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Posted by Sweep (10595 posts) -

Be warned, there are brief Bioshock Infinite spoilers ahead.

After discussing Bioshock Infinite with a friend, a game I haven't played since it was first released in 2013, I wanted to revisit some of the criticism that shrouded the game after it's launch and see how well they held up. Browsing through articles and reviews, I noticed that a lot of people seemed to have an issue with the characters in the game, specifically DeWitt.

We hear DeWitt repeatedly emphasise that there is no difference whatsoever between Comstock and Fitzroy, which is an astoundingly asinine assertion. Criticising a bloody uprising is fair enough, but to tar racism and revolution with the same brush and then dismiss the entire topic? That isn't just oversimplification, that's verging on cowardice.

Which started me down a path, considering whether it's OK for the protagonist in a game to be unpleasant, or imperfect. In some instances, such as with Kratos or Vegeta, we're happy to accept and even enjoy their moral corruption. So what is it that causes that inconsistency?

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I've had similar discussions with people before about The Name Of The Wind. The protagonist, Kvothe, is frequently arrogant, sexist, and demonstrates a plethora of unhealthy attitudes towards women which made me think, in spite of what the story apparently wants you to believe, that he's a bit of a twat. This is offset by the fact that an adult version of Kvothe is dictating his story from memory, the implication being that the story has been romanticized and exaggerated in equal measure depending on the current level of self-loathing Kvothe himself is experiencing at that exact point in time; clearly bitter and filled with regret over his actions it's difficult to tell if he's deliberately making his younger self seem obnoxious because he feels that he deserves the disdain of his audience, or if that's completely unintentional and the author, Patrick Rothfuss, genuinely thinks these are admirable and heroic characteristics. As I've said before, he's either a very good author or a very bad one. From the interviews with the author that followed I'd lean towards the latter, though he does seem to be making an effort to improve.

Ready Player One (the book, let's not talk about the film) is similarly subject to criticism - not only because the protagonist Wade Watts is a complete bellend, but because the author has repeatedly demonstrated in interviews that he is oblivious to this fact. The other characters glorify Wade's problematic behavior with starry eyes, making the entire novel deeply uncomfortable.

So does writing a "bad" character mean the book is automatically bad? For a story to succeed is a protagonist obligated to be virtuous and embody our most desirable ideals? And when they do not should we blame the character or the writer?

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The Death Of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave is a good counter example. The protagonist, Bunny Munro, is deliberately designed to be a culmination of detestable ideals; He's a cheater, a rapist, a pervert, a fat greedy moron who doesn't care about anyone but himself. His 10 year old son, also called Bunny Munro, adores him - a sweet friendly boy who thinks the world of his father and will do whatever he can to please him - the central dynamic of the book being that you know one of them is going to die, you just don't know which one.

It's an excellent book, despite the fact that the protagonist as about as deplorable a human being as you could hope to write. I think it proves quite succinctly that a character who is morally corrupt does not automatically equal a bad story. You can have great stories about bad characters. So why do some characters sour an entire experience and not others?

In games we frequently play horrible characters.

Violent men and women, murderers, assassins, thieves, monsters, and in one case an extremely vexed raccoon. One of my favourite games is The Last Of Us, the protagonist Joel essentially hired muscle. It's made clear repeatedly that he's done some pretty horrible fucking things to survive, and you yourself continue to do some messed up shit as you're guiding him through the game. He still resonates with me as a good character, however. By contrast the character of DeWitt seems like a dick, to the extent that it almost spoiled the game for me. Perhaps it's because of the way that the games other inhabitants seem immune to his bullshit, the way he is hero-worshipped by Elizabeth regardless. It feels undeserved? That undeserved-ness feels like the opinions of the writers themselves shining through, that this is what they think people should aspire to. We're OK to play and enjoy asshole protagonists as long as the other characters, the world, the writer, are in on the joke. That self awareness is important, and it's awkward when we don't get a sense of it.

The new Kratos has been praised repeatedly, but nobody is going to vote him father of the year, especially not himself.

It's obviously difficult to write good characters, because creating a personality which everyone feels the same way about is always going to be problematic. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who thought DeWitt was badass and have no idea what I'm talking about right now. I'm sure a lot of people think the way Kvothe objectifies and treats women is cool too. I think the mark of a good writer should be the potential they leave for doubt, though; The potential for opposing opinions on a character's behavior is what gives them depth and makes them human - to be imperfect and to have those imperfections acknowledged and even celebrated.

So while hearing DeWitt preach nonsense isn't inherently bad, the fact that nobody questions him in the game is what causes us to do so in our criticisms of it. If DeWitt was an alcoholic womaniser and the other characters in the game treated him like as a useless scumbag then I think I'd like him more. It's weird how that works, huh?

Thanks For Reading,

Love Sweep

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#1 Posted by FlashFlood_29 (4435 posts) -

You nailed it: it’s about the players relation to the character and how the game contextualizes them. You can play a shitty character but beyond playing them, there’s little requirement or expectation (at least that’s the hope). When they’re not held to any standard and are heralded for everything, it makes for bland narrative.

It’s also more challenging to write an well contextualized shitty character when they’re player created, because then it feels as if the game is calling out the player themselves. But there’s no reason the characters being controlled can’t be criticized and treated in much the same way as any other.. just that.. they happen to be being controlled.

I’d go even as far to say that it makes sense to make the shitty dide the played character because it’s often that games make players do shitty things for the fun of it.

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#2 Edited by TobbRobb (6583 posts) -

I suppose it's context. I think having a morally flawed protagonist is generally more interesting than another hero type, so usually when complaints like this crop I just want to roll my eyes.

But when it comes to shit like Ready Player One, where the protagonist sucks, and the book doesn't realise it, I think it really does affect it negatively.

One of my favorite bad people in fiction is the protagonist of Lolita (the book). He's a horrific person, but since the book is written from the perspective of his own journal, he presents himself as quite charming and well-spoken. It's disturbing in kind of an amazing way.

EDIT: I think DeWitt is alright as a character. I don't like Infinite for other reasons.

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#3 Posted by sammo21 (5971 posts) -

I don't think its exclusively that way. There certainly are some great characters who are flawed and messed up. Hell, lets just look at the pulp genre: Conan the Barbarian and The Shadow are "heroic characters" who frequently do good things but they are generally terrible people but that contrast makes them interesting. If these characters were totally, irredeemably bad with no real character arc or nuance then they would be crap. I would point to Artemis Entreri or Jarlaxle from the RA Salvatore Forgotten Realms books. Both are character were bad guys but ended up becoming protagonists at a certain point and not just because they became fan favorites but because they were interesting, nuanced, and had more to offer.

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#4 Posted by Brackstone (910 posts) -

I think the key to having well written morally bad characters is consequences. I think the only games truly successful at having morally bad protagonists are the Kane and Lynch games. They're evil in a mundane, selfish way, not goofy sith lords, or cartoonish punchlines like GTA 5's Trevor. There's no levity to make you take them less seriously, and there's no greater evil to overshadow them. The entire story across both games is a series of consequences for their evil.

Kane and Lynch are selfish men who only know how to solve problems with violence. As it turns out, responding to every problem with violence just causes more problems, to which they, oblivious, respond with more violence. They may not realize just how terrible they are, but everything bad that happens to them is a consequence consistent with their crimes. The world responds to them in kind, an equal and opposing force. They're miserable games, and I completely understand why many people aren't into that, they're aren't enjoyable in any traditional sense of the word, but they're fascinating in a way few games are.

To draw a non-videogame comparison, it's the difference between Joffrey and Ramsay on Game of Thrones. They're just about as evil as each other. However, Joffrey's moral bankruptcy had very real consequences for him. The world responded his character in consistent ways. Ramsay, however, never seemed to fit. It's like dropping a bowling ball into a bathtub, but there's no splash, not even a wave. It's as though the fundamental laws of the universe didn't apply to Ramsay. The world of Game of Thrones did not respond in natural, consistent ways to his character, and accordingly, he's been a source of great criticism. Joffrey, however, is widely considered to be a fantastic part of the show.

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#5 Edited by Justin258 (15656 posts) -

I dunno, I feel like the game acknowledges that DeWitt is kind of a terrible human being. He says so himself in the first few minutes of the game, something to the effect of "my sins are too bad to forgive" (that's paraphrasing from a years old memory). It's not as explicit as Joel doing bad things, sure, but it's there. Also, I don't recall Ellie chiding Joel for killing all the time either, although by the end of the game it's clear that Ellie's just as willing and able to hurt, maim, and kill people as Joel is, whereas Elizabeth only kills one person and has a whole spell where she locks herself in a room. (this is not counting Buried at Sea, where a more grown-up Elizabeth can kill lots of people with little thought).

As far as nobody else in the game treating DeWitt as a scumbag... well, he never really comes across people in a position to do that, and all of the people who don't immediately try to kill him have a use for his scumbaggery so criticizing it would be hypocritical. As opposed to Joel, where "we're shitty people" is admitted upfront by Tess in the first few hours, and later he meets his brother who brings up their past and they have a bit of a revealing argument on the matter (I recently played a decent chunk of TLoU, better memories on that one, fuck playing the goddamn Clicker stealth sections ever again).

Also, one of the problems I had with the frequent criticisms of DeWitt is that, for the most part, the people you're killing tried to kill you first. I can't remember any instance where DeWitt instigated a fight in that game - again, my memory's a bit rusty on it, but I recall DeWitt having a peaceful walk through town and then they see a tattoo on your hand and suddenly everyone tries to kill you. DeWitt is prophesied to be a ruthless murderer and hey, guess what, when you attack a badass, don't be surprised when he fights back. (I know about the bit where you decide who to throw that baseball at, but you never actually throw the baseball).

I don't disagree with you, by the way. Writing a despicable person as your protagonist is difficult - you walk a fine line between making someone who is too despicable to be acceptable as a protagonist or someone who doesn't really seem all that bad. I'm just not sure if I see where you're coming from on DeWitt being the despicable person that you want to criticize. Maybe I should play through Infinite again, sometimes I feel like I'm one of the few people who played that game three or four times and came away from it with a good opinion every time.

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#6 Edited by ArbitraryWater (15716 posts) -

I’ve always kinda thought the point of Kvothe is that he’s an extraordinarily talented but supremely arrogant brat who is eventually going to suffer the tragic consequences of his attitude and actions. That’s not to say I didn’t find parts of Wise Man’s Fear a little cringe-y and indulgent for reasons that Rothfuss probably didn’t intend but I guess I’m saying I’d be a little concerned if someone read those books and didn’t find the protagonist some degree of unlikeable.

I guess we’ll eventually find out for sure whenever the third book comes out... sometime before the end of existence.

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#7 Edited by OurSin_360 (6177 posts) -

I think you pretty much explained it in the first few paragraphs, it depends on the authors intention and how well they are written. Lots of anti heroes and bad protagonist work because they are meant to be that way, while others may not because the author lacked self awareness(like duke nukem reboot for example)

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#8 Posted by Pezen (2381 posts) -

I think I have an inherit problem with the idea that bad people need to be surrounded by people agreeing with us that they are bad. There are naturally going to need to be some some form of contrast to actually show us that the people are bad, but we don't necessarily need to have it be said. We can still make that judgement call on our own. Take a movie like Serbian Film, wherein every person is either degenerately sadistic or a victim (and in the case of the protagonist, both). But no one is actually moralizing against anyone else to appease the audience. It's a deep dive into a world of horrible people, doing horrible things without getting out of the whole ordeal being morally enlightened. Now, I realize a film like that isn't for everyone. But I find it fascinating for the very reason this conversation seem to hinge on the idea that as an audience we need to be told that the creator (or it's world) agrees with us. I don't really see how that makes our experience different, we can all make our minds about how to morally judge a character with or without the author's intent in the back of our heads. We may be able to analyze the work differently within the context of the author, but as an experience in and of itself it doesn't really matter. At least not to me.

Maybe that's why DeWitt's perspective of the world never rubbed me the wrong way in regards to my enjoyment of the game. Partially because I am not DeWitt, but partially also because I don't necessarily need the world arguing against DeWitt for me to judge him on his own actions and ideas. I feel as though we sometimes paint ourselves into a corner when it comes to games, where it seems like we need to be told that we are the good guys, doing the good deeds for good reasons. And if we're not, we need to be told everyone is in agreement that what we do is bad or that our bad actions lead to consequence. In the real world, people do bad things and often don't experience consequences.

Kratos is an interesting character to me because I have seen people argue that we shouldn't forgive Kratos or let Kratos have a change of heart and that his redemtion comes in the form of other characters pointing out his flaws. He's a bad man that has done bad things and his sudden shift in perspective should somehow be irrelevant. To me that speaks of a rather weird form of everlasting damnation for a crime we actually don't practice in the real world (at least outside of twitter). When someone leaves a nazi organization to tour schools and talk about their past mistakes and the lessons they learned from it, we encourage it because it may help others stay away from making similar decisions. When someone has served time for a crime they have paid their dues to society, otherwise we might as well have the death penalty for everything. Kratos, in his own way, is doing the same thing for his son. He's trying to avoid making Atreus into a version of himself. This very fact, makes Kratos a character with redeeming qualities to me. I don't need the other people's snark to level him out, he is doing that on his own. Even if he still treats friendlier people he meet with a level of harsh selfish disregard for their point of view, it is done through the lens of someone who has been repeatedly betrayed. His most valued commodity is trust, and he doesn't give it out for free. Least of all to gods. But furthermore, he never beats Atreus or treat him badly. He treats him harsly, yes, but he's not living in a world where fathers take their sons to McDonalds and a movie. Kratos fatherly ways makes me think of the Agoge way of Sparta. You may be young, but you need to grow up fast and become a warrior because that's the reality they are living in. There's no time to be soft handed and fun. We may think that's a weird way of doing things from our perspective, but we're also looking at a character in a world that isn't our own. We take all of his actions out of context of the actual reality of the world of God of War. I don't think I would have been a fan of Kratos as a father if I was Atreus though, admittedly, but I was also not a fan of my own father all the time when I was young until I was older and realized a lot of the things my father did that I didn't like at the time was done in an attempt to actually teach me to be an adult at some point but I was too young to see it from his perspective at the time.

I think that's why recent Bioware games feel strangely off to me at times, characters feel less like inhabitants of their world and more like people from our world and era transposed there so we can feel good about them representing us rather than themselves and their world.

But I digress. On some level I do think it's difficult to write a character bad that people can engage with and follow, but I also feel like we have an urge to be pleased with our entertainment to an almost silly level. We want the bad people to face conesequences or be told that they are bad so we know the world is still fair and good at it's heart. We want the hero journey even if the protagonist isn't the hero. I remember a movie I saw almost 15 years ago that ended, at first, in the victory of the good guys. Until the last shot where it is revealed that the good side actually completely failed, they just didn't realize it. Not in a cheap "this will make for a sequel" but in a real actual failure. Unfortunately I don't remember the name of the film, nor do I think the movie was in general particularly good. But I remember really appreciating that ending because I had never seen a film at that point completely shatter the classic good ending so fundemantally without it feeling like a sequel bait.

This respons is probably all over the place, but things got my brain moving in all sorts of directions and I tried my best to keep to the subject at hand. Very interesting topic all the same.

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#9 Posted by The_Ruiner (1775 posts) -

Whether or not it makes the game "bad" is irrelevant. If I don't like the protagonist of a game, I don't enjoy embodying them, and I don't enjoy playing the game.

We talk about "good" and "bad" but what we're really saying is to what degree the game gives you what you need to appreciate it. A protagonist I'm emotionally attached to is a big requirement for me to enjoy a gameplay experience.

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#10 Edited by AdamALC (290 posts) -

@sweep: "We hear DeWitt repeatedly emphasise that there is no difference whatsoever between Comstock and Fitzroy, which is an astoundingly asinine assertion. Criticising a bloody uprising is fair enough, but to tar racism and revolution with the same brush and then dismiss the entire topic? That isn't just oversimplification, that's verging on cowardice."

Maybe I didn't process Booker's criticism the same way but Fitzroys's actions are what made her a villain and like Comstock to me. Is what the founders did right? No, of course not. However when you turn into the monster you are fighting you are just as bad as them regardless of circumstances. "Your homes are ours! Your lives are ours! Your wives are ours! It all belongs to the Vox!" The only differences between Comstock and Fitzroy are the people they want to murder and exploit. If you butcher and torture innocent people you are a villain, no matter what drove you to it.

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#11 Edited by Tesla (2296 posts) -

One of the most common traps that makes a protagonist bad is a lack of character flaws. Conversely, a lack of redeeming qualities is what makes an antagonist bad.

Joel is a great character even though I disagree with some of his actions because those actions reflect real human behavior that I can recognize and empathize with. If he had no redeeming qualities, this connection would not exist. I think that balance is what makes a character feel real or not, and whether or not they seem real is actually what determines if they are a good or bad protagonist.

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#12 Edited by MiniPato (3014 posts) -

DeWitt is supposed to be a "bad" protagonist because he gave up his daughter and committed atrocities during wartime. We're not supposed to view him as a bad guy because of his trite "both sides" stance on the revolution. The game actually kinda props that up as the correct way to approach any kind of political strife and it especially doesn't hold up in 2018. Infinite preaches against violent extremism and offers nothing in its place except flaccid neutrality and submission. DeWitt is a bad character because he comes off like a smartass internet commenter going "but both sides!" while he pisses his life away downing bottles of whiskey in his private detective office. He's bad in a way that is unintentional. If it weren't for Burial At Sea retconning Fitroy's cartoonish child murdering extremism as a bluff, Infinite would be downright embarrassing today.

In general, I can play as a bad, unlikable character if the game is aware that the character is supposed to be unlikable. But the mistake that so many writers, gaming or otherwise, struggle with is that lack of self awareness. We see this in things like anime too where antagonists who committed heinous acts are easily pardoned so that they can join the good guy team. Same with comedies where the protagonist is supposed to be funny, but comes off as selfish and grating. I can handle playing characters who are intentionally bad. But if they are unintentionally bad and the writer is unaware of that fact and still expects us to like and identify with that character, then I really can't stomach that.

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#13 Posted by nutter (2145 posts) -

Characters serve a story. Sometimes they’re relatable or aspirational. Other times, they’re incredibly flawed or cautionary.

The nature of the protaganist has no bearing on how enjoyable or impactful a story is to me. It’s more the quality of the character; his realization and place in the story.

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#14 Posted by Notkcots (113 posts) -

"But if they are unintentionally bad and the writer is unaware of that fact and still expects us to like and identify with that character, then I really can't stomach that."

This is really the crux of the issue, I think. Breaking Bad is a really good example of how to avoid this problem. Walt is a pathetic, self-centered coward who thinks he's transcended conventional morality through his overwhelming intellect. The key is that the show doesn't buy into his bullshit and shows him as he really is. It doesn't explicitly condemn him; it just presents his behavior neutrally and allows viewers to draw their own conclusions about him. Imagine how insufferable the show would be if it pandered to all of the Heisenberg-shirt-wearing marks who think he's some badass.

Like minipato said, this is basically what Bioshock does by validating Booker's asinine "the truth is somewhere in the middle" bullshit by turning the Vox into cartoonish villains out of nowhere. It's like the developers realized that they had made the Vox sympathetic enough that reasonable players might conclude that they're preferable to the Columbia authorities and had to do a clumsy hatchet job to make them unambiguously villainous. It smacks of lazy writing and a refusal to follow through with the themes they set up in the first half of the game.

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#15 Edited by Lazyimperial (486 posts) -

@adamalc said:

@sweep: "We hear DeWitt repeatedly emphasise that there is no difference whatsoever between Comstock and Fitzroy, which is an astoundingly asinine assertion. Criticising a bloody uprising is fair enough, but to tar racism and revolution with the same brush and then dismiss the entire topic? That isn't just oversimplification, that's verging on cowardice."

Maybe I didn't process Booker's criticism the same way but Fitzroys's actions are what made her a villain and like Comstock to me. Is what the founders did right? No, of course not. However when you turn into the monster you are fighting you are just as bad as them regardless of circumstances. "Your homes are ours! Your lives are ours! Your wives are ours! It all belongs to the Vox!" The only differences between Comstock and Fitzroy are the people they want to murder and exploit. If you butcher and torture innocent people you are a villain, no matter what drove you to it.

Not to veer too off-topic, but this. 100% this. The game itself, pre-DLC, purposely treats Comstock/Columbia and Fitzroy/Vox as two sides of the same coin. Bioshock: Infinite goes for the slow burn, though. At the start of the game, Comstock is in a position of strength and uses his authority to brutalize, violate, and murder those outside his ruling caste/class. Fitzroy comes across as someone with a vision, but no means to enact it (like Comstock before he met the dimension hopping twins). As you hop across dimensions and stumble into realms where her powers have waxed while Comstock have waned, you get to see her vision enacted... which is to brutalize, violate, and murder all those outside her new ruling caste/class. Instead of Comstock's boys stoning an interracial couple, you have Fitzroy's boys torturing Anglophiles to death in the street (or in their own homes, laughing gleefully at each cry). Heck, she even tries to skewer a little boy to make a point to her followers about how they should show no mercy to those who aren't one of them.

Booker isn't being cowardly or despicable in equating them as the same thing; he's being observant, because they are the same thing in Bioshock: Infinite. That's how the plot is written, that's how the conflict and factions are built, and that's that. It's an "everyone is gray," 90s Witcher / Game of Thrones shtick of attempting nuance by making everyone kind of suck. The Comstock and Fitzroy dualism is a key part of the story and he wants nothing to do with it (much like how Geralt usually wants nothing to do with any political faction in The Witcher novels. The cool, 90s guy approach to this kind of writing is to just say "not my problem, you all suck equally in different ways" and focus on your own personal goal). He just wants to settle "the debt" by getting Elizabeth to the twins, and all that Comstock and Fitzroy race war stuff is just another obstacle between him and his goal.

Please note that I said pre-DLC. After the base game came out, cold feet ensued and the developers made an effort in the DLC Burial at Sea to retcon Fitzroy by having her just pretend to murder a small, terrified child of a different race to make a point. You know, cause I guess just pretending to murder someone of a different race to galvanize your followers into REAL murdering of people of different races is better... somehow? Ugh.

Personally, I found Elizabeth in the DLC to be a better example of a playing a protagonist that I hated. Burial at Sea took a relatable support character, made her the main character of her own DLC, and completely changed her personality so that she was a dimension hopping sociopath on a serial killer rampage to murder countless versions of her own father as a kind of eternal revenge-bloodletting. Playing the first half of Burial at Sea as a heartbroken, besotted, shambles-of-a-man henchie stuck running errands for a mean-spirited, vindictive, cruel time-lord who was sizing me up so that she could break the last of my spirit and then have me brutally and hideously killed to sate her endless bloodlust was a bad time... and it turned me completely off Bioshock: Infinite and the franchise as a whole. *shrug* Normally playing a "bad" protagonist can be a great way to bust out of one's regular patterns and play against type, so to speak... but Burial-at-Sea's Elizabeth crossed lines I didn't even know I had. Even Trevor didn't make me flinch as much, and that man is the ultimate embodiment of virtual escapism from morality and sanity.

Oh, and this thread started with spoilers so I just figured I'd go all-in. If anyone takes umbrage, I can spoiler block half of what I wrote... but you'd probably have to do that for half the thread too. :-P

Also, on a more on-topic note, I have kind of been toying with this subject while cruising around Far Cry 5 doing side quests and challenges. It's an odd feeling to play a protagonist that you know is kind of the bad guy... and The Deputy is the force of chaos that takes a Doomsday Cult on the edge and pushes them into Waco-level madness. There was a chance to leave, wait for the national guard to handle the situation with more tact (maybe), and be reasonable... but I'm THE DEPUTAY! I'm here for shooting shovel-launchers and murdering 283 people within the first four hours of campaign mode. It's odd... but knowing that I'm the embodiment of chaos in this realm has busted me out of my usual tactical grain and made me play against type, and I'm just kind all kinds of off-the-wall in this game. I feel like DOOM guy in a place that would be so much better off without DOOM guy.

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#16 Edited by NeverGameOver (902 posts) -

IMO, the only 'bad' protagonists are one-note protagonists with no depth or character development like Mario, Link, etc. I find that boring and therefore 'bad'. Give me humans that act like humans.

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#17 Edited by soimadeanaccount (617 posts) -

I don't think a bad protagonist makes a bad game, but the player's/viewer's own values, interpretation of the characters, story, creator's goals, are variables that make it.

One of the basic rule in writing is that characters need at least one flaw to be interesting. A skilled writer or an interesting enough (subjective) setting/story could probably overcome this. Personally every now and then I could use a shitty people doing shitty things in a shitty world story...you know just like real life!

I find a lot of the complains I see regarding characters stem from the viewer's differences in values (moral/ethical/realistic) with the character and/or the story. This isn't limited to just the "good" guys, the "bad" guys are subjected to this as well when antagonists deviate from the viewer's vision of how "bad" guys should act. It has been a while since I played Infinite, and I never played Burial so I am going to be a little rusty in its details, but since it was used as an example I think it is a good common ground to start on.

One of the earliest complain I heard about DeWitt and Infinite was that he did nothing to address the racism in the world nor the game let the player addresses (fight) it. In the most cynical or simplest sense what we have here is a case of players complaining about something the game doesn't have. Personally I don't interpret racism as one of the game's major focus, it is a powerful backdrop that perhaps hits close to home, but don't really see it as the main conflict of the game. However from another stand point what we have here are people who immediate identify racism as the prime "bad" guy in front of them and their player decided goal is to fight against it.

The Vox vs Comstock escalation was something I sort of see coming. There has to be heel turn for the Vox or else the story wouldn't be as interesting for me. Some people might prefer more of a good vs bad story or an underdog rising above story. Criticizing the Vox turning or the method by which they turn becomes a challenge/questioning of the creator's goal and methods.

The very notion that "We hear DeWitt repeatedly emphasise that there is no difference whatsoever between Comstock and Fitzroy, which is an astoundingly asinine assertion. Criticising a bloody uprising is fair enough, but to tar racism and revolution with the same brush and then dismiss the entire topic? That isn't just oversimplification, that's verging on cowardice." is player's values being challenge by the game/character's action, here we sort of see the player rank "racism" as a more severe crime than "revolution" (deftly substituted from aforementioned "bloody uprising") which is spitting distance away from "ranking of sins" both as a concept and attempts at quantification.

TL:DR people gets pissy when story doesn't go the way they want and characters be it good or bad don't behave the way they want. Cynicism aside, this is actually a very interesting topic which branches into player's expectations, serve vs challenge, what kind of feeling and emotion should media convey, taking sides, etc.

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#18 Posted by Sweep (10595 posts) -

I went ahead and added a spoiler warning to the start of my blog, sorry if I caught anyone out there!

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#19 Posted by LittleWask (115 posts) -

I haven't seen anyone say this exactly yet, but I think the thing is being able to empathize with a bad character. Joel was a bad man... Or was he? What would you do if you walked in his shoes? Kratos has done awful things... But I still feel bad for him!

Pain is humanizing, and having an empathetic relationship with a character can really make you like someone that doesn't necessarily deserve to be liked. Just look at Niles.