Existing Protagonists: What Makes Them Tick? (1/2)

One of the final stages of my research and analysis was to look at existing Protagonists and Antagonists in the video game industry. My goal for this task was see what similarities could be found in character designs across the various styles and genres. This is my analysis of protagonists. (Skip to the end for a shorter, concise version).


Protag Moodboard 3

Straight away it can be seen that there are several distinct style of Protagonist, each relying on their on ways of making the player like them and want to be represented by them (the most important role a Video Game Protagonist must fulfill).

In the first category we have characters such as Mario (Mario), Rayman (Rayman), and Meat Boy (Super Meat Boy). These characters sit at the cartoony end of the scale and rely on looking friendly and fun to make player like them.


The second category sits are the more serious end of the scale and is much harder to generalise. Here we have Master Chief (Halo), Ezio (Assassins Creed), and Lara Croft (Tomb Raider). These characters, for lack of a better term, rely on looking bad-ass and/or awesome. They give the player a sense of power and might,  use their design to give the idea that they can overcome any obstacle, they make the player feel like the unstoppable force.


The third category is for characters that fall between the first two. Ratchet (Ratchet and Clank), Jak (Jak and Daxter), and Samus (Metroid) are all characters who have cartoony looks to them, but still give off the sense of enduring and powerful characters like Master Chief or Lara Croft. This is done using many of the techniques that came before, just combining them with the cartoony styles.



Protagonists have to offer players new experiences, they have to be something the player is not.  The player has to want to play as them. They can do this by being looking like a friend to the player, or by looking like something the player wants to be.

  • Strong/bold colours can make the character appear fun and friendly when combined with soft shapes.
    • Especially useful for young audiences, though perhaps not for me
    • However, they can also make the character appear strong and confidant (depending on the colours, eg red)
  • Sci-fi and/or fantasy elements are used to distance the character from real life
    • this offers the player to explore new imaginations and escape the mundane real world
    • it is an inviting experience to most
  • Real world characters should let the player relate to them on a personal level
    • the player doesn’t pretend they are the character, they want to imaging they can become the character

Posted on October 17, 2014, in Analysis. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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