So the motley crew of Blog Ride was sitting around here one day, as we are wont to do, thinking about our favorite video game characters. The first one that came to all our minds, since we are PopCap employees, was Bjorn the Unicorn. And we think it’s fair to say that you don’t just have to be paid to work here to recognize Bjorn’s inherent awesomeness. How many other unicorns do you know who also happen to be Peggle Masters? Right. We rest our case. In fact, many of the other Peggle Masters might also make it on the list (I’m partial to Splork), though if anyone were to actually pick Jimmy Lightning I would probably question their taste in every other aspect of life, and would certainly never eat at one of their favorite restaurants.
In any event, such idle speculation led us to think about each compiling a list of our five favorite characters for posting here. Because, you know, blog topics are hard to come up with every single day, especially while you’re waiting for your own games to ship. So here is my list. I’m going to say up front that I did not include any PopCap characters, lest I be accused of bias, nor did I include a couple of obvious characters — Mario and Link — who really at this point are kind of at Lifetime Achievement status and for whom no further ink, or pixels, need to be spilled. I love them, you love them, we all love them, so now let’s move on.
My other bias, which the list will reveal in a moment, is that I’ve always been more of a PC guy than a console guy. So if you’re wondering why one of the pretty boys from the Final Fantasy games isn’t on this list, or Sonic, or whoever else, that’s why. This is my list. You can make your own and put them on there yourself rather than yell at me about it. Your yelling may make you feel better but it won’t change my list.
Now that that’s clear, I hope, here are my picks, in no real order because I’m wishy-washy that way:
Gordon Freeman (Half-Life series) — the mute, bespectacled protagonist of the greatest first-person shooter series of all time also happens to be the only character on this list (or in all of gaming) with a PhD in Theoretical Physics. Plus he wields a mean crowbar. What Freeman lacks in the personality department he more than makes up for in his looks – dorkus supremus — and uber-nerd credentials, which made him way closer to what actual gamers are like, rather than roided-out lunkheads like Duke Nukem. Besides, Freeman’s lack of dialog made him the perfect vehicle for us to inhabit, as we blasted our way through the nightmare of the Black Mesa facility. Gordon Freeman is us!
Guybrush Threepwood (Monkey Island series) — Representing the opposite end of the spectrum from Freeman is the inimitable Guybrush Threepwood, the would-be pirate of LucasArts’ brilliant Monkey Island adventure games, who is lacking in almost every department except in the verbal one. Guybrush’s “insult swordfighting” — in which he battles that game’s villains via witty repartee — is a highlight of the series, but even when just bumbling around from puzzle to puzzle, Guybrush’s steady stream of nonsense make these some of the funniest video games of all time. (And hats off to Purple Tentacle and Manny Calavera, who also could have occupied this spot. The LucasArts library of awesome adventure game characters is vast.)
Minsc (Baldur’s Gate series) — Of course, I can’t really give Minsc a spot here without giving a co-spot to his pet space hamster, Boo, without whom Minsc would be only half the awesome bald, tattooed berserker that he is. The obvious highlight of BioWare’s awesome Baldur’s Gate RPGs, Minsc brought plenty of LOL moments to these otherwise semi-serious fantasy games, with an endless stream of declaration, invective, and flat-out bizarre non sequiturs, usually issued in a loud bray even in the quietest of environments. “Go for the eyes, Boo!” will now and forever be my go-to battle cry.
HK-47 (Knights of the Old Republic) — I will totally confess without any fear of repercussions that I am not much of a Star Wars geek. I am old enough to have seen the very first film at the theater on Opening Day, so at least give me credit for that. But my lack of overall enthusiasm honestly does precede the abominations that were Episodes 1-3, which killed my interest forever. In the gaming world, however, there have been a number of stellar Star Wars titles, and if Knights of the Old Republic (again from BioWare) is not my favorite (that honor goes to Dark Forces), it does have one of my favorite characters of all time, HK-47, the assassin droid who referred to our species as “meatbags.” As with Minsc, HK-47 livens up an otherwise semi-grim affair with nonstop hilarity — a sarcastic, mean, condescending robot who never fails to insult you and everyone else in the game at every given opportunity.
GlaDOS (Portal series) — And, finally, speaking of sarcastic, mean, condescending non-humans, there is GlaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disc Operating System), the unforgettable antagonist of Valve’s Portal games, who entices you through a series of ever-more-difficult and life-threatening puzzles at the Aperture Science research facility with the promise of cake, only to turn out (SPOILER ALERT) to be the most malevolent and insane AI this side of 2001′s HAL. Unlike Hal, however, the Portal writers play it entirely for laughs, and if there’s a more passive-aggressive character in all of gaming I don’t want to know her, because GlaDOS is like the worst girlfriend ever times one million. Plus, she was totally lying about the cake!