My Hero

Most protagonists in video games will be a type of Hero. And as mentioned in a previous post, the hero will have a goal which enables to channel their personality through. With the help of Game Writing: Narrative Skills for Videogames, the personality section explains the position of a hero and different types. I also looked through the book 1000 game heroes, just to add visual flavor to the endless black and white squiggles. Interestingly, this book puts heroes in categories according to genre, classics (could also be based on nostalgia), Licensed heroes, strange and sexy. Although its not rich in information, it’s come in handy for visual research, and associating with stereotypes.

The Traditional Hero

Game Writing states that heroes come in all shapes and sizes (…yeah, sure.. if they’re not human) but then it does point out the most common to be of a traditional, strong, intelligent and noble type that goes about saving the weak, adventuring and restoring happiness. It then gives an example of Link from the Zelda series, who is in the magical category in 1000 games.
Link is devoted to Princess Zelda and goes through all sorts of adventures, including time travel. What I think puts Zelda in any sort of category of heroism is the nostalgic value he has both as a title and from a personal view of the player. As Zelda is a silent character, we see ourselves in him, running through the forest just like many of us at the time of playing would of done. Which is great because the idea came to Miyamoto’s mind when he thought back to his childhood, doing the same thing!
Batman! Super intelligent, super rich, and super buff. Bruce Wayne uses his wealth and intellect to create his super persona, Batman, in order to face his evil nemesis’ and protect his city. Being a comic hero, everyone already has a familiarity with Batman and understands his past, which leads to the empathy of players when fighting crime in the suit of Batman.

The Reluctant Hero

Now these heroes don’t willingly dress up in latex and tights to save the day but are actually thrown into their role, whether its to protect themselves or those around them, or just to do the right thing because for some reason (and according to the game) they’re the only ones who can do it.
Take Gordon Freeman from Half-Life, fighting his way through an experiment gone wrong in order to survive. Survival is one reason for players to feel involve, but I think its his physical appearance and job that makes him so likable and relatable. He has the classic association to what a ‘geek’ may look like, and as the audience seems to be of that type, players feel as though one of their people is finally in the spot light! And on top of that, he’s a total science nerd! Though this could be an offensive stereotype I’m putting out there, I will point out that its the most real one to relate to without having to emotionally scar the player and make them seem too out of the ordinary.

Another reluctant hero is Raziel, who is betrayed by his master Kain and condemned. Able to escape, but completely mutilated and eroded to the point of losing his lower jaw, Raziel swears vengeance on Kain, as he gains strength by sucking the souls of those he fight, he comes upon a secret which places Nosgoth (the kingdom Kain hails) on his shoulders, which makes him responsible for its safety.

Anti-Heroes

Like the reluctant hero, but to the extreme. These guys will have no intentions of being good, and will not always have dashing good looks; which emphasizes their absolute reluctance of doing something heroic. Take for instance Kratos, who again has been mentioned in previous posts. Although his main personal quest is to deal with the ones who have wronged him, his actions ultimately lead to the balance of the world.

He Made Me Do It!

Personality. The most vital ingredient when making a character, and the bridge between player and avatar to connect them both. These characters will have a purpose in their game which affects how they act and what their morals are either against the players will or according to how the player progresses. And it’s decisions like these that influence the player and manipulates their decisions or views in game.

Kratos_to_the_extrmem

Obey the God of War

Lets take Kratos, from the God of War series. Tormented by his past, wearing the ashes of his family, and wronged by almost everyone, its pretty obvious that this guy is a very unhappy man. And angry. Really angry. Right from the start menu we are looking into the face of our protagonist, with not even a glimmer of content present on his face. Gradually his anger rises in later installment, as his body moves with every breath he takes, staring right into your soul. This one-to-one approach puts the player in a position of complete obedience to Kratos, and almost harbors his rage when learning more about his story.
In his blinding rage, Kratos rarely holds any consideration for anyone that crosses his path, and if killing that being gets them out of his way, then so be it, and the player can’t argue with this. Even when dealing with helpless people, anyone showing signs of weakness and of no use to Kratos, will be dealt with against players will and gradually they will feel as though these actions are necessary. The players morals are diminished when put into the role of a raging badass, and even their conscience will be muted because of the godly powers they have at their fingertips. And with that feeling buzzing through their veins, having sex with mythical babes feels like a much deserved reward. But not always do we submit ourselves to these emotionless actions and actually feel a moral engagement, a cringe, a twitch of pain or remorse for the crimes committed.

In the book Game Writing: Narrative Skills for Videogames, there is a chapter about character personality, and in one section mentions how personality can be used to conceal purpose. Which is where our buddy Kratos is mentioned, where he kills a man in order to open a bridge to further is journey. The man is depicted as an object of gameplay, such as the rope for the bride, rather than another being.

However, we do come across many games that give us the choice to act according to how we feel, which reflects on good or bad karma and effects both how the character is seen both visually and socially (in-game). For example, Fallout 3 and infamous have a good and bad system that spreads through that virtual world. NPC’s will react according to what the players moral views stand. So if Cole takes the route of ‘infamous’, there will be posters depicting him as a villain and citizens will not be cheering for him. But this is all due to the players decisions!

Sexism in games

Should Video games perpetuate gender and racial stereotypes?

This is quite a touchy subject that’s always caught in the crossfire of arguments and discussion. The main focused victims of sexism are females who are proclaim to have issues with how they are depicted within games and are treated for playing them. Such online discussion about female players became known through Twitter with the hashtag “#1reasonwhy”, which came about when Luke Crane asked “Why are there so few lady game creators?“. Many responses raised varied points such as how they were ignored, sexist slurs, not catering to the designs of over-sexualised characters and sexual harassment. On the positive side, another tag, “#1reasontobe” was made to encourage women to speak up and follow their aspirations, and just like the negatives were listed, many more positives were brought up.

Women in games are widely shown as busty, curvaceous babes, either as a damsels in distress or kicking ass. But these physical aesthetics make many uncomfortable, especially women, as it’s argued that these characters are not realistic. This however is the same for males as they will typically be tall with a ‘heroic’ body build. But, this is not the only body shape for both playable characters and NPC’s, unlike the limited build for women.

As games are becoming more cinematic, sexual themes have become more present, and are presented in a number of ways. Such as eye candy which isn’t always a busty babe in a bikini but can just be a cute chick in the team, never the less, it has to be an attractive woman (or man!) to give the game more desirable. Nudity, whether its partial or a complete birthday suit, many women seem to be losing more and more clothes for reasons that seem to exist for the heck of existing. For example in the later installments of the Soul Calibur series, when a character is hit enough, items of clothing will break off, which in the case of the custom character- based on what their underwear is set as- will be stripped to their underwear.
In God Of Wars case, some women (or humanoid women) will be nude to present its time, and though it might be done in a casual historic way, it is definitely seen as something else, especially with the option of joining beautiful women in bed.
There are a lot of cases where having a female avatar will get attention from male players; whether that attention is wanted or not. But it’s the negative attention that makes female gamers uncomfortable. Other users will harass female gamers, discussing topics outside of the game that are not seen as charming, shall I say. This will lead to players having a disdainful experience and might either put them off playing or making a new avatar that is a male or not very pleasing to the eye.

“Stygian Physic is big, black, and male. I created him that way because I didn’t want to get hit on all the time. I wanted to be noticed for my skills, not my pixel-boobs. By playing as a guy, I found that people treated me differently. Being a guy enabled me to form relationships that I would never otherwise be able to experience.”
Rebecca Glasure, Alter Egos: Avatars and their Creators, Robbie Cooper.

Other References:

God Of War series, SCE Santa Monica Studio, Sony Computer Entertainment America.

Soul Series, Namco.

Fruzsina Eordogh, Slate, Video Game Industry Has Twitter Powwow On Sexism With #1ReasonWhy, http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/11/27/_1reasonwhy_hashtag_video_game_industry_has_twitter_powwow_on_sexism.html

Jeremy Render, Sexism in Video Games, Cheat Code Central, http://www.cheatcc.com/extra/sexisminvideogames2.html#.UPiAyB1g9vd

Laura Bates, The Independent, Art Imitating Life: How Sexism in Video Games Mirrors Real-Life Gender Imbalance, http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/art-imitating-life-how-sexism-in-video-games-mirrors-reallife-gender-imbalance-8381426.html

Mary Hamilton, The Guardian, #1reasonwhy: the hashtag that exposed game industry sexism, http://m.guardian.co.uk/technology/gamesblog/2012/nov/28/games-industry-sexism-on-twitter