Do Characters Make a Difference?

When I first read the title of Bogosts’ article, Video Games are Better Without Characters, I oddly thought about board games and how they relate to characters even though the title says video games. I think that’s because growing up I first started playing board games and then video games were introduced to me later on. I wasn’t as interested in video games as I was board games to be honest, maybe because all the video games we had were of my brothers’ choice, sports. The first thing that came to mind about characters in games was the board game Chutes and Ladders. I remember selecting a person, which was the game piece, and playing the game. That game piece that I selected, was my character initially. Obviously they don’t interact or have any specific coding to follow, but I “played” my character.

I googled Bogosts’ article and a post came up responding back to him. The writer talked about the game Mario Brothers and how if Mario was just replaced with a jumping block, the game would still be the same game just without a character (Osborn, paragraph 1). I honestly kind of struggled with that statement, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how just switching a person in a game to an object means it’s not a character anymore. Weird, I was just oddly overthinking it. I completely agree with Osborn though and that response to Bogost. I relate that back to my board game example, the player I chose was just an object that I was moving on the game board, they had no personality or interactions they just look like a person.

To respond to Bogost myself, I would say I’m not sure if video games are necessarily better without characters because I enjoy games such as The Sims and Mario Kart which both involve characters. With characters I get to put my personality into the game, I get to relate to them in some ways by selecting a character of my choice. I also enjoy playing Tetris and Candy Crush which don’t have characters. So I can’t necessarily agree or disagree with Bogost.

To dig deeper into Bogosts’ article though, he talks about representation on race and gender. As well as the other article by Brewster, The Pitfalls of Trying to Tell Stories Outside Your Own Experiences, talks about race, gender, and inequality in video games also.

“Sometimes it feels like were trying so hard an industry not to see the elephant in the room that we’ve actually invented a whole herd of magical dragons over there; Can we please talk about the elephant? It’s still here” (Brewster, page 3).

Relating back to certain classes I’ve had in the past such as conflict studies and a social justice class, we were always told that we learn best in uncomfortable circumstances. Others bring light of things one may not know exists or understands completely and we learn from it. One game Brewster talked about was Mass Effect and how it was a game based off real history (Brewster, page 4). They talked about how it is was difficult to discuss and I think that’s how some games should be like so people can become educated about the topic. Bogost talks about SimCity and how it’s a game that lets you build a city and the people in the game respond to it such as being a wealthy city or have homelessness. It shows how one decision can reflect on a whole city, (Bogost, page 6). I think video games is a good platform for creating those kinds of conversations because sometimes it is easy way for others to learn instead of just reading about it and have trouble comprehending it.

Reading these articles has given me a new view on how controversial topics can be put into a video game. I think it is a good platform to use because some people just play games versus reading about certain topics. There’s a chance that it will open peoples’ minds and see the world a little different.

References

Bogost, I. (2015, March 13). Video Games Are Better Without Characters. Retrieved September 24, 2017, from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/03/video-games-are-better-without-characters/387556/

Brewster, K. (2017, May 22). The Pitfalls of Trying to Tell Stories Outside Your Own Experience. Retrieved September 24, 2017, from https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/9k9vw5/the-pitfalls-of-trying-to-tell-stories-outside-your-own-experience

Osborne, J. (2015, March 19). Video Game Without Characters. Retrieved September 26, 2017, from https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/JohnOsborne/20150319/239251/Video_Games_without_Characters.php