Character Psychology

Analysing Our Heroes (and Villains)

 

As video games become more realistic, so do their characters. Our most loved protagonists (and antagonists) have to go through a lot! Through them we can observe human psychology and we can use them as a vessel to learn and grow.

 

Warning!

As we will be discussing important plot points to explore these characters, there will be spoilers.

 

Sorry, what’s the point in this again?

Games are one of the most immersive mediums of entertainment, and they collectively make more money than movies and music put together. Their influence is phenomenal and far reaching. This means that games have a significant influence. They have the power to change public perception, to educate and support, to bring people together. They also have the potential to be damaging – by perpetuating stigma, or communicating damaging messages to their audience.

At CheckPoint, we strongly feel that acknowledging characters as an analogue for real people is one of the most important parts of narrative design for games. Done right, it can make characters more believable, helping to immerse an audience and create a great story. It can educate audiences about stigmatised issues and change public perception. Done wrong however, it can teach people false biases, and even be personally damaging for people who suffer with the issues that are communicated incorrectly. Click here for more information about representation in games.

An important step in the right direction is looking at existing characters, what stories they tell and how. This is vital for future planning of character narrative. It’s also very interesting! And – I hope – will help players to better understand the characters they love, and how they can relate to them personally.

So please enjoy. This is all subjective (opinions are of Dr Jennifer Hazel, a qualified doctor trained in mental health and psychology). We welcome comments, contributions, suggestions for more characters and anything else you’d like to get in touch about.

Mental Health Representation in Games

When playing a game, you become immersed in the characters you play as. We often get asked, when those characters have mental health issues, how realistic are they? Are they good portrayals, or bad?

Video Game Characters with Mental Health Issues [Video]

    As games become more realistic, so too do their characters. Many of our beloved heroes and heroines have displayed signs and symptoms that could be indicative of a mental health issue. Join Dr Jennifer Hazel to find out more. Features Life is Strange, Hellblade and Final Fantasy VIII.

Games With Mental Health Themes: Night in the Woods, Town of Light [Video]

  Continuing from last week’s episode, today we explore even more games that have featured mental illness – for better or worse. Features interviews with Alec Holowka, co-creator of Night in the Woods.

Games With Mental Health Themes: Hellblade, Neverending Nightmares [Video]

  A number of video games have explored representations of mental illnesses over the years. Today the CheckPoint team looks at who does it well, who does it badly, and explores why. Featuring interviews with developer Matt Gilgenbach, creator of Neverending Nightmares.

Why Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is my Game of the Year

Hellblade is a masterpiece, but it is a harrowing one. Play at your own discretion – the game could have several different triggers for those who have mental health issues or who have experienced trauma.   This article contains spoilers.   I distinctly remember hearing the initial announcement for Hellblade, and thinking, “Oh god, here we go again.” I had […]

A Guide to Coping Mechanisms as Described by Game Characters PART 3

  This is Part 3 of 3. Part 1 | Part 2    If you struggle to cope, find yourself experiencing high levels of distress frequently, or compartmentalise emotions and actually feeling numb to things which should be upsetting, you may benefit from exploring your toolbox of coping mechanisms. Everyone uses a few different ones, and everyone has the capacity […]

A Guide to Coping Mechanisms as Described by Game Characters PART 2

  This is Part 2 of 3. Part 1 | Part 3   If you struggle to cope, find yourself experiencing high levels of distress frequently, or compartmentalise emotions and actually feeling numb to things which should be upsetting, you may benefit from exploring your toolbox of coping mechanisms. Everyone uses a few different ones, and everyone has the capacity […]

A Guide to Coping Mechanisms as Described by Game Characters PART 1

  What is a Defence Mechanism? Sometimes called “coping skills”, defence mechanisms are the psychological tactics we use to cope with situations that cause anxiety or distress. Each of us employs a mixture of different strategies in different amounts, and this can change over time. First described by Anna Freud, many different psychologists have had a crack at describing them. […]

Stressed Out: An Examination of Mental Health in Darkest Dungeon

  As CheckPoint grows as a community, we are privileged to have people coming forward and recalling their experiences of how video games and mental health came together. This article was submitted by Greg Lent.   In most games, the stress of combat is simply not explored. If touched upon at all, it is in cutscenes. A character may rant […]

Guest Feature: Geralt of Rivia, The Grey Player Character

This article was submitted by Taylor King. It contains spoilers for The Witcher.   Geralt of Rivia, The Grey Player Character The world of the Witcher is a bleak and dreary one. There aren’t many reasons for someone to want to inhabit this fantasy world like many others have. It’s a world that in a lot of ways reflects our […]

Character Psychology: Joel, The Last of Us (Part 2)

  Hello again! This is part of a character profile series being written to break down stigma and help game fans reach out. Today, we’ll be looking at Joel from Naughty Dog’s 2013 release, The Last of Us.    This is the second part of the article. You can catch up by reading Part 1 here.   Needless to say, […]

Character Psychology: Joel, The Last of Us (Part 1)

  Hello all, to anyone unfamiliar with this site, I’m Dr Jennifer Hazel, a psychiatry physician and advocate for the use of technology in mental health care. I’m also a passionate gamer. I write psychological profiles of game characters I find interesting, in order to break down stigma and help game fans reach out. Today, we’ll be looking at Joel […]

5 Times Breath Of The Wild Did Great Things For Mental Health

  The Legend of Zelda has always been an innovative, forward thinking series. Each game for me inspired a new sense of wonder, and productively built on its predecessor to create something unique. Older than I am, and yet seemingly fresh in every iteration, what Zelda has never been afraid of is trying something new. When I read reviews for […]

Squall Leonhart – Final Fantasy VIII

  Squaresoft   Psychology Discussed: Defence Mechanisms Social Anxiety and Generalised Anxiety Attachment Theory Overcoming Personal Obstacles; Growth   Pretty much every character in Final Fantasy VIII has an interesting experience from a psychiatric point of view. They attribute their memory loss to the use of the Guardian Forces, and that may be true in the game world. I like […]

Cloud Strife – Final Fantasy VII

Squaresoft Psychology Discussed: Social Purpose Defence Mechanisms Dissociative States Personal Growth   Cloud likely represented many people’s first encounter with a truly believable and fallible video game character. He begins his journey under the façade of an abrupt and jaded war veteran. As the story unfolds, we see his true character emerge. It becomes clear that his cocky demeanour has […]

Lara Croft – Tomb Raider

 Multiple Developers   Psychology Discussed: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Defence Mechanisms Developer’s Views   Our much beloved archaeologist and titular raider of tombs has been on quite the journey. Her childhood was marred by significant trauma. This includes the witnessed death of loved ones. Whilst the graphic novel accompaniments tackle this issue head on, with references to blatant symptoms […]

Kratos – God of War

Character Psychology Discussed: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Locus of Control Suicide and Suicidality   Courtesy of Santa Monica Studios Even Gods of War can become suicidal. Kratos confronts suicidality multiple times in the franchise. On one occasion he actually completes his plan by jumping from a cliff only to be rescued, and on another he turns himself around at the […]

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