Jump to content
  • Advertisement
Sign in to follow this  
Disconnect

What makes an antagonist?

This topic is 2546 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

[size="4"]What makes an antagonist?
Let me go ahead and preface this discussion by stating that I'm currently working on creating an interesting and unique antagonist for a little project I'm thinking about starting up. I'm having a lot of trouble defining what compels users (players) to defeat their fictional foes. So, I thought, hey - I might as well ask you guys for your opinion regarding what your motivation is as a player in defeating them, right? I feel as though establishing these motivations will definitely help me craft better adversaries in the future. By the way, I'm also wondering what aspect of defeating the antagonist you think is the most rewarding. I've been throwing around a couple of ideas in my head but I'd like to see what you guys have to say about it.

In a sense, what I'm asking you is - what compels you to want to defeat these enemies? What makes an enemy interesting? What emotional investment(s) do you harbor that most that compels you to triumph over their tyranny? Also, what do you think the best reward is upon defeating your enemy? Something visual like the restoration of a torn land? Or item or power acquisition?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Advertisement
Some antagonists are quite cool but you don't particularly want to defeat them. But I'll stick to talking about ones you particularly want to defeat here, since you specified that.

To particularly want to defeat someone, they have to be doing something immoral and/or really annoying. The more contemptible or frightening someone's motives, the less sympathetic the character is, the less you hesitate to smash them. So a greedy sadist, maybe make him a bigot while you're at it, who is extra dangerous because he is smart, is one of the most contemptible and frightening types of villain. A psychopath who enjoys death and destruction and kills people in creepy ways because the insane voices in his head tell him to is also a particularly frightening type of villain because he is unpredictable and alien. A non-sentient but physically strong and fast monster which is motivated by bottomless hunger to eat people is another scary type of monster; more so if the 'eaten' people are converted into something creepy, like zombies/borg.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Antagonists are the best fans of the hero. They admire the hero and recognize him as such. They care about the hero and take serious note about everything he does. Antagonists ultimate purpose is to denigrate everything the hero represents and in that way prove their own point as valid.

I could go on, but I'm urged to make a barbecue!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some antagonists are quite cool but you don't particularly want to defeat them. But I'll stick to talking about ones you particularly want to defeat here, since you specified that.

To particularly want to defeat someone, they have to be doing something immoral and/or really annoying. The more contemptible or frightening someone's motives, the less sympathetic the character is, the less you hesitate to smash them. So a greedy sadist, maybe make him a bigot while you're at it, who is extra dangerous because he is smart, is one of the most contemptible and frightening types of villain. A psychopath who enjoys death and destruction and kills people in creepy ways because the insane voices in his head tell him to is also a particularly frightening type of villain because he is unpredictable and alien. A non-sentient but physically strong and fast monster which is motivated by bottomless hunger to eat people is another scary type of monster; more so if the 'eaten' people are converted into something creepy, like zombies/borg.


Just a question, but do you think questionably moral villains are any more interesting than say someone who's just innately evil? I guess what I'm asking is, do you think "villains" acting on rational emotion such as vengeance in an irrational way such as genocide are any more interesting than just say, someone who's corrupt - someone bent on domination (power hungry) without an immediate reason? Do you think it's any more satisfying to the player seeing for themselves human flaws within the antagonist that they're battling with? And please do expound on the villains that you aren't necessarily meant to hate - that's more what I'm aiming for.

I'm just trying to determine if it's worth writing in a back-story for a villain if the average player isn't going to appreciate it. In what ways do you guys think you can spice up an antagonist? You know, other than them just being hellbent on destroying the world.


Antagonists are the best fans of the hero. They admire the hero and recognize him as such. They care about the hero and take serious note about everything he does. Antagonists ultimate purpose is to denigrate everything the hero represents and in that way prove their own point as valid.

I could go on, but I'm urged to make a barbecue!


I guess what I'm asking about is an indirect antagonist, or an overall villain - a common villain (such as an evil overlord avidly attempting to take over the world.) This is in regards to games - so, the villain wouldn't necessarily take note of the hero until the hero is his or her opposition, a thorn in their side.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think villains are often the most interesting characters in a piece of fiction - several of my all time favorite characters are villains. I agree with the fact that the villain often has a deeply personal relationship with the hero which can be satisfying to the player playing the hero. Villains are also important because they are typically the driving force behind the whole plot, the creative source of all the surprising problems the hero then has to solve.

Villains who are less utterly evil and more in a moral grey zone are more sympathetic. Sympathy is certainly a type of audience interest. It might be a trade-off because more sympathetic villains are less terrifying and enraging. But sympathetic villains are the ones you don't want to kill, you either want to see them either return repeatedly to deliver witty lines and be melodramatic or funny, or you want to see them get comforted and semi-reformed (not so much they lose their badass image, but enough that the good guys aren't obligated to kill and/or arrest them). Sometimes audience sympathy can even cause them to cheer for the villain to defeat the good guys if the good guys are annoying goody-two-shoes or morons, as they often are.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
IMO, I think the Illusive Man in Mass Effect 2 was the true antagonist in that game. In spite of going after the harbringers, he constantly pulls strings. He's a power broker and his wealth is unkown to the large extreme. However, his methods of going about doing things more often than not put you directly in harms way only for you to find out he knew all along what would happen but never informs you before the fact. He plays sides against each other even when that includes human casualties even though his "mandate" is to protect humanity. In short, he's a scumbag. This type of character is unconscionable to most poeple. I know by the end of the game I wanted to take him out but never got the chance. :cool:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

[quote name='owl' timestamp='1305931016' post='4813671']
Antagonists are the best fans of the hero. They admire the hero and recognize him as such. They care about the hero and take serious note about everything he does. Antagonists ultimate purpose is to denigrate everything the hero represents and in that way prove their own point as valid.

I could go on, but I'm urged to make a barbecue!


I guess what I'm asking about is an indirect antagonist, or an overall villain - a common villain (such as an evil overlord avidly attempting to take over the world.) This is in regards to games - so, the villain wouldn't necessarily take note of the hero until the hero is his or her opposition, a thorn in their side.
[/quote]

[font=Georgia, Garamond,]
1590s, from Fr. antagoniste (16c.) or directly from L.L. antagonista, from Gk. antagonistes "competitor, opponent, rival," agent noun from antagonizesthai "to struggle against, oppose, be a rival," from anti- "against" (see anti-) + [/quote][/font]
[font=Georgia, Garamond,]
[/font]
[font=Georgia, Garamond,]For more reference get some batman comics featuring the joker.[/font]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

[font="Georgia, Garamond,"]For more reference get some batman comics featuring the joker.[/font]

Joker episodes from the animated batman are some of my favorites. Another excellent example of an antagonist/protagonist personal relationship is Death Note. They're each other's only intellectual equals, they have the urge to become friends, but from before they met in person one was bound to arrest the other (with a probable result of execution) and the other needs to kill the first to defend himself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

[quote name='owl' timestamp='1305956092' post='4813762']
[font="Georgia, Garamond,"]For more reference get some batman comics featuring the joker.[/font]

Joker episodes from the animated batman are some of my favorites. Another excellent example of an antagonist/protagonist personal relationship is Death Note. They're each other's only intellectual equals, they have the urge to become friends, but from before they met in person one was bound to arrest the other (with a probable result of execution) and the other needs to kill the first to defend himself.
[/quote]

You gotta buy this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

[quote name='sunandshadow' timestamp='1305995316' post='4813886']
[quote name='owl' timestamp='1305956092' post='4813762']
[font="Georgia, Garamond,"]For more reference get some batman comics featuring the joker.[/font]

Joker episodes from the animated batman are some of my favorites. Another excellent example of an antagonist/protagonist personal relationship is Death Note. They're each other's only intellectual equals, they have the urge to become friends, but from before they met in person one was bound to arrest the other (with a probable result of execution) and the other needs to kill the first to defend himself.
[/quote]

You gotta buy this.
[/quote]
Eh, I really like the lighter portrayals of the joker better. Best thing about the animated series is that the joker's completely insane but not really evil. He plans his crimes, usually thefts, as much to entertain everyone and make himself famous as to accomplish anything. Some of the episodes show him as genuinely loving Harley Quinn, though others aren't consistent with that. When I saw the Dark Knight movie recently I was really unhappy with how nasty that version of the joker was. [insert my usual rant against "darker and edgier" here]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Advertisement
×

Important Information

By using GameDev.net, you agree to our community Guidelines, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy.

Participate in the game development conversation and more when you create an account on GameDev.net!

Sign me up!