My column this week is a tangent on the topic that Mumbles brought up on Spoiler Warning last week, about how she’s sick of the bossy female coach character archetype. I can relate. I’m not tired of the female coach, but I am sick of the Aiden Pearce brand of protagonist, and I get how irritating it is when developers stick to that one trope that really gets on your nerves.
And while I didn’t say so in the column, I think this is a point worth making:
I know I’m always grumbling about male protagonists and male characters and ranting about how developers need to get out of this rut, but Firewatch showed me that I can still enjoy a male lead character, as long as he’s written properly. I’m not sick of male leads, I’m sick of shitty male leads. Or as I’ve come to think of them: Ubisoft MenThis is NOT to suggest that Ubisoft is the only publisher guilty of this. They just have the ones that get on my nerves the most.. You know the type: Growling badasses with no emotional vulnerabilities, no sense of levity, and central motivation built around vengeance or aggression.
I used to be fine with these guys. I’m not sure what’s changed:
- Age? Maybe because I’m older now, I’m interested in more texture and nuance and less raw id.
- Fatigue? Maybe after 30 years, I’m in the mood for something different.
- Dissonance? As games become more cinematic, maybe their shallow leads are looking more and more out of place. DOOM Guy was fine in DOOM, but DOOM Guy in a 2015 game with cutscenes and dialog and a supporting cast is another thing entirely.
Then again, sometimes it works. As much as I whine about these guys, I really loved William “B.J.” Blazkowicz in the recent Wolfenstein games. I’m still trying to figure out why he works for me and (say) Jason Brody doesn’t.
Also, be sure to read my disclaimer on the Escapist before you go and make a mess in the comments. I love to talk about game design decisions like this, but I’d really rather this didn’t veer off into gender politics.
 This is NOT to suggest that Ubisoft is the only publisher guilty of this. They just have the ones that get on my nerves the most.
Bethesda felt the need to jam a morality system into Fallout 3, and they blew it. Good and evil make no sense and the moral compass points sideways.
Spec Ops: The Line
A videogame that judges its audience, criticizes its genre, and hates its premise. How did this thing get made?
The Loot Lottery
What makes the gameplay of Borderlands so addictive for some, and what does that have to do with slot machines?
Crysis 2 has basically the same plot as Half-Life 2. So why is one a classic and the other simply obnoxious and tiresome?
Final Fantasy X
A game about the ghost of an underwater football player who travels through time to save the world from a tick that controls kaiju satan. Really.