What’s With All The Crazies?

We all know that not all but some (or majority) of video games are pretty violent, and that violence typically stems from the protagonist.  Now, I would like to say that I do know a decent amount of games of various kinds and the characters background, but why is it that some just seem completely crazy? By crazy I mean all kinds of crazy like psychopath killer and there’s something wrong with you crazy.new-super-mario-bros-2-gold-classics

 I was curious to find out if there was any sort of list, large or small, of crazy protagonists and what makes them crazy. I found two lists with the top eleven and top nine most insane video game characters, along with a article discussing this topic. I would like to mention that I haven’t played the majority of these games listed so I could be missing some background on these characters. In the first list the authors list the eleven well-known video game characters that portray all different kinds of crazy, Kazooie from Bajno-Kazooie lives in a bears backpack I guess that makes sense. Even Super Mario makes the list, he must save Princess Peach even after countless times dying, outrageous obstecles, and even forcing his own brother to suffer. Princess Peach doesn’t even have a clue about how obsessed Mario is about her, he’ll do whatever it takes but in the end he’ll never get his kiss. I’m not going to name all eleven but I will say GLaDOS makes the list. Their claim is although she is insane, her insanity is more of a self acceptance of being crazy. Which is true she wants to help Chell but at the same time GLaDOS does attempt to kill Chell.

In the other list it was generally the same with the exception of having Tweets from the game characters demonstrating their craziness. What I did notice was there was one character in particular who made both separate lists, Sander Cohen of BioSchock.  He takes crazy, insane, and psychotic to a higher level.  Sander claims that murdering, torture, and molding bodies into different forms as a form of “art”. Right because that makes sense. But then again his insanity does stem from the war in Rapture city causing him to become paranoid. There are other characters such as Adam the Clown from Dead Rising who is just flat out creepy and not just because I hate clowns, and Kefka Palazzo of Final Fantasy VI as the number 1 insane character. I know of the Final Fantasy series, thanks to my brother, but I don’t know much about Kefka except that he is hands down the craziest, cold-hearted  villains in all of the Final Fantasy series.

Just look at those eyes
Just look at those eyes

The article mentions Nathan Drake of Uncharted, Laura Croft Tomb Raider (the most recent game), and Captain Walker from Spec Ops:The Line as the main focus of the argument are they heroes or psychopaths? Each characters kill not only the enemies but sometimes, for Nathan Drake, innocent people. The author of the blog brings up the idea of PTSD as perhaps being the underlining cause for these characters to act out, more specifically Nathan Drake and  Captain Walker. Nathan kills so many people and yet according to this article, he seems to be unfazed by it all. Young Laura Croft apparently kills a man who tires to sexually assault her and in the aftermath she cannot believe what took place. As for Captain Walker, his mental stability declines by the ending of the game.  I have never played any of these games mentioned so I could be missing a lot more information the article may have left out. I do see how PTSD can have an affect on these characters, especially if they come from war games, causing them to become aggressive and act out.spec_ops_the_line__captain_martin_walker__s_sin_by_rany2j-d56iab2

What I really want to know is aside from the last three characters, why is it some of the characters crazy? Perhaps entertainment? Or maybe because sometimes there needs to be that character in some game stories to make more interesting. Could this be harmful to those who play the game i.e. can the gamer become so immersed in the game, they can become the character? For the most part I think not, just like everything else I really think it depends on who is playing these games. This kind of reminded me of the discussion we had in class the other day about a person being able to distance themselves from a character in game or in fiction. It also makes me think about the creators of the characters, are they themselves crazy or they’re looking for that shock value from the gamers. Either way, I would not want to encounter these characters in a dark alleyway day or night.

  7 comments for “What’s With All The Crazies?

  1. April 4, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    It seems to me that having “crazy” characters has several purposes in gaming. One of the biggest reasons a character may be considered “crazy” is in making that person the villain. Like the Joker in Batman, having a deranged antagonist makes that personal that much more evil and easy to hate. As for “crazy” protagonists, their ticks and breakdowns generally make the character easier to relate to. This can be done very blatantly, like Nathan Drake, or in subtle ways. Commander Shepard shows signs of emotional issues, possibly PTSD. This becomes manifested in the dream sequences of ME3. In the end, Shepard develops further because s/he is starting to break down. Despite all of this I feel that the game industry is walking a fine line with dealing with mental illness and “craziness.” We run the risk of stereotyping these people (which we do anyways) into these character roles. There is a lesson we need to learn. What is the appropriate way to address PTSD and other mental illnesses? This is also a question that video game designers need to be asking themselves as well. While having stoic characters makes them appear less human, using mental illness as the reason to dislike someone (remember the Joker?)or to make a protagonist seem more “human” risks sending the wrong message about these serious issues.

  2. eng1
    April 4, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Hm, that’s a very good question. Could it also be that having crazy character allows us to easily detect who is the antagonist? It could be possible that game makers make them crazy, almost inhuman, because it could be easier for us as the players to justify going against them and killing them. We discussed in class how easy it is for the players to identify with the character they are playing so if we are truly playing the heroes then it’s much easier to say ‘yeah saved the world from this crazy bastard’ who is desensitized so much the players don’t even identify them as a human. I also think in part that the crazy character could just be helpful to a story. Making a video game is making a story that would never exist in reality. Would anyone actually want someone as completely messed up as Sander in real life to exist? Probably not. So, having the game as a creative outlet could also partially be the reason. Though, these creative yet extremely crazy characters might be giving some already mentally instable, psychotic people some ideas on how to do certain acts. Like you mentioned, it depends on the person to see what they get out of the game but I think when characters are portrayed as truly insane (not including Mario in this case) that they should definitely have a M label or something to avoid impressionable children from playing it. As for a small critique on your article, I really do wish you went a little more in depth about your opinion on why these characters may exist instead of just stating that they do and who they are.

  3. Jim
    April 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    There are quite a few insane characters in video games. This reminded me of something I read quite a while ago. Many games have their story and game play developed separately instead of together. Which leads to stuff in Tomb Raider like having the player as Lara killing several more people (seemingly without remorse) just after her dramatic first kill. I believe that most games have inconsistencies like this between story and game play, some just make the main character look crazy.

    I also think you can make the argument that the actions taken by main characters in any video games can make them look insane, especially in shooters like Uncharted. Since the game needs to keep the player’s interest. An easy way of doing this is throwing more and more enemies at the player. This usually ends with a mountain of dead enemies behind the player.

    • William Hurley
      April 4, 2013 at 1:07 pm

      This concept of player characters being “crazy” is one that I see all the time, both forced by the game and one that the game provides as optional, and really ruins the narrative for me. Whether it’s the player in “Twilight Princess” deciding to attack others with his sword (and to the game’s credit, most characters will at least duck) or in “Grand Theft Auto” the protagonist goes on a murder spree, these are moments outside the plot that seemingly don’t impact the world around us at all. Characters still treat us the same (sans the police in GTA) and despite having just slaughtered a small town’s worth of innocent bystanders, cousin Nico still wants to go bowling.

      • William Hurley
        April 4, 2013 at 1:08 pm

        Or *Cousin Roman, I’ve never played GTA IV.

  4. Cameron
    April 16, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Insanity’s representation in games is definitely a form of othering, either dehumanizing the antagonists to justify violence against them or dehumanizing the protagonist to justify their otherwise unjustifiable behavior.

    On antagonists, most games take the crazy without much consideration for the reality of mental illness or general psychopathy. Bioshock, for instance, has (arguably) nothing to do with the Splicers as they are presented in the game. Regardless of whether the political narrative or the shooter came first, it’s clear the creators of the game didn’t want to have Jack’s tour through Rapture to be purely a psychological endeavor (though it could have easily been so in any other medium.) In games, there seems to be a knee-jerk impulse to employ violence wherever possible, else some people might find the game boring. So rather than having Jack wander about meeting the people of Rapture and figuring out what they’re about, they added a veritable army of mindlessly violent yet brittle thugs wandering the city to justify giving Jack a wrench and letting him go to town. Adding that element of “action” ensures that the game is an actual ‘game’ by conventional definitions, though it does little to serve the greater philosophical concerns.

    As for crazy protagonists, I’d guess they harken back to a more Gothic understanding of insanity. Older literature (and culture, for that matter) assumes that insane people are more in-tune with harsh realities or are capable of perceiving the imperceptible. While out here in the real world we give crazy people pills, in our fiction we assume they’re crazy for more than chemical imbalances or misfiring synapses.

    On the whole, “crazy” in fiction tends to be an excuse to have characters do things real people would not do.

  5. holyguava
    January 30, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    I remember in most of my English classes the teachers tell us not to psychoanalyze characters in books. Its because they are fiction, or it ruins some of the integrity of a story. Saying Rasnolikov in Crime and Punishment has God complex or something. I don’t entirely agree with this sentiment, but it has some points. Mario is stated by a few sources including this list and Game Theory’s Mario is Mental series. However rationalizing the Mario series is a little off. It’s the magic circle principle you go into this world and adhere by its rules not our own. In that world it makes since to go save your queen and country, stepping on goombas for self defense, or wouldn’t you want to put on a suit that lets you fly or swim through water like a fish at the cost of looking silly. The use of insanity in games though is interesting. it is a plot device the reason on why the villian must be defeated like Kefka or Glados. Mental disease also creates character development. Lets talk about Metal Gear. Big boss, aka the first snake, fought in wars, been betrayed, did what he needed to survive and thus suffers from PTSD. So he uses his pain as a reason to create an organization to help people who have suffered like he did. He fights for his brothers in war to get rid of alliances all for the better good. This system gets corrupted but the idea was good and BIg Boss grew into an individual rather than a solider. So craziness is a double edge sword, could make or break a character or a game. We all need a little crazy in our lives and our games so we can change or realize what is right or wrong.

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