"When we think about the Halo universe, we think of it as a real place
inhabited by real characters," Ross said during her brief appearance on
Because when I think about the Halo universe, I think of it as a fantasy place inhabited by a bunch of faceless space marines, legions of faceless enemies who exist solely to be slaughtered, a physically powerless support character who exists solely to advance the plot and direct the player's actions from afar, and a power-fantasy-fulfillment vessel for the player to control who is essentially completely interchangeable with almost every single AAA action game hero ever.
It has been pointed out that Master Chief, and all the other one-note hero characters like him, might as well be called "Steve". He's a generic, muscley, gravelly voiced, serious, tough guy who engages in violence against overwhelming numbers and odds to accomplish his mission. He's Gordan Freeman, and Nathan Drake, and Alex Mercer, and Solid Snake, and Marcus Fenix, and Isaac Clarke, and dozens of others all alike, all interchangeable stereotypical pastiches of the idealized "American soldier".
And yet people love Master Chief, and all his various counterparts. Why?
Is it because they're interesting characters? Probably not, although they each have their own interesting quirks and mannerisms and slight differeneces from one another.
No, I think these characters aren't loved and appreciated as characters. At best they are stock characters - they don't need to be well defined or to have robust personalities because the enjoyment of the game doesn't come from the characters, but from the mechanics of the game.
You don't play Doom because it has a compelling storyline - you play it because it has compelling game mechanics. You don't really give a damn about the token storyline about space marines battling demons on Mars - all you care about is the experience of roaming through the claustrophobic, maze-like corridors of an alien setting; scrounging up weapons, ammo, healthkits and powerups; and blazing a path of destruction through ever tougher legions of baddies.
Hence, I think, why so many characters in games are just generic tough guy protagonists. It's like the old theatre style of commedia dell'arte - the specific archetypical characters themselves aren't the focus of the medium, they're merely the blunt instruments necessary to deliver the actual comedic content you're actually after.
Why has the "Silent Protagonist" worked so well in games? Because a lot of games aren't out to deliver a gripping character drama, they're out to give you a certain mechanical experience. Everything else is often just token, symbolic placeholder, existing only as a framework in which to place the mechanics of the game.
It's only recently that we've come to expect strong writing and story and characters in every game that comes out, when historically the medium has purposefully been almost entirely uninterested in those very same thing.
Now, that certainly doesn't preclude good storytelling in games. There have been a great number of games in every age of the medium that purposefully set out to deliver compelling writing and deep, fully fleshed characters - and the results have often been wonderful.
But I think looking at games like Halo and Call of Duty and God of War and all the rest like them and complaining that they have bland, non-diverse sets of character is like watching a mindless blockbuster action film and complaining that it isn't thought provoking and deeply moving.
And I also think that people are missing the point by saying things like:
"That branding has never really appealed to me and when I watched the Microsoft press conference, it felt very more of the same to me," Alexander says. "I didn't experience any diversity."
More of the same is exactly the point! Diversity is antithetical to what these games are about!
Does the games industry need more high-brow, story focused games? If we have worthwhile stories to tell, and if they work well as interactive games rather than as books or movies or otherwise, then absolutely!
But that doesn't mean the industry can't or shouldn't also have its stupid Steve-populated shooters and action-adventure romps that couldn't care less about delivering a meaningful story and are just there to give us an excuse to mindlessly play around with game mechanics with a minimum of pretext.
We get it - you want more "Oscar Award Nominee" and "Cannes Film Festival" quality games, and the industry isn't making them. They're busy churning out vapid, profitable, low-brow "popcorn flick" experiences that exist purely so you can mindlessly partake of them to fill time.
You're sick of waiting for someone to make the next "The King's Speech", and you're sick of seeing a never ending stream of advertisements for the upcoming "Lethal Weapon 9" and "Die Hard, Again: Back With Revengeance".
But you can't compare apples to oranges. Stupid macho video games should not be judged the same as intelligent story-based video games, and vice versa. The average gamer doesn't identify with Master Chief - they just want an empty vessel they can inhabit for a little bit so they can go shoot things in the face on an alien world rendered in fancy graphics.