The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 11
If there's one thing people like to get behind, it's a hero. This is readily apparent in all areas of life whether we talk about religion, entertainment, wartime, or an individual's existence. While propaganda has a general negative connotation, just think about World War 2. Rosie the Riveter inspired thousands of women to help in any way they could to improve their nation. Captain America united people in a sense of patriotism. Winston Churchill inspired the Allies to never give up. Even Hitler proved a hero to a nation. In a religious sense, nearly every religion has a "hero" of sorts, be it Jesus or Moses or the Maccabees or Mohammed etc. In my life I have clung to heroes such as my father or Spiderman and Iron Man (they're all pretty equal).
This is going to focus a little more on the entertainment aspect (surprise! We're on a game site). Characters are easily one of my favorite parts of video games. If a game has great characters I can stick through it almost no matter what. If the characters are poor, however, I have a much harder time being invested and completing a game. I'm not the only one either; fans cried foul when Halo 3: ODST put you in control of a silent wimp without even a name, and they did again when Reach supplied us with Noble Six. Gamers wanted the Master Chief. Now I was not among these whiners; as much as I love Halo I thought the Chief was a terrible protagonist. However, I was physically angry when my favorite character in Game of Thrones was beheaded (I put down the book and had to walk away) and very moved when my favorite character in Serenity died. I cling to characters.
We as humans seem to have an innate desire to cling to something familiar and relatable. If I still had my psychology textbooks I could give you all reasons why, but I don't. I just know that we yearn for heroes. Not all of the time of course; it can be incredibly satisfying to become a part of the Dark Brotherhood in Skyrim. But as a general rule we search for something better than ourselves that inspire the good in us. It's not something we consciously think about, but when Shepard saves the Rachni race we put ourselves in that position. We saved the alien bug freaks, not Shepard. We rescued the princess. We saved the world. This is why, in my opinion, games with strong characters are the best. I am able to be a part of something bigger than myself and live vicariously in a much more interesting world than my own.
Bringing it all to a close, heroes will always attract an audience. Whether the it's the paragon of humanity such as Superman (ironic right?) or the antihero with flaws that we can more relate to such as the psychologically distressed and broken Commander Shepard, we want that example. I know this has been a jumble of thoughts, but this has been on my mind for a while. I think many games have captured this essence, but they have a long way to go. Too many games just expect us to care for the protagonist without giving much of a reason why. Just because I'm playing as Captain America doesn't mean you can disregard storytelling! Give me this connection and I'll come back again and again.