Playing certain games gives us the opportunity to partially live segments of character’s lives. Since these are really just segments, game designers, script writers, movie producers and many other important figures in the entertainment and movie industry create scenes which try to capture most of what a character is. If a movie doesn’t succeed in making you feel something about a certain character then no matter how good the story, the movie will fail in my opinion.
Games have a bigger chance to succeed in putting the player into character. Even the shortest of games are longer than movies, movies provoke emotion (good ones), yet make the viewer exactly that – a viewer, while a game makes the player become the character. Some games allow choices which affect a game’s story, some games have multiple endings…but does this really make the player feel like the character?
What you do is who you are.
We’ve all heard this before. I found it to be true in games as much as it is true in life. Time to go to my favorite game character, Kratos from the popular God of War series. His story is a dark one, but having the awesome tale was not what it made the games good. Knowing who Kratos was and learning about his past was not the best part. It was what he was doing NOW in the present and what he intended to do in the near future. And yea YOU as a player help him do that. You are Kratos. And boy was it easy to become him. Because everything he did and how he did it was who he was. Kratos killed. He killed a lot. He decapitated enemies, he massacred innocent people at times and he did a bunch of other bad things too. But it all made sense taking into consideration who he was/is/will be.
To make a comparison with another good character who did not made any sense to me I have to mention Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series. Uncharted followed the Hollywood Indiana Johnes treasure hunting style and yes while at times it showed an adventurous side of Nathan, it never pictured him as being crazy. He was more or less a normal guy and even though he was a thief he showed honesty and loyalty to those that mattered to him. All of this was good. Until you started actually DOING things with him in the game such as killing hundreds of people. And to make matters worse, Nathan had fun while doing this and even made jokes when throwing bombs at groups of enemies. Is this a normal human being? Who can kill so many and then move on with their life just like that? Yes, it is an action game I know, but in order for the player to get into a character it has to make at least a bit of sense. At least within the game.
Another great example with an awesome character that doesn’t even speak comes from Hell in the latest DOOM game. Yup it’s the Doom Marine. I am still playing this game and have to say I love it since it is more about doing and less about philosophical revelations, moral questions…It reminded me of old school characters in games, such as Super Mario, Sonic or the Donkey Kong duo. All of these are characters that are known for actually DOING things. Same goes with the Marine. He is brutal, he is efficient and he doesn’t think twice before making decisions, even if they are the wrong ones. He trusts in himself so much that he actually makes the players feel the same. And since they are doing more and thinking about the issues of the fictional world less, they accidentally care about the world more.
To make it even clearer – Yes there was a library in WoW’s Stormwind and YES I did read all the mini-books there which thought me a lot about WoW’s lore, (and lore is important) but did I enjoy that more than actually roaming the lands on my mount? No way.
When creating a game character don’t just think about his/hers past, his/hers character traits or about writing a great story about him/her. Think about how will all of those things that you put on paper come to life? If you read this far you know the answer. Actions. The character will come to life through his deeds, through the gameplay, through the way he solves the puzzles with Your help, through how he interacts with the world/levels, through details in animation, how he walks, runs, talks… If all of these things are taken into consideration, the player would get into the soul of a character without even knowing and will remember the experience for a long period of time.
Have You written a short story about a game character? Send it at firstname.lastname@example.org I would love to check it out. 🙂