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The Protagonist Dilemma

What happens when the main character of a game (or a TV series/movie for that matter) does or says something that turns you against them? The one character you are supposed to relate to the most becomes utterly detestable, potentially ruining the gaming experience.

If this is the 'humanity' I'm saving... Forget it!

Joel choosing to save Ellie might be seen as a move where he is simply replacing his daughter. This would be an act of pure egoism, but I don't read his motivation as being so one-dimensional. He even lashes out at Ellie, saying she is not his daughter, even though their relationship does have that kind of dynamic to it. He realizes there is a difference. Sort of.

The Joel we see in the beginning of the game is cold, hardened by loss and suffering in this post-apocalyptic world. As his relationship with Ellie builds, he sees that there can still be positives in a world where all seems lost. They've been across a country wrought with cutthroat betrayal, and to sever the one bond that gives either one a shred of humanity is foolish. Joel knows that this vaccine isn't going to miraculously save humanity and part of his motivation is that he wants Ellie to live, that she deserves a chance to be free, even if that means living in a dangerous world. In the end, this decision lies somewhere between egoism and altruism. Joel wanted Ellie to live and did anything and everything to save her. Pretty altruistic. He also had some part of him that linked Ellie to his lost daughter, and not wanting to lose someone so close to him again, he chooses to save Ellie. Somewhat egoistic. Give the guy a break though, that's a really tough spot to be put in. I think what he did was entirely reasonable.

Which is why I was shocked that people thought Joel made the wrong choice, and that they would have no qualms with giving Ellie over to the Fireflies. There can definitely be games where a protagonist does a heel turn and makes it very hard to root for them. I don't think The Last of Us belongs in this category though. That said, I like that a character's decision can create division amongst the audience, it shows that the audience was invested enough in the game to be upset with something the main character did. This kind of protagonist is more desirable for me, when compared to the milquetoast protagonist, a character so bland that they leave literally no impression on the gamer. Id take a character I care about over one Im indifferent to any day, even if the character I invest in betrays me with a bad decision.

Is there a protagonist who you either liked or disliked, but something they did changed your opinion of them? Who? From what game? And what did they do?
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Morty   1



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About Sab0tenderone of us since 12:42 PM on 05.28.2014

Just another gamer.
Maybe what I have to say is interesting,
but probably not...

from Vancouver, Canada.

Went to NYU for grad school.
Studied 'Otaku' culture to death while in grad school, so ask me anything about anime, manga and video game lovers in Japan, and I'll probably be able to tell you a lot.

If you like my writing, follow me!
I'd really appreciate it!

On twitch:

Also, I run a Zelda Tumblr that was made entirely to troll a friend who said he didn't like Wind Waker... now it's a thing I spend too much time on...