I love that video game characters are growing personalities. The writing and rich storytelling in games is getting better and better all the time. Here are some of my (non-player) favorites.
Zevran–[easyazon_link asin=”B004APAEHA” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”cattame-20″]Dragon Age Origins: Ultimate Edition [Download][/easyazon_link]
Zevran is everything I like in a person. He’s sarcastic and witty but also sweet (especially if there’s romance). He’s a host of contradictions: an assassin who is morally shaky but genuinely kind. He’s also openly comfortable with his sexuality and willing to ask for what he wants. He offers sensible, practical advice to the Warden which can sometimes be irritating to more morally committed party members. His back story is rich and sad, but he doesn’t carry it around like a sad puppy.
Zevran embraces who he is and will share what he has willingly with the Warden if asked. I find him mature and approachable–he seems to be the party member most genuinely at ease with himself in Origins.
Reaver–[easyazon_link asin=”B000FRVAD4″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”cattame-20″]Fable II[/easyazon_link]
I love Reaver because he’s unapologetic. He’s a delightful anti-hero. There’s no way he can be considered good, considering he is immortal thanks to a yearly human sacrifice. He’s especially not great given that the yearly sacrifice turns out to be you. Yet he’s one of the few true heroes left in Albion, proving that a hero doesn’t have to be “good.” Reaver has many lifetimes of sin and debauchery to reflect upon, and does so as you travel with him. He’s morally repugnant but delightfully fun.
In Fable III (after putting you through a rather hellacious gauntlet for his own amusement), Reaver acts as the voice of the less moral but more financially viable adviser. Sure, you could put your money into schools, but if you really want to fund an army to beat evil you might want to consider adding a few more brothels instead.
Anyway, how can you dislike a guy who is part of a quest named “Reaver’s Rear Passage?”
Cheshire Cat–[easyazon_link asin=”B0053YQ8E0″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”cattame-20″]Alice: Madness Returns [Download][/easyazon_link]
There’s a theme here, and I think it’s ambiguity. I like characters that are nuanced, morally. I think it’s because I tend to be a goody-goody in life. When I disappear into video games, I still tend to do the right thing as I see it, but I like interacting with characters who provide the perspective of the moral “low ground” as it were. Not being evil, but seeing all sides of a situation.
Cheshire cat isn’t a bad guy–he’s Alice’s only friend in much of the game. He offers her advice, but it isn’t always clear what he’s trying to tell her. Besides that, he’s often realistic with her–he’s the “suck it up” friend, not the comforting one. Alice’s mind gets more and more fragile as she travels in Wonderland, so she needs an anchor. Cheshire cat acts as this anchor, with a healthy does of sarcasm and mystery. He’s an important part of Alice’s journey, and he adds a sense of humor to an otherwise dark game (of course, the humor is also dark).
Grunt–[easyazon_link asin=”B009XDMQ0W” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”cattame-20″]Mass Effect Trilogy [Online Game Code][/easyazon_link]
Grunt, on the surface, appears to be a simple creature–he loves crushing heads and drinking. A lot of drinking. What I like about Grunt most, though, is that we see his adolescence unfold in Mass Effect 2. He’s a kid, barely hitting puberty and full of adorable teen angst/rage. On top of that, he has the stigma of being tank born and struggles to find belonging among the Krogan. His violent nature is tempered with indecision.
Grunt brings a sense of the underlying personality of all the Krogan. More than just the war machines they’re made out to be, the Krogan have an intense sense of honor and community that Grunt personifies by having to find his own way.
In all honesty, Grunt reminds me a lot of my own teenage son (sans the quantity of alcohol consumed) and for that I will always love him the best.
I have more characters to talk about in another post but here’s an interesting thing I discovered–I have nearly no women on my list. There are women I like in games: Alice, Morrigan, Flemeth, FemShep and FemHawke, Tali, Lara Croft, Zelda, etc. but few of them really stand out in my mind as “favorites” over characters like Reaver or Grunt. I am wondering if that’s because there’s so few women in games, and then even fewer that are more than refrigerated prizes to be won. In any case, the one I could think of right away was:
Isabela–[easyazon_link asin=”B004PGNJG2″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”cattame-20″]Dragon Age 2 [Download][/easyazon_link]
Isabela is absolutely the rogue pirate lady of my dreams. She makes no bones about her self-interested lifestyle, and is very much a feminine version of Zeveran’s worldliness. She’s a delight to talk to and even more fun to romance in DAII. She never pulls a punch metaphorical or actual. Her time spent with Hawke is mostly self-interest as well, unless you win her approval she will leave your ass as soon as she gets what she wants.
You find out that she isn’t as simple as she seems, and that part of why she’s in trouble is that she let a boat full of slaves go. She has principles, and a rather crappy back story that lets you see more of her personality than simply “pirate who wants money.” She’s nuanced, but never compromises her own integrity for anyone.
If she betrays you in the Fade, her parting line is “I like big boats and I cannot lie.” She’s perfect.
What morally grey characters do you love? Let me know on the twitters or in the comments.
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