Quick! Take this poll! It will save thousands of lives!

Hurry! Hurry! I forgot to do this and now only you can save me, Obi-Wan.

In case you’re wondering why its in the game forum, its because the results concern something about gaming protagonists.

Here we go:

When you see a character say something inspirational, courageous or otherwise worthy of being emulated, or see them experience a line of dialogue or other such impressive character-related shock to the senses, or experience the great climax of the story is it common for Americans (Or Belgians or English or Irish or you get the picture) to experience an emotion close to overwhelmed sadness that makes them almost want to cry that quickly rushes up and then fades away just as quickly? If so, what is this emotion called in English?

What’s more appealing, a strong and silent hero who stays the course or someone who has doubts about it and voices them?

Do you think an important theme in all stories is the bond shared by close friends wherein one is mentored by the other?

If there is a Japanese game character you like, who is the most appealing?

If you absolutely had to choose, which do you prefer, a first or a third person narrative?

Thanks! If you don’t answer, I’ll send you to hell by sheer will of thought, if you do, I’ll have my sister/brother give you a blow job.

-Kitsune

  1. Hard to say. Closest thing in English that I can think of is catharsis.

  2. Depends on the tone of the work. I don’t think an introspective Dirty Harry would be very intertaining.

  3. Important in all stories? No.

  4. Kirby.

  5. First.

I dunno about “overwhelmed sadness” but certain events, usually akin to heroic sacrifice, give me a brief sense of poignancy. For example, in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, when Denethor orders Faramir to retake Osgiliath, and Faramir goes off to do so to earn a measure of respect in his father’s eyes, even knowing it’s a suicide mission - that’s the type of moment where I felt that sharp, fleeting sadness. In fact, I’d say “Poignant” may be precisely the English word you’re looking for, although it’s not really the name of an emotion.

What’s more appealing, a strong and silent hero who stays the course or someone who has doubts about it and voices them?

Depends on the situation. I think the strong, silent hero works better when it ends in heroic sacrifice or in situations where the protagonist is more of an anti-hero, but the doubtful hero works better in stories of redemption.

Do you think an important theme in all stories is the bond shared by close friends wherein one is mentored by the other?

It’s a good theme, but not for all stories, and not necessarily involving mentoring. Other important variants of this theme are the friendship/brotherhood rivalries that lead to later conflict, or the friendship/sacrifice that leads to redemption.

If there is a Japanese game character you like, who is the most appealing?

Depends on the context. Tifa in Advent Children is appealing, cause she shoor is purty, and kicks some ass. I find a lot of male protagonists in Japanese games to be unappealing because a great deal of them are whiny, overly-angsty jerks (the penultimate being Squall, IMO). I kind of like the “cool, super-competent badass” archetype in Japanese games as portrayed by Auron, older Dante, Solid Snake, or that token main-badguy-henchman that wears the natty suits with the sunglasses and either a sword or pistol.

If you absolutely had to choose, which do you prefer, a first or a third person narrative?

Third person.

Thanks! If you don’t answer, I’ll send you to hell by sheer will of thought, if you do, I’ll have my sister/brother give you a blow job.

-Kitsune

So, pics of your sister? :P

  1. The emotion I feel is sort of an empathic pride. The emotional build up to near tears, with rapid de-escalation after the scene ends, is sentimentality.

  2. A combination of both – most appealing is a person who voices doubts, and then struggles through in spite of them.

  3. No, I don’t think this theme is important in all stories.

  4. I have little experience – maybe the cat from Final Fantasy VII (Red XIII?)

  5. First-person

I’ll await a PM from your sister/brother. Always wanted to talk to somebody like that.

Catharsis is not the word for this. Catharsis is more of a purging searing sort of thing, not a poignant or touching moment.

I think the “empathic pride” referred to above is fairly accurate description of at least an aspect of the feeling where this poignancy arises.

A common RPG (especiall JRPG) happening is for a valorous but essentially overmatched character – often a child or youth – to go up against a foe knowing they will be defeated. This valiant self-sacrifice of an innocent always pushes my emotional buttons no matter how crudely it’s implemented. One recent example from anime is the childlike tachikomas sacrificing themselves to save Batou near the end of GITS:Standalone Complex, but I think it’s very common near the end of many RPGs.

In real life, I felt this emotion when watching that damn fool standing in front of the tank at Tienanmen square.

Sadly “empathic pride” is not a very resonant phrase, and it doesn’t capture the meaning very precisely, so you can’t use it and expect people to know what you’re talking about without a lot more words. Conceivably there’s some technical literary term that is more apt (if so, it would no doubt be Greek), but I can’t think of anything offhand.

  1. I’d go with poignancy as well.

  2. I don’t like whiny characters, but cardboard badasses are boring. I like a thoughtful character with both strength and the wisdom to question that strength.

  3. No, simply because there is no theme that all stories share.

  4. I kinda like Vyse in Skies of/Eternal Arcadia, for the reasons listed in reason #2. But I don’t have a lot of strong associations with game characters. Probably the best example I can think of for my answer for #2 would be Yoko from Twelve Kingdoms (at least the Anime, I haven’t read the novels).

  5. Well, do you mean “You” as the character versus “Cloud” as the character? If so, I prefer “you”, because I really like immersion. Torment, btw, is kind of a neat medium between the two.

I’ll take a pass on the reward, thanks.

For the other questions:

Whining self-doubting heroes annoy me, but so do confident types who always know what they’re doing. Ideally the character should have some moments of doubt and confusion, but should then be reasonably staunch thereafter.

The mentoring bond is not terribly important to me in most cases.

Most appealing JRPG character. Hm. I kind of like Kos-Mos from Xenosaga. Yes, I know she’s silly. I like valiant characters.

There’s no way to choose between 1st and 3rd person narratives – it all depends on the situation and characters and on the skill of the author.

1: It’s a combinatin of pride, poignancy, and inspiration, in the sense that heroes are supposed to be inspirational–a kind of low-rent awe that’s built right into the human cognitive packaage.

2: False dilemma, but the happy medium between the two is something that seems remarkably difficult for game designers of both East and West to actually achieve. See also, 4.

3: Nope.

4: Shadow Hearts: Covenant is one of the better jrpgs I’ve played anytime recently. The main dude in it, Yuri, manages to actually hit that happy medium mentioned in answer 2. You don’t get much more doomed-fate than he is from the start of the game, he fully realizes that he’s screwed either way, and whereas a Final Fantasy would probably spend an hour of cutscene time and lots of “…”'s on the subject, and probably a two-three hour segment of the game where he would simply leave the party and sulk, Yuri simply never stops. His attitude’s a kind of “yeah, that curse is pretty fucked up. It sucks,” but he doesn’t overload the angst meter. Sympathetic supporting characters try to draw him into conversations about how sad his situation is, and he paraphrases, “Uh, well, yeah, but shouldn’t we really be concentrating on going to kick Rasputin’s ass about now? I don’t have time for this.” Jrpgs need more protagonists like him.

5: First.

I don’t think I can add anything to the above comments on this, other than to say that I can’t think of any one word to describe such a state. That kind of thing always puts me in mind of the St. Crispin’s Day speech that Henry V gives before the Battle of Agincourt.

Either can be equally appealing if developed and written well. The former runs the risk of trying to hard to be cool, the latter runs the risk of being too whiny. I am very attached to Tolkien’s version of Aragorn in the books as the strong, silent, unimpeachable hero, but found that I liked Viggo Mortensen’s more human and troubled rendition in the movies just as much, but for entirely different reasons.

Not at all. No one theme can or should be applied to “all stories.”

Game character… hmm…I find most of them fairly forgettable due to the interchangable archetypes and character traits that seem – in my very limited experience – to saturate Japanese video game characters. I tend to like the strong female characters (not a big fan of the blushing, stuttering girly girls) and the noble, trustworthy men. I’m sure I’ve encountered one or two, but unfortunately I can’t really think of a Japanese videogame character who is truly memorable.

By narrative do you mean writing style? If so, and I absolutely had to choose, I’d say third person.

  1. I don’t think it’s that common, no, but I do agree that poignancy is the name of the thing that causes that emotion, though I can’t think of a name for the emotion itself.

  2. I find characters who are fallible and have doubts about themselves and their actions to be more interesting.

  3. No, I don’t think that’s true of all stories.

  4. I’m going to say Alucard from the Castlevania series. If you look at the larger story of that series, he’s the main character. He’s there through it all. All of the other heroes (except Soma and that pansy Richter) are born knowing that they’re destined to battle Dracula, the mature with that idea, they vanquish him, and they are heroes. That’s their life’s work. They know Dracula is coming back, but hey, they’ve done their part, and now: the whores.

Alucard is different, because he’s around for the whole thing. He struggles against Dracula and, in fact, his own nature again and again, knowing that he’s never going to really win, but knowing that he still has to try. And he takes it all in stride. He accepts that this is his role, and as futile as it may seem, he must perform it. Man, he’s a great character.

  1. Third person, but I’d be quite interested in a game’s story being told in the first-person peripheral, i.e. through the eyes of a character other than the main one. Read The Great Gatsby or watch Gantz to see what I mean.

Yeah. It’s happened. I’d actually tag it as awe. The scene resonates with such power that for an instant you don’t know what to do.

What’s more appealing, a strong and silent hero who stays the course or someone who has doubts about it and voices them?

Yeah, false dichotomy. It depends on how much I doubt what’s going on. In Xenogears I totally fan over Citan, who is pretty much Mr. Voice, but there are enough layers to the plot onion in Xenogears to make what he says meaningful. Ashley Riot was good for Vagrant Story, because there wasn’t much plot onion there.

Do you think an important theme in all stories is the bond shared by close friends wherein one is mentored by the other?

No. Because there are exactly two stories, “someone goes away”, and “a stranger shows up”.

Leaving behind the literary asstardery for a moment, there are plenty of stories without enough characters to make this work. I like the theme when it shows up, but it’s not centrally important.

If there is a Japanese game character you like, who is the most appealing?

Agh so many. If I had to pick one it’d be Citan. But I have love for the casts of Lunar (&2), Grandia (just I), FFIX, and Arc the Lad (&2).

If you absolutely had to choose, which do you prefer, a first or a third person narrative?

Assuming sufficient visual aids, first. Otherwise third.

–GF

I’m not entirely sure what you’re talking about. I think you’re asking about that feeling of being moved by a scene that is not necessarily sad? Like a moving inspirational speech (think Gibson’s whole “they can take our lives, but can never take our freedom” thing before the troops in Bravehart) that isn’t sad, but is kind of a tear-jerker? If that’s the case, we just say it was “moving.”

What’s more appealing, a strong and silent hero who stays the course or someone who has doubts about it and voices them?

Westerners tend to like the strong and silent type, and the decisive type. But “stays the course” may not quite fit…we like determined, but independant. The most popular are the anti-heros. People who aren’t necessarily heroic by nature, but are roped into it and it brings out the good in them. Han Solo, as opposed to Luke Skywalker. Or Spider-Man, who at first just uses his powers for fun before being roped into saving everyone…which eventually causes much hardship as he gets no sleep, keeps losing his petty jobs, etc. Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven. That kind of thing.

Do you think an important theme in all stories is the bond shared by close friends wherein one is mentored by the other?

Not in all stories. This is a particular point of difference between Japan and the U.S. Japanese heroes are often teams, and the cartoons and stories often stress teamwork and overcoming impossible odds by working together. This meshes with the culture (and some would say, helps define it). American/Western heroes are powerful individuals, and overcome impossible odds with self-determination and by working alone. There are exceptions, but I’m generalizing. But in general, Japan stresses the group while the US stresses the individual. There have been entire books and papers on the subject, actually.

If there is a Japanese game character you like, who is the most appealing?

There are lots of characters I like from lots of games, but mostly just because the game was good, not because the characters are inherently interesting. Is Dante’s personality what makes Devil May Cry good? No, he’s replacable. But could we really have Halo without Master Chief and Cortana? I’m not sure it would be the same. Which is funny, because Halo doesn’t really explore those characters a lot.

If you absolutely had to choose, which do you prefer, a first or a third person narrative?

In games, this really is totally dependant on the type of game. I’m going to say third, because most first-person narratives aren’t handled very well. It’s much more useful in suspense/horror type games, of course.

This is really more of a survey than a poll.

  1. Pretty much already been answered.

  2. Not enough information given, really. A well written either can and has worked. One thing: Strong and silent don’t need to go along. For some reason JRPGs make every super-competent badass quiet because they are constantly thinking about some bad thing that happened to them, but there’s no reason that they have to be. From contemporary media, Micheal Chiklis’ character from The Shield is a good example. Supercomptenent badass who isn’t constantly brooding.

  3. There are no important themes in all stories.

  4. Hrmm. Locke from Final Fantasy 6?

  5. Third.

Other than sentai groups, you’re actually quite mistaken here. Japanese heroes and main characters are often purposefully not teams and much more commonly stress the individual. Its true that the group is stressed in society, but in stories, the loners are much more popular. See everything from “It’s Tough Being a Man” to Salaryman Kintaro to GTO to Shonen Jump characters to Kimitaku’s character in Long Vacation to Botchan and I am a Cat! or legends like Goemon or Hikaru Genji. The popular thrust is to explore these types of characters BECAUSE of the way real society works. Now look at so many popular Japanese characters of video games: Mario, Link, Rockman, the Castlevania heroes, Dante, Viewtiful Joe, Solid Snake, all the heroes from Final Fantasy, MegaTen and Dragon Quest. None of these are working from a group mentality.

-Kitsune

Going to agree with the rest on poignancy.

What’s more appealing, a strong and silent hero who stays the course or someone who has doubts about it and voices them?

A doubter as long as it doesn’t come up too often. To continue with the 12 Kingdoms comparison earlier, Yoko at first is overcome with doubt and is more than a little annoying because of it. It’s later when she grows and learns to stand on her own two feet and make meaningful decisions that her more rare moments of doubt become interesting.

My favorite archetype is the strong, competitnet trickster who has everyone fooled into thinking they know better than them. Again from 12 Kingdoms, En-ou is the perfect example. He is a strong, compassionate leader who has kept his people happy for a thousand years. He also has everyone convinced that he’s a fool who plays around in whorehouses just for the women and not for the information he can extract. His arch was very interesting to me.

Do you think an important theme in all stories is the bond shared by close friends wherein one is mentored by the other?

Not all stories. Good stories can come from strangers thrown together as well.

If there is a Japanese game character you like, who is the most appealing?

Vyse from Skies of Arcadia was very good.

If you absolutely had to choose, which do you prefer, a first or a third person narrative?

Third.

I hate to say it, but I’m stumped by the favorite Japanese character question. I can’t even name one off the top of my head that I particularly like. Certainly none of the Final Fantasy protagonists, which pretty much eliminates 3/4 of my Japanese RPG experience.

Hmm, I rather liked the “bad guy” generals from FE:Sacred Stones; not the evil ones, but the ones that knew their orders were somehow wrong, but were too honor-bound and loyal to their king to disobey. It actually made me feel a little bad when I killed some of them in battle. Same thing with those two brothers in FE7. You know you have to kill them, but at the same time they’re sympathetic enough characters that you kinda feel bad about it afterwards.

Jakub- The biggest problem is, I think, that Square(and others, but for the purpose of this post I’ll reference FF) makes protagonists so whiny that I can’t identify with them.

FFX SPOILER:

For example, Tidus throws an absolute shitfit when it’s revealed that whatshername needs to sacrifice herself. I think I was supposed to feel the same outrage and sadness, but I didn’t. In fact, I wanted to tell him to grow the fuck up. Yuna was making the decision herself and her sacrifice would save thousands of lives. That sounds like a plan to me, not a problem.

Pretty much the same with Squall. I’ll haphazardly throw this in with my most hated character ever: Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Culturally I think Americans and Japanese differ greatly on evaluating that sort of person, those people who have the ability to do something great for society but who find their task uncomfortable because they are a pussy(or, in Squall’s case, just a massive dick)? That’s horrible. It’s pretty much manslaughter.

FFX would have been improved immensely, plotwise, if Yuna weren’t doing the sacrificial-pilgrimmage thing out of free will, but because she was forced into it. Trained from birth without a say, little narrative drops here and there that summoners who tried to go AWOL were hunted down and killed as traitors, etc. It would have added quite a bit more oomph to what I suspect was intended to be a central theme of defiance to a morally bankrupt fatalism, had it actually been that and not just an unpleasant morally-gray “what do you expect us to do without a savegame feature?”

Plus, if Tidus weren’t so amazingly slow on the uptake. Could I get a protagonist with some actual wattage in the brainpan, please?

Incidentally, I want to see a crpg someday where the protagonist is hailed as the arriving messiah and chosen one precisely because everyone knows he has the ability to restore from savegames. Party members could occasionally nag you that you’ve levelled enough in this area and to please get on with it–and the game could be smart enough that if you wiped too many times trying to take on a boss you weren’t ready for, they could admit that, yeah, you need to level a bit more before we try that again.