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In my game there is a villain who I would like the player really despise from the moment the character is first encountered. I want the player to hate the character so much that it affects (and drives) the player's decisions during the game, to the extent that the player may choose a course of action that harms him or herself if it would also set the villain back.

I'd like to accomplish this through game mechanics, not just writing, not just through the fact that the character is "the bad guy." What strategies and types of mechanics can I use to ensure that no matter who may play my game, this character will be completely despised?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Here is one idea. The protagonist loves jelly donuts. The antagonist also loves jelly donuts, because, hell who doesn't like jelly donuts? So there you are, sitting at home eating a jelly donut when all of a sudden, BLAM comes in the antagonist. He sticks his finger right smack dab in the middle of your jelly donut, then licks the delicious jelly off of his finger proclaiming "Mmmmmmm, delicious" -- effectively ruining your jelly donut. This would be enough to enrage even the kindest people. Do this, and you will have yourself a character hated by all. \$\endgroup\$ – jgallant Jan 22 '16 at 16:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Jelly donut method should be the accepted answer. It has been proven in human testing to work, even on family members. \$\endgroup\$ – MickLH Jan 22 '16 at 16:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ I didn't make it clear enough that I'm mostly interested in what kind of game mechanics I might be able to use to make the player hate this character, edited to focus more on that. \$\endgroup\$ – DoubleDouble Jan 22 '16 at 17:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm trying to find ways to salvage this question and I'm a little confused by the purpose of your introductory paragraph. I feel like you're trying to set up an important comparison but I'm not sure what you mean by it. I think you're trying to say you want this to happen through mechanics and not just because the bad guy is the bad guy and you're "supposed" to dislike him? That's the stab I took at editing at least, please let me know. \$\endgroup\$ – user1430 Jan 22 '16 at 19:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ What is your game about? What kind of game is it? \$\endgroup\$ – Vaillancourt Jan 22 '16 at 19:18
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You need not create explicit game mechanics for this. Indeed, doing so can lead to the player hating your game rather than your character.

A safer course is this one: simply design your game as normal. But every time you throw a new curve at the player, assign the blame for it to the badguy. Portal provides many examples:

Due to mandatory scheduled maintenance, the appropriate test chamber for your testing sequence is currently unavailable. It has been replaced by a live fire course, designed for military androids. The Enrichment Center apologizes for the inconvenience and wishes you the best of luck.

The Weighted Companion Cube certainly brought you good luck. However, it cannot accompany you through the testing sequence and, sadly, must be euthanized.

Congratulations. The test is now over. All Aperture technologies remain safely operational up to 4000 degrees Kelvin. Rest assured that there is absolutely no chance of a dangerous equipment malfunction prior to your victory candescence.

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General writing tips for how to make a character unlikable are more for Writers SE (If you decide to post there, make sure your question is not too broad). But because you posted this on game development stackexchange, I will try to focus on those methods which are unique to games and do not apply to any other medium.

A good way to make a player hate a character is to make that character interfere negatively with their gameplay in ways which are perceived as unfair and annoying.

  • Have them steal their powerups and their resources (directly from them or before they can pick them up) and have them destroy what the player created.
  • Have them create additional obstacles and challenges for the player which don't have any reward when overcome.
  • When the character is a direct opponent, have them cheat. AIs cheating is something we do very often, but usually we try to hide it as best as we can. If you want to make the player hate the character, make it very obvious they are cheating.
  • Have the player do things which are tedious, boring or humiliating while making it obvious that the character is the direct reason they have to do it.
  • Have the character distract the player from something far more interesting.

Do not give the player a chance to defend against any of these.

Keep in mind that each of these techniques makes the experience of the game itself worse, so it carries a high risk that the players will not just hate the character but will also hate the whole game. So do not overdo it! Make sure each of these negative experiences is rather short and sandwich them between more positive game experiences (which you should attribute to other characters which you want to be more likable).

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