Why We Bother Playing Games with Characters.

One of the main focal points of video games is a sense of immersion in their virtual environment, characters allow the player to have a first person perspective in the world they’ve decided to join. SimCity or other games with a birds-eye view of their respective world are perfect for massive tabletop strategy games that push players to construct bustling cities witht heir own economies and infrastructure, but here players are elevated to a position of a god, to become immersed further in a virtual environment we need our feet planted on the ground.

A first person perspective allows the player to become the protagonist, as opposed to someone simply controlling the protagonist. When their character travels to a new location, finds a new valuable item, or completes a difficult quest there’s a sense of excitement and joy. Why? They weren’t excited that their virtual character found a powerful sword, they were happy that they themselves found a powerful sword. While players will develope a relationship with their character after devoting hours and energy progressising through levels the other factor that can determine the immersiveness of a game will the be the setting they are placed in, the secondary characters they will meet and the story which can serve as an entertaining script of dialogue and lore or as goal to blaze through. Environments in the gaming community are everything, as any game needs a “what and where,” not necessarily who but there must be a place where the game takes place. Take the iconic pacman maze or the realistic warzones of Call of Duty the environment, especially in first person or character driven games, are the stages for the player to perform and the backdrop for stories to be played through. Developers that aim to create an incredible narrative akin to a level of quality seen in movies will most commonly use a single character to serve as the medium in which their stories get delivered to the player. Narratives are difficult to deliver when you’re given a limited window to view or play through.

There are certainly issues with creating playable characters in video games and while many video game personalities are as iconic as Hollywood movie stars there are plenty that fail to grasp players and immerse them into their world. Kat Brewster, video game blogger for Waypoint makes a great point in which gaming delvelopers often fail to represent marginalized groups in their characters and typically mesh western culture with whomever their making. The common white male character protagonists are seen in most of every video game and restrict the ability of many gamers to relate and allow themselves to be drawn in. Often when diverse or characters of color are introduced they have many design flaws embedded in stereotypes or a splicing of western culture that dilutes their intended background. This is a common and unfortunate problem, however it isn’t a reason to be rid of playable videogame characters in general just something that should be improved on.

Sources:

Brewster, Kat. (26 September 2017). The Pitfalls of Trying to Tell Stories Outside Your Own Experience [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/9k9vw5/the-pitfalls-of-trying-to-tell-stories-outside-your-own-experience