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Everything requires motivation. From challenging Gods and Kings, to taking on inter-dimensional empires, to becoming the very best, like no one ever was, requires motivation. The protagonists of the games we play all attempt to do something, and have something that makes them want(or have to) do that thing. That's what I'm going to explore today-motivation.
There are many things that motivate us in real life-success in academics, relationships, financial stability, and many other things. However, unless you're in something like The Sims or Animal Crossing, you're not really trying for any of these things(maybe not even in the cases of these games, some times). What drives Mater Chief and Sora are decidedly different than what we asnormal people do. So, below, I'm going to analyze some of the motivations that exist for video game protagonists. Spoilers follow for several games, but you should be okay, because they'll be subtle if more recent, and the rest are from much older games.
Notable Examples: Raiden, Solid Snake, Neku Sakuraba, Link(OoT)
One more obscure example of motivation is actually not really a form of motivation at all; it's when the actions of a character are actually manipulated by some higher power in that world. One very known example is the manipulation of Raiden and Solid Snake the the Metal Gear series. Raiden works unknowingly for the Patriots during Metal Gear Solid 2, and Solid Snake infects several people with the disease FOXDIE as a result of the Patriots as well. This motivation is one used as more of a plot-twist device as opposed to a "plot-driver", and that sets it more apart than the others.
Calling from a higher power
Notable Examples: Link, Pit, Amaterasu, Paper Mario
What sets this motivation apart from manipulation is that it more involves the actual character's choice, as opposed to being forced. Link is chosen by the Goddesses(or some other higher, spiritual power, such as the Wind Fish) to undertake some grand task. Protagonists with this motivation are almost always the "Chosen One", being some character that possesses an ability that no one else, that will allow them to vanquish evil. This sort of motivation also usually exist in more Japanese games(I feel), specifically Nintendo games.
Notable Examples: Kratos, Corvo Attano, Shulk and Reyn
Revenge is a common plot driver for video games, most commonly being associated with Kratos from God of War, with more recent examples including Corvo from Dishonored and Shulk and Reyn from Xenoblade Chronicles. This motivation is the first on this list that is driven more by the character themselves than some other outside influence, though one can argue that such influences are drivers for such revenge(for example, the Lord Regent ordering the assassination of the Empress in Dishonored). Revenge is a unique motivation, and, when it's been used right, has been a great part of several game franchises.
Notable Examples: Phoenix Wright, Isaac Clarke, Solid Snake
This is one of the broadest motivations used throughout video games, and media in general-someone undertaking in action "for the greater good". Solid Snake moved to stop the insurrection of Liquid Ocelot; Isaac Clarke is trying to stop the Necromorphs from destroying humanity, and Phoenix Wright defends his clients from an unjust death penalty. This motivation is used a lot for the classic go-to of "good vs. evil", where it's usually one(or a group of) protagonist(s) trying to stop some imminent threat, like Shepard and his crew against the Reapers.
Personal Goal(or Glory)
Notable Examples: Roxas, Any Pokemon Trainer
Sometimes, characters are only driven by things they want, without any input from others to guide them. An example of these characters is any of the Pokemon Trainers seen throughout any of the mainstream games. Sure, they fight Team Rocket, Galactic, or something, but they also started their journey with one self-purported goal: to become the champion of the Pokemon League, which was only for glory of the person. However, sometimes, the character may also be trying to achieve a certain goal, like Roxas from Kingdom Hearts trying to find out more about himself.
Notable Examples: Any Zombie Game's Protagonist, Neku Sakuraba,
Survival is something that can arguably be applied to most video game protagonists that exist today. Some may fight for their own life, while others may simply try to maintain stability in their lives. The main use of this motivation though, comes from games with Zombies. From Left 4 Dead, to Plants vs. Zombies, to Day Z-it's all about surviving as long as you can. This motivation also applies a lot to competitive and cooperative multiplayer experiences, which most of the time involve you trying to outlast another team, or killing the other team, whether it be Halo or CoD. That makes this motivation even more broader, since it links with players as well as protagonists.
That's it for today-I'm sorry, I was planning on writing more on each topic, but I had some unexpected events come up, and I still have some homework to do, so I'd like to get that done. In any case, thanks for reading, read and comment below, and I'll leave with something...motivating.