Compelling Characters Matter
Compelling characters make for compelling games. We have seen this time and time again throughout the history of games. Compelling characters can be created in a number of different ways. No matter how unique games become, those with compelling characters continue to rise to the top. Modern developers need to keep these principles in mind to be successful. Consumers and creators alike can be driven by compelling characters. In the end, these efforts create an interesting future for the industry everyone will be excited to see.
Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Mortal Kombat, Doom, Tomb Raider, Ratchet and Clank, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Final Fantasy VII. These are all massive hits and incredibly iconic games. But what do they all have in common? They all star incredible compelling characters. Each made compelling in their own unique ways, these characters stick in our minds and helps drive our interest in the games they are a part of. Some are incredibly simple and some are deep and complicated, but we are naturally compelled to explore all of their stories.
The range from Pac-Man to Lara Croft as characters is incredibly large. From their first title these characters are approached, presented, and enjoyed in totally different ways. Pac-Man is about as simple as it comes as a character. Starting out as more or less a yellow circle with a wedge missing, Pac-Man has grown into a symbol of gaming and gaming history – a character the world might never forget, but yet is so essentially simple became compelling through simple imagery and fun gameplay. On the other hand, Lara Croft is a deep, complicated character like you would expect to see in a movie. From the get go you get background on her life, defining moments and motivations, and you feel like you know and connect with this person you are controlling. It is undeniable that both of these characters are compelling and even grew into pop culture icons. This illustrates the wide variety of methods that can be used to achieve a compelling character. And these characters cause their titles to rise to the top.
Modern games definitely benefit from compelling characters. All the top titles these days have compelling characters presented in a variety of ways. From faceless, speechless protagonists defined by the player’s actions to entire casts of characters with detailed backstories and relationships with one another, as in fighting games like Mortal Kombat. In the first case, we get to sort of create the character ourselves, making decisions for them based on the character we want to create. The Fallout series is a great example of this, though you do get to create your face, so you’re not really faceless, but every play through is different because you get to change your own strengths, weaknesses, and personality. This opens up the character to become compelling through the player’s choices. Instead of one character you hope people connect with, you have a character created by the player, so it has a high chance of compelling connection. The Fallout series has become one of the most popular franchises in history using this formula. Mortal Kombat may be well known as the king of video game violence, and the cause for the creation of the ESRB, but it’s place in pop culture history is definitely solidified by its unique and compelling characters. The iconic Scorpion and Sub-Zero ninja characters are beloved and instantly recognizable.
In today’s highly competitive video game industry it is important to keep these characters in mind when creating a new game. Developers must seek to create characters that are compelling in order to stand out in a sea of unique and interesting characters. The nice thing is, this is super fun! Developers can have a blast creating these unique characters, exploring their motivations and details. It’s almost the same joy that players get from exploring these characters. Revealing their history and creating their future is a driving force for large portions of the gaming community. These characters are so compelling they become motivation: motivation to developers to continue creating more unique and nuanced characters and motivation for players to continue exploring the depths of unique digital characters.
Modern games, like the AR dance battle game Kung Fu Boogie, are using these principles to create the games of the future. Like any good competitive game, Kung Fu Boogie has a whole roster of unique characters (see title image) with varying backgrounds and unique elements. For example – Chuck Lee is Kung Fu Boogie’s main protagonist (the game’s Mario if you will) – he’s Chuck Norris meets Bruce Lee – the master teacher, the guy who started it all, with perfect, traditional kung-fu style, he is the godfather of Kung Fu boogie. Pinball may look like a young girl on the outside and come across as shy and giggly, but she surprises her opponents, who misjudge this book by its cover – don’t underestimate her or you’ll be sorry! Jett Farnum is a macho daredevil similar to Evel Knievel, Aura has funky moves straight out of 70s soul train, Rico Max is the superintendent of the apartment complex where the other characters live and club bouncer by night – he’s big and lumbery but surprisingly light on his feet with twinkle-toe moves! All these compelling characters come together to create an exciting game for kids of all ages. I can’t wait to meet all the new characters, how about you?