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That Abducting Penchant

Sarah Williams

It's nice to see that as new RPGs keep coming out, you start to see less and less of those story conventions that have been used tons of times already. I mean, it's one thing to have hang on to the comforting and familiar ideas we grew up with in gaming and have worked well before, but I'd rather not be able to predict ten hours worth of my game before I've played it. But there's been some great games released that have been so refreshingly different from what's been the norm. But as most of the tired plot ideas are slowly fading from use, there are a few that still poke up from time to time. One in particular keeps catching my attention again and again.

Take a look at your given female lead for a minute. Is she kind and demure? Does she have compassion for all living things, from humans to lake protozoa? Is she mostly predisposed to white magic in battle, such as healing and support spells? Does she have the tendency to be something of a weenie (mostly to the point where you wish you could smack her upside the head)? Is she the deciding factor or a large component of whether or not the world is going to be destroyed or overrun due to her lineage, being one of the last of her kind, and/or because of some super secret power she possesses? And, usually because of the previous question, is she hiding out from, being chased by, or needs to be saved from some type(s) of bad guy(s) when you first meet her in the game? Is she going to be the main hero's love interest? Is she blond?

If you've answered "yes" to three or more of these questions, then you may as well slap a sign on her back saying "Hi! Please kidnap me!" That what's going to happen at some point in the game. Okay, not quite to that extent, but she's going to be taken from you in some manner, and you will have to go and get her back. If you're lucky, you'll only have to do this once in the game (Final Fantasy VIII, I don't have anything against Rinoa per se, but it became a bit much when I had to save her butt more than three times, kidnapped or otherwise). Games that made use of this plot point in some form were Final Fantasy VII, VIII, IX, and X, the first Shadow Hearts, Grandia 2 and 3, and Skies of Arcadia. And that's just off the top of my head.

I wonder if it's the character type that causes this reoccurring chapter that rears up in RPG stories. I have rarely ever liked the use of it, because if feels like a kind of chalk between one plot point and the next. It's like the writer got stuck on how to proceed and just grabbed that "RPG Plot Ideas" jar that gets passed between the game companies. But all he did was end up pulling out something that was alright the first few times it was used, but is now just tiredly overdone. Scrap that story convention already. Or at least change it up, I don't know. Kidnap the spunky childhood friend or the broody guy-with-a-tragic-past side character more often. Or even that character who thinks he's God's gift to women. Anything.

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