What kind of Personalities for a MC?

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What kind of Personalities for a MC?

#1 Post by JayBlue » Wed Jun 28, 2017 3:56 pm

What kind of personalities do you like for a Main Character?

And as long as we're on the subject, what kind of personalities do you hate in a Main Character?
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Re: What kind of Personalities for a MC?

#2 Post by Imperf3kt » Wed Jun 28, 2017 5:41 pm

I don't have any "likes" - i either enjoy the story or I don't. The MC is only one part of that.

I do have one hate though - whiny little bitches akin to Ikari Shinji of Evangelion.
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Re: What kind of Personalities for a MC?

#3 Post by TellerFarsight » Wed Jun 28, 2017 6:02 pm

I think above and all I prefer when protag-kun *has* a personality. It feels just, uncomfortable to have an MC be an entirely vacuous avatar for the player. Even if they are a silent protagonist, oftentimes a personality comes across by what dialogue options are available, but if you aren't creative with those, it gets pretty dull and kind of fake, like I'm actually just playing me walking through a cheap Disneyland style roleplay experience.

That said, the MC can really have any kind of personality and be good. Even if their whiny, or coldhearted, or just a dumbass, it's fun to roleplay as that character as long as the overall writing is good.

Did you have any particularly in mind, JayBlue?
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Re: What kind of Personalities for a MC?

#4 Post by JayBlue » Wed Jun 28, 2017 6:17 pm

TellerFarsight wrote:I think above and all I prefer when protag-kun *has* a personality. It feels just, uncomfortable to have an MC be an entirely vacuous avatar for the player. Even if they are a silent protagonist, oftentimes a personality comes across by what dialogue options are available, but if you aren't creative with those, it gets pretty dull and kind of fake, like I'm actually just playing me walking through a cheap Disneyland style roleplay experience.

That said, the MC can really have any kind of personality and be good. Even if their whiny, or coldhearted, or just a dumbass, it's fun to roleplay as that character as long as the overall writing is good.

Did you have any particularly in mind, JayBlue?
Not at the moment, I'm currently just feeling out what people want in an MC. I've been getting a few ideas, but nothing solid yet.

I have strongly considered having the MC's personality defined by the dialogue choices, but I have no idea what kind of personalities I should use.
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Re: What kind of Personalities for a MC?

#5 Post by TellerFarsight » Wed Jun 28, 2017 6:29 pm

I don't know what I'm thinking of exactly, but Atlus games and Telltale games are pretty good at doing character through dialogue option. It creates a pretty clear picture in your head to see the things the MC considered saying but decided not to, and it's always good for a laugh.

My personal strategy? Write the MC initially as though they *aren't* being controlled by the player. Write it like you would write any type of non-interactive story, like you would create the personalities for all the other characters in your VN. Maybe all the choices very generally head in the same direction (MC is strong-willed and likes to take action, or is always shy, or whatever) or maybe you have 2 or 3 personalities written out that the player can choose from. I've seen some games kind of call it out, where they have a little display for the MCs personality and you can see it change as you make choices for them (great example, "Along the Edge", and then I think games like Fallout and Mass Effect do similar things). You don't have to do that of course, but I think it's important for the MC to have as strong a personality as any of the other characters, so your choices are not so heavily relied upon to define the character. Lucette from the Cinderella Phenomenon is a good example of this.
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Re: What kind of Personalities for a MC?

#6 Post by Shipwrecker » Wed Jun 28, 2017 7:57 pm

I'm pretty open to what kind of character the MC is, but i want to see that character expressed and developed through their actions and interactions. Too much introspection can get pretty boring and I find myself skimming through big bits of text to get to the next conversation.

There seems to be a lot of VNs where the MC follows an arc of being apathetic/depressed at the start and finding motivation/a reason to live through the events of the story. This is not a bad character arc, but if its not done well, it can be hard to care about the MC. That's why I'm always happy to see a story where the MC shows some kind of ambition or purpose from the start, so we've got a reason to get behind them.

For example:
"I want to be an astronaut"
"I'm going to make this the best year ever"
"I've always wondered what the inside of that creepy abandoned house looks like"

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Re: What kind of Personalities for a MC?

#7 Post by Katy133 » Wed Jun 28, 2017 8:25 pm

I think with me, it's easier for me to list what I don't like, than what I like. Because as long as the character is well-written, I should be fine with them.

Some pitfalls and/or some things I don't like:
  • The character being overly angsty: I remember watching a Let's Play video for a VN and at one point, the MC is talking about how he hates his father for spending too much time working as a businessman, and says that his father "is already dead in his mind." Which I couldn't help but feel like this would be really insulting if the character he was talking to was an orphan or someone who had lost their parents.
  • The character's personality not matching how other characters have described them as: I remember seeing a film where the main character was described as kind, smart, and brave, yet in the story, she pushed over an elderly beggar as a joke, fell for an obvious trap, and ran away from a fight. This can work if the writer intended this inconsistency (example: the character is an Unreliable Narrator), but if the writer didn't intend it, it looks really bad and the audience will believe what we see over what we are told.
  • Characters who don't stand up for injustice. I remember hearing about a VN that begins with the student MC watching another student bully a blind girl, and didn't do anything to stop it. I'm fine with "extreme doormat" characters (Bertie Wooster is one of my favourite literary characters) and "dirty coward" characters (Johnny Powell and Portal 2's Wheatley are also on my list of favourite characters), but even those characters have a sense of justice and have a breaking point where they will uncharacteristically stand up for themselves or for other people who are in danger.
Imperf3kt wrote:I do have one hate though - whiny little bitches akin to Ikari Shinji of Evangelion.
^^^This. I absolutely agree with this. I haven't even watched Evangelion, but Shinji's reputation is that infamous.

There's also an interesting two-part article by the Bunny Advocate on VN protagonists, here is a quote from them:
For both JVNs and EVNs, protagonists with a clear identity (and face) were far preferred over bland self-inserts, perhaps because more engaging stories tend to require a protagonist with eyes
If you want to make a good character who has an ambiguous personality, I highly recommend reading The Adventures of Tintin comic albums. Here is a quote about Tintin by writer Harry Thompson:
[Tintin was] almost featureless, ageless, sexless, and did not appear to be burdened with a personality. Yet this very anonymity remains the key to Tintin's gigantic international success. With so little to mark him out, anybody from Curaçao to Coventry can identify with him and live out his adventures. Millions have done so, both adults and children.
Another thing to consider is whether or not their personality fits in with the story's theme, plot, and central arc. An example to help illustrate this idea of planning would be the different depictions of the character Batman:
  • In The Lego Batman Movie, the driving question is, "Can Batman ever be happy?" This version of Batman is written as way more angsty than his original 1939 comics, to help support the film's central theme, and to make him a better character foil/opposite to Robin, who is excitable and optimistic.
  • In Holy Musical B@man, Batman is again angsty. He's also very violent and aggressive in this version. Both those traits work for the story in two ways each; the angst is because 1) It drives the plot forward: Alfred sees that Batman is really lonely, so he teams him up with Robin, and 2) When he's with Robin, it becomes clear that Batman is less angsty, which leads to the next plot point. Batman's violence is included because 1) It's used for comedic purposes that fit in with the story's world, and 2) During the climax, Batman has to choose between saving a character he cares about, versus saving Gotham City. The stakes are raised here because since Batman is okay with violence, is feels like it's possible that he'll forsake the entire city.
  • In the 1960s live-action Batman series, Batman is a lot more lawful good and is more stoic rather than angsty. He also uses more detective work. This fits in with the series' world, since the villains use more backdoor methods to commit crimes, such as burglary. Batman's lawful nature is also used to show that he is trying to be a good role model to Robin: He corrects Robin when he (Robin) makes and mistake, and points out unlawful things that the villains do (like vandalism) in front of Robin.
If you want more ideas on the personality choices you have, you may want to start looking up character archetypes and build upon those, or looking up character tropes to play around with (or subvert) on TV Tropes' website.

Hope this helps! :D
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Re: What kind of Personalities for a MC?

#8 Post by Limabaen » Wed Jun 28, 2017 9:00 pm

I generally don't mind what personality the MC has in a game, as long as it exists. It's pretty hard to be enthused about character interactions if one side is a vapid yes man.

I tend to prefer intelligent main characters who react like ordinary, rational people. I'm actually alright with whiny, incompetent protagonists as long as they a. get better, and b. are acknowledged as such.

If I'm going to isolate my dislikes on the basis of pure principle, I'd say I'm a bit wary of the "strong" female mc who's strength is only literal, the rapist protagonist, the unrealistically pure, innocent girl and the patronisingly intelligent mc. With the exception of the rapist however, I think all of these are the result of bad writing rather than a singular trope, and I've seen examples of most of them done enjoyably well.

Finally, I'm a fan of choice based personality building as long as you can get a good ending regardless of whatever personality you adopt (I think this is accomplishable by making endings hinge on actions rather than dialogue). Also regardless of whether they are a character in and of themselves or a substitute for the player, they have to grow and change over the course of the story. This is probably just good storytelling fundamentals but I'm surprised by how many vns don't do it.

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Re: What kind of Personalities for a MC?

#9 Post by Sonomi » Wed Jun 28, 2017 9:42 pm

Bear in mind that this is only my opinion and it will absolutely vary depending upon who you ask!

I prefer main characters who have a personality, generally speaking. As long as they're not a blank slate or terrible to everyone around them, I will probably like them. To get more into specifics they should have a reason behind the things they do, a hobby, a goal, motivation, or something that keeps them going every day. It's not very satisfying to read about a character who doesn't do anything, or someone who is only defined by the personalities around him or her (the harem protagonist...but more on that below).

The type of main character I dislike is the blank slate, the ones who happen to always escape consequences even when they do the things that other characters in the story are held accountable for, the ones who spend 99% of their time criticizing or making fun of the person who is supposedly their best friend (who treats their friends this way and still has friends?), and the person who attracts everyone to them with no effort on their part.

By the last one, I mean the harem protagonist. Harems are not necessarily bad by design, but what I feel is troublesome is when the object of that harem has no talents, no hobbies, or anything that would actually attract someone to them in a legitimate way. Even if it's fiction, it feels very much unrealistic in my opinion and I have not found satisfaction in reading about that sort main character. Now that might be the case because I view wish fulfillment as me relating to the main character's defined personality and experiencing the story through them. As opposed to putting myself in the position of a blank slate and experiencing the story as myself.
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Re: What kind of Personalities for a MC?

#10 Post by Mammon » Thu Jun 29, 2017 2:41 am

It's been said 7 times before, but I too will beat this dead horse by saying that I like an MC with a personality. Preferably one that's likeable as opposed to a whiny Kenji, but likeable doesn't mean admirable.

A female protagonist with a personality is actually my favorite female trope in VNs. She has a detailed, nuanced personality explored through her actions and inner monologue, and the story is retrofitted to their actions and desires, rather than the other way around. It doesn't even necessarily matter what kind of personality it is, stubborn like Re:Alistair, playful rogue like Ascension, the lonely and haunted MC from Cupid, or the player-choice MC from The lady's choice. Because they're the protagonist with reflections of the author's desire for a person rather than a their desire for a supporting character.

For male protagonists, due to the amount of blank slades I have to deal with it. A good character on the other hand is not as easy as for a female MC, though. They have to be defined and not dislikeable because of it. Which, to my taste, has nothing to do with their morality but the way they do something. A hypocritical MC that claims to have a personality completely opposed to what later happens, or a MC whose desires are handed to them on a silver platter by the plot are just awful.

I myself tend to make male MC's with a despicable or otherwise dislikeable character that lends itself well to their intelligence and reasoning not seeming OP. They're smart enough to make rational decisions without this seeming like they've read the script, I'll instead have their personality be a source of entertainment or part of the plot to be unravelled. Most well-known example from other media would be Joseph Joestar, who is incredibly savvy and intelligent (especially compared to his grandson, with whom the plot merely claims intelligence without showing it well). He's a coward and a generally dislikeable know-it-all personality at first glance, but a lot of things like being prepared or coming up with a new technique don't come off as OP MC because of it.
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Re: What kind of Personalities for a MC?

#11 Post by SundownKid » Thu Jun 29, 2017 2:15 pm

Personalities I like: Take-charge, kind, or if they are evil, either has a heart of gold, or they are charismatic about it.

Personalities I dislike: Shy, cowardly, dumb, self-centered, or inconsiderate to others.

Of course, I WHOLLY understand if a protagonist starts out with one of those "disliked" qualities and has character development. But usually said development happens way too late in the story to make me actually not dislike them.

Also note that this only applies to MC's, characters with those traits who aren't MCs can be quite memorable and good.

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Re: What kind of Personalities for a MC?

#12 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Thu Jun 29, 2017 5:09 pm

Katy133 wrote:I think with me, it's easier for me to list what I don't like, than what I like. Because as long as the character is well-written, I should be fine with them.

Some pitfalls and/or some things I don't like:
  • The character being overly angsty: I remember watching a Let's Play video for a VN and at one point, the MC is talking about how he hates his father for spending too much time working as a businessman, and says that his father "is already dead in his mind." Which I couldn't help but feel like this would be really insulting if the character he was talking to was an orphan or someone who had lost their parents.
  • The character's personality not matching how other characters have described them as: I remember seeing a film where the main character was described as kind, smart, and brave, yet in the story, she pushed over an elderly beggar as a joke, fell for an obvious trap, and ran away from a fight. This can work if the writer intended this inconsistency (example: the character is an Unreliable Narrator), but if the writer didn't intend it, it looks really bad and the audience will believe what we see over what we are told.
  • Characters who don't stand up for injustice. I remember hearing about a VN that begins with the student MC watching another student bully a blind girl, and didn't do anything to stop it. I'm fine with "extreme doormat" characters (Bertie Wooster is one of my favourite literary characters) and "dirty coward" characters (Johnny Powell and Portal 2's Wheatley are also on my list of favourite characters), but even those characters have a sense of justice and have a breaking point where they will uncharacteristically stand up for themselves or for other people who are in danger.
It's the same for me, particularly the 'doormat' protagonist. I don't think I've ever been more enraged than in Yume Miru Kusuri: A Drug That Makes You Dream, where there is an entire ROUTE where the protagonist stands around while the girl he is supposed to be dating is brutally bullied by their classmates. (And the bullying is bad enough the protagonist knows she is considering suicide because of it.) The game gives you no choice in these situations - though you get plenty of choices in other events - but to just watch this poor girl be tormented, and the protagonist is too spineless to even speak up. It raises my blood pressure even remembering it. The protagonist doesn't do anything and it all culminates in a gang rape attempt on the girl, where she snaps, grabs a knife and nearly kills one of her attackers. All while the protagonist does his best invertibrate impression. I actively hated the protagonist after that. I never did finish the other routes (which apparently are quite different) because of it.

So there's that. Don't make the player hate your protagonist.

Could be a personal thing, don't know. But I hate doormats. I was in a similar position in school as the protagonist, where one of my female friends was tripped by a bully in class and hit the floor hard. I immediately stood up, walked over, and decked the laughing bully in the head hard enough to knock them out of their seat. I spent 5 minutes in the principal's office, then was sent back to class with no punishment. (Yay, 1980s!) But that person never bullied anyone again.

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Re: What kind of Personalities for a MC?

#13 Post by gekiganwing » Fri Jun 30, 2017 1:10 am

I asked myself "Have I ever cared about a blandly likable protagonist?" Then I remembered Fone Bone from Jeff Smith's comic series Bone. The character is an intentionally simple design who stands out in a world of complex and less cartoonish characters. He gets a few funny lines early in the story. When it starts to segue from a humorous tale into a fantasy drama, he manages to be proactive.

Another interesting example would be Makoto from the original seven-episode El-Hazard OAV series. He may be a harem protagonist, but he spends most of the story completely focused on finding and redeeming Ifurita. He's initially humiliated by his circumstances, but manages to persevere despite not knowing the local politics. Unlike some of his peers, he doesn't get a flashy superpower.

I think it would be challenging to write a protag who gets the call to adventure, but who frequently fails to live up to it. I think this sort of person would be dealing with depression, anxiety, or perhaps a fictional world which can't be salvaged. If they repeatedly fail to meet society's expectations (or their own), that can make reading the story boring or unpleasant. The reader might think "They never win, so why should I care?" Maybe the point of their story is to show the reasons why they can't measure up to the call to adventure...

On the other hand, it's difficult to admire a protag who (nearly) always wins. If the reader doesn't see them struggle to succeed, or if they can just shrug off obstacles, then why should we care about them?

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Re: What kind of Personalities for a MC?

#14 Post by Xandra » Fri Jun 30, 2017 1:30 am

I agree with everyone else that MC should have a strong, consistent personality and should play an active role in their own story, not a passive role. I've dropped many shows because the main character was just too boring and difficult to connect with.

I think a main character who is just plan stupid would annoy me most, especially when said stupidity is not acknowledged in the story. The doormat would annoy me too, but I would be forgiving if the character showed some deep regret for not taking action and grew from the experience. I enjoy when games give players the option to be snarky, but would not like if the MC was being unreasonably rude of his/her own accord. I like how the choice puts the responsibility on the player rather than on the main character themselves, since the player could completely avoid having the mc act like a jerk if they want.
On the other hand, it's difficult to admire a protag who (nearly) always wins. If the reader doesn't see them struggle to succeed, or if they can just shrug off obstacles, then why should we care about them?
This is exactly why I stopped watching Sword Art Online. >.> The first couple episodes were very engaging, but then...eh. Suddenly Kirito is OP and he gets a new female admirer every episode with little to no effort. No offense to anyone who likes the show, but I just couldn't stick with it.
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Re: What kind of Personalities for a MC?

#15 Post by Jordgubben » Fri Jun 30, 2017 10:12 am

I really like Ikari Shiji, perhaps not as an isolated character but as the centrepiece of "Neo Genisis Evangelion" as a whole. A classical "hero" protagonist would not have worked in his place. A tragedy about our inability to understand each other needs a socially inept coward as an MC. That said, a character like Shinji would be a terrible playable main character in most games.

Able and proactive MCs are definitely recommended in interactive fiction. The same goes for acting in a predictable and relatable way. I do however believe there is a place for the bumbling, shy, cowardice and otherwise "weak" main character.

Let me pitch you an idea: Imagine a main character with Social anxiety disorder. The MC can take a stand and get into conflicts, but this drains from a 'social fortitude' meter. Once the meter is depleted then the character can no longer take these options. So the player would have to conserve bravery at some points or risk inability to act at later, more critical, moments.

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