Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Character is King

When studying Game Design, one of my favorite subjects is character & characterization. These two elements are also the most important aspects of a game for me.That is why, when playing RPG`s, I often tend to play the eastern developed games. This is because, for Western developers, truly unlike character is rare to see. Also, they tend to focus more on open ended selection for players, i.e. you decide who the character should be.

This is not ideal for my taste, I like when a character is introduced to me, or rather, when the characterization is deep and the character is allowed to evolve, expand trough game play. This is when a game really captures me. It has happened many times, Ico is good example, Final Fantasy 10 another one, and finally, the master of this is Hideo Kojima.One company, a Japanese one that is bad regarding character design would be Nintendo. Now, don`t be mad, when I say character design, I mean the design of the deep character, nothing else. Look at Mario, does he evolve? Is the characterization that much different from his character? in my mind, no. But of course, this does not make me dislike Mario games, but it makes the games more suitable for a younger audience. Can you name one character, developed in-house by Nintendo that has a deep character?So, when writing a story arc, where should the focus be, on the character or the characterization? let`s call this, character VS characterization.

Robert McKee writes, "True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure", who is the character beneath the characterization, what choices would she really make, having two options. The first one cruel, the second one kind? What is a character without her "true character"? With this we can say that characterization in games must always come second too character, that is, if we want a compelling story. And the climax must always be good; the last arc always comes first, nullifying any given characterization.Rambo is a character gone wrong with time, what happened with Rambo? The first time we saw him, he was a tired Vietnam soldier, coming home from a war. Tired of war and conflict. A loner, wandering around by himself, compelling character. Provoked by a sheriff with too much testosterone, out came Rambo, a true killer, merciless (true character). After this, and in movie sequels, Rambo never returned to his former self. In the end, he became a very one dimensional character, he could be compared to a Saturday morning cartoon show figure. Multi-dimensional character is off great importance.This kind of Game design, or story development, is best implemented by Japanese developers, in my mind.

More often than not, character is king over characterization. That is why, in many cases, we can see the same characterization over and over again, but still be intrigued, i.e. the school boy who suddenly finds himself a hero. This works, because the boy can have a multitude of character traits, and it can be as deep as the writer wants it to be. So, because of this we can play 10 RPG games, all with the same characterizations but with vastly different characters.What do you think of this, do you have any examples of great character in video games? Feel free to leave comments!

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