Protagonists are unrelatable

This is a blanket statement I know and there is likely the odd example where I’m wrong but I feel as if the “good guy” is an impossible character to relate to. Ultimately I think this is because they clearly lack the same drives that compel the rest of us to action. Villains, on the other hand, are extremely relatable. They are selfish, egotistical and petty. I also find it odd that morally incorruptible characters are still commonly the main character. I’m curious to see what the people on here think.


I think it depends on how well written they are.

For Rent a Vice, even though I loved the concept and writing, as a happy teen I can’t really relate at all to em.

In Zombie Exodus however, all that is ‘set’ is rhe background, and so I 100% relate to the protagonist because by virtue of making all or most defining and small decision’s, I can model them after myself.

If games, for having many options, bring customisable, etc. Are then, on average, better for allowing the reader to feel personally invested in the story


I couldn’t relate to any cog protagonist in all honesty.

I really want to see a villain who supposed to be one of those heroes who sacrificed their life for the greater good and refused to do it.

I honestly like when I can be a jerk in a cog without being outright hated by everyone even if I have like one person. It’s why RPG’s without relationship bars are great for me.

Funnily enough the last all loving hero type mc I saw, I liked, due to him changing a lot after one event in the story without becoming super angsty (he would’ve annoyed me before then if he wasn’t juxtaposed with an unbearable character)


This is a very interesting view, and I think I have to agree to sum extent. It should be easier to relate to characters with negative character flaws, since obviously, every human being has them. (We’re all selfish, shallow and petty to some extent or other.)

I think the reason that most people find it easier to relate to the morally incorruptible heroes is because people in general seem to have a really warped opinion of who they really are as a human being. Most people just think that they’re a lot better than they actually are… In fact, in my experience, it’s always the biggest jerks that’ll talk your ear off about how they’re such wonderful people, and nobody appreciates how amazing they are. :yum:


I fail to see why that’s nessesarily a bad thing? I play my MCs to be what I want to be not who I am. I guess it’s a preference thing but I like playing the perfect hero who is always trying to do what is right.

I mean, if they are likeable that’s good in my book


I kind of feel the same way but on the other hand the reason we usually aren’t compelled action is probably because we know that we can do very little about a certain situation. We don’t have superpowers in real life so its easy for us to say “Yeah I wouldn’t save that guy”.

Lets face it if we were given the option to make realistic choices the games would probably end pretty quickly. Even in terms of morality you’d just end up doing the practical thing even though you want to do something heroic.

“There’s a burning building and an orphan, what do you do?”

  • Rush in there to save them!
  • Get people to hold up a blanket so the orphan jump out of the building.
  • Be a criminal and push other people into the fire.
  • (Realistically) Call 911. I’m not a fire fighter and going in there would just get us both killed. Wait in the sidelines for the action to be over, give my statement and head home.

It’s not just MCs in interactive media, I feel that it’s difficult to relate to any character that is motivated by altruism and generally when I can’t relate to a character I don’t tend to find them interesting. I assume it’s the same for most people.

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Well…In that case yeah. I mean I can kind of understand it for CoG games but it bores me to tears in other media.

Although to be fair, morally gray and anti-hero characters are actually quite popular?


Yeah I suppose you’re correct on that point. I just found it odd that it’s so rare for the main character to be the villain.

Honestly, I don’t really agree. In my opinion there’s plenty of other factors besides relatablity that can make characters interesting. Hell, the less like me a character is the more I like them, typically, and I like to see genuinely altruistic characters because I think it’s an admirable trait. It’s personal preference.


I wouldn’t say I relate to all villain characters. I don’t particularly enjoy being a dick to people for no reason. I could never even do the full renegade options in Mass Effect, just because I couldn’t bring myself to be needlessly rude in situations that don’t call for it.

Now, that doesn’t change the fact that I have murdered legions of guards in Skyrim, for no reason other than to see how many I could kill. I am perfectly willing to shoot, murder and kill just about anybody to see what happens in video games…yet, the one thing I find myself incapable of doing? Is just being completely rude because it’s “Evil.”

And a whole lot of games label evil characters as just being rude in all situations, where all good characters are polite and kind. Which I don’t agree with at all. Social interaction has very little to do with the actual type of character of a person and it’s basically like saying anyone who isn’t the most socially polished person must be an awful person.

Harvest ADAM from Little Sisters? Sure. Set off a nuclear bomb in a populated town? I probably would never have even done it, if the guy just wasn’t so polite when he asked me to do it. Collect killed guard helmets to decorate my house? All the time.

Say “Up yours!” to a guy who never did anything to me yet? That’s just going too far.


I think most people like anti-heroes, the combo of both sides. I don’t know too many people who relate with mass murdering villains but people also consider pure heroes to be doormats or even pretentious. Having the best of both worlds is ideal.

But saying that, I play goody two shoes almost 90% of the time. The worst I get is an anti hero. I do not relate with villains at all and when playing as a villain protagonist, I’ll probably end up being as good as possible. It might be boring but that’s my thing. I actually think that there’s been too many antihero protagonists recently in pop culture. Even someone like Superman needed to turn into a gritty, dark character cause he was wasn’t ‘relatable’ otherwise. But if everyone is just variations of kinda bad and really bad, it seems flat to me. Having strong character foils is great.


Whenever presented with the option I have always been as evil as I possibly could be. That being said I do prefer “practical villainy” not being a dick for the sake of it but doing whatever to achieve my characters ambitions.


The blanket statement kinda reminds me of King Arther from Idylls of the King by Tennyson. In the poems, Arther is less of a man and more of an impossible symbol to his people - so much so that no one can relate to him and Guinevere even states a line that highlights this in one of those poems. He can literally do nothing wrong to the point where he isn’t even human.

It does hold a grain of truth, in my opinion though. It’s very hard for me to get engaged with super hero themed CoGs or HoGs these days because it’s hard to relate to my MC. From Ashes We Rise was probably one of the few hero games that really really hooked me as a player, but then again - you got to play as the anti-hero.

Personally, I like any type of media where the Protagonist is motivated by something that I can connect to. Bonus points to CoGs or HoGs if I can follow through with that motivation or see the narrative curve to accommodate that motivation.


The newest re-writes (and cinematic appearances) of Superman have been killing me. His fault has never been being too good, his fault is being too good for his own good. Old Superman would’ve put down his life to save a villain, because Superman doesn’t kill, he doesn’t let people die, his extreme ability at doing this is also a foil to Lex, because most people don’t see what Lex is talking about, and when Lex is (rarely) proven right, like in the Injustice Universe, it’s shocking. Injustice wouldn’t work with New Superman, because New Superman already justifies murder to himself, and he is remarkably bad at saving people.

The topic title reminds me of “the blank slate, silent protagonist” trope.

I always assumed that it’s hard to relate, in this case, our MC because they’re lacking in both motivation and personalization (personality?). Since if the writer put a preset aspects of both to the MC, that means the reader may lose some bits of agency over their MC.

And in the world of Interactive Fiction, the world burns everytime the word “lost agency” spoken.

Since you guys talked about (anti-hero and villain) > (hero), I bet because they have more defined and “closer” motivation to ourself. I’ve been reading Jeff Lyons’s book on Premise Line, and there’s a section that explains how to make a character truly a living character, something like that. Super great.

Basically, all characters need to have this “fundamental core flawed perspective” of themselves, and all their actions reflect this core perspective. This is basically something that creates the motivation, and this motive drives the character’s actions…

Srsly. Read the book.


Whereas I find it hard to relate to most villains because they are, in fact, selfish dicks, and I don’t find selfish dicks appealing or interesting. /shrug

I get very weary of the Good Is Boring mantra.


I appreciate it when a game let’s you have more realistic, less “goody-two shoes” choices. Especially when it comes to the most emotional moments where even a generally good character might have their moral compass pushed.

That said, I think video games are a chance to let us be other people, and personally I want to be good. Better than the real me.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to have an “evil” playthrough, and abandoned because, I think, deep down I want to be good.


I mean…at least you’re aware that you’re making a general statement as opposed to claiming something as truth.

Might I turn you to Tony Stark in Iron Man one?

His drive is inherently selfish. He feels guilty that his weapons were used to kill people he knew, but before then had little care for that kind of thing. It’s only after he experienced and suffered from his weapons himself that he finally decided to do something about it.

And even then, in the first movie he just goes after the people who attacked him first because revenge.
Furthermore, even after becoming a good guy, he’s still egotistical, hedonistic (to an extent), selfish, petty af, and generally a human being.

In fact, the same can be said of Steve Rogers, aka the poster boy for Good Guy™.
He doesn’t tell Tony Stark that the Winter Soldier killed his parents, because he made the judgement that it wasn’t important. Further, he willingly splinters the Avengers because of his objectively selfish desire to save Bucky (o b j e c t i v e l y), thus leaving Earth undefended.

This stereotype of Good Guys only have Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Actions was certainly true decades and decades ago (in the U.S.) when the FCC and Hays Code were incredibly influential, but with the rise cable television and the abolition of the Hays Code, the ability to tell nuanced stories has exploded, and as such the idea that good guys; must be incorruptible bastions of good, and cannot be selfish or have any form of negative emotion of thought is not at all reflective of media as it is today.

There are still examples of Good Guys being bland and unremarkable, but those examples are generally relegated to children’s programming (in the U.S.).


I suppose I am the polar opposite. I can’t relate to most villains and when I get a chance to play one, such as in Fallen Hero, I irretrievably fall to being as good as is possible, same with From Ashes We Rise.

So, it comes down to personal preferences, I would say.

Me, I am tired of the anti-hero leaning toward villain in general media, while others like it. Me, I just hope it will all swing around again soon and that Superman, as an example since he has been mentioned here, will return to be the pure symbol of our better selves he once was. I read, as in used to, superhero comics to get away from our world, not to have the dull greyness or darkness invade it. Same with games, I cannot help but to strive to be the beacon of hope I wish we had more of in our world.

That said, no character is good if they have no flaw, but that flaw need not be dark or hideous, just human and giving us mere mortals something to relate to.