Diary of a Western Videogame Protagonist

Joel, the protagonist of The Last of Us. He has a scruffy beard and a furrowed brow.
Day 1 – I got a haircut today. It’s a lot shorter now but not working class short, not army short. Back at home, Sarah said that she liked it, that she could see herself playfully gripping tufts of my hair during sex. I said, “Why don’t we test that hypothesis?” and she obliged. God, I love her so much. If anything were to happen to her, I swear…

Day 2 - Sarah’s dead. And just one day after our scene of mildly erotic domestic bliss, too. To mark my loss, I refused to shave today. Shaving would somehow cheapen her passing. And besides, revenge is a dish best served scruffy.

Day 3 - I know who did it and they’re going to pay. Before they took Sarah, my rage was just barely contained, like the infinitely dense point of matter that gave birth to this whole goddamn universe. It’s not that I didn’t have access to a wellspring of manly anger before her death, it’s just that there was no need to unleash it on an unprepared world. But now that she’s gone, there’s nothing standing in my way. Get ready for my big bang.

Day 4 - Killed my first enemy today. Afterward, I looked down at the blood on my hands and thought some deep thoughts about the consequences of my actions, about the effects that this act of violence might have on my character. Would I become just like them? Would revenge fill the void of Sarah’s absence or would it leave me feeling hollow? I didn’t have answers to these questions but I felt in my gut that the only way to resolve them was to pick up a gun and press onward.

Day 5 - My enemies speak with an accent I can’t identify. I’ve been puzzling over it since the start of this whole affair. It’s really starting to bother me. Where are they from? Central America? Eastern Europe? South Asia? Should I ask one of them? I mean, I can’t exactly engage in conversation during the middle of a gunfight but maybe if I carefully incapacitate one of them with a non-mortal wound, I can ask him about his ethnic background before delivering the death blow.

Day 6 - Thought a lot about Sarah’s death today. It was snowing when I found her. I stared in horror at the ground where her body lay, at the painful contrast of blood red and snow white. Something about it made me think about the purity of femininity, about that ineffable, unattainable, effortless quality that Sarah had about her, an aura that seemed irrevocably tied to her downy white breasts and her long, flowing hair. Sarah was my redemption, my one chance to soften the rough edges of my life with something soft, sweet, aromatic. And now she’s gone forever, the most precious woman in the world unceremoniously slain by a group of vaguely ethnic mercenaries.

A gravestone from Max Payne 3.

Day 7 - It’s getting easier to kill people. The first person I killed presented a staggering moral and physical challenge; the most recent person I killed was like an ant beneath my boot. The more people I kill, the better I get at killing people. The quantity of people I have killed and my skill at killing them are positively correlated variables. Killing people is like riding a bike: once you learn how to do it, you’ll never unlearn it. Killing people? It’s like having sex: you never forget your first time and, once you’ve tried it, you’ll want to do it over and over.

Day 8 - Thought about giving up today. Sarah’s dead. I’ve killed six dozen people which seems like a lot, come to think of it. And I haven’t changed my clothes all week. But then I looked at the folded picture of Sarah that I store in my wallet. She would want me to keep going. She wouldn’t want me to stop until they’re all dead. I can hear her whispering to me now from beyond the veil: “If I have to be in heaven without you, I want you to send them all to hell.”

Day 9 - I lost track of how many people I’ve killed. Sobering. But I also got my first headshot today! Excuse my exuberance. Killing is wrong, of course, and it’s only justified in my case because of Sarah’s death. Sure, the explosion of viscera that accompanies a perfectly precise pistol shot has a certain aesthetic appeal. The way in which that single perfunctory bullet triggers such a sudden display of grotesque bodily excess is, I’ll admit, nothing short of remarkable. If I have to shoulder the unpleasant burden of vengeance, is it really so bad if I take a little pride in my necessary labor?

Day 10 - Food is starting to get caught in my scruff. Sometimes it’s gross, other times it’s tasty. I’ve been thinking that even after I avenge Sarah, I might keep the beard. More on that later.

Day 11 - I remember reading some Walt Whitman in high school. I had to memorize one of his poems once, the really famous one: “I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world.” I think I’m starting to understand how Whitman felt when he wrote that. Sarah’s death has defined me or, rather, it’s unrefined me, putting me in touch with a part of myself that is wild, independent, even triumphant. In a funny way, this quest for revenge might be the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

Day 12 - Passed the fifty headshot mark today and rewarded myself with a stiff drink. I have the strangest notion that something good will happen when I reach one hundred. I don’t know why, I don’t know what, but somehow I just know that when I pass one hundred headshots, I’ll be able to feel like I’ve achieved something concrete and real.

Lazarevic from Uncharted 2.
Day 13 - Finally avenged Sarah’s death today. As the leader of my enemies lay dying, sputtering bright red blood with each syllable of accented English, he assured me that I was just like him, that I too had murdered hundreds of people without remorse and without purpose. Whatever.

Day 14 - Wasn’t expecting this. My victory didn’t bring Sarah back. What’s more is that I’m starting to feel a little guilty about what I’ve done. Now that I’ve had some time to catch my breath, I’m beginning to think that I should not have spent the last two weeks systematically eliminating hundreds of people to no practical effect. I just got so carried away when they killed her, you know? I’ve got to be honest, diary. I’m pretty down. I even thought about shaving once, going so far as to lather up my face. But I had used my last razor to stealth kill someone last week so I just sat down and cried, my tears softly rinsing away the shaving cream.

Day 15 - Feeling a lot better today. Sure, Sarah’s gone. But I’ve learned a lot about myself these past couple of weeks. I’ve learned a lot about the futility of revenge, the hollowness of violence, the depth of loss. There was no other way for me to learn these lessons, was there? It had to happen just like this.

Day 16 - Yup. Keeping the beard. It looks awesome.

About Samantha Allen

Samantha Allen writes about gender, sexuality, and technology. She is currently a staff writer for The Daily Beast and holds a Ph.D. in Women's, Gender, And Sexuality Studies from Emory University. You can find her on the web or on Twitter.
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13 Responses to Diary of a Western Videogame Protagonist

  1. Llamaentity says:

    Thanks for that XD Oh those tropes~

  2. Big Bad Willy says:

    That was hilarious – thanks!

  3. yams says:

    This is bloody amazing; well done

  4. Sanagi says:

    Unbelievably accurate and funny and sad.

  5. Frances says:

    If only we could learn to look awesome without killing anybody? Aw who am I kidding…?

  6. Courior says:

    “Self-Discovery through Murder” must be the best selling self help book in videogames these days.

  7. Ryan says:

    This was amazing, great way to start my day!
    Really puts into perspective the ‘creative’-ness of most games. It’s sad really when you get to the heart of the matter D:

    But this is why games like Depression Quest mean so much more to me too! :D

  8. Doug S. says:

    I’ve read novels that suffer from this disease, too.

  9. Boiler says:

    It’s almost like if you played one AAA game and such, you basically played (or read like Doug S added) them all because they’re basically the same storyline but only re-textured but still the same thing.

    Only if though if there’s someway to deconstruct the tropes though and maybe perhaps by making the typical western white male protagonist into the antagonist of the game/story just to give a different perspective how much of a murdering prick he really is due to self centered reasons involving usually around women (interchangeably like his daughter/wife/girlfriend/etc) i.e his “property” which if you think about it, that’s what it’s all about, the fear of white man’s “property” being stolen/destroyed/etc and they go on a murderous rampage to “get it back” or “repay what they destroyed” since after all you know, 90% of the AAA developers are white males and everything they write is a microcosm of themselves which they bring out their actual ideology/mentality and ‘fears’ deep down inside them when they write the stories.

  10. Laurentius says:

    But seriously where is it ? I mean i’m PC gamer and look through 100 top sellers and top played games on Steam (almost all western) and games i can attribute these tropes to are Dishonored and Far Cry3 ( not sure about that tbh ). And one from memory because it’s nowhere visble on Steam, this recent Castelavania game.

  11. Cordate says:


    I keep running across mentions of angst beards lately, it’s odd.

  12. Rachel F. says:

    Very good! I was imagining this with the voice-over while I was reading.

  13. Calla says:

    Gah, this is beautiful. I’m trying not to laugh like a crazy person in the middle of class.

    (Also, I might actually be interested in playing a game where Mr. Stubbly White Guy was actually this tongue-in-cheek about the Standard Plot Package that the developers saddled him with.)

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