I was recently on the Giantbomb forums and I saw an interesting post:
I read through the whole thread. lots of things are said. Most of which I disagree with, oh well, no big deal. Some make good points, other don’t. It’s like any other forum! But I felt I should add my opinion into the mix. So, here it is!
(if you would like to read it in context, it is somewhere on the bottom half of page 3)
The thing that I rarely hear mentioned is that: in almost all cases the people portrayed in video games are FAR from average. John Marston, Captain Shepard, Lara Croft, Nathan Drake, The Chosen Undead, blah blah blah. Right now, off the top of my head, I can only think of one ‘normal’ protagonist: the guy from Paper’s Please. He was a pretty average guy.
90% of the time we play as someone with specialized skills, advanced training, super powers, or some other exceptional ability.
Why is this important? Well, when I think of video games, movies, or stories the most common theme I come to is: larger than life events and characters. We tell their stories because they are exceptional individuals, they show us what we’re capable of as a people. We have focused on ‘above average’ people since antiquity. Do Theseus, Achilles, and Odysseus set unrealistic expectations because they’re demi gods? It makes sense to me that the outlandish situations video game characters are in, also require outlandish characters.
We focus on characters that are already far above what is considered average. Why let their ‘standard’ be applied to yourself? As a skinny dude, overly muscular characters like Marcus Fenix, Kratos, Asura or whoever, haven’t made me feel uncomfortable. Why? Because it makes sense. Carmine, the skinny rookie, died. Marcus, the grizzled vet turned prisoner, didn’t. Makes sense to me.
Most of the situations that comprise current video games have a barrier to entry that requires the cream of the crop be present.The post apocalypse, war, the wild west, ancient tombs… Almost none of the characters in video games are normal people, except the pedestrians in GTA. Is this a bad thing? In my opinion no. But then again that is just -my- opinion. But my opinion is no less valid than yours. I personally think that Joel and Ellie are probably the best characters I have ever seen in Video Gaming as a whole, but that’s just my opinion.
If we want more realistic characters, better portrayals of women, or more ‘inclusive gaming’. Then -we- need to make those games. Large corporations like EA are going to be hard pressed to make high risk games. New IP’s are few and far between outside of Indie games.
Learn to code and make your own games. Even if they’re bad, make them. Be the change you want to see. Tell the stories that interest you. I can guarantee you, you’re not the only person who wants to hear those stories. But currently, those stories might need to find their own footing. Change takes time. Clear the path, blaze the trail. Set the ground work for people to come after you and create those games you want to see. Nothing will be solved by bitching about it. Take action. In 7 years video games could be completely different. What if in 7 years we’re complaining about not having any Nathan Drake like characters?
The question I have is this, when did we stop looking at characters and saying, “What can I do to be more like them?” and start saying “Why aren’t they more like me?”
When did characters stop representing ideals and examples (good or bad) and become targets for us to project insecurities upon?
Seriously though, when did we stop looking at heroes as something to aspire to, or as lessons? Is Spiderman a ‘power fantasy’? Or is he a lesson that “with great power comes great responsibility“? Instead of saying “Nathan Drake is a great example of courage, determination, and skill put to use for all the wrong reasons” we hear, “Video game protagonist panders to straight white male power fantasy”.
I can’t help but feel like people are choosing to only see the negatives. It seems to me, people want something to complain about.