A hero is only as good as his villain, or at least that’s what they say. But when you think about the old saying, there really is a lot of truth to it. I think when it comes to movies, novels, games, the stories that stick out to me most are the ones with a really great antagonist. It seems like these days, we don’t quite get as many of those in our gaming stories. But why is that?
Greg Kasavin, a producer for 2K Games, offers up a great article looking into the idea of Proper Villainy in gaming. He theorizes that one of the main reasons that we don’t see very many great bad guys (he cites Bioshock, Super Mario Bros, Portal, and Legacy of Kain as prime examples) these days is in large part due to game design. It is hard to develop great antagonists simply because players will have to kill them on their first encounter, and it would be cheap and/or cheesy to have them always escaping in the nick of time. I think the man has a great point to be sure, especially when he points out that the most memorable bad guys this generation tend to be ever-present but unreachable dudes, like Glados, Andrew Ryan or Joker in Batman: Arkham Asylum.
It’s definitely a fascinating read, and an issue I’ve been thinking about more and more. So many games these days don’t have well defined antagonists, and it really is a shame. What do you guys think? Who are some of your favorite bad guys in gaming?