Video game characters: becoming a better person

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.

Dreamfall Chapters, video game, Storytime, female, Zoe Castillo

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.

Horizon Zero Dawn, video game, female, woman, character, warrior, mountain, view

When I think of the characters I love, there’s a lesson I can learn from each of them. ZoΓ« 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.

27 thoughts on “Video game characters: becoming a better person

  1. Samus Aran, Chun Li, Alis Landale, and Alys Brangwin ruled my childhood. Two the four characters I mentioned are from Phantasy Star. I love the diversity in gaming today. 10 years I wouldn’t have cared, but I have two daughters now and seeing how happy they get when they play games as female characters make me happy. Alis Landale taught me to never give up. I’m also a huge Princess Peach fan and she has one of the best games in the Mario universe with Super Princess Peach. That game was so good and it’s a shame Nintendo never made a sequel to it.


    • I love the fact that the diversity we see in gaming nowadays both allows us to play as characters we can relate to, and step into the shoes of someone completely different to experience the world through their eyes. It was a big thing for me not being able to ‘play as a girl’ when I was a kid so I can appreciate how female characters make our daughters happy! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think characters of both genders have come a long way in gaming. Men in the 90s were always built like Arnold Schwarzenegger and it was hard for as a kid to relate to them while the women had to be sexy. That’s why I love Alis Landale so much. She’s a badass and isn’t over the top sexy like Chun Li. I still love Chun Li though. I used to play Street Fighter II for hours trying to learn all of her moves.


        • Now that’s true: often the conversation focuses on female characters, but male protagonists were essentially just as bad back then. An all-American hero with way too many muscles and a strange desire to explode everything in sight isn’t exactly inspiring. πŸ˜‰

          Street Fighter was a big deal for me as a kid because it was one of the only games where I could play as a female… not that I ever managed to master the moves though!

          Liked by 2 people

        • Papyrus is excellent! It goes to show that even a human-hating skeleton can turn out to be a Cool Dude if you give him a chance. πŸ˜‰

          I’m so going to get a Murray tattoo if I ever work up the nerve…

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for answering my question! It is very hard to find just one character who is just like you. But you and your friends actually did a very good job with all the characters you/they chose! Your answer is kinda inspiring to me, When I look back on my own answer I just feel I come to short. I could make my answer way bigger with other characters as well. Thanks Kim for being a huge Inspiration for me in this wordpress community! And of course thank you for answering my question :D!


  3. For people who say video game characters are just pixels on a screen, they must not realize that book characters are just words on a page that you bring to life when you read them. Even if the book in question is made into a movie, it WAS made into a movie because someone saw something in the characters and story, words on a page. Video games are becoming more and more like visual novels (though I know that’s a particular genre) or interactive movies, the melding of both worlds with characters as complex and developed as anything a novelist or film maker has dreamed up.


    • This is so true. It doesn’t matter what form of media a character or story comes from if they have a positive effect and inspire us to achieve something. As you say, video games aren’t just pixels and books aren’t simply words; they’re portals which enable us to see the world through the eyes of others and learn from their experiences.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this article! It sounds kinda weird, given that you make so many of the choices playing her, but FemShep has always been a huge inspiration for me since I played Mass Effect. I think she helped teach me to stick to what I thought was right, and how important not accepting the idea that humanity is inherently bigoted is. She’s still one of my biggest inspirations.

    In other things, I have nominated Later Levels for the Liebster Award (though I’m not sure if you do those types of things). Just thought it might be a nice way of saying THANK YOU for making my Christmas/New Year so fun and special with Creative Christmas. Here’s the link to your nomination:


  5. Awesome post! It’s so nice to know video game characters have inspired other people. I could probably write a novel about how Lightning has helped me become a better person, haha. πŸ˜€


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