Good character development is a pretty tricky thing to pull off, and that goes double for video games. Nothing quite drives that point home than the amount of silent protagonists that you find in many of today’s games, and while developers say that it’s their way to allow players to project themselves on their characters we all know what’s really happening.
When we do get decent characters worth caring about, it’s a breath of fresh air. Good protagonists are either likable or relatable, and the best ones manage a way to be both. Who doesn’t want to be Commander Shepard, Solid Snake, or John Marston? On top of being awesome, you know exactly where they stand.
Then there are characters that go pretty far in projecting themselves as stand-up people, and if you take them at face value they certainly are. They’re only doing what any one of us would if we were in their shoes, after all. But then you get to thinking a little, and you see that, nope, they’re not so great after all.
These are those secret monsters.
Nathan Drake – Uncharted
Let’s start this thing off right, with the star of the most highly-anticipated PlayStation exclusive of the year. Sure, Nathan Drake is an affable guy, charming the pants off of every single person that crosses his path (which is to say that I play Uncharted sans pants). Despite constantly getting himself in and out of ridiculous situations, he’s managed to paint himself as the go-to everyman for this console generation.
But we all know better, don’t we?
He seems like a good enough guy, sure, but deep down Nate is a homicidal maniac. Think about it: With each adventure he thrusts, he lays waste to literally hundreds of men for the chance, not even a guarantee, of striking it rich. This might be excusable if it were his first time out and he didn’t know what he was getting into; plenty of people get in way over their heads for that to be relatable, and I can suspend my disbelief. But then he goes on another globe-spanning quest for glory, with mountains and jungles running red with the blood of those who stood in his way.
And then he did it again, just last week in Uncharted 3. The hell, Nate?
He escapes the end of the original Uncharted on a small boat, filled to the brim with ancient treasures that are each worth a small fortune. How much money do you need, dawg?! Nathan Drake is the 1%, and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep it that way.
Christ, what an asshole.
Wander – Shadow of the Colossus
Our silent protagonist from the PS2 classic Shadow of the Colossus is in a dilly of a pickle. We’re not sure if she’s his girlfriend, sister, or just really good friend, but he’s obviously lost someone close to him. Despite knowing nothing about the two, it’s easy to empathize with the guy, and many of us would give anything to spend just one more moment with someone we’ve lost that we cared deeply about.
Wander, though, is less about giving, and much more about taking. Like, totes more. See, the beginning of SotC sees him reaching a mysterious temple, where he meets (or hears, rather) the disembodied Dormin, who cuts him a deal: Scour the land for sixteen enormous creatures and slay each one of them, and his mysterious gal-pal shall live. Wander is left to think, “Are sixteen lives worth ending for the continuation of one?”
The answer is obviously no, because that’s a stupid question. It’s the complete opposite of the usual “Do you sacrifice the one for the good of many?” and should immediately raise some serious red flags. It’s just simple mathematics, ya loon. The colossi Wander murders aren’t even dangerous — the only time they present a threat is when some little douchenozzle on a horse decides to shine a light in their eye and gets all stabby.
With each colossus whose brain he thrusts his sword into, Wander seems remorseful, and his increasingly haggard appearance as his murder-quest goes on mirrors that. Deep down, he knows that he should probably stop, but he doesn’t. Regrettably, he succeeds at defeating each of the sixteen creatures. What does he get for his trouble? His ladyfriend lives, but he releases an evil demigod and is turned into a baby.
Way to go, champ.