Kratos Is A Loser Even When He Wins

Kratos Is A Loser Even When He Wins

If there was ever a video game character that needed to go into therapy, it's God of War star Kratos. Even David Jaffe, one of his creators, has said that the guy should calm down.

But can you really blame him? He lost his entire family before the original God of War even started. And no matter how many things he killed since then, bad stuff kept happening to him in turn. That's always been a big part of what's made the PlayStation series so oddly compelling: it story makes it seem like an overwhelming tragedy, but its famously gory combat won over countless players with an incredible power fantasy.

Marianne Krawczyk, the lead writer for the original God of War trilogy, touched on this recently in a recent interview with fellow game writer Richard Dansky. Maybe it's just the God of War fan in me talking, but I found their back-and-forth fascinating. Dansky suggested that her games are unique because they put the protagonist in the starring role in a dispiriting Greek tragedy -- one "that is explicitly about the hero's ultimate failure." So what makes the game so much fun? Besides their insane over-the-top combat, I mean.

"You bring up a point that might be the bane of all game writers, and that is how do you raise the stakes for the character (often done through failure), while still offering victory conditions to the player," Krawczyk responded. "Kratos never fails in his mission," she continued. "A few times he has failed when we need him to end up somewhere -- like in [God Of War 3], where he can't hang on to a branch and falls into the underworld -- but usually he is steadfast in his goals, and he uses any means necessary to stay on task."

Blockbuster games often feel like they're required to give players an inflated sense of achievement. And the God of War series delivers that sensation better than most other games. But Kratos himself never seems to end up any better for it. I remember just feeling...bad for the guy by the time he got around to punching his dad in the face repeatedly at the end of God of War 3.

Krawczyk suggested that the God of War developers might've been able to get away with such a dark message because the games are set in a mythical version of Ancient Greece, "where tragedies were invented." Plus, anything Kratos actually said often ended up being drowned out by all the blood and viscera involved in what he's actually doing at any given moment. But then she gets at what makes Kratos such a great character, and an intriguing protagonist for a game like this.

"Kratos' entire story just felt organic to the desires and flaws of his character," she said. "There was simply no other way to go with him. I think it would have felt false to try to make Kratos classically heroic or talk about the triumph of the human spirit with his story. Kratos has always had this resonance where he is telling us his story rather than us trying to foist goodness and light (or anything else) on him. And you know, he's a big guy with crazy-arse weapons. When he speaks, we try to listen."

When he speaks, we try to listen. That's what I've always loved about God of War. There's an emotional force to Kratos that transcends any of the game's narrative or genre-specific trappings. Playing as the guy is an enthralling experience. You might not always like what he has to say, but you'll always remember what he said.

So yes: God of War makes Kratos out to be a failure in some sense. Someone playing as him might even feel like they're "failing" in turn. But his sheer presence as a character is strong enough that it overpowers anything bad that comes from that.

via Gamasutra 16


Comments

    Kratos: sony mascot of tragedy
    Samus aran: nintendo mascot of tragedy
    Both of these mascots have lost people that they during their life, most of them important. They both channel their grief differently: kratos with rage, samus with isolation, both ineffective ways of coping with their trauma. I mean look at how they come to blows with their enemies, kratos is brutal at killing his enemies, samus must of followed other infamous cyborgs by turning up then blowing up planet that she lands on. here is the thing with both, both have counterparts that have people to love and care for. For kratos it is pit & asura, both have people in their lives to care for, while kratos hasn't got anyone to look forward to care for him. Samus has boba fett & captain falcon, to clarify boba fett has the kaminoans which is his adopted family & he has to care for his grandaughter, captain falcon has his friends, for samus, there are none, all of them DEAD: real family: dead, chozo: physically dead, baby metroid: dead, bounty hunter team in mp3: dead, basically anyone she cares for ends up dead. Thus the end of the tragic comparison of the 2, but I think there is respite for the 2, I mean can the gods in god of war improve their behavior for good when they come back to life & apologise to him from what they put him through, perhaps & for samus, many fans believe that super smash bros it has given her some possible friends to share her feelings with & if the AMOUNT OF SHIPPING is to be believed, lots of pairings with her some of them yuri. But all this sadness is what makes these 2 mascots of tragedy

    I've never quite understood the sympathy for Kratos. He's just a total asshole all the time and then has bad things happen to him and goes about solving them by being an asshole some more. Even his family being killed can't be played up in a sympathetic way because HE KILLED THEM! And the excuse that he was fooled into it is ridiculous because simply the fact he can go around killing countless civilians with no problem but then feel mad because some turned out to be his family he literally has no one to blame but his asshole self.
    I don't mind God of War but the sympathetic angle they've always tried taking with Krato's has seemed ridiculous at the least as he really has no redeeming value whatsoever, he's just a complete dick.
    /End rant.

    The God of War trilogy - the main three, not the prequels - actually have a fairly typical Greek tragedy type of storytelling, especially with the finale to the third game. It's a decent use of the motif that you wouldn't expect from a game with Mr. Shoutypants (and I would't have him any other way)

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