Contrary to popular belief, I actually think the quality of videogame storytelling is going up. Sure, you do have those lazy games that slap cliché Hollywood nonsense into their plots for no reason, but you also have games that question the nature of the protagonist (Bioshock), the morality of the protagonist (The Last of Us) and the intentions of the protagonist (Spec Ops: The Line). We've even gotten to the point where main characters have properly fleshed out arcs and grow as people / aliens / robots throughout their games.
The only thing that we haven't quite figured out how to do yet are the antagonists, be them good guys or bad guys, we can all agree that we're a bit pissed of that those jerks are standing in our way. So please join me as I look at some of my favourite and least favourite gaming antagonists and their motives.
And please beware of SPOILERS.
Uncharted 3 – The British Want a More Powerful Hallucinogenic.
In Uncharted 3, Nathan Drake is searching for the lost sand city of Iram of the Pillars, probably because he hasn't found something that has been lost for hundreds of years in a couple of months and he needs his fix. However, a secret order of British spies is also after the city for unknown reasons and they try to kill Drake hundreds of times.
In the middle of the game, Drake's British friend Cutter gets shot by a dart and tries to shoot one of the head spies, Talbot. Cutter is pretty surprised that the bullet seems to have gone straight through Talbot, not injuring him in any way. At this point, I sat up a littler straighter in my chair, as unexpected paranormal occurrences are one of the highlights on the Uncharted series. Cutter spends the next fifteen minutes freaking out, at one point even trying to kill Drake, possible because, I don't know, he got shot by a freaking powerful hallucinogenic dart?
When they reach the lost city, the head spy lady spends ten minutes explaining their plan to Drake, telling him that the city holds a powerful hallucinogenic and one sample of the water is all that they need. At which point Drake surely points out that surely the one they already had is powerful enough, right? I mean, it was so strong that it made Charlie think one guy was invincible and his good friend Drake need to be choked to death, right? So what could this drug possible do that the one they already have can't do? These questions aren't rhetorical; please answer me in the comments because I can't figure it out.
Metal Gear Solid 4 – Liquid Ocelot Wants to Save the World.
In Metal Gear Solid 2, Solid Snake learns of an evil conspiracy called the Patriots – a small but powerful organisation currently shaping the entire world into whatever they see fit.
Yes, Raiden was there too.
The origins of the Patriots are fleshed out in Metal Gear Solid 3, and finally in Metal Gear Solid 4, Liquid Ocelot takes over the Patriot system (the only thing left of them is a computer on a big boat) and consequently can control every army in the world with mind control.
Solid Snake manages to reach the computer and shut it down, saving the world (of course), but, BIG TWIST, it turns out that Ocelot had orchestrated everything that had happened so that Snake had everything he needed to stop the Patriots. Ocelot didn't want to take over the world, he just wanted to get rid of the Patriots influence over it, and spent four games laying plans that would result in this outcome. I'm not sure if taking every single major and minor event that happened over the course of a series and making it seem like they were always important should be called Hideo-Kojima-ing or J.K-Rowling-it at this point.
Resident Evil 6 – Evil Ada Clone Wants to Punish the World Because One Guy Was a Jerk to Her.
The Resident Evil series has some pretty stupid plots, but the one in Resident Evil 6 is so preposterous that I intend to bring it up as often as possible to shame Capcom into trying harder. Let me take a breath before I try and explain it (the game doesn't even explain it properly – I had to check the Resident Evil wiki).
International superspy Ada Wong spent several years working for Secretary of Defence Derek Simmons, in which time he became infatuated and obsessed with her. At the same time, a scientist working for Simmons, Carla Radames, became infatuated and obsessed with Simmons. Ada wasn't interested in Simmons so she quit, but Simmons was still in love with her. Because Carla was in love with Simmons, one of them came up with the idea for Carla to use science to become Ada so that Simmons would get Ada and Carla would get Simmons, rather than behave LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE.
But see, the thing is, this wasn't enough for Simmons, which broke poor Carla's, now Ada's (we called her Bada for simplicities sake) heart and he kept trying to pursue the real Ada. This caused Bada to embark on a plot to kill everyone on the planet, probably so that no one would find out how stupid she was to think that a relationship where you have to literally be another person could possibly work.
The Mario Series – Bowser Wants… Peach… For Some Reason?
See the thing about Nintendo, they sure do love making well put together, rather excellent video games, don't they? Does it really matter if the plot is paper thin or non-existent?
The way I like to look at it, your AAA games are analogous to Hollywood movies – they're full of action, light on plot, incredibly expensive to produce, and sometimes a little rushed. Indie games are indie movies (I am a genius for realising this) – they're more about the characters, or making you think or feel something that you wouldn't get from a Hollywood film. Mario games can't be compared to a kind of movie – not even kid's movies. Nope, Mario games are actually a lot closer to board games or playground games than anything else. Here's your counter, you just have to get to the end, but it's not going to be easy. Does Monopoly need a plot? Does chess? Does Battleship…
Mass Effect – The Reapers Want to Kill All Organic and Synthetic Life to Prevent Synthetic Life from Killing Organic Life
Yes, Mass Effect fans and people who hate Mass Effect fans going on about how shit the ending is, I'm going there. Whether you like the ending or not, and I… don't, I'm sure we can all agree that this is an incredibly stupid piece of lazy writing.
In Mass Effect 1, the Reapers were so advanced that we couldn't even begin to grasp what their motives could be – or so they told us. You do kind of believe them though, seeing as though they've pretty much shaped the way every race in the galaxy has progressed by strategically placing advanced technology all over the place with signs plastered on them saying "The Reaperz werent heer".
In Mass Effect 3 however, you finally find out what their deal is. They think that cybernetic races like the Geth would easily overtake the galaxy if left unchecked and slowly but surely wipe out all organic life. But rather than crop up every 'cycle' (50,000 years) and wipe out the synthetic races, they wipe out the organic races as well, who they were claiming to be protecting in the first place. Not only that, but during the game you can prove that synthetic and organic races can get on just fine, so I suppose that they were technically right in saying that their motives are impossible for humans to grasp – only because they don't make any fucking sense.
Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil, The Walking Dead, Dead Island, Dead Space, State of Decay, ZombiU, Lollipop Chainsaw, Minecraft, Dead Nation, Plants Vs. Zombies, Dead Rising, The House of the Dead, Half Life – Zombies Want to Eat Your Brains
They're zombies – it's what they do… Except in Dead Space 3 I guess, where they want to make enough corpses so they can combine them together to make a giant living corpse moon for some reason…
So what do you think? Have you ever gotten to the end of a game and just wondered why the antagonist bothered with their insanely convoluted plan? Or did you feel sorry for having to beat them, because they didn't really deserve it after all?