Siliconera Speaks Up: About Protagonists

By Louise Yang . September 6, 2009 . 8:04am


What qualities draw you to a protagonist? For simplicity’s sake, leave Silent Protagonists out of this.


Jenni: To be honest, I tend to find myself more interested in the secondary characters than I do in the protagonists of most video games. Perhaps that’s because I’ve played so many RPGs where the hero is the stereotypical young man with common yet mysterious origins who *shock* ends up being the only one capable of saving the entire world.


If pressed, I’d say I like protagonists who somehow grow throughout the adventure and experience. Like Squall from Final Fantasy VIII or Luke from Tales of the Abyss. Or, on a similar note, a protagonist who we start out knowing nothing about and develop a certain view of, then all of a sudden see a revelation which changes everything we think about him or her. I can’t actually think of a good example of the second situation at the moment, but I suppose Magus from Chrono Trigger could be considered one, or maybe Felius from Wild Arms XF.


Laura: While I have nothing against the improving-type of protagonist, I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing to have characters start from “subpar” and improve to “normal,” like Emil does in Dawn of the New World. (I have a grudge against Emil, so no offense to any Emil-lovers out there.) I like many different types of protagonists, actually. Recurring archetypes that always seem to be a favorite of mine are the smooth talkers, the slightly naive, and the intelligent (and maybe manipulative) types


Of course, a key part of being a protagonist, as opposed to any other secondary character, is to have the charisma needed. Usually this is exhibited as determination, cheerfulness, or optimism, and those characteristics are wonderful to have in a protagonist as well. I also like a little mortal peril and some history that ties the protagonist in to the main conflict as spices to top it off.


Louise: Lately, I’ve been getting annoyed with a wide variety of protagonists tied together by a common string: being too generic. I’m sick of the angsty, emo protagonist who has the burden of saving the world on his or her shoulders. I guess I’m the opposite of Laura when it comes to heroes because I’m not a fan of recurring archetypes at all.


For me to enjoy a game’s story, I want a protagonist to be likable, but not a total pushover. I prefer female protagonists, but I can’t stand princess lady-in-distress types, martyrs, or girl-power overly aggressive characters. Does this make me hard to please? I want a character who’s quick on her feet, smart, resourceful, and self-reliant. To be more specific, it’d bad-ass if a game had a female MacGyver character.


Ishaan: I find myself attracted to the smart-aleck types. Leon from Resident Evil 4 is a great example. Bonus points if you’re a bit of a perv like Issun or Junpei. I don’t mind the angsty archetype but there need to be other elements mixed in to make the character more interesting than, say, Cloud.


Minato from Persona 3 is a good example of this. He looked angsty but the game did a fantastic job of conveying how much Minato cared for his fellow man and that he was ready face his destiny. I’ve been on a bit of a Batman trip lately, so I’ll cite Bruce Wayne as another mix of character traits I love: obsessive, driven, unrelenting. Someone with a true sense of purpose. Then again, Batman Beyond doesn’t paint a very rosy picture of how Bruce turned out in the end…


Spencer: I think there’s room to explore more protagonist types and different motives. Stubborn idealists and angsty heroes are a dime a dozen in RPGs. One reason why I enjoyed Disgaea: Hour of Darkness was because of Laharl. His selfish goal was refreshing and fitting, after all he’s a demon.


I’d like to see more original characters, different kinds of heroes. Perhaps, a lead character like Kain that keeps switching sides and forces the player to flip-flop between good and evil. Or a game with a monster as a lead seeking to kill a “hero” that murdered its parents. The two can learn that each side sees each other as monsters and find a middle ground.

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  • QBasic

    I’ll just get this out and say it; 95% of all RPG protagonists I despise to no end. >:< Seriously. The gaming world needs more Light Yagamis. Or Lelouch Lamperouges.

    But I suppose the qualities I don't mind, and kind of like in my protagonists are…I guess seasoned, quick on their feet, with just a little bit of an ego, and not all entirely heroes. Some good examples:
    -Snake (MGS Series)
    -Kratos (GoW)
    -Niko Bellic (GTAIV)
    -The Prince (new Prince of Persia)
    -Aaaand…I guess…Ragna from BlazBlue. =_= Just a little too much angst…but I suppose in the end, he meets my qualifications. :3

    • ChocolateBar999

      So the gaming world need more unlikeable douches as protagonists?

      • QBasic

        I take it you’ve never seen more than the boxart, or Kotaku news tidbit on the games I listed above…

        Cause I have a seriously, seriously hard time believing you’ve come close to playing them…

        • ChocolateBar999

          Wasn’t talking about the games you listed genius

          • QBasic

            Then I guess I’ll have to move onto the next theory, and you don’t fathom the complexity of morally ambiguous characters as protagonists, and the effect that may have on gameplay.

            If you want unlikeable douchebags, try Tommy Vercetti. Yet there he is, in one of the greatest games ever made.

  • They need to be hot-blooded, that’s all. He’s silent most of the time, but Adol is my favorite protagonist of all time. This guy kicks ass non-stop. Then Gil from Druaga and Ares Toraernos from Brandish. It doesn’t get much better than these heroes.

  • TyeTheCzar

    Agreed! Lelouch was one of my favorite protagonists in any anime… though /a/ is kinda mixed about the show. I also liked Kurosawa from Onani Master Kurosawa.
    And I want more Travis Touchdowns and Amatera-er scratch that. I want less clones, more originals.
    And as for strong female characters (especially *gasp* unobjectified) go to Touhou. Its nearly all-female cast is like “Screw you men! We’ll wear as much clothing as we want!”

    • QBasic

      Ah, yes! How could I ever leave out Travis Touchdown! :D

  • Dasuzero

    When you guys make these updates, it always make me think two things:

    1. They really aren’t suited for the blog format – a proper forum would be better

    2. Less JRPGs up in this place yo

    • QBasic

      When you fools make these comments, it always makes me think two things:

      1. You’re more than welcome to find yourself another site.


      M’kay sugar?

      • Dasuzero

        what the hell is your problem?

        • QBasic

          My chair. Ever seen one of those swedish spiked torture chairs? It’s a lot like that.

          Also, I keep getting these damn twitches in my temple. So annoying!

          So yeah. That’s my problem. Er, problems.

      • conchobhar

        I don’t think Dasuzero was trying to be snarky or anything. He (she?) has a valid point- discussion like this is more suited to a forum than a blog. Sure, there are other forums out there, but I’d be interested in a Siliconera community.

        As for wanting less JRPG coverage, I do get where he’s coming from, but most obscure, Japan-only games tend to be RPGs, so…

        • QBasic

          This is a site that’s all about obscure, JRPGish stuff.

          If he wants less of it, there’s PLENTY of other sites out there.

          As for a Siliconera forum…that’s something of a taboo issue around here. The site once had it. There’s a reason it doesn’t have it anymore…

        • At one time there was a forum in the works, but the community shot it down with a clear “No!” — including the exclamation mark. Plans were scrapped, but if people really want a forum (and the voices said no before) I’m happy to open one.

          Honest question here, not just to you, but all of the readers. Why do you come to Siliconera?

          It’s true that we specialize in Japanese coverage, people like that here. And I think, I might be wrong, but we do try to provide original news and cover titles that don’t get as much attention. When we report about other games, take Fable — an excellent RPG with an open ended plot as an example, people complain even more. No one is ever happy with Siliconera :(

          • geosaferi

            Awwww. Plenty of people are pleased with Siliconera! Honestly, I’d be more upset if you changed what you reported. I basically get all my news from here because it covers what I’m interested is. No other gaming blog covers this stuff, so I don’t check them.

          • conchobhar

            “Honest question here, not just to you, but all of the readers. Why do you come to Siliconera?”

            For coverage on obscure- often Japan-only- games I would have otherwise never have heard of. I figure that’s why most visit.

    • Vanilla

      I’m pretty pleased with how JRPG-centric Siliconera is. There are many other gaming sites out there that focus on a wider scope of games and end up not giving this genre the kind of attention that I like to see, especially when a good number of franchises are pretty niche.

      If that doesn’t work with you, again, there are TONS of other venues for gaming news.

      • Dasuzero

        There are many, many other JRPG centric sites as well. But I don’t care that this one is JRPG-centric, I’m just weirded out by how JRPG-centric the staff answers to this poll are.

        • QBasic

          Well, I’m sorry that the staff who worked damn hard to bring this site up to where it is fails to meet your high-brow standards and expectations, or your closed-minded perception.

          • Dasuzero

            “up to where it is”? You mean second tier news blog level?

          • QBasic

            For a second, I was just think you were an ordinary retard. But looks like you’re a douchebag and a troll to boot.

            I insist you piss the hell off…

          • QBasic

            Rawg. Typos are the enemy of mankind. Meant to say “thinking”…

          • Alright break it up… break it up…

            Both of you made your points, Siliconera sucks I should close it down, I get that. Thanks!

            I just don’t understand why someone would come to a site they don’t like to read…

        • I can’t speak for the rest of the staff, but when I thought of protagonists, the first thing that came to mind were RPGs. (Probably because they often focus on character development.) My answer did mention RPGs made in Japan, but I think everyone else’s responses were pretty balanced, when you look at them.

  • malek86

    My favorite main character in general has to be Kain from the original Blood Omen: following orders but at the same time doing things as he pleased, mocking everything and everyone (including himself), and generally not caring too much about others. Despite becoming very powerful throughout the game, you can never shake the feeling that he is the newcomer. Also, his character development (from still human-ish to full fledged vampire) was pretty good.

    The SR games turned him into a more prophetic figure, which I guess fit well his new role of leader, but I didn’t like it nearly as much.

    I guess Travis could be a bit like that too, but he gets points off for having the idiot aura.

  • Aoshi00

    Like the others said, I suppose a sense of humor makes any character much more interesting. Batman didn’t have much room to be funny in Arkham Asylum since the game is so dark, and Joker takes the cake here w/ his barrage of jokes, you even get to control him on the PS3 version. The characters in Gears of War were pretty funny w/ their tough talk, and Jansen in Lost Odyssey is one of the most likable characters in recent RPGs.

    The problem w/ side characters usually being more interesting than the protagonist is because they don’t have a main objective (usually the burden of saving the world) and can afford to be more devil may care, say like Vegeta or Hiei in YuYu Hakusho.

    I really don’t mind recurring types of characters because they are only so many types, and it’s hard to make a completely original unlike any type out of thin air. They have to be likable. I hate jerkwads in most of the Jpn dating sims, and the problem is you have to be “him” in first person perspective. So how can you think of yourself as that character if you don’t even like him.

    I’m surprised so many people think of Cloud as a moper, when I played the game as a teenager, I thought that was just fine, he was a good character to carry to story through w/ his muddled memory.

  • bonafide

    I tend to be pretty picky when it comes to the main protagonist since I personally feel it’s one of the most important aspect when I play games (mainly jRPGs).

    That being said, two of my favorites are Yuri Lowell (Vesperia) and Yuri Hyuga (Shadow hearts I/II). Both are great fighters, fairly independant along with the devil may care attitude. It’s definitely a breath of fresh air after playing through the stereotypical optimistic, sometimes naive, teenager who wants to save the world and avoid any bloodshed.

    In a way, it’s basically playing as the cool party member (Balthier).

  • Vanilla

    I think recurring character types aren’t necessarily a bad thing as long as it doesn’t make you go, “Oh hey it’s THAT character. Again.” While I do get tired of, say, the stock idiot character who somehow gets saddled with the task of saving the world, if s/he is likable as a person, then it’s good enough for me.

  • anbu

    i like my main character to be cool & calm and also kick ass at the same time, while playing as him (it actually makes me wanna play the game more even if the game itself sometimes is mediocre). also i dont like him to look so evil or scary looking like kratos. lol.

    some vid game characters i like are, ashley from vagrant story. dante from dmc. snake from mgs. ryu from breath of fire. and rudy from wild arms 1.

  • Icon

    I just like a protagonist you can relate to on some level. Snake is one of the best because of how fallible he is, even though sometimes it doesn’t seem that way. He gets so beat up in MGS4, it’s a lot like John McClane in Die Hard. McClane was a very new type of action hero when Die Hard came out, because of how much crap he took, and yet found a way to get the job done. Speaking about Konami, Harry Mason in Silent Hill is another great character even if his voice acting isn’t that hot. Before him we only ever had military types in these survival horror games.

  • ShinNoKami

    Yes. VERY yes on Laharl. XD I enjoyed his characterization very much…

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