A Love Letter to the Imperfect Protagonist

Over the past years, video essays have become longer. And longer. The rapid-fire three-to-five minute long videos that used to be the standard have been replaced by much more leisurely and much more drawn-out pieces. On YouTube in particular this particular form has proven to be very popular. A hybrid of vlogging and videographic criticism, these longer videos often incorporate the stylings (and the personality cult) of influencers and online microcelebrities into analyses of movies, television series or games. Too often the result is a video that overstays its welcome and can’t justify its length by the depth of its insights. But sometimes the casual pace and the candid personalness pay off. Such is the case in this video essay by film student Jorre Van Dijck.


Van Dijck sings the praises of the video game franchise A Plague’s Tale. Its protagonist in particular is what fascinates him: his jumping-off point is the personal observation that he has never felt a similar sympathy for a game character as he has for Amicia De Rune. This sets him off on a multiform investigation into just what constitutes this character’s appeal. Van Dijck builds his case methodically, making certain to supply even the casual viewer with all the necessary details of the game, its lore and its gameplay, to be able to follow his argumentation. Here’s where the protracted approach pays off because it would be hard to appreciate the game’s uniqueness without first getting a grip on its world building and storytelling. But Van Dijck does more than just describe A Plague Tale‘s medieval mythology: he has some genuinely intriguing insights to share on how the game weaves a distinct ethics into its gameplay. Around the eleven minute mark he makes an eye-opening point when he argues that one particular shocked reaction of the game’s protagonist is nothing less than an indictment of the casual cruelty of… the player.


In the final quarter of his video, Van Dijck interviews a music therapist. She offers her views on how trauma is used in the game as a motor for empathy. This conversation adds yet another layer of analysis to this well-crafted, well-argued and well-informed piece.