The Friday Debate – Character Building

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“Just because you are a character, doesn’t mean you have character,” said Winston Wolf towards the end of Pulp Fiction, and that’s what this week’s Friday Debate is all about – character.
There have been hundreds and maybe thousands of video game characters over the years, including an angry Spartan, a blue hedgehog, a smiling egg, several maniacal clowns, countless princesses (some of them larger than others) and even a gust of wind in a meadow.
Amidst of all that, which ones have been the most memorable for you and, more importantly, what makes a good game character?

Tell us in the comments which game characters you feel stand out from the crowd and what it is that makes them so special. And before you go on about him yet again, Kevin Butler is not a game character.

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  • The best character for me was always Tommy Vercetti. I don’t exactly know why but he made GTA Vice City. No GTA character has been better since.

    • After giving it quite a bit of thought, I think that my favourite character might be GLaDOS for sheer charm and humour. Or maybe Vamp from MGS – he was the one boss I always dreaded coming across in each game.

  • Nathan Drake is a very cool character. Ultimately it’s all about the game in my eyes. But a nice character is very welcome!

  • Any more word on the plus symbols being fixed?

  • oh! my plus symbol is on now. Thanks

  • “A character with a good background, carismatic and in a peculiar location or involved in an interesting story.”
    ^ I vote this. :D
    Nathan Drake its one for stay in the PS family.
    “Someone that feels like a real person and not another one dimensional space marine”
    “Some kind of space marine”
    Haha seems that you speak of Master Chief :P

  • I voted the good background thingie. I like it when characters have some emotional flesh, it makes them stand out between the bald space marines that flood our games these days (altough I can enjoy some good old alien shooting). Oh, and some games just don’t need to fleshed out characters. I loved the quiet Jak better than the dark and talking one for instance
    greatest character? Maybe Vivi in FFIX. Tremendous artdesign, great character you loved to care about. Or Maria in Silent Hill 2. Damn, that woman freaked me out more than any Nurse in that game… And speaking of crazy women: ofcourse, GLaDOS. One of the greatest of all times

    • I loved the quiet Jax… in, fact, I just loved the progression of that series. I’m going to email Richard Lemarchand of Naughty Dog on Monday and demand a PS3 sequel.

  • I think it varies from game to game
    1st person games tend to benefit more from well written characters around you but you may as well be a hand with a gun in it… this way you don’t break the 4th wall – bioshock a very good example of this. 3rd person is better with nathan drake and solid snake…
    the only games that dont really have the right balance at the moment are casual sports titles (like high velocity bownling, hustle kings, and the upcoming sports champions).
    as musch as i love the first 2 of these sports games (and as much as i cannot wait to get hold of sports champions) the characters are borderline stereotypes,high velocity just about manages to pull this off as deliberately comedy, but hustle kings avatars may as well be photos of random people you’d find vomiting in the street outside a club in LA…
    sports champions looks like home avatars have escaped but left behind their customisationabilityness… not sure if thats a real word ;)

    • In BioShock I found it kind of disarming when the story started to involve me, the playable character. I’d been so used to being that, as you say, floating gun and plasmid hand that I’d forgotten myself as a character. However, this never happened in Half Life 2. Even though you hardly ever see yourself, for some reason, you always know that you’re Gordon Freeman and that you have a goatee beard.

  • Duke Nukem #1. Or maybe Solid Snake?
    Or actually, maybe it’s Elena/Chloe, Lara Croft, Ivy (SC), Chun Li, Cammy, etc?

  • Nathan Drake is the best :)

  • A funny kinda sick guy like Duke Nukem. Or the postal dude.
    Damn I wish we got a postal game on PS3 :-D

  • I do prefer a character that seems like a real person, and that you can relate to. Although after having played Sam and Max, I’ve come to love funny animal characters :)

    • Totally with you! I’m just about to start chapter 3 and I’m in one of those places where I couldn’t dream of playing anything else right now.

  • As others have said, it really depends on the game. Therefore I put don’t care, but really I do care, just I want a suitable character for the type of game.

  • i like the main character from fallout 3, because i created him and at the time i thought blowing up a city was a good idea but yet i showed my compassionate side by offering freh water to some random guy who was thirsty, i dont like modern warfare 2 as i didnt feel any connection to the characters portrayed but i love bad company 2 because i’ve been the same person for 2 games and i feel like i know him. it’s a shame that some people dont realise just how much character fighters have in various beat em ups, i personally have read most of the backstory to do with mortal kombat of which my favourite is reptile

  • i lik da plus symbol =P

  • My Plus symbol still ain’t working…done evrything you said James :(

  • Of course as soon as I say it… thanks man! :P

  • Most of the payable cast of FFVII and Sephiroth too.
    Raziel and Kain, and even the Elder God from the Soul Reaver/Legacy of Kain series.
    Like and good novel, the characters need a good backstory, motivation, and a good plot. Which is why these games will forever remain at the top of my all-time favourites list.

  • Ones like Nate Drake are the best sort. Ones that feel like an every day person.

  • Kazama Kiryu is one of my favourite characters alongside Solid Snake and Sketch Turner..

  • Ezio Auditore for sure, you really saw him develop himself throughout the whole story
    And of course also Nathan Drake :P

  • Something fun and original, like a badger with sunglasses, or a sack with legs. Also a lot of games allow character customization, so I’m sure Kevin Butler is a game character somewhere.

  • Most memorable chars for me are:
    -Alice from the American McGee’s Alice PCgame
    -Rayman (of course) but only the one without rabies
    -Roland on the Ropes (cuz back then it proved my mom is a more fanatic gamer than I am)
    A good game character, mhm. I think the story telling complements the character. So does variety in what the character has to do. A good balance in bad-evil. And I like characters which are more stupid than I am :-P

  • Characters that have their flaws in personality AND in looks and also feel quite realistic. Silent Hill’s Heather and James Sunderland are perfect representations of characters with these traits and I felt very compelled mentally and emotionally towards both.

  • Nathan Drake most definitely. I would like to see him in a prequel to find out how he met sully and eddy etc.

  • How is the badger with sunglasses option not winning?
    Madness I say!

  • Just please not another Master Chief the guy is so uninteresting

  • For me the best, most memorable characters have been those with personality and motive (ie, a good reason to be involved in the story), they don’t have to be extroverted tough guys, fearless best-of-the-best types or chirpy upbeat heroes but when playing through a game I think either the character or the view of the character presented to the gamer should develop so that one can get to know and appreciate the character over the course of the game.
    Games with characters I really appreciated include Metal Gear Solid 2, Shenmue II, Silent Hill 2 and although I personally don’t rate Persona 3 as the best of games I found the main cast to be likable and memorable after the year long (in-game) story came to a close.

  • Nathan Drake or any charcter voiced by Nolan North.

  • Mister Drake and Solid Snake :D

  • I think the quality of characterisation can often be negated by poorly thought out missions. At the risk of being killed I would put forward Red Dead Redemption as an example, while I loved the game it’s one of those gaming experience that will stay with me (particularly the ride into Mexico.)
    I thought that the depth of Marston’s character was at odds with some of the missions, particularly when you were doing menial tasks for NPCs like Nigel West Dickens and Seth Briars all the time being strung on with ‘carrot on a stick’ promises.
    Before games can have deep and engaing characters who the gamer feels a real connection to (akin to a novel or film), there needs to be a shift in the traditional mission structure. I thought that was something Heavy Rain did very well, although the game is not without its faults I feel all the playable characters deserve an honourable mention here. (apologies for the length)

  • I know ya did James…and yeah, who is this Master Chief fellow? :D

  • My favourite character has to be Cloud, predictable I know, but that’s how it is. Although I loved FF XIII, I did not really like the character development and personalities in it. Snow Villiers had to be the most annoying character, and Hope was just a moan. I loved the characters in Heavy Rain, some great story telling and character development.
    I like most characters, however I cant stand characters that don’t develop, which is one of the reasons I don’t entirely like Kratos, although I love God of War.

    • Kratos is more of a storm than a character. But if we’re talking about character development in the traditional, Eng. lit. sense, then Heavy Rain sweeps the board.

  • “What did you think of the Heavy Rain characters?”
    I really liked Scott Shelby in particular I immediately took a liking to him! It helps that the voice acting, the detail of the character models and their maneurisms really brought them to life, but for me Shelby sticks out in particular as my favourite :)

    • He’s the most likeable but also the least malleable. I like Ethan, because you can really take him to lower depths than any other game characters… depths that no other game has dared touch.
      ps thanks for not spoiling!

  • the 2 funniest characters are: Jak & Daxter. so naughtydog, please make a PS3 version :D we need them :P

  • None of the above options really work for me. I don’t know if we’re talking protagonists or just characters. Anyways…
    I like Psycho Mantis from MGS. He was insane and slightly evil, but ultimately he redeemed himself. Progression is an important part of a good character- You need to feel like they’ve gone from one point to the other and changed along the way.
    [PS] This is completely irrelevant, but it would be great if people could reply to each others comments down here. I don’t like not being able to have proper discussions. It could be done in a sort of drop down style, like Kotaku or something.

  • It literally takes all kinds and I honestly can’t say what I prefer.
    Sometimes I like an everyman like Nathan Drake or the Heavy Rain crew, some games need somebody larger than life like Kratos, for other games somebody original like Sackboy is perfect.
    Sometimes even a silent protagonist without much personality is called for. GTA/Red Dead might have outgrown them, but for Bioshock I felt they’re still perfect vehicles to project the story onto.
    A set of characters that I don’t like particularly are the Killzone protagonists (sorry Guerilla, I still buy the games). They are one dimensional when they don’t need to be, and somtimes downright annoying like Rico. Everybody I’ve begun to like remotely in that franchise has the habit of dying. ;-)

  • There’s so many answers I could give for this one.
    Ultimately I think it comes down to how the character is written. I get drawn to characters I can relate to, be it their personality or things that happen to them durning the game. It’s probably a combination of the two.
    Over the years I’m come across many memorable characters. Some of my favorites from previous generations include Raziel, Kain and Squall. This gen so far Glados definitely stands out, as does Nathan. I like Nariko too but in HS, Kai steals the show.

  • I would like to see more believable characters in games, ones that have flaws and really aren’t made to deal with the situation they’re in. Heavy Rain is one of the few examples where it really feels like these characters are just caught in this crazy situation and they’re constantly trying to grapple with what they’re doing. Leo Stenbuck in the original Zone of the Enders is another good example, he’s just a kid in a horrible situation, he doesn’t understand a lot of what’s going on around him and appears close to mental breakdown throughout the game.
    I guess failure and flawed personalities is what I’d like to see more of. So often I feel like I’m playing a character that was designed for the specific purpose of being in game XX rather than as an entity that exists on its own. I want to feel like I’m seeing only a part of their life and not all of it.

  • “He’s the most likeable but also the least malleable. I like Ethan, because you can really take him to lower depths than any other game characters… depths that no other game has dared touch.
    ps thanks for not spoiling!”
    Heheh it’s a difficult game to talk about without spoilers isn’t it! I loved that about Ethan and you’re right, it’s a great contrast to playing as Scott too, seeing the different scenarios you can put Ethan in depending on the choices you make (or how well you play) was great (not that I’m a sadist or anything).
    After about two hours of retrying for the Kamikazee trophy though I actually felt like I had been through a worse hell than what Ethan had been through!

  • For me, a good character is one with defects and inner struggle.
    Lets compare comic characters as an example; Superman, practically no weaknesses, a bit of a turd, lets be honest. He only really gets interesting when trying to balance saving the world with keeping his identity secret.
    Spiderman… not exactly super humanly strong, and he’s often outmatched in his fights. His life is pretty crumby as he has a horrible boss, friends with a penchant for turning evil, and he’s haunted by a sense of responsibility, in the knowledge that if he does well he’ll be a vigilante, but if he fails he’ll be loathed. Yeah, I’m a Marvel guy to the bitter end!
    But in video game terms, I always preferred the characters like Max Payne, Kane (& Lynch), Isaac Clarke, and even Nathan Drake who have that grit to the story, and war-scars from an active life, compared to the dull, lifeless avatars of Lara Croft, Masterchief, and the faceless hoards from countless title.

  • [continued]
    Something that I’ve always found useful when developing characters is write out a back-story stretching to their childhood, and sometimes even before that (writing parental background can really help flesh out the mindset and upbringing of a character), it’s not something you see often, but a well written character can make a game!

  • [color=crimson][b]I think Niko is the best GTA character, you could relate to him more, he’s just come to ameriva but he has different reasons and want s to get away from violence but soon find trouble and he is also hunting two men from his past.
    Characters like Marcus from Gears of War aren’t that cool, just a guy al ways pissed off and don’t really care about much. [/b][/color]

  • Characters i like are:
    nathen drake, sully, ratchet, clank, jak, daxter, cloud from ff7, kefker from ff6, chris redfield.

  • the characters that i mostly hate are the ones with big ass muscles with big ass guns shooting big ass monsters like its a walk in the park. then they show no emotion what so ever. then you get one scene from the game were the character “shows” a little bit of emotion (other then hate) and all you can do is roll your eyes and hope for the cut scene to end so you can continue shooting everything mindlessly.
    my ideal character is someone that isn’t on steroids, has a good sense of humor actually freak out when he sees a monster or something, and actually has feelings. and you know a hero that actually looks normal..(with a little inhuman agility in the mix)
    Nathan drake <3

  • Nathan Drake lol, although I also quite like Hale’s caracter from resistance, the silence suited him in the 1st and he didn’t speak that much in the 2nd, anyway yes this post was purely to check my plus symbol works :P

  • And the character i mostly liked of heavy rain is Ethan. He truly felt the pain and sadness of losing his son. makes me wonder am i willing to go through all that to save someone i love?

  • @Reply to #10 ( 10 September, 2010 at 11:28 pm by James Gallagher )
    Yes I heard about Duke Nukem Forever finally becoming reality (how could I have missed that ;-)).
    I saw the PAX live-stream, can’t wait :-D
    I also heard some rumors about Postal 3 and that eventually it will also be ported to PS3. Seems like my game queue is only growing :-).

  • Drake, because he swears alot, it lightens the action in the way that master chiefs solid voice like someone out of avatar doesn’t
    (The block buster Avatar)

  • The only space marines worth playing as are the original Warhammer 40k Space Marines, not those Killzone and Gears of War wannabes.

  • James, oh God of all things good and gracious, please make my Plus symbol work lol
    Also my fav character has to be Squall Leonhart, FF8. The way his ‘moodiness’ fleshens out throughout the game, eventually becoming likeable, like Rinoa :-)

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