As someone who suffers from mental illness, I tend to notice how people with mental illnesses are portrayed in movies, TV shows and video games. The level of realism varies widely, from completely unbelievable characters such as Voldo from Soul Calibur to thoughtfully portrayed ones like Dr. Victor Fries in some of the Batman video games.
Not all mentally ill video game characters are villains, but most of them are. I think this is because it allows the player to accept that a once normal person can run around committing crimes while dressed as a clown or wearing a hockey mask. I would like to take a look at the top five most interesting video game characters that could be considered mentally ill.
Harman Smith from the video game Killer 7. Harman appears in this title that was released for the Gamecube and PlayStation 2 and is said to have a sort of multiple personality disorder that not only allows him to imagine that he is another person, but actually morph physically into that character. When I played this game, I appreciated the uniqueness of the storyline and graphics, as well as the idea that a purportedly mentally ill individual could be the hero of the game.
Akuma from the Street Fighter series. This guy has some kind of competition addiction. After giving up his humanity in order to become a better martial artist/killer, he searches the globe in an effort to find somebody worthy to fight. He doesn’t just slaughter any character that gets into a fight with him. He will only fight those he thinks are challenging and refuses battling any others(1). This is why he tends to appear as a final boss only if you beat the game with a certain number of points or win enough matches without taking any damage.
Max Laughton from the PC Game Sanitarium. An older game (1998(2)) and harder to find now, Sanitarium was a kind of horror point-and-click adventure. I played it several years back and loved the edge-of-madness behavior that Max displays throughout the game. There are many levels, some of which seem to exist solely within Max’s mind. Progressing through the levels not only moves you farther along in the game but also gives you a clearer explanation of the mystery as to how Max ended up in a sanitarium on the first place.
The Joker from various Batman and other DC video games. The ultimate lunatic genius, The Joker exemplifies the kind of madness and violence that would get him classified as a psychopath with violent tendencies. His clown-like outfit and face are the perfect irony to the homicidal maniac within and makes death served up with magic store gags all the more perversely enjoyable. My personal favorites are the games where he is voiced by Mark Hamill.
Scooby-Doo and Shaggy from numerous video games. This pair of video game characters suffer from serious eating disorders, as well as a kind of crippling paranoia. However, in both cases the illnesses are portrayed in a very lighthearted fashion. None of the games these two have been in have been all that spectacular game-wise, but if you love them from the cartoons, you might want to give one of them a try anyway.
I think that mentally ill people in video games is a good idea, so long as the characters are portrayed realistically – or humorously like Scooby and Shaggy. I think it helps people to realize that the difficulties they experience or see in others are not as uncommon as they might believe. Oh, and the crazy ones usually make for the best villains too.