The protagonists of video games have gone through a character revolution that has made them more identifiable than ever, thanks to PlayStation 4.
Since the beginning of video games, protagonists like Pac-Man, Mario, and Sonic the Hedgehog have defined the medium. However, not all the main characters have a lot of depth, leaving them one-dimensional. This can best be seen in Sonic the Hedgehog, whose main goal is to defeat Eggman but lacks capes or additional exploration of his character. This way of thinking with video game heroes would later grow and adapt as the stories continued to evolve.
When Sony’s PlayStation was born, game characters like Lara Croft, Spyro, and Crash became household heroes among gamers. However, although they brought with them fun and different personalities, these characters still lacked the relationship that was needed in games in general. As the years progressed, more protagonists began to become realistic and developed characters with problems and flaws, such as Uncharted Nathan Drake and his incessant desire to find treasure or Assassin’s creed ii Ezio, who went from being a troubled young man to becoming a hero of Italy. The moment PlayStation 4 protagonists began to appear, their influence began to revitalize the franchises through humanized and identifiable protagonists.
One of the best examples of this is with Aloy from Horizon zero dawn. Raised in a world where humanity has been nearly extinct, Aloy battles mechanized creatures as she searches for a treasure that cannot be held, the truth. Her desire to learn more about her world leads her to discover the real reason humanity fell and where it came from in the process. Aloy’s drive for knowledge and her sense of justice reflect the natural qualities that most people have or strive to achieve. Aloy is an inherently good person who reminds players of the importance of doing the right thing and never settling for anything less than the truth.
Another hero who is actually a veteran of the previous era of video game protagonists is Kratos from 2018. God of War. When the Spartan first appeared, he looked a lot like other protagonists of the time, a character whose purpose was to defeat the enemy using his strength and violent tendencies without much character exploration beyond that. With the newest God of War, the formula changed for Kratos by adding his son Atreus to the mix. As a result, Kratos evolved from a brutal hero to a man who struggles to bury his past while keeping it from affecting his ability to be the father he needs to be to his son. It was a massive transition for the character and showed how identifiable an issue like responsibility or parenthood could be even through the eyes of a Spartan demigod.
On the surface Tsushima ghost is an origin story about a man who must find a less honorable way to save his culture and, more importantly, his people from an invading army. Through Jin Sakai, players see how certain fights are more difficult to overcome than others. In the case of the game, the fight revolves around responsibility and whether doing the right thing is more important than doing the honorable thing. Jin’s identity crisis serves as the emotional backbone of the story and is a sentiment that people can understand as everyone endures similar situations. People struggle every day with the person they want to be versus the person people expect them to be. Ghost by Tsushima brings that fight to its breaking point by having the player decide Jin’s identity and theoretically decide for himself as well.
Since the PlayStation 4, more games have made their protagonists have more layers than what was seen in the past. An example of this is in the Gears of war franchise putting a greater emphasis on characters and story. Heroes like Kratos, Jin, and Aloy show that no matter how impossible their worlds may seem, the struggles they face are real. As a result, the protagonists of video games become more human and easy to relate to players, and everything was sped up on the PlayStation 4.
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