Protagonist Characterization or DO NOT WANT

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bellice
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Protagonist Characterization or DO NOT WANT

#1 Post by bellice » Sat Apr 28, 2012 6:05 pm

So, I know there are a lot of topics about protagonists already, but I looked through them and haven't found what I'm looking for yet.
What most of you can apparently agree on is that a protagonist should not be someone you'd find off-putting in real life (e.g. male: loser and pervert) and should have some flaws....in other words, a distinctive personality.
What hasn't been answered, however, is: how different is too different? (Unless it has, in which case I apologize and ask politely for a link)

For example:

What about a female lead that is, for all intents and purposes, a tomboy and does not miraculously change into a lady by the end of the game? (And I don't mean the cute kind of tomboy you find in animes, but the tough, one-of-the-guys kind)

Or a protagonist that smokes/ has bad habits in general? (Smoking is bad, children! Don't do it! Now where did I put them...)

A protagonist that tends to be an asshole and solves conflicts by hitting rather than talking? (No matter if they have a reason for it or not...)
And what if that person is female?


So yeah, what would make you go "Nah...where's my generic, run-of-the-mill mary-sue/gary-stue protagonist"?

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Re: Protagonist Characterization or DO NOT WANT

#2 Post by Blane Doyle » Sat Apr 28, 2012 6:16 pm

To me, if the game has a story you want to tell (either as a plot or character specific) I would prefer to not have a blank slate as my main character. I like reading a story through a protagonist's eyes when there is a story to tell and instead of "this could be you, and you are very boring (even though it seems you can imagine your own things, you really can't)" I would rather at least have a jerk I can hate and wish he/she would get given what for than someone I really don't care about either way because they are so generic and predictable.

Gender, to me, doesn't matter. I'll play games as either gender. (as a girl, I didn't really have much choice for a while actually)

Now, conversely, a "blank slate" does work if you are trying to let the player BE the character in a less story driven game, or it is an out and out dating sim... but I find these kinds of characters far too... stereotypical? Common? I want a little meat on my character bones, so to speak, even though I don't mind playing these characters from time to time.

But this is just me. I know others here may have drastically different views than I do.

As for the examples you listed, sure? I would like to know more about them, but in general I would be for trying them.

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Re: Protagonist Characterization or DO NOT WANT

#3 Post by HikkiPanda » Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:15 pm

bellice wrote:What about a female lead that is, for all intents and purposes, a tomboy and does not miraculously change into a lady by the end of the game? (And I don't mean the cute kind of tomboy you find in animes, but the tough, one-of-the-guys kind)
mmm ... something like Black lagoon? I won't like it I guess, I prefer tough and young cute girls like Marika and Chiaki from Mouretsu Pirates
bellice wrote:Or a protagonist that smokes/ has bad habits in general? (Smoking is bad, children! Don't do it! Now where did I put them...)
For smoke ... it's okay for oldman protagonist .. no for boy and girl/woman protagonist. Alcohol is okay for everyone as long as they're not addicted to it. And narcotics are only good for the bad guys, I will ragequit if the protagonist is a narcotic addicts ^^;
bellice wrote:A protagonist that tends to be an asshole and solves conflicts by hitting rather than talking? (No matter if they have a reason for it or not...)
And what if that person is female?
solving conflicts with violence is sometimes necessary .. so I don't really have a problem with that.
But I never like asshole character ... ^^;. I always prefer the boring good guys in shoujo manga and ragequit everytime the girl ended with those jerk with a heart of gold/jerk who keep abusing the protagonist ... oh, and I totally hate Suzumiya Haruhi

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Re: Protagonist Characterization or DO NOT WANT

#4 Post by Dollywitch » Sat Apr 28, 2012 9:47 pm

What about a female lead that is, for all intents and purposes, a tomboy and does not miraculously change into a lady by the end of the game? (And I don't mean the cute kind of tomboy you find in animes, but the tough, one-of-the-guys kind)
The main character for one of my KNs was going to be a "Tomboy" I suppose, or rather she's a woman who has kind of short hair(though still feminine short hair, kinda like a grown out messy pixie cut), tends to wear suits, etc. I don't see why I'd want to change that.

Conversely, my other VN kind of explores this in a different way - like the archetype of a Princess who disguises herself as a boy, or one of the commoners etc. maybe as part of a rebellion, the mains actually don't do this as a kind of symbol for bringing expression and beauty to everyone, rather than removing it. It's sort of complicated. There are a couple of good feminist archetype characters in there though.

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Re: Protagonist Characterization or DO NOT WANT

#5 Post by gekiganwing » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:01 am

If the main character is an alien, robot, or similar creature that can't understand human behavior, that sort of point of view can be difficult to relate to. It's also difficult to write.

[quote="bellice"]...What hasn't been answered, however, is: how different is too different?

...What about a female lead that is, for all intents and purposes, a tomboy and does not miraculously change into a lady by the end of the game? (And I don't mean the cute kind of tomboy you find in animes, but the tough, one-of-the-guys kind)

Or a protagonist that smokes/ has bad habits in general? (Smoking is bad, children! Don't do it! Now where did I put them...)

A protagonist that tends to be an asshole and solves conflicts by hitting rather than talking? (No matter if they have a reason for it or not...)[/url]

1. Bring it on. Just do it.

2. Bad habits can be a bit off-putting. Though they can be understandable if the person has some sort of reason. (They're immature, uncivilized, struggling with grief or addiction...) If the main character engages in criminal behavior, has no excuse, and can not be controlled by the player... now that sort of person would be very difficult to relate to.

3. If the main character's first reaction is violence *and* it can't be controlled, that would be a turn-off. If the MC abuses friends and family *and* the player has no input, that would be a turn-off. See a pattern here?

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Re: Protagonist Characterization or DO NOT WANT

#6 Post by Zylinder » Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:53 am

I don't see any problems at all with the character examples that you gave. No.2 especially, is what I like to see in characters. Protagonist who have bad habits. Things like say, chewing his nails, smoking, alcoholism are things that define a protagonist more to me. Ditto things like protagonists who are trying to quit but having difficulty all the time. It adds more dimension to the character.

Flaws are my personal favorite for characters, so I'd love to see more protagonists with flaws. It makes them a lot more unique, and that goes for side characters too. Characters who used to beat their wives? Divorced? Has an addiction to donuts? A woman who gambles so much she neglects her family? All of these help me understand the character more, and they cease to be "A male detective", and instead, "A male detective with a sugar addiction and diabetes. Sold his house for a brand new sports car due to mid life crisis and now pretty much live in a rented dump".

As for what separates good characters from sues, that's pretty much it for me. A lot of sues tend to have perfect characteristics. People who are born to prestigious/powerful families, amazingly talented, so gorgeous everyone falls for them, etc. They're possible to do of course, but to me, it's the lack of flaws to balance it out that's the problem with them.

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Re: Protagonist Characterization or DO NOT WANT

#7 Post by Tetiel » Sun Apr 29, 2012 2:20 am

I'm with Zylinder on this one. Flaws are great. I'm for just about anything in a protagonist, especially if we get to see all the skeletons in their closet to give more depth to the character. If there's bad behavior, there needs to be a reason for it, no matter how difficult a struggle it is to figure it out.

The only thing that really turns me off about a game is if they take a perfectly good character and makes them flat and stereotypical by the end. A good example of this the change between Yuna in FFX and Yuna in FFX-2. I guess what I'm really saying is... I'm the opposite of your question. Most Mary-Sue/Gary-Stu protagonists make me scream for something that isn't generic and overdone. The more drastically different, the better. I don't feel that you need to relate to a character in order to love them, you only need to understand them, but perhaps that's just me.

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Re: Protagonist Characterization or DO NOT WANT

#8 Post by Lumen_Astrum » Sun Apr 29, 2012 5:47 am

I don't see an issue with it. Actually, it seems more realistic to me, since it just says how humanely imperfect humans are. I just simply don't like those generic bad protagonists, say tomboys, especially if they do the bad stuff for no apparent reason. I believe that if people does bad, they do it for a reason, and not just those "Oh lol, I just can't do anything so I ran away and became a bad girl ahahaha" thing. XD

I hope that's a sane enough opinion. XD

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Re: Protagonist Characterization or DO NOT WANT

#9 Post by OokamiKasumi » Sun Apr 29, 2012 10:54 am

bellice wrote:...What about a female lead that is, for all intents and purposes, a tomboy and does not miraculously change into a lady by the end of the game? (And I don't mean the cute kind of tomboy you find in animes, but the tough, one-of-the-guys kind.) Or a protagonist that smokes/ has bad habits in general? A protagonist that tends to be an asshole and solves conflicts by hitting rather than talking? (No matter if they have a reason for it or not...) And what if that person is female?
Allow me to introduce one of my most favorite characters ever; Tank Girl.
-- She is everything you describe, and then some. :)
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tankgirl04.jpg
tankgirl03.jpg
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tankgirl01.jpg
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tankgirl02.jpg
I ADORE her.

However, what makes Tank Girl's character work is Not who or what she is, but how well she FITS in her story.
-- Tank Girl lives in a dystopian world that's become mostly desert because of nuclear warfare. Only instead of being depressed about the state of the world, she's upbeat and enthusiastically determined to keep living, and keep laughing -- out of sheer Spite. Tank Girl, despite her surroundings, is an Angst-Free Zone. No matter what happens to her or her friends, she's got a smart-assed remark, and usually a grenade tucked in her bra or panties. Think: Mad Max, only silly.

Most importantly, she Needs to be this kind of character because that's what it takes to survive her world. The villains she faces are extremely powerful, and extremely rich megalomaniacs with armies at their disposal. If she wasn't this sort of character, she would have died in the first 5 minutes of the story -- and messily.

So, it's not what kind of character you have, so much as it's what you DO with her that counts.

Go ahead and make your tom-boy character. If she FITS in the world you put her in, I guarantee she will be adored.
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Re: Protagonist Characterization or DO NOT WANT

#10 Post by Omnificent » Sun Apr 29, 2012 11:51 am

To me a given story's other redeeming qualities need to be much better to make up for the character not having characterization/being poorly characterized, especially as VNs are generally 1st person present tense.

I would personally enjoy seeing more variety in both male and female protagonists, though the latter is a definite necessity considering the more dire state of flat and/or Sue female protagonist. The protagonist of the reverse harem video game at the moment is generally about as bad as the protagonist of the harem video game circa the late, 90s/early 2000s. It would be downright fantastic to see Black Lagoon the VN or gender-swapped Death Note the VN. Heck, when's the last time a female POV character's been characterized as a smart, cool, Machiavellian teenager who doesn't use sex appeal to get her way, or at least doesn't lazily rely on it 90% of the time?

Also, as a note in general: if your story is plot/concept-centric, rather than character-centric, it is forgiveable if not exactly ideal for your characters to be cardboard cutouts. If your story is character-centric then none of your characters should be cardboard cutouts regardless of who the POV is, especially the other mains/in the case of something with romance, the 'obtainables'. In fact, it is all the more egregious if the person whose POV you're forced to follow is the least interesting character in the entire game, to the point that one-shot NPCs can and do regularly outshine them. And it is insulting to your audience to expect them to put themselves in the shoes of a cardboard cutout.
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Re: Protagonist Characterization or DO NOT WANT

#11 Post by Dollywitch » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:08 pm

Also, as a note in general: if your story is plot/concept-centric, rather than character-centric, it is forgiveable if not exactly ideal for your characters to be cardboard cutouts.
This the route a lot of Sci-Fi and Fantasy seem to take, and it does get a little tiring and comes off as "autistic" for want of a better word. It can still be a good read, but I really think you need at least some characterisation.

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Re: Protagonist Characterization or DO NOT WANT

#12 Post by Omnificent » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:18 pm

Yeah, that's more or less what I was thinking of when I said plot/concept-centric. I like knowing the physics-based justification for Jetsons cars or learning why the strong AI featured in the story is state-of-the-art for the time period as much as anyone, but what about those poor have-nots still living in a hovel below the shining titanium-alloy city because they can't afford sky transportation or the guy living at the highest level which can only be reached through privately chartered, government permit shuttle who is living off the wealth his inventor father left him?

Incidentally, it's no coincidence that sci-fi's often been a place to explore themes of the human condition is a 'safe', non-controversial space.
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Re: Protagonist Characterization or DO NOT WANT

#13 Post by Calissa Leigh » Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:16 pm

Let's talk about flaws. :)

Flaws aren't there to be interesting. They are there to do something. The only reason you want to point out a flaw is if the flaw becomes a problem with the main character getting what he/she wants.

Goes like this: Main character wants to be a pianist, there's lots of reasons why he can't do it, including internal flaws (laziness, ineptness, being tone deaf), and external conflicts (a crazy mother who wants him to play the violin instead, bad grades that force him to study instead of practice). There may also be an antagonist. Mary Sue, his girlfriend, wants him to get a job as a lawyer and pay for pretty things for her, so she pays a music teacher to refuse to teach him anything.

Whatever it is, the thing the character wants needs to be obstructed by stuff. If a guy smokes, maybe his smoking keeps him from getting hired at a particular bar. Or he smokes in the bar that he is not supposed to and now he's banned.

Some of it can be 'decorative' but if the guy is smoking every few scenes and you are purposefully putting this in, there needs to be a reason. :) It's one thing to say the room was decorated with shiny objects. It's another to focus on one particular item and give it a name and refer to it throughout the book... and then do absolutely nothing with it.

Flaws need to fit the image you want to create, too. If you want to portray a guy who loves animals, and then show the guy buying a fur coat... it doesn't fit the image.

So think about what you need your character to do, and then design flaws that would stand out as a burden or reason why this guy can't get what he wants. :)

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Re: Protagonist Characterization or DO NOT WANT

#14 Post by Calissa Leigh » Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:21 pm


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Re: Protagonist Characterization or DO NOT WANT

#15 Post by Tsundere Lightning » Tue May 01, 2012 4:52 pm

gekiganwing wrote:If the main character is an alien, robot, or similar creature that can't understand human behavior, that sort of point of view can be difficult to relate to. It's also difficult to write.
As a side note: Don't have an 'alien' main character without human characters to contrast with. If there are humans around for the MC to shake hir head sadly at because these humans are crazy, you can have an effective story (and a baseline for the MC to contrast with).

The Chanur and Man-Kzin War books do this VERY well.
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