Whether it’s the Marvel Superheroes, Pokémon, The Hunger Games, in order for a game/movie/book to be intriguing you need:
- Strong characters
- Interesting theme/s
- Fun setting
All these 3 elements are fundamental, yet perhaps, characterization is a bit more important, at least in my opinion. Here’s why.
1) We relate to characters
Most of the time, when someone mentions a movie, a series or even a game, one or more characters immediately come to mind. Why? Because we associate ourselves with the characters.
Whenever we watch a movie or read a book, we instantly know which character we would be or which character we feel most relatable to. We also admire and/or criticize other characters and sometimes even have a love/hate relationship. Above all else, we appreciate good character development.
And this is the same thing across all borders of entertainment, whether we’re talking about video games, movies, comic books, anime – who comes to mind when you think about Dragonball? Probably Goku or Vegeta.
It’s the same with games. Players value characterization and character development in games as they do in movies or comic books. In fact, more often than not, we latch onto one character and use them the most when playing.
For instance, my favorite character in Tekken has always been Julia Chang, which is why my heart broke a little bit when she was taken out of Tekken 7, especially when you would have followed the character’s backstory all throughout the different versions of the game.
That’s actually something that takes characterization to a whole new level. Tekken has always been a favorite of mine due to its very nature, setting, characters, gameplay but above all, its amazing character backstories. I used to live for the moment when I finally get to beat Heihachi and get to see the backstory of each character before unlocking new characters in the game. It was AMAZING.
I knew all the stories by heart but would never dream of skipping them even though I would have probably watched them a million times already. At that point, I’d just place my controller next to me and savor the clip. There’s just something about backstories that reels me in.
So when a character is removed, you feel it. You almost become emotionally attached. Sometimes a character’s legacy is carried on by another character, which makes it a little better to deal with the loss, however when characters are simply chucked out without explanation or sense of continuation, that really hits home. It almost feels weird choosing other characters to play with.
2) Characters can leave a strong impact
I think for this, there’s simply no better example than Lara Croft. For years now, Lara Croft has been one of the most widely recognized icons in gaming, and subsequently in other areas too. She’s been plastered all over magazines (not only video game related ones) and was used by many brands to endorse their products. There were even two Hollywood blockbuster movie adaptations about her.
Lara Croft was – is – more than just a character in a game. She represents a kind of female strength that was almost unimaginable at the time Tomb Radar was released. With her athleticism and thirst for danger, Lara Croft-inspired many females around the world. In fact, in a sense, became part of a broader movement towards a new kind of powerful feminism that came about.
Now, while not all characters might necessarily be as impactful as Lara Croft, or in the same ways, nonetheless they come to represent more than what their creators had dreamed. There are many strong characters that remain popular today like Sonic or Super Mario.
In a similar fashion, popular comic book characters like the Marvel Superheroes are so popular, that games featuring these characters are sure to do well. Oh, there’s a “Thor” game? Of course, we’re going to try it!
Even slot games are moving towards better character development
Online slot games are probably the second most popular games after video games. In 2014, it was found that 48% of players favored slots over other casino games like poker and blackjack.
Now when you think of slots, characterization isn’t exactly something that immediately comes to mind. But, very recently, there’s been a growing need to change and adapt to the younger generation’s tastes. A lot of companies are focusing on developing strong characters for their slot games like Gonzo in Gonzo’s Quest or Rich Wilde in Play n’ Go’s game series.
Take the latter one for instance. Play n’ Go first developed the character ‘Rich Wilde’ for the Aztec Idols and Pearls of India, but it is only recently that he has become sort of a “familiar face” due to the latest slot game he’s been featured in; the Book of Dead. In this version, we get to see the character up-close and in higher definition. The design also shows him in great detail in the Egyptian-themed game.
Another example is Microgaming’s Immortal Romance which goes a bit further with the development of its characters. Not only does the game feature detailed characters, but it also features narrated backstories for each character, similar to Tekken.
Something else that is currently being worked on, is the idea of branding slot games with movies or superheroes. Again, who wouldn’t want to play Marvel Slots?!
The Future of Character Development in Games
Capturing people’s attention and retaining it, is no longer an easy feat nowadays. With so much competition and so many games being released, the quest to make more sophisticated games never ends. Players continuously expect more out of their gaming experience, and surely, character development is certainly one of them.
One-dimensional characters just don’t do anymore. We want depth, and we enjoy seeing a character change and grow. That’s why the era of simplistic slot machine games is also about to end to make way for video-game-oriented and thematic slots. Slots that feature one or more strong characters, and slots that are inspired by pop culture. It is only the beginning of these kinds of slot games, but the journey will certainly be interesting and we’re pretty excited to see how things will evolve.
Let us know in the comments what you think and what you look for!