Here’s the thing about most Australian characters in video games: their stereotypical depiction would be almost offensive, if Australians ever gave enough of a shit to be offended in the first place.
Most big games are still made in the US, and in America a particular stereotype of Australia exists that has lingered since the 1980s. You see it everywhere from Crocodile Dundee to that Simpsons episode to Junkrat’s depiction in Overwatch. An emphasis on tattered clothing, on hailing from the middle of nowhere, of having a drawl so strong it sounds like it’s an Australian accent layered over the top of two other Australian accents (that is, if the game bothered getting an actual Australian to do the voice at all).
STREWTH MATE BLIMEY OL’ COBBER I’LL HAVE IT FOR ‘YA IN TWO SHAKES OF A BLOODY LAMB’S TAIL.
There’s nothing wrong with this. Indeed, you’d find many Australians who revel in the image, whether because it speaks to some kind of lingering national ethos of being the rugged outdoors type, or because they see the humour in it.
My problem is that it’s lazy, and it’s done a lot. It’s the equivalent of sticking a guy in a striped shirt and beret and calling him French, and expecting that alone to somehow flesh out his backstory and motivations as a character. Australia in 2016 is a modern, urban nation, with a population drawn from all corners of the globe. The trope of Australians all being British cast-offs swatting flies away in the middle of the desert just doesn’t apply.
So, as an Australian playing video games, what I wanted to do with this “Best of” was applaud the developers and writers who put a little extra work in and made a cool/interesting character who just happened to be from Australia, instead of just saying “lol let’s make him/her Australian” and throwing the same tired old cliche on the barbie.
CHLOE FRAZER | UNCHARTED
Maybe my favourite character in the entire Uncharted series. She is cool as hell, and Claudia Black’s voice acting — always fantastic at the worst of times — is absolutely flawless here.
SAXTON HALE | TEAM FORTRESS
But wait, did I not just decry the weary old Aussie stereotype? Well, yes, but Saxton Hale isn’t representative of it. He exceeds it with a wink, nod and an explosion in the background, taking the stale “outback outdoorsman” template and transforming it into “shirtless corporate superhero”.
LORD RAPTOR | DARKSTALKERS
A relatively obscure character from the Darkstalkers series, Lord Raptor is an undead rock star who...well, here’s his character bio:
Lord Raptor had charisma like that of a young Ozzy Osbourne. He was an expert guitarist, a mass murderer, and was known as the God of Metal. No one knows when he started his music. The only thing clear is that he was unknown before he released his first album, Oral Dead.
Although his first album, an indie album, did not sell in numbers, he received a good amount of support from certain groups. Eventually, he became the next big sensation in the metal scene. He instantly became famous in all of Australia. His second album sold 200,000 copies in a month, and reached one million in three months. But the age group that bought his albums was small. Most of those who bought his CDs were in their teens. They were more like cult followers than fans of an artist.
His fearful death is still talked about. On his final live performance, a hundred of his fans were sucked dry of their blood. Every victim died with the look of happiness. Raptor himself turned into a skeleton instantly and died. To this day, the truth behind this incident is unknown.
OZZIE MANDRILL | MONKEY ISLAND
Nobody remembers Monkey Island 4, and that’s mostly for good reason, but I’ve got a soft spot for one of the game’s villains, property tycoon Ozzie Mandrill. Who is one of the best takes on Rupert Murdoch’s fiscal bloodlust I’ve yet to see in any media, let alone video games.
MIRANDA LAWSON | MASS EFFECT
Is there even an Australia this far into the future? Let’s pretend there is, and that Mass Effect 3 never happened, and instead focus on Miranda as she appeared in Mass Effect 2, when she was a double-crossing space badass from a future where actual talented Australian actors (in this case Yvonne Strahovski) were cast to play Australian characters.
CHIPS DUBBO | HALO
1. That name.
2. This guy is the real hero of the Halo series. Everyone talks about Master Chief this, John 117 that, but Chips fought many of the same battles (even ones alongside the ODST when Master Chief was busy), and managed to survive without any fancy armour or genetic engineering. We first meet him during the intro to Halo: CE, and he’s there as one of your Marine sidekicks all the way through to the end of Halo 3 (there’s even an achievement commiserating his absence from Halo 4).
ROO | STREETS OF RAGE