Creating Good Characters


What do you think people remember the most about a game, movie, or a captivating book? Why do you think people play a game? The experience. At the center of the experience are the characters.

Characters pull in the player with a relatable group of people that you love long after the experience is over. As a player what really brings me back to a game are the characters that build the experience. Now, let’s provide some techniques for creating good characters.

Picture Character Dialogue

How someone speaks can provide a glimpse of their personality. Here’s an example.

Chris: “I’m the only here for my money; saving the planet isn’t in my job description.”
Ben: “Are all of you from the company like this?”
Chris: “Let’s get going; I’m paid by the minute, not the hour.”

This example makes Chris seem like a selfish, sarcastic jerk with a spice of cynical humor. Now, we can picture how he would react to scenes in our game’s story;  we can construct how he might look as a character (also giving your artists a lot of freedom). Now, if you want to add more depth use backstory.

Backstory / Brief Character Description

Backstory fleshes out a character’s motivations, virtues, and life up to this point. You can create a character with only backstory. Now,  the character’s life story can be fairly generic, what matters is what you do with it. Here’s an example for Chris.

  • Lost both parents at a young age
  • Only child
  • Had to survive on his own by working at various odd jobs
  • Ex-company employee
  • Trained operative in combat and reconnaissance

These facts from Chris’ life help us flesh out his motives in the story, and provide character development opportunities. The brevity and genericism make them flexible enough to build a life story in greater detail. For example, we can focus on how Chris lost both parents and how that affected him growing up to further develop his character. But, the most important is that players can find the character relatable and believable. Now, we can focus on the unique quality.

Unique Quality / Unique Qualifications

This is the “X-factor” for your characters; without this, your character would be a regular person. Most games have characters that have unique qualities; a super power, sickness, mindset, legendary weapon, whatever. Their unique ability as a character can be used as a point of interest or struggle as the story or personally. Let’s take an example from “Breath Of Fire 3“.

The protagonist Ryu can transform into a dragon; as a player, this is an interesting ability to have. Regular people in-game find dragons frightening. This unique quality causes Ryu issues as the story progresses; he’s hunted, locked up, etc. But, also adds depth to his character giving him reason to discover his origins.

Your unique quality may not be turning into a dragon. But, it’s important that your character has one because it’s an opportunity for the player to experience something new from a perspective that’s relatable.

In the end, that’s what a game is: a new experience.

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