The Importance of a Good Villain - Jolt815 Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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The Importance of a Good Villain

 

There are some of you out there reading the title of this blog that are saying "Villains, by definition, cannot be good. Jolt, you are an idiot!" I completely agree to both of those things in quotation symbols. 

To me, villains are far more interesting than protagonists as far as video games go. Sure, there are games like Bejeweled and any racing/sports game that can function without the black and white of a good/bad definition. For the majority of the rest of the video games that we know and love, we play the protagonist trying to stop the plans of the antagonist from coming to fruition. 

To me, protagonists have a habit of becong stale rather quickly. Sonic, Mario, Batman, even Kratos and Shepard can get a little stuffy after a few hours of being in their shoes. Video games have incorporated a decision-making process that enables us to spice things up. We can turn the main character into a total jerk. Thats fun. For a while. But still, the protagonist ultimately strives to stop the villain, whatever it is. In inFamous, its The Beast... in Mass Effect, its The Reapers. Jerk or goody-goody, the task is ultimately the same. 

This brings us to the antagonists - villains, if the term suits you. If you read my blogs (lets be honest, everyone does), then you know that I am sympathetic to the plight of the villain. Unlike protagonists, the villains in video games have layers upon layers of dimensionality. Each one is unique (for the most part),  and has their own nuances that make them tick. In my opinion, the role of the antagonist is more important than the one of the main playable character. If the villain doesn't have a good reason to be evil, the hero doesn't have a viable reason to want/need to stop it. A good villain makes a video game worth playing. 

Don't believe me?

Shame on you!

Let's look at the Batman: Arkham games. I won't admit to loving the titles, but I will say that I really really really like them. It's not because of the lame protagonist, Batman. No. Its the villains that make the Arkham games pure gold. 

In Asylum, who can forget running from Croc in his home? Tackling Poison Ivy? That epic battle with Bane? And the finale with Joker? Fuhgetabahtiiiit!

As for Arkham City, there was that insane fight with Mr. Freeze, hunting down Deadshot in his sidequest, encountering Ras, and playing with the Mad Hatter during tea time. Don't even get me sarted on the Riddler hunt

It may seem like I simply rattled off boss fights, and I did, but those villains are some of the best I have ever encountered - video game or otherwise. 

How about an amazing protagonist, John Marston? He is quite possibly one of the bes characters in any video game. Ever. He is made that way by the characters he comes across along his journey. Including villains. The majority of the game involves him hunting down lunatics that used to be like family. The leader, Dutch Van Der Linde, is quite possibly my favorite villain of all time. His role is rather short in comparison to the overall game, but he influences John throughout his journey to reclaim his family. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Dutch and Marston are one in the same; a single different decision changing who they turned out to be. Red Dead wouldn't be my favorite game without Van Der Linde's presense and impact. 

I am currently playing through inFamous and inFamous 2 for the second time. Those of you that have played it know that you can be "good" or "bad" as Cole McGrath. While I love the series, the protagonist is seriously lacking. While you have a choice, he still ends up being one dimensional. His purpose, his only point, is to defeat the villains (Kessler in the first, The Beast in the second), and stop whatever they are trying to accomplish. Both of these villains, once you find out who and what they are and what they are trying to accomplish... they both blow Cole out of the water in terms of dimensionality and just plain awesomeness. The villains are far more complex and interesting that the heroes we are forced to be. 

Sure, we come across that boss that just plain sucks. I am looking at you FFXIII. Orphan completely blows as a final boss. Thankfully, Bartandelus is there to pick up the villain slack. Villains like Bowser and Eggman need to be redone, in my opinion, because they have lost the luster that brought them fame. For the most part though, the villains in video games outshine the main playable characters by a longshot. 

 

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