30 Days of Video Games: Day 2, Favorite Character

I’m a gamer, but as I’ve said before, sometimes I wonder if I really am because my gaming collection is scant by many standards. But the games I do have usually involve good story, and by extension, good characters. I’m drawn to character-driven books and stories (in what I choose to read, and what I myself write), and have found that I have the same taste in games. I actually could not finish Dead Space because I had no connection to the character. I couldn’t get into his motivations, or care about him. So I find that when I’m into a character and enjoy them and their story I enjoy the game more.

So how do I decide what my favorite character is, if most of the games I’ve played are character-driven?

When I was younger my favorite character was Samus Aran. I grew up gaming on the NES, and the early games of its heyday focused on male protagonists. The Princess was relegated to other castles; Zelda waited for Link to save her from Ganon. Mario and Link had the adventures; Orpheus went to save Helene from Hades in the underrated Battle of Olympus. These were the games I enjoyed, but I felt something missing in my experience.

Imagine my surprise when I read a Nintendo Power issue that exposed the JUSTIN BAILEY code, where you could start Metroid as… a woman?! Of course I put that code into the game, and played the galaxy’s biggest badass bounty hunter as a green-haired woman in a purple unitard. And for the first time I connected to the game in a new way, because I was playing as protagonist I could understand. Metroid had atmosphere; it had rudimentary story, that sort of made sense (more sense than a plumber saving mushroom people anyway). And it had a character I related to; because of that I could get into the game, and experience the loneliness of Zebes and the fear of the space pirates and the Metroids themselves.

Samus Aran worked alone; she never spoke, and you only saw her face if you finished the game quickly enough and with enough items to get the ending where you saw her in her true form. Early on it was probably fanservice, to show her in her swimsuit-like under armor, but as the games advanced the more she became a character unto herself. Sure, many other female protagonists came up after, but for me at least, Samus was the first.

I liked Samus because she was smart and confident enough to go into those lonely scenarios, kick ass, take names, and go collect her payment at the end of the day. She was capable and didn’t wait to be rescued, instead doing the rescuing herself. She brought down pirates; she blew up planets. And she did it with finesse and without apologizing for any of it.

She’s since changed as a character; I don’t care for the direction Nintendo’s taken her. It started with Fusion when we saw a more introspective sort of character. I didn’t mind that, but I did mind the way they started to make her dependent upon the Adam AI. She’s been a different sort of character since Metroid Prime 3, when she was pitted against and put with other bounty hunter characters. And then Nintendo went and made Other M, where they expanded upon the Adam character and it changed everything about Samus’s character. I haven’t played Other M because I don’t have a Wii, but what I’ve seen of videos and trailers and listened to of cutscenes, I’m not a fan. Maybe someday I’ll try it, and maybe it’ll change my opinion.

In the last few years I’ve started playing other types of games, and among them RPGs that allow for character creation. My favorite game so far is Dragon Age: Origins. I’ve played all the origins, but like the human noble most. My personal character, Fianna, is among my favorites, though I feel like it’s a little bit cheesy to say that my favorite game character is one I’ve made. However, DA also has that character of King Cailan, whom I’ve come to really love.

The irony is Cailan’s not playable, and he dies within the first 90 minutes of game time. Maybe it’s because I created my own personal headcanon/backstory for him. Maybe it’s because I thought he was cheated by his writers. Maybe it’s because he comes across as foolish, then dies violently, and I wanted there to be more to him. He’s not even that vital a character to the game. And yet I love him and think he’s fascinating. Again, maybe it’s because I created what I thought he could be through fanfiction. I don’t know; I do know that there’s something about him that makes him a favorite.

So when all’s said and done, I really love characters and how relating to and loving a character can make the game more enjoyable. But from past to present, the characters I find as favorites are characters who seem to have more to them than the game lets on.

Tomorrow: A game that is underrated…


11 comments on “30 Days of Video Games: Day 2, Favorite Character

  1. I really like this post because it gets beyond “favorite character” into “why do I like a character (or a game. or a story) in the first place?” And we’ve talked about it before, but there are SO MANY stories where people ask me “Why do you like [x]?” And exactly like your “Why do I like Cailan even though he’s a completely minor character who bites it in the prologue?” the answer becomes “Hell if I know! I guess because I made it mine.” Character creation is an excellent part of any story, but even beyond “creation” comes “development.” And that’s the stuff that hooks us. 😀

    • Thanks! And I feel like, for me anyway, I can’t have a favorite something or other without knowing WHY it’s my favorite. I feel like there has to be a reason. Whether it’s book, movie, game, character… I have to have a reason and be able to justify it with proof. But maybe it’s my lit major roots talking there… 😉

  2. Great post! Both DA games have such great characters it’s hard to choose. There were several I just wanted to know more about. I was so glad that we found out more about Lelianna in DA2! That said, I love Merril so much. I was genuinely sad when her quest was over and she didn’t have anything else to say. I wanted to be friends with her in real life.

    • Yeah, the DA series is great with characters. After I posted this MLHawke pointed out, “What about Alistair?” and I could have kicked myself! And then I thought about Sten. And Lelianna. And Wynne. And Isabela. And Zevran. And… yeah, hehe. The Mass Effect games have awesome characters as well. It’s really hard for me to pick just one favorite as a result!

  3. Battle of Olympus indeed! Actually never beat it as a kid, had to go back and play it a few years ago on an emulator for that. It was like Zelda 2 but way more interesting! My favorite underrated NES RPG gem was Magic of Scheherazade!

    • Ooh, I’m not familiar with that one! But I remember being young and on a myth kick anyway, and then Battle of Olympus came out. We had to have it 😀

  4. Minsc from Baldur’s Gate. He was a ranger who had taken a few too many blows to the head. He meant well, though. Cool guy. He had a miniature giant space hamster named Boo…and every so often when you were walking around he would say things liek “Boo likes the forest.” And he’d say things in party banter…he was one of the first characters who became real to me. When his crush died in Baldur’s Gate 2…I cried for him.

      • Go for the eyes, Boo! Go for the eyes! *high pitched hamster squeak*

        Boo is the reason you can catch a hamster on the Normandy and have it as a pet 🙂

  5. I liked Garrus from Mass Effect the moment I met him. He had a calm about him and offered much more reassurance to Shepard, while everyone else seemed tortured (Kaiden) or angry (Ashley) or questioning (Tali). I also enjoyed delving into his pretty fantastic back story more than the other characters.

    Nice summation on Samus! And now I’m glad that I haven’t gone much into the more modern Prime, etc. games. The additional dimension granted to her in Fusion was alright, but I hate to think of her in any other way than the fiercely independent bounty hunter I met in Super Metroid.

  6. My favorite character of all time…hmm…a tough one but I might have to go with Tusk from Killer Instinct Gold. This fictional character (who I wish I was) is just super awesomeness! Who doesn’t want to be a giant tatooed Barbarian with a greatsword the size of a Mountain Lion! I think that last line probably summed up my entire argument, but he just screams I can take care of everything!

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