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Antiheroes in games

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Thinking of a possible main character for a game and trying to think of the main characters I've liked in books I came to the conclusion that the antihero is my favourite type of character. Angus Thermopyle being the first on my list. :) Since most games that are story- or character-driven put the player in control of the main character, how viable is it to use an antihero as protagonist? I'm not that well versed in storydriven games, so I don't know how common this is. Also, the Max Payne type of 'antihero' is not what I'm really after. Max Payne is a hero against his will perhaps, but he still applies for the Hero position. Just wondering really... I'm not going anywhere in particular with this.

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The other thread I started kind of discusses bad guys in writing (http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=378014). But I guess we can talk about it here. :)

Wombah, have you ever played Star Wars: Knights of the old Republic? Or for a different depiction of an evil character in a game, Fable was pretty good. Of course, in both of those games, you didn't start out evil; you became evil (or good, depending on how you completed quests).

Another example could include the Grand Theft Auto series, which I'm sure we're all familiar with by now (the game's been in enough legal news lately, wouldn't be surprised if the Iraqi's talked about it). In GTA, you are an antihero, in a way. Maybe not so much a "hero," but the character you play is still evil/bad, plus the entire story is focused around his doings.

But a lot of the aspects of an antihero are based around the setting and the level of technology, In my opinion. Crooks nowadays have to be a lot more clever in order to pull off a heist, whereas back in the days of castles and knights, a thief didn't have to worry about cameras, guns, or an organized police force, making his job slightly easier...

On a final note for this post, I also believe antiheroes are greatly misunderstood, and I think the reason for this is because not many people who write about antiheroes have much experience in relation to an antihero's behavior or line of reasoning. I'm not saying you should go commit crimes to find out what it feels like to be a "bad person," I'm just saying research the subject; find common traits amongst criminals and examine them, look at them and try to truly understand them (never assume with an antihero...). And from that I think one could begin to construct such a character for a game, or a novel.

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One of my favorite video game antiheroes is Kain from Blood Omen. At the end of the game, you're forced to choose between the "good" ending where you have to sacrifice yourself, or the "bad" ending where you rule over a corrupt empire.

In the sequels (Soul Reaver 1, 2, Defiance), Kain is assumed to have chosen the bad ending, but as they reveal his reasons, he seems less a villain and more an antihero.

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I think we use the term antihero in different ways, and mine is probably wrong. The obvious meaning of the word is a person that is the opposite of a hero. Someone that does evil for the sake of doing evil, just as the hero is a person that does good for the sake of doing good (both are the extreme cases of course). This gives a theoretical scale from heroic to antiheroic.

I'm probably after some other word because what I meant by antihero is a character that does not live on the 'heroscale' at all. Angus Thermopylee from The Gap series (Stephen Donaldson) is not driven by good or evil but by his own fear plain and simple, and that fear makes him do both good and evil things. What I'm after is more of a 'non-hero' perhaps. They have some personal need/s that drive them to do either good or evil or both. One of those needs might very well be 'to do good', but that moral inclination is not the only (or even dominant) need.

I'm not familiar with Blood Omen, so I can't say if Kain would be an antihero or nonhero by my standards, but from what little I've seen of KOTOR that is a good example of an antihero. You have little motivation for doing good or evil other than... doing good or evil.

A character driven by pure morality alone is boring and unrealistic. Not to mention overused in literature, especially low quality fantasy it would seem.

Imagine two 'heroes'; Adam and Benjamin. Both do good as often as they can; they slay evil wherever it may spawn and lay their lives on the line to protect the chastity of the fair maidens of the land. Adam does this because he was raised to believe in good by his father. Benjamin on the other hand does this because he was abandoned by his mother as a child and his father blamed him and destroyed his selfconfidence, so now he craves praise from his community to prove to himself and others that he is worthy of being loved. Adam is a 'hero' and Benjamin is a 'non-hero', but both do 'hero-stuff'.

There might already be a word for non-heroes. Or I might be completely wrong. Or both...

[edit]
Reading through what I just wrote it sounds like I'm making numerous grammatical errors that I can't pinpoint exactly. Too lazy to rewrite though, so you'll have to live with it. :)
[/edit]

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It's certainly viable to use some kind of anti-hero as your protagonist. One of my favourite protagonists is Garrett from the Thief series; his starting motivation was more about professional pride in his work as a thief, but ends up performing the role of a hero due to either necessity in order to survive or for revenge. Garrett was more selfish than evil; he disliked killing people (on the highest difficulty setting, killing anyone was against the rules).

I'm not sure what you are after, but I think it's good to give your protagonist some deeper reason for acting like a hero than purely out of a desire to do good.

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There is an other kind of anti-hero commonly used in adventures games.
I think of all the heros in lucas arts advantures games (monkey's island, maniac mansion...) here all the heros are people rather ugly, fearing, stupid... thats an other kind of anti-hero and in story driven games with a little humour that's really great.

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Quote:
Original post by Wombah
There might already be a word for non-heroes. Or I might be completely wrong. Or both...

In the realm of roleplaying, we call these people NPC's. :)

I see what you're saying now, I believe. You enjoy the "other" characters in books, the ones who aren't exactly always in the spotlight but have some importance for some reason or another, otherwise they wouldn't be in the book in the first place. Am I right? That's essentially what a non-hero is; the people who aren't focused on.

The problem I think this brings up, though, is in your attempts to create a game/story about a non-hero, will you not be making him into a hero just by forming the story around him? In other words, how you keep your non-hero a non-hero when everything is about him? ... (What does everyone think about that?)

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@Omega147: I don't think that's what he meant... From his example I'm under the impression he's talking about a character who does heroic deeds for unheroic reasons. Killing a demon that is threatening the land is heroic, but if you find out he did it to gain the sword of power... it's less heroic. We're definatly not talking about NPCs which stands for Non Player Characters, and on a side note an NPC can be a hero without being the axis of your story.

Now as far as I know I get annoyed with the extreme characters. The chaotic evil who does anything and everything for absolutly nothing annoys the heck out of me. Same goes for the opposite end. Drizzt drives me nuts, he's such a cry baby, I can't stand him. I read his first trilogy after my friend exclaimed how great it was. Once I finished it I went to him and asked if Drizzt still cried after everytime he swung his sword because he had a conscious. Once he said yes, I burned the book and made a voodoo doll of Salvatore.

Okay so I'm exagerating a little bit ;-P

I do love the character of Matt in the Wheel of Time series. Unfortunatly I got annoyed of the series for the same reason I did with Drizzt. The protagonist Rand is always debating whether or not what he's doing is okay.

edited to add:

I think a character can evolve during the course of his story but I think his character's chassis should already be defined. He shouldn't doubt himself and/or his morals after every decision he takes.

(I noticed that I seem to be neglecting the female gender in my post, that's my bad... Women can be just as heroic as men.)

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For a while I've had the impression that game writers (and game artists in general) tend to be the kind of people that liked Angus Thermopyle. Games are increasingly dark. I kinda think that many of these people are caught in the "It's not mature unless it's painful, and I need to win respect for game writing as a mature discipline" line of thinking.

It's one of the reasons I don't game much any more - I don't like unrelenting darkness. It gets old.

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Quote:
Original post by sanch3x
We're definatly not talking about NPCs which stands for Non Player Characters, and on a side note an NPC can be a hero without being the axis of your story.
Just a joke, sanch, because in, like, a D&D game, the players always end up being the heroes (or at least, they all want to be heroes) while the NPC's usually don't do too many heroic things.
Quote:
Original post by sanch3xFrom his example I'm under the impression he's talking about a character who does heroic deeds for unheroic reasons. Killing a demon that is threatening the land is heroic, but if you find out he did it to gain the sword of power... it's less heroic.
Hrm... okay. I think the thing to avoid with this, though, is to not make the player become an evil hero. Yes, many people will see the person's acts as non-heroic (using the sword of power example sanch gave), but then evil followers may begin to "admire" that character for what he did.

This antihero stuff is gettin' tricky. :P

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The thing with an antihero that does heroic things but not for other people's sake, is that he's a bit empty. Selfish is usually all you need to describe such a person, since he's only out to get the uber sword from the dragon, and doesn't really want much more. It's an 'I want, I take'-approach, which makes a character pretty cool (usually, people are sick of goody-goody characters), but hardly fit for a main character, unless they change over the course of the story.

It gets more interesting when a person who does heroic things for himself comes across a person who does less heroic (or even abominable) things, but because it's the lesser of two evils.

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Actions are considered good or evil according to moral

A anti-hero/evil-hero/good-hero is formed not by his actions but by
his reasoning why.

One has to be carefull there is a fine line between a more evil hero, a good hero and a anti-hero. A evil or good hero does things due to his moral code and set reasoning point, a anti hero is mostly thrust in the middle of where a good or evil hero normally wants to be and is needed and will act in response to the situation and more or less self preservation he/she does not want to be a hero but has to fill the gap for better or worse at least for themselves or another reason.

A Good or evil hero may quest to slay a good or evil dragon, a anti hero might find a dragon attacking him and no where to run. Both succeed in slaying the dragon, both are hero's but both for different reasons. For the good or evil hero the reason was mainly dictated by his/her moral view and secondairy exterior motives, for the anti-hero it is dictated mainly by exterior motives (the dragon attacking) and less by moral reasoning.

(Kill the king or your wife dies :
a good hero will try to safe both and undo the villain,
a anti-hero will kill the king or try rescueing his wife but if the villain does not chase the anti hero he may be left alone,
a evil hero will let his wife die and kill the one who threatend him/her and then get that crown for him/her self)

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