Thursday, 22 March 2012

Character Design

As long as ive been aware characters have always been something that have stood out to me regardless of whatever medium they were in. This may sound stupid, as characters in all things appeal to someone on some level, but to me they stood above everything else, and a characters story would be what captured me from start to finish, and in turn influence me in drawing mostly ‘characters’ (whether they were of my favourites or of my own creation) for as long as ive been old enough to draw. 

Any solid story contains archetypal characters that we can all relate to, whether they are
obvious or not. Here are some examples of the 'wise master' seen throughout various stories.
Books like Harry Potter and literally any Terry Pratchett novel, are some personal choices in which characters would stand out to me, both full of great examples. Movies as well, and the Star Wars saga in particular influenced me in my early childhood to have a fascination with the human character. key archetypes are seen throughout all great stories, regardless of what media they are in, and comparing two of my personal choices above; the wise old master (Yoda and Dumbledore), the hero (Luke Skywalker and Harry) and the ultimate bad guy (Darth Vader and Voldemort), and these archetypes are important. Too many characters seen in game try to be in depth by avoiding being the obvious archetype but by doing so become bland in the process and lose the character that the audience wants to connect with and empathise with in the first place, the sort that are prevalent throughout all good stories. Because that’s what a character must above all do; tell their story, and the best characters can make you believe them and stick with them from the start of their journey to the very end…. And make you genuinely sad when their story is over! Because emotions are what humans use to respond to other humans, its how we read stories and situations and how we connect to a story being depicted to us. 

Although older games struggled to translate the strength of their characters with their 2d sprites, the closer and closer we have gotten to perfectly replicating the human form in video games the less appealing they seem to be (in some, not all instances)... maintaining that the internal character and the power of their story shines through their appearance and design, and reaches their audience is a character designers main challenge.
Although the appearance of a character is how we initially relate to them, they have got to appeal to us on a much deeper level if we are willing to accompany them on their journey and invest our time in them, as we look at their heart, their plight their nature and the reason behind them being the characters they are. I think that’s why regardless of how advanced graphics in videogames get, it doesn’t affect how much we then relate to the characters being depicted to us; its like the uncanny valley theory, where robots that have been advanced to the point where they look almost identical, but not perfectly like humans, cause people to be repulsed by them. This is because when things are pushed further and further to resemble a human, it will sooner reach a point where it becomes not human at all, and the rest of us will lose the empathy that we share with others. This shows that appearances aren’t the key thing to how we relate to a character, and the clue is in the name itself; Character, its their identity how they behave and act that will appeal to us in the long run, regardless of what media we encounter them in. it’s the characters that carry a story to its conclusion. 
I think the stories that really reach out to me (and most people) are those we can relate to in some way. I personally love big epic adventures, that take you to faraway and fantastical places that spark your imagination. Its not only a form of escapism, but its all relevant to life; starting out in your early days, setting out to experience something new, unexpected things happening along the way, new friends encountered, happy and sad times experienced, and the ultimate conclusion…. All of these things reflect our life, down to the most basic comparisons and it sounds cliché (but what doesn’t nowadays?) but all good journeys reflect the journey of life, all full of those interesting characters we relate to and experiences we go through, from beginning to end. 

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