ammount. Games have to evolve to put you in a more engrossing environment. Thats why GTA and Morrowind are so well liked. The near open ended gameplay is what people want now.

Why does a character need to be partly evil to be interesting? The object of games with flawed heroes is often to resolve whatever problems they have. It seems ridiculous that, by succeeding, a hero ceases to be interesting. Cecil is an interesting and likable character before he becomes a paladin, but I like him even more afterwards. I don’t think a character needs to visibly suffer from a flaw to be a good character. Crono shows no sign of any flaw, but he’s possibly my favorite character in any game. It’s not just because he’s a hero. I think what matters to me is that, in my eyes, his character shows what a real hero would be like. I could imagine heroism coming from someone like him.

I can still like flawed heroes. For example, I think Cloud is an outstanding, realistically modeled character. In my opinion, it’s the realism that matters. It’s important to ask, if there were a real person with this character, would he or she be a great person? Is the game’s portrayal misleading? The worst sort of game, I think, is about a hero who, by virtue of being special somehow, becomes the best, strongest, and most popular person around (coughTidus). It’s an escapist’s fantasy.