Sorry for the delayed absence. I've been moving and beginning work at a new job and it's crazy how little free time you find yourself with during major life changes. Now that that's out of the way there's something that's been on my mind for the past few weeks. What makes a good story? Before I get too far into this I feel obligated to point out that this whole topic is very subjective and what makes a good story for me may not be the same for you. We're all drawn to certain things. I'll cover that briefly as well.

I love an anti-hero. For me I feel that in life there are very few choices there are clearly black or white. I feel like the "White Knight" is a myth we create to convince ourselves (as a species) that we're capable of something that we really aren't. We feel like if we idolize a paragon that the world somehow begins to look like a better place. Now don't misunderstand me; This isn't some kind of "life is pain, we're all terrible people" rant. There are many genuinely good people out there who enjoy helping others. I simply feel like motive is everything. Someone who donates large sums of money to women's shelters seems like a great guy. Your perception of him might change though when you find out that the reason he donates isn't because he cares but instead is because he wants the positive recognition it'll bring him. We're all terribly flawed people and I feel like that's the key.

Characters need flaws to not only be interesting but also to be believable. When a character is flawed we're able to better relate to the character. For example, I love Max Payne as a character. On the surface he's just an alcoholic middle aged guy with a pill addiction who somehow manages to stay an absolute killing machine no matter how fucked up he is. When you peel that layer back though, you see a deeply wounded man who blames himself for not only the loss of his wife and daughter but also for the death of Mona Sax. He feels he's failed as a man to protect the ones he loves and he hates himself for it. So he poisons himself himself nightly with pills and alcohol and consistently puts himself in situations that threaten not only his own life but also those around him, often with tragic results. This feeds the cycle and causes him to see himself as a sort of cursed man. The tragic irony is that he is so busy wallowing in self pity that he's unable to see that he is, as are we all, often the designer of his own curses. He is a textbook example of the Tragic Hero. Many character's stories are about the transition of bad luck to good, while the Tragic Hero's is of the transition from good luck to bad. Of course, a character doesn't need to be this tragic to be interesting.

Sleeping Dogs was without question one of my favorite games of 2012. I've always been a sucker for the Heroic Bloodshed subgenre. So naturally Sleeping Dogs was perfect for me. Movies like the A Better Tomorrow series, Hard Boiled, or A City of Violence are some of my favorite films. Sleeping Dogs had great martial arts action, fun gunplay, great driving physics and a surprisingly moving story with top notch voice acting. The protagonist, Wei Shen, is the glue that held it all together for me. Without going into spoiler territory, Wei Shen is an undercover cop in Hong Kong tasked with infiltrating the Triads and assisting HKPD with dismantling them from within. He walks an incredibly thing line. He must not only gain the trust of Winston Chu, a red pole with the Sun On Yee Triad, but he needs to also fulfill his obligations as a police officer and never allow thing to go to far. As the story progresses Wei begins to value the friendship of Winston. He also wants to protect a childhood friend, Jackie Ma, from the not only the police but what he sees as an impending war Winston and Dogeyes, rival red poles. He has many tough choices ahead of him and he doesn't walk the line as gracefully as some. He is a man more driven by revenge for things that happened in the past than he is by a true desire to see the law bring criminals to justice. While tragic events do take place over the course of the game, the game itself is not a tragedy as is evidenced by the ending. Since the game has only been out for a couple years now I wont get into further detail to avoid spoilers. Wei does gain some semblance of satisfaction from the way things end and so he is not left a broken wreck like Max Payne is.

The common theme here are flawed characters. Flaws lead to personal growth within a character, not just victory over their enemy. It changes a character from being the center of a power fantasy into a character that we truly care about on an emotional level. We can see a little of ourselves in that character.

I think this is the section that I'm going to draw the most heat for. There are certain characters in gaming who have no real flaw aside from being mortal. Characters who are fun but not moving and relate-able. Master Chief, Gordon Freeman, and Nathan Drake are three easy examples. Now i'd like to go on saying that I enjoy the Halo, Half Life, and Uncharted series very much and their stories CAN be interesting. The difference is that, in the case of Halo and Half Life, the story isn't about the character but is instead about the world they inhabit. Half Life is not the story of Gordon Freeman. It's the story of a science experiment gone wrong which leads to the world being controlled by the autocratic Dr. Breen and the human soldiers of the Combine who stand as proxy for a mysterious alien species and the resistance that rises to defeat them. Freeman is simply the method by which the players inject themselves into the story.

Meanwhile Uncharted is less about Drake's growth as a person and more about his relationship with those around him. He's a fun character who surrounds himself with other likewise enjoyable and fun characters but no one ever seems to grow from their experience. This is further evidenced by the cryptic line between Drake and Sully about Elena still wearing her ring. We're led to the conclusion that Elena and Drake married but because Drake is incapable of growing as a character they did last. At the end of U3 there's mabe 15 seconds of dialogue that is supposed to lead us to believe that things are going to work out between them but a similar scene happened at the end of U2 where we see that they love each other. So nothing has really changed for either Drake or elena as characters. In fact Elena shows more personal growth over the course of the games than drake does. In U3 we can see that she still has deep feelings for him but recognizes that while she is his wife, adventure is his mistress and there's nothing she can do to change that. Meanwhile Drake is like "LOL whatevs. Adventure Time!" Don't get me wrong. the games hit all the right notes to be a memorable and fun game. Drake just isn't a very interesting character.

This piece is much longer than I originally intended for it to be so I'm going to draw this to a close. As I do I'd like to remind everyone that I realize these are just my opinions. All of that being said, I feel like in order for a character to be truly interesting they MUST have flaws. Without them, I may enjoy the game but I'll never care about them as a character.