Game Philosophy: Villains You Love To Hate

Hamlet: “Doth thou see yonder cloud that is almost in the shape of a camel?”

Polonius: “By the mass, it is like a camel indeed!”

Hamlet: “Methinks it is like a weasel!”

Polonius: “It is backed like a weasel.”

Hamlet: “Or like a whale?”

Polonius: “Okay, I’m sorry, my lord, but in all honesty that’s not a cloud, it’s the logo of…”


Today’s topic:
Villains You Love To Hate

So there’s been many times where I was asked to judge someone’s story, and generally the first things I look at are the villains.

Villains have always been something that writers need to put careful thought into, because without a good villain, it will just be a story glorifying the hero.

Which is why there are villains that are just so evil that you just love to hate them. That way you can still make the hero very likable and such, but the focus on the villains being so entertainingly evil just makes you root for the hero either way, even despite the fact that the hero can be uninteresting by themselves.

But that’s the thing, how can you make a villain so lovable in how hated they can be?

Well, let’s start by pointing out a villain from a great writer and how, in my opinion, outright FAILED to be such a villain. Ladies and gentlemen, meet:


If you haven’t guessed from his title, he’s a character from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Like most William Shakespeare characters, there have been many adaptations of this character, and thus I will specify that I am talking about the Baz Luhrmann version called “Romeo + Juliet”.

Either way, this guy is Juliet’s cousin who is constantly antagonizing Romeo.

Just seeing Romeo at the party (where the two lovers met) makes him outright boiled up to fight. He even had to be slapped by Juliet’s father to stop from ruining a good party just because he wants to fight Romeo.

Even after Romeo and Juliet have secretly married, Romeo decided to try burning the hatchet between the two warring families by saying he doesn’t want to fight and tries to be as polite as he can to Tybalt, even walking away from the fight.

Tybalt, being the terrible character he is, throws away honour and simply starts kicking Romeo while he’s down, and when Romeo’s best friend Mercutio (who by the way is VERY friggin flamboyant, he outright steals the spotlight whenever he’s on-screen) tries to stop the fight, Tybalt kills Mercutio, which of course caused Romeo to kill HIM in vengeance and outright caused the terrible tragedy of the second act to happen, which I think people know more about than the first act. You know, the whole Romeo killing himself and Juliet following him and all that.

Now you’d think that with an evil unsympathetic character like that, the story would give him a REASON to do all that, or maybe they just make him enjoyably bad by adding a lot of charm to him, or maybe have him be DRIVEN to do this or something.

But nope, the only justification we have is “I hate the Montagues!”. Why? Because the families are at war.

Now, I am aware that the reason for the warring Montagues and Capulets to be kept vague for the sake of making the story timeless, that’s the strength of Shakespeare’s writings.

However, if you were going to add a very personal character that is going affect the story so harshly, you BETTER give him at least something MORE than just the vague main premise of the story.

But hey, maybe we can still go for the enjoyable villain premise. Does he die in a spectacular way that makes you go “YES! HE DIED! OH MY GOD, THAT WAS AMAZING!”?

No, Romeo kills him, he falls into the water and more focus is put in how Romeo “did something terrible” and how “everything is going to go wrong for the star crossed lovers”.

Good riddance

Now, again, I understand, it’s a tragedy, and tragedies need to add more and more pathos to the story for it’s genre.

As a quote from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead said: “The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily. That is what tragedy means.”

But the thing is, whenever Tybalt is mentioned, I am unable to feel sympathy for the death, especially because the characters ASK for sympathy after said death.

Juliet and the Nurse (the one who raised her) kept saying how good Tybalt is to them and how his death is so tragic and bla bla bla.

Well, would be nice to SHOW that, and even then, a guy being nice to you, but not nice to a waiter is NOT a good person.

Had he been a character that is hated by everyone, including the Capulets, and being so damn confident despite all that, he would have been enjoyable in how he LOVES being evil.

Not only that, but you would also be able to sympathize with him being so evil, because there is honestly no other path for him when everyone hates him.

In fact, have Romeo NOT know that Tybalt is Juliet’s cousin and actually have him enjoy killing Tybalt as revenge for Mercutio’s death. It would still make sense because Romeo DIDN’T know that Juliet was a Capulet when he first met her, so it would be totally logical for Romeo to not know Tybalt is related to her either.

That way you would have Tybalt die in an amazing spectacular manner and give Romeo AND the viewers the enjoyable feeling of “YES! HE’S DEAD!”, only to LATER realize “Oh, crap! This will result in Romeo’s exile and thus in Romeo and Juliet’s death!”

It’s all about the creator’s intent.

If you KNOW from the writing it’s the creator’s intent for the character to be hated, THAT’s how you as a viewer enjoy a villain that you hate. Otherwise you’re feeling this uncomfortable feeling of “Ugh, just let me enjoy this bastard’s death, would ya?”.

A good Villain You Love To Hate would for example be this guy:

This is the main villain of Metal Gear Solid 1.

He is the twin clone brother of Solid Snake, the main character, and he JUST. WON’T. DIE!

He has a good reason to hate Solid Snake, simply because Solid Snake was told to be the clone with all the superior genes and Liquid Snake is the clone with all the recessive genes (I know, I know, biology was never Hideo Kojima’s strengths). In the end it was revealed to be the opposite, but Liquid never knew that.

But the reason he’s so enjoyable is not his backstory, but his personality.

This guy is so damn determined to become better than Solid that it’s almost admirable in a way.

You KNOW you’re supposed to hate this guy because he does a lot of terrible things, but he does it in such a naive and optimistic way of “See how much better I am, Snake?!” that whenever he comes back from a life-threatening situation you just can’t help but tilt your head and go “Whoa”.

Solid Snake has a total of 5 encounters with this guy. 5! Most rivals you’d be happy just fighting 3 times with them!

And the second to fourth time are all consecutive!

First you fight him as he’s riding in a Metal Gear, after you destroy the Metal Gear you fistfight on TOP of the Metal Gear, then after you uppercut him off the Metal Gear you drive away with a buggy in which he comes BACK with his own buggy and tries to shoot you down, THEN after you shoot down his buggy you think it’s finally over, but then he comes back as a bloodied mess with a gun aimed straight at you.

You go “Do you ever DIE?!” and that’s when it’s revealed that he was infected with a military virus and dies on the spot right there.

Instead of giving this guy one spectacular death scene, they give him many, all of which he survives.

When he finally DOES die, you just go “Huh… well, at least it’s the last we see of him…”, which adds such an amazing feeling of irony to how such a simple thing ended up killing him, emphasizing the disappointment Liquid Snake as a clone is supposed to be.

THAT is how you write a villain you love to hate. One you just love to see coming out stronger out of every humiliation and ending with the biggest humiliation you can give to this character.

And you love every single “death” that he ends up surviving.

Published by Huy Minh Le

Huy Minh Le is a Video Game Enthusiast, Movie Lover, Writer, Content Marketeer and regular TvTropes reader! His studies in Game Design, Art, and Writing has led to a very creative, yet analytical mind.

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