The 8 Ball 9.17.13: Top 8 Nerdy Video Game Characters
Posted by Marc Morrison on 09.17.2013
From Harold MacDougal in Red Dead Redemption and Algie in Bully to Dr. Arcade Gannon, Otacon, and more, 411's Marc Morrison ranks his Top 8 Nerdy Video Game Characters!
Welcome to another edition of The 8 Ball. This week we're talking about nerdy characters in video games. Most of the time, games have confident, strong characters that are meant to be liked. However, this isn't always the case, some characters are weird, dorky, or just unpleasant to be around. This is where this list comes in. Here are some of the nerdy characters me and Liana have encountered in games. Enjoy:
8. Tingle (Legend of Zelda)
Tingle is the weirdest character in the Zelda franchise, by far. As a middle-aged man with a MASSIVE gin blossom and a fairy obsession that steps completely over the "creepy" line, Tingle is odd to say the least. While he can be useful in the games to gain knowledge from, you have to interact with him to do so, and that usually isn't fun. I liken Tingle to Herbert from Family guy in the "Never want to be alone with him in the room ever" category. Still, while most of the NPC's of Zelda games are normal, Tingle abounds with nerdy qualities with his map making and creepy voice.
7. Shaun Hastings (Assassin's Creed)
As the know-it-all member of the Assassin's Creed games, Shaun's nerdiness is quite apparent. While he never is out-right evil, his propensity for always wanting to be right and putting others down (notably Rebecca and Desmond) for in his view being intellectually lesser than him, is what defines the character. Still, he does do good work in the games, coming up with some clever/sarcastic jokes about the historical people that you meet up with. And at least like some people in the series, Lucy, he remains loyal to the team and the ideals of the Assassins.
6. Charlie Cole (Splinter Cell: Blacklist)
As the most recent character on this list, and I think the source for Liana suggesting the topic at all, Charlie is a huge nerd within Blacklist. While he is ostensibly "Gadget Guy" in the game, he still comes through in his own ways, notably in figuring out the Engineers were targeting Chicago, instead of Dallas, when no one else did. Charlie represents the geek of the 21st century, full of knowledge but having some slightly poor social clues and being sarcastic in spots (much like Shaun). Still, despite his missions being terrible in the game, Charlie is a good character and a total nerd.
5. Otacon (Metal Gear Solid)
Through-out most of the MGS series, Otacon has been portrayed as the nebbish inventor in most of the games. While he is loyal to Snake, and brilliant in his created devices, he kind of fails at everything else, especially his relationships with women. In the three games he is most in (MGS 1, 2 and 4), he's grown as a character but he's still been plagued by problematic relationships with women. Two of the women he's fallen for wind up dead, and the third (Emma), while being his sister, still ended up killed. That's not exactly a great confidence booster for him. Given that he's also *way* into anime and the like kind of cuts down his social prowess and ability. Still, he finally does become a grown up at the end of MGS 4 and that's good.
4. Tails (Sonic the Hedgehog)
It may seem a long time ago but in the old Sonic games (Sonic 2 through Sonic and Knux), Tails was actually a better playing character than Sonic. Flying around gave you a lot more freedom and you were able to break some of the level designs in the game. Since Sonic Adventure though, Tails has been turned into some brilliant inventor that could pull any and all device out of his two-tailed ass. This was no more apparent than in Sonic Adventure 2 when he was trapped in some mech-suit in a tired rehash of E-102 Gamma's gameplay from SA1. Tails used to be a great character but like so much of the Sonic franchise he has been damaged beyond almost all hope of fixing.
3. Dr. Arcade Gannon (Fallout: New Vegas)
His name is the first thing that crops up as "nerdy", but almost in a pandering way. Why not just name him "Arcade Final Fantasy Super Mario Star Trek LOTR Gannon"? Aside from that though, his personality is a lot like Otacon's only even more of a social geek though. While he is fairly capable in combat, he is just constantly a stick in the mud for trying to do fun stuff in the game, notably for powering up the Archimedes I solar weapon. Having him voiced by Zachary Levi is nerd-bait as it is, due to his role as Chuck. He does have his specific uses, but he's the companion I left in the casino the most.
2. Harold MacDougal (Red Dead Redemption)
The first of our two Rockstar characters, Harold McDougal is the "know it all" type of nerd. Like with Shaun Hastings (only Shaun is right most of the time), Harold thinks he knows everything about the world, but this is taken as a joke to the player given to Nastas and John's view of him. They placate him but for one second don't buy an ounce of the B.S. he is trying to peddle. His cocaine use has only exacerbated his already insulting personality. While he doesn't get his comeuppance in the normal game (save for a newspaper article), he gets a hysterical ending within Undead Nightmare where Nastas finally gets his revenge on the professor.
1. Algernon "Algie" Papadopoulos (Bully)
While Algie isn't the nerd leader (that's Earnest Jones), I actually think Algie should have been the leader/head geek. He is such a nerd, it is almost scary. Be it the red hair, the over-sized glasses, or (most importantly) the way that his fly is never zipped up, it all screams that he is a dork of the highest order. Petey even calls him a dork later on in the game, to make this point evident. He is the most put upon nerd in the game, which is really saying something. Even the principal considers him a loser, which is kind of even more sad, due to the principal himself being a dweeb. Stay strong Algie, one day you'll be the doctor that you wanted to be, and all the kids who picked on you will be working in drive thru's and bagging your groceries.
The Better Half with Liana K
My 8 Favorite Digital Nerds
I'm a nerd. Like, a big nerd. But in video games, the business that nerds built, muscle men who solve problems with their fists, or buxom babes... who solve problems with their fists... are usually given center stage. So I wanted to give some love to the nerdy characters we know and love, who usually don't get enough credit. In selecting the entrants on this list, it sometimes got difficult to separate actual nerds from characters who were just intellectuals, so I tended to avoid super-genius characters with social skills -- sorry Professor Layton, you didn't make the list. I also avoided robots and cyborgs, because that's just too easy. Furthermore, I left out any evil wizard, evil scientist, or otherwise evil character, because the purpose of this list is to showcase heroic nerds. Got it? Got it! On to the list!
(Note: I know some people are offended by the term "nerd", but since the purpose of this list is to reclaim a pejorative, it works better here than "geek". Also, there are just far, far too many techie characters in video games without adding the social awkwardness requirement.)
8: Hugo (Skylanders)
Hugo the cute little Mabu is a bookish and neurotic historian, researcher, and librarian. That means doesn't volunteer to get the piss beat out of him in battle arenas, making him much smarter than the playable Skylanders. He's also much less pompous than Eon, who is just bossy, with his weird floating head, always telling me what to do.. Oops! That last comment breaks my rule about saying anything bad about Skylanders, which earned my eternal devotion by casting George Takei as the voice of a giant robot.
7: Dr. Cranium (Quest for Glory 4)
Dr Cranium uses his obsessive love of science in an ongoing quest to create the first "artificial, universally agreeable" woman, a female Frankenstein-style monster named, creatively, "Frankie". Dr. Cranium also has an obsessive love of pizza, and could have also been chugging Mountain Dew in the form of the green, glowing grue goo you have to collect for him in the game. He might not just be a mad scientist. He might also be the first documented hardcore gamer. I mean, he did build that Antwerp maze minigame. Antwerps are awesome, aren't they? What do you mean you don't know what an Antwerp is?
(Note: Mad scientists and evil scientists are not the same thing.)
These two ladies fill essentially the same function in their respective Bioshock games: they're exploited female scientists with psychological issues reaching back to childhood who end up forming bonds with someone very creepy, but in the end seem to have a semblance of morality that doesn't involve mass slaughter. Bioshock is chock a block with messed up scientists, but Dr. Suchong and Sofia Lamb don't have any change of heart regarding their gruesome experiments with human subjects.
While Tenebaum seems more caring than Lutece, her past acts are also much more monstrous. Lutece's seeming disinterest is only because she's a fatalist, believing there's little hope in controlling the outcome of events. This is the ultimate pinnacle of nerdom – not applying your genius for the greater good because you've determined that it's smarter to do nothing. Meanwhile, Tenebaum's interest in her "leetle ones" after being responsible for implanting sea slugs in their bellies is the sort of caring that only socially maladjusted nerds can relate to. We're left with an equal-but-different equation where no woman can be seen to definitively be the bigger nerd.
5: Gordon Freeman (Half-Life)
He doesn't speak. You only see his bespectacled mug on the games box art. But this theoretical physicist has become one of the iconic characters of gaming, precisely because he. is. you. (And you are a nerd! Like me! M I Rite?) Okay he also stopped an alien invasion, but he also helped cause that invasion in the first place. Important nerd character point: never admit a mistake, unless it makes you seem somehow more brilliant, or falsely humble.
Okay, yeah, Freeman benefits from the strength of Half-Life's slick (for the time) game design, and he's really more of a player proxy than a character in and of himself, but... oh who cares?! Power to us nerds!
4: Damon Baird (Gears of War)
I don't know anyone who cites Baird as their favorite Gears of War character, but when you want shit done, he gets it done, especially when it involves "lateral thinking". Baird is definitely the "techie" of the group. He cites mucking with gadgets as the only happy part of his otherwise miserable rich kid upbringing. Not being at all cool is what makes him cool, which is what makes his bromance with Augustus Cole work so well – opposites attract. You can't help but feel sorry for Baird, because he's clearly the guy in the COG who doesn't want to be there. Nerd pro tip: Never want to be there. Being there is for the mindless sheep who make up the bulk of society. You're too smart for that. Also, it scores you nerd cred to hate your parents for reasons resulting from first world problems like being denied an inheritance.
Snarkiness aside – and hey, Baird would appreciate snark -- Baird's struggles as the guy who wanted to be an engineer while his parents forced him into the military, makes him the standard bearer for geeks who find themselves in uncomfortably physical situations and manage to define a role for themselves.
3: Charlie Cole (Splinter Cell: Blacklist)
Charlie is the reason for this week's list. I love him. He's useful, but he's got his weaknesses, mainly his tendency to spaz because he took a huge, unexpected leap from the private security sector into tracking terrorists bent on the downfall of America. That's a pretty big promotion with a pretty big death count, and you're not a proper nerd unless you have a MENSA level IQ with a matching anxiety condition and lack of focus. Despite this, he's an important member of the team, and he gets some of the best lines in the game because he's not busy practising his badass soldier grimace.
2: Liara T'Soni/ Tali'Zorah (Mass Effect)
This list would not be complete without Tali and Liara's inclusions, because they show that girl geeks can be "hot" but still nerds... whatever "hot" actually means. Ironically, Liara and Tali manage to carry with them a greater humanity than Shepherd's human female companions, possibly because they're not stuffed into the obvious trophy girl paradigm like EDI or Miranda, despite their own proficiencies. It seems like games that bother including one geek girl just go for the baker's dozen and splatter the cast with female scientists, computer programmers, and AIs. However, this is another situation where it's impossible to determine whether Liara or Tali is the bigger nerd.
While Tali's talents are firmly in engineering, Liara leaps between history and IT, giving her a slight edge due to that "double major" of sorts. There are times, however, that Tali manages to outdo Liara on the social awkwardness scale, which is no small feat. However, Tali makes up points lost to Liara's nerdy obsessions by being allergic to the entire universe and prone to sickness. You're not a proper nerd unless you have some weird malady, preferably one that requires inhalers, and Tali has a whole biosuit to ward off infections!
1: Alistair (Dragon Age)
Some people might not see Alistair, bastard prince of Ferelden, as a nerd. But if he were just some random prince guy he wouldn't be nearly as lovable, because that boring schtick has been done to death. His character's twist on the handsome prince archetype is what puts him at the top of this list for me, because I refuse to demand acceptance as a nerd girl, then lust after guys who are unrealistically suave, never get nervous, and always know what to say. Alistair never seems to know what to say, which makes him adorable!
He's awkward with the ladies. His jokes frequently fall flat. He's fascinated by the occult despite his templar training... which might be one of the reasons he wasn't a very good templar. Also, instead of being an elite fighter, it's made clear in the game that Alistair got his butt kicked by numerous other Templars in tournaments. He's not Mr. Macho, and he's not Mr. Smooth. He's a dork. But he's loyal and he has a good heart, and it's nice to see an awkard guy in a major party role in a video game, instead of the parade of meatheads we're usually forced to deal with. Okay, yeah, Alistair shares a lot in common with Garrus from Mass Effect, but Garrus is a crack shot sniper, instead of an illegitimate heir to the throne that no one really seemed to want.
However, some would say that Alistair's lack of intelligence takes him out of the running in the contest for top nerd. This is where we get to an important fact about nerds: a lot of us really aren't that smart regarding anything useful. Spend as much time with nerds as I do and you realize that we might be awesome at a pretty narrow area of expertise, but we're useless at most things that other people actually find useful. Alistair's got a pretty poetic soul, but until the rest of his biological family gets slaughtered, he just can't seem to find his niche, and has no actual friends to speak of. Because of that, he lets people make vicious jokes at his expense.
But it becomes more and more apparent that Alistair isn't actually stupid at all. He's a victim of neglect and no shortage of bullying, and what appears to be stupidity is actually just insecurity stemming from never really fitting in anywhere when there aren't monsters trying to destroy the world. Alistair is the video game world's greatest redemption of the nerd into a bona fide hero, and the irony is that only the nerdiest of gamers – those who play epic dark fantasy RPGs -- will get to experience the character.
The biggest obvious omission from my list is Gordon Freeman. He's not on here for the simple reason that he doesn't actually have a personality. The lack of a voice, or any dialog from him, limits him in terms of actually having a persona. It'd be like saying Chell has a great personality, for exactly the same reason. Aside from this, the only other real characters I could come up with were Apple (Suikoden 2), Conrad Verner (Mass Effect), some of the miscellaneous characters from Psychonauts, and any character voiced by David Cross (Marine in Halo 2 or Zero in San Andreas).
The General Roundup
There were some pretty decent comments from last week, which I'll try and address now: As far as Minecraft, Braid, and Limbo go, I (and Liana for that matter) just aren't into those games. I can at least recognize that they are well made, and enjoyable to the people who like them, but that isn't me. VVVVVV is pretty solid but outside of beating it, there isn't a lot to keep you coming back. Well, aside from the soundtrack anyway. I would consider Double Fine indie now but not when they release Psychonauts. I think Majesco published it originally, and they weren't small back then. Same goes for Rez, Sega put that out. Not exactly an indie game.
Also, to the person saying that in Beat Hazard "YOUR songs make the game!", that's a joke right? Like someone else pointed out, but that's the same argument for Audiosurf. And Audiosurf makes a better game than Beat Hazard.