[Currently listening to: Unfounded Revenge/Smashing Song of Praise. FOREVER.]
It’s easy to swoon for a pretty face, right? Even the gamer ladies aren’t immune; we’ve got our pick of fictional gentlemen – from spiky-haired JRPG leads to inarticulate Hyrulean swordsmen.
While we may love the attractive characters for personality as well, it certainly doesn’t hurt their fan following that they’re easy on the eyes. They’re a gimmick that’s been around since the dawn of Jane Austen books (okay, probably from before her, but you get my meaning), and when something ain’t broke, why fix it?
But ladies: what if a story – game or otherwise – could get you to fall for the completely average-looking, slightly unkempt, absolutely non-studly guy?
Our shining example for this post:
Duster, from Mother 3, leaves no possibility for studly misconceptions when introduced. Other characters comment on his bad breath and mistake him for a hobo or a drunk due to his pronounced limp. His very appearance gives off anti-hunk vibes: unkempt hair with a widow’s peak, drowsy eyes, magnificently huge nose.
He quickly became my favorite Earthbound/Mother series character.
Because here’s the thing: at the same time we’re assured he’s got no looks, we’re shown how incredibly kind-hearted this guy is. He’s the first person to offer condolences after tragedy hits Flint’s family; before that he willingly helps Flint find Lucas and Claus lost in the woods, even politely excusing his handicap and saying he’ll do his best regardless.
Oh, Duster, I loved you even before I found out you could flip enemies around in battle and get a free attack.
It was Shigesato Itoi’s intention, after all, to create characters you wouldn’t normally befriend and make them an integral part of your team. Other RPGs have done this to a degree, of course, but Itoi has a gift for bringing a real sense of humanity to his cast. With Duster, I’m more able to associate his mix of imperfections and good qualities with people I know in reality – as opposed to, say, the way I feel about Quina from Final Fantasy IX, who’s also a weird outcast but gives me little to work with beyond that.
I also just like the flipped stereotype: Duster isn’t a beautiful and brooding male heartthrob. His looks aren’t the “in” that make you love him; you have to get to know him past what’s initially off-putting before you can make a judgement call.
The beautiful/brooding boy is of course common fare in the book industry as well, YA fiction in particular. I get it: we want to live vicariously through our stories, and it’s easy to play on the girlish fantasy of meeting and wooing a hunk.
But I challenge you: get your audience to love the atypical guy. Maybe we can start a revolution.
Mother 3 is the property of Nintendo & Shigesato Itoi and has no English language release. You can, however, emulate the game in Japanese and use this translation patch by Tomato. If you choose this route, please support the developers by investing in their other games and merchandise.
(Oh, and I don’t own Legend of Zelda or Final Fantasy either.)