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by Jason Connor
In response to Roger Romer's editorial about Role-Playing and character development, I have a few things to say. In his article, he said that character development is not crucial in an RPG as "...it is with a good novel or movie," among other things.
Not true. First, not all good novels and movies are endowed with good development; many can be described as a very long chase scene, but they are just as enjoyable. The Sigourney Weaver movie "Aliens" comes to mind. It is arguably the best of the "Alien" series, but it has nothing even approaching good, though-provoking development. And for most movies and novels that I have really enjoyed, I can think of several moments of good character development, moments when the characters begin to feel like real people. A few of my favorites are "Braveheart," "Goldeneye," and Timothy Zahn's "Icarus Hunt." This leads me to the idea that the best movies and novels are the ones that take the time to develop their characters.
With that in mind, I have to ask Roger, "Why, then, do RPG's not need good character development?" I'd like to point out the same thing he did: that the difference between games and movies or novels is that games are interactive. However, the "interactivity" of RPG's can, I believe, be likened to the interactiveness of pressing a button on your remote control to pause or rewind a movie, or flipping back a few pages in a novel or simply putting it down altogether for later. Otherwise, RPG's are just another format for the same type of data: a story.
What movie have you ever watched, or what novel have you ever read, that had a great story but somehow you weren't drawn into it? A good story is what draws a person in, and if you're not drawn in, you're not going to want to finish the movie or novel or game. And while it can be argued that some stories are successful when plot-driven, I want to argue that stories are best when they are character-driven. By that, I mean that the plot is moved forward by the thoughts, feelings, desires, and cares of the characters involved.
For example, look at Final Fantasy VI. Terra Branford does not know who she is. She desires to find out, so she joins the Returners, which leads to the fall of the Empire, the rise of Kefka, and too many other things to mention here. Or look at "The Empire Strikes Back," or "The Matrix." Also, look at Square's games in general. Notice that the ones that have, arguably, the best storylines (FF VI, VII, VII, Chrono Trigger) are also in general the most popular ones.
On a more subtle note, notice that, in stories with good character development, you feel some kind of attachment to each character; you are able to identify with this character or that character. You are able to understand what a character is going through, and from that understanding grows real concern. You begin to care about them, about whether they live or die, whether they fall in love or break someone's heart, whether they win or lose. When a connection this deeply is made between the player/reader/viewer and the characters, the game/movie/novel becomes immensely more enjoyable.
In conclusion, I believe that good character development is just as crucial for RPG's as it is for movies and novels. No, development is not absolutely necessary for a game, as the Pokemon series are quite happy to prove. But neither is it absolutely necessary for a movie or novel, and saying it isn't, whether for movie or novel or game, is like choosing an Atari 2600 over a Playstation: the Atari games may be thoroughly enjoyable, and you may be perfectly happy with them, but by limiting your scope of vision you're missing out on so much more.
Any and all feedback to this is, of course, appreciated and encouraged. Thanks for reading!
[Editor's Notes: This editorial is well-written grammatically and all, but I have a few small qualms with it. Before the qualms, one SUPER-major plus: Jason Connor, God bless his soul, did his own HTML. That cuts down on my work time by a lot. What I'm going to do is make a template, because the way you guys send in has to be altered a bit for me to do. It should also make it easier for you guys, so I'll do that in the main right bar on the main page.
Now for my issue... Well, see, the thing is that Mr. Connor greatly assumes what someone feels and likes. For instance, I felt absolutely no affinity towards Terra in FF6. I apologize thoroughly. Also, I know MANY people who hated Squall as a whiner, whereas I absolutely understood him. That's life. Also, I'm shocked that Xenogears wasn't mentioned for plot development, nor was Grandia. Actually, I'm shocked they were all Square games, but I digress. This editorial was very good, quite postable, even if I personally have a few issues with what was said ;) For your information, I do not take my personal opinions about these things into whether or not I post stuff. I do it by quality, not subjectively. So I don't necessarily agree with everything I post.]
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