Our last blog party was a success thanks to you lot: over 250 comments were left and 24 awesome posts were shared. One of these was an article written by Joey from AlunaRL about the video game character he thinks is most like him, the inspiration for which came from the recent Charming and Open event hosted by Ian over on Adventure Rules.
After chatting to Joey in the comments I agreed to answer the same question myself; and although I’ve been pondering on it for it got a couple of weeks now, I’ve struggled to come up with a single response. When I was a kid, the only female role models we had in gaming were Chun-Li (could be worse) or pointy-boobed Lara Croft (there we go). But diversity is everywhere nowadays and that’s great news for us gamers – even if it does make attempting this challenge a lot more difficult.
There’s also the fact that protagonists today can be extremely well-written. Gone are the days when it was enough to be a plumber who wanted to save a princess or an all-American hero with a desire to blow things up for no clear reason; we now have characters with layers of personality, internal struggles and their own set of morals formed from their experiences. Regardless of how far-fetched they are, their fleshed-out backstories and motivations enable us to see some of our own personality traits within them.
But video games tend to operate at extremes and push aside the ordinary: devastating wars, nuclear apocalypses, fantastical adventures. How can we therefore completely relate to characters when their realities are so far removed from our own? Research suggests we put ourselves into the role of the protagonist while playing and suspend our ‘sense of self’ when in virtual worlds. So are we simply subsuming them and their battles, then assuming their traits as our own?
To help me figure out the answer to Joey’s question, I turned to some friends for advice. Nathan from Hurricane thought process suggested I was like Jill Valentine from the Resident Evil series for being ‘strong-willed, fiery and good in high-stress situations’. When I asked Ben whether he chose Elaine Marley from the Monkey Island series for me because I keep our motley crew in check, he replied with ‘and being a badass’. My other-half put forward Princess Peach with the reason that I was ‘his princess’ (eew).
They’re being far too complimentary, and there’s no way I’d consider myself comparable to the amazing characters they put forward. These are strong females, independent women who aren’t afraid to take fate into their own hands and do battle against all kinds of evil to look out for those they care about. My friends have helped me realise something here though: perhaps being able to relate to that person on the screen in front of you isn’t as important as finding them someone worthy of looking up to and aspiring to be like.
When I think of the characters I love, there’s a lesson I can learn from each of them. Zoë from The Longest Journey series always fights for what she believes in, regardless of how daunting the battle in front of her. Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn has an innate sense of curiosity which encourages her to always question why things are the way they are and desire to change them for the better. Theresa from the Fable series may come across as mysterious and unclear in motive; but she’s hugely intelligent, and clever enough to realise that sometimes you learn more from listening than from talking.
And let’s not forget about the men. Manny from Grim Fandango is someone who learns from his mistakes and shows us it’s never too late to make a difference or take a more optimistic outlook on life. Murray from the Monkey Island series teaches us to dream big and not let anything hold you back, and is proof that a positive mental attitude can take you places. And although not strictly a video game character, there’s Hackerman from Kung Fury – because he’s awesome and has mad IT skills I could make use of in my day-job.
If a character can inspire you to be a better person, does it matter how far-fetched their story is or that they’re just a bunch of pixels on a screen? Surely that’s testament to how far gaming has come in recent years and evidence that video games can be more than simply a form of entertainment. If this is the way they’re going, I can’t wait to meet all of this year’s protagonists and learn something new from them.