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Character Design and Choice in Games

In the last generation or so of consoles character design has become increasingly important in games, not just in the sense that characters need to be well-designed to be appeal to players but also in the sense that player choice in the matter has become increasingly important. The steady improvement in the capabilities of gaming hardware and the increasing potential profitability and cost of modern games has meant an increasing desire by developers to create games you really want to play and enjoy, and a big part of having a game you want to play is having a character you want to play as.

Why do either appeal to us though?

For the most part, static characters (the term I'll used to refer to characters who can't be altered by the player either in sound, appearance or action) appeal to us because they offer a fantasised image of the sort of person we want to play as, so typically they're heroic, attractive and well-built men or pro-active, attractive and sexualised women. It's debatable whether we truly want either, but those are the kinds of static characters that dominate.

In terms of flexible characters (the term I'll used to refer to characters who can be altered) it's about the ability of us to create a character who we feel comfortable with and even attached to. Customisability only works if you have a certain degree of choice though being able to choose from three faces and two hairstyles makes creating a character more interesting but it doesn't really allow you to make a unique character that you feel is yours, which is what a lot of players want. Players tend to feel that the more choice there is the more unique and attached to them their character is - hence why so many online games offer customisable characters and then charge for extras to help make your character more 'unique', because they know some people want that level of individuality in their character.

Whether or not a static character or one who one you choose yourself is better is a difficult question to answer, primarily because at the end of the day it's an issue of personal preference. I've written before about character identity, including on the silent protagonist as a character, and as with that, for some people having a silent protagonist in games like Half-Life and Fear makes people feel even more invested in the character because they don't feel as though they're having a character they find annoying forced on them. They can fill the void with their own sense of character. For others though, me among them, this lack of characterisation, this void, signals more about a lack of identity in the hero, and thus a problem rather than a plus.

In the same sense character choice provides us with a chance to fill that void with a sense of ourselves but it still leaves something to be desired with it comes to a truly inspirational character, flexible characters often don't have the strength of character that a static character does, though vice versa, fixed characters can often seem bland, too broad to really have character if they're not done well. For some the first is preferable, for others the second.
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About Panzadolphin56one of us since 9:54 AM on 05.06.2011

Oh hey!

I'm former male model and celebrity nutritionist Panzadolphin56. This is my blog. I write things here.

...in case the blog bit didn't give that away.

Anyway! To the left you'll find my latest blogs, and beneath this you'll find a fairly comprehensive list of most of what I've written over the years (unfortunately some stuff does eventually get bumped off the list.)

I like to write from a fairly critical standpoint about games, usually analysis or talking about issues that interest me, I also do retrospectives from time to time, talk about games I've been playing, write the funny things that come into my head, and very occasionally do some crappy art.

I hope you enjoy what you read!

I also do Lets Plays (mostly old horror games) so if that's your thing then click here:


Everyone who clicks will not win a million dollars!


A little about me:

I am mostly a story person, good mechanics are good mechanics but button pressing never does anything for me. I like Horror, I like Cyberpunk, I like Neo-Noir (especially crossed with Cyberpunk), I like good art and good writing, I like games that cut against the grain or choose to challenge social or industry norms in some way.

I don't have a single favourite game but I am a big fan of the MGS games, Snatcher, the Forbidden Siren series, Silent Hill 2, the old-school Resident Evils, Advance Wars and Power Dolls, among many, many others.


Critical Pieces:

How ugly should Horror really be?
Of Inventories and Horror Games
Crafting A Good Game of 'The Thing'
Alien(s), Creative license and Borrowed Ideas
Crossing from TV/Movie to Games
Scope and Depth in the world of gaming
Boss Battles - When do they ever make sense?
Survival Horror Essentials
Colonial Marines: Well, that kind of sucked...
Disability, Disease in Games
Blood 2 and Post-Modernism
Topics, Tropes and Atmosphere in Horror games
Realism Vs. Fantasy - Who Wins?
The gradual drift away from the mainstream
Is There Horror in The Ugly...?
The Fourth Wall and taking games seriously
Are You Always Online?
Hype: Aliens Vs. Predator
To shoot stuff or not to shoot stuff?
Character Design and Choice in Games
Culture Vs. Creativity: Where do Stories come from?
Where you go Isometric-Strategy Games?
What's the Point of Games?
Do Horror games even still exist...?
Why are Characters Always so White...?
Choice in Games: Heavy Rain

A Magical Dolphin Plays:

The King of the Wood


Resident Evil Remake
Aliens Vs Predator 2
Sweet Home
Forbidden Siren
System Shock 2

Pick up and Plays:

Call of Cthulhu and the Spectre of Good Horror
Story Books and Nightmares in Rule of Rose
B-Movie Bliss: Extermination
Along for the ride with Michigan: Report From Hell
Some thoughts on Wargame: European Escalation
Skyrim: Impressions

Funny/Less Critical Stuff:

Get Yo Summer Game On
Lazyblog: Box Art
Escaping into the Darkness of Hellnight
Diversity what what?!?: Black Mamba Edition
Why Do We Still Have Exploding Barrels...?


Dead Space 3, in a nut shell.
CROSSOVER: Mario X Siren
Boss: Learning the Tools of the Trade

Front Pages:
Tales from Skyrim: The skinhead shopkeep
Steam ID:Panzadolphin56
Mii code:This is a thing?


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