The Alternative to the Dark Character: The Human Character
Have you ever noticed? People always seem to like the dark character more than the cheery happy-go-lucky character. The one with the dramatic past, the one with the tragic loss, the one who is a "quiet badass", as comrade GrandLordMagus has pointed out in his column. A simple example is from FF8 to FF10. Squall versus Tidus? Which one do you like more?
Most people I know would saw Squall, though maybe taking a char from FF8 doesn't suit my point that well. Anyways, I certainly would. The slightly darker, less cheery character just seems more deep, more lifelike. I mean, everyone has problems, and a character who starts the game with none doesn't move the player as much as a character who starts with problems that only get worse. An RPG would not be an RPG without character depth, a fact sadly not noticed by some game writers, and a dark character is not dark for no reason.
I thought about writing this when I realized, halfway through FFX, how much I hated Tidus. He is not the type of character I want to play. First of all, his costume is gay. But he is much too cheery, and has a tiny background story. His dad was corrupted into being evil. Original, man. On the other hand, and I thank comrade GrandLordMagus for laying this out for my use, but Magus is a deep character. He is entwined in the plot, he is one of the things that keeps the game going. Though I personally decide to kill him so Frog can turn back into Glenn in the ending, he really is a character important to the plot (up until the point where you choose whether to kill him or not, that is).
Now, there are some characters who can be misleadingly called dark. To explain my point, I am going to point out the game Twisted Metal: Black. Not an RPG, but I am using the characters in that game as an example. Yes, they all have tragic pasts, yes they all have horrible losses and betrayals, and the fact that they are psychos make it easier to pity them, up until you learn that they want to have the part of their brain removed that makes them sad when they kill. Then you just think, wow, what a psycho...I'm kinda scared...What if the ice cream man in our neighborhood is like that? Well, everyone knows ice cream is worth risking your personal safety for, but I really wouldn't want to run into any of those guys in a dark alley, though I would probably be feeling stupid for deciding to enter a dark alleyway at midnight. Now those kind of characters are decidedly unsettling, and you hope there aren't people out there, especially not looking in your window at the mirror you have across the room from you while you try to sleep. That is a personal nightmare of mine. Its a funny story, it started with a Sonic the Hedgehog gaming craze but...its kinda' unnecessary in this article.
So dark characters are important to the plot. It is the love of exploring and finding out their stories that helps enrapture a player in a game. It is kind of sad when a perfectly good mysterious character is ruined with a cheesy lame backstory. Now, I can't think of one on the spot, but there is a very obvious one that is not popping into my head because it is 3:33 AM and I'm living on stale garlic bread and orange juice. I wonder what happens when you get %400 of your weekly Vitamin C daily. Anyways, there are games out there where they either do a really good job of setting up a badass character only for him to do something lame ("Luke, I am your father," comes to mind), or the game is crap and you can see it before you hit the power to your system. The former really makes me mad. I want to scream, "Halt the madness!!!" The storywriters try to go for the quick gasp of "ohmuhgosh" that ruins the game/movie/story, the latter of which makes me mad because I wasted perfectly good time reading, which could've been spent reading something else.
Okay, I've blabbered on enough. Time to get to the meat. The Alternative to the Dark Character is the Human Character. After reading Tom Clancy's books, I have a theory. People are generally good and intelligent (though not always smart), if they stop to listen to their common sense. Everyone does something for a reason, and the most common excuse is that a villain murdered their parents/girlfriend/family/etc. and they want revenge. Though crude and unoriginal, that is the basis for the Human Character and the Dark Character both, but there is much more than revenge, though that is the mainstream reason for dark characters to be dark. The second and much more believable is misinterpretation and misunderstanding, as well as a sense of grandeur. People sometimes need to get real, and sometimes they forget to, and they start thinking things that would not occur to them were they thinking straight. This is a basis for a lot of characters in the better books and fanfiction. Coming up with an original way to make a character hate the world is actually very hard and requires either planning and thinking or a very good imagination.
My point may have become a bit garbled, because I myself couldn't figure it out after re-reading all that, so I will say it again. Not all characters have to be dark and mysterious to have depth. Though the dark and tragic ones will undoubtedly be the most popular, if there are logical and believeable reasons for all of the characters to do what they want to do, not, "Boy, I feel bad for attacking you, can I join your party in apology?" or "I want to make the world a better place, let me join you." People are a bit more serious than that, usually. They want the world to be a better place, but at their convenience. They would not simply follow you around because you say you are going to kill a giant thing that is stealing the future.
Anyways, I would like you all to ponder the Human Character, I hope I've make a little sense. If I haven't, well...what else is new? ^_^
The Freezer Archives
This Page © Copyright 1997, Brian Work. All rights reserved. Thanks to Sax for his help with the layout. Do not take anything from this page without my consent. If you wish to contact an author, artist, reviewer, or any other contributor to the site, their email address can be found on their index page. This site is link-free, meaning you don't need to ask me if you'd like to link to it. Best viewed in 1024x768.