Random unstructured thoughts and ramblings

How not to write a sympathetic villain arc, feat. F1 23

Beware of Braking Point spoilers

For the uninitiated, the Formula 1 video games added a feature in F1 2021 called “Braking Point”. It's basically a story mode, where you role play as a young F1 driver and get thrown into various scenarios along the way. As far as stories go, it's definitely not going to win any awards, but sometimes a cringe campy story is all you really want from a video game.

One of the recurring characters in Breaking Point is Devon Butler, who is basically the embodiment of what your average American thinks an F1 driver is: arrogant, with more money than sense or skills. He's built up as a rival to the main protagonist, Aiden Jackson, and takes every opportunity to antagonize him for no reason other than being a dick.

In F1 23, Devon and Aiden find themselves as teammates on a fledgling F1 team trying to establish itself in the series. It's revealed very early on that the team is at least partially funded by Devon's father.

The big plot twist of Braking Point 2 is a reveal that Devon is suffering from hearing issues, and is forced to retire mid-season. The way the game presents this to the player is intended to make the player feel sympathy for Devon, despite him being an irredeemable jerk to Aiden moment earlier and only having an F1 seat thanks to his father's money.

The problem with most story arcs that try to make you feel sympathy for villains and antagonists is that most of the time there's no effort put into making the characters sympathetic before the moment the audience is meant to feel sympathy for them. You can't just take an intentionally unlikeable character and expect the audience to immediately like them the nanosecond you want them to.

Granted, Braking Point also has a problem where none of the characters are particularly likeable, but that's a rant for another time.