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Rin's Room #40: What Makes A Good Video Game Character? Presented by Saljack Enterprises. Gaming. Animation. Media. Entertainment. Woman Owned.

When playing video games, one of the things that keep me going is a connection to a character. I love relatable characters and those that make me think. They are people I wish were real so that I could be their friends. Or maybe I wish they were real because they’re actually really annoying and I want to beat them up. Either way, the best characters are people who make you feel something amazing.

So, how do you design an actually-playable-and-totally-not-flat character?

top_tech_border. Presented by Saljack Enterprises. Gaming. Animation. Media. Entertainment.

1. Avoid making them perfect

Ah, the dreaded Mary Sue–usually Mary Sue characters are those who are just chock-full of goodness. They’re traditionally women because for some reason people feel pressured to make women perfect in video games, fiction, stories, etc. when they’re actually not. Your character doesn’t have to be perfect–they don’t have to have a horribly sad tragic backstory–and they don’t have to do everything correctly all the time. Trust me–how would you feel to meet someone just utterly perfect and ideal in real life? Kind of weird, right? In a “This is unsettling and too good to be true” kind of way. It’s tough to relate to characters who are perfect because we aren’t. We like to play flawed characters. We identify with those flaws.


2. Create a backstory

Just because you shouldn’t have a perfect backstory doesn’t mean you should have one at all. Characters are people too–they have motivations, feelings wants, desires–by fleshing all of these out, you’ll

  1. have a lot of fun designing a kick-ass origin story and,
  2. round out your character.

Imagine your character is a pillow and you’re stuffing them full of a story until they’re big and poofy and fun to explore and get to know better.


3. Don’t forget the salt and pepper

Major things like, “Who is this character?” and “What are their strengths?” are great and all, but relatable characters–and “real” people–have quirks. For example, they don’t know how to tie their shoelaces. Or their favorite food is Stromboli. Or they…really like reading books. Now, don’t go overboard and put lots of cutesy quirks–too much can get old really quickly. But little tiny subtle touches can serve as tasty little Easter eggs for your players to discover.


4. Do your due diligence

It’s easy to slave away for hours at an awesome character design. It’s too easy. As you grow more and more immersed in your character’s clothing, design, story, voice, build–you might not realize that another character looks awfully similar. It’s good to do some research beforehand to see what other types of “large, cannon-wielding divers” there are in the gaming industry.

Doing research before starting on a design can also help give you some new perspectives or jolt some ideas into fruition. Just remember that there’s a difference between being inspired by a design and plagiarizing. Don’t copy/steal/plagiarize. It’s definitely not cool.


5. Exaggerate certain characteristics

Mickey Mouse has his ears (so did Dumbo). Ahri has her stunning beauty. Pikachu–gosh, what’s not iconic about that little dude? That’s the brilliance of great character design–they last forever in the minds of the public. By exaggerating certain characteristics that you’d like to bring attention to, you might be able to build a powerful and cohesive image for your character.


6. Make a lot of doodles

Don’t limit yourself to one drawing! Or even five! Draw and draw and draw and draw. There’s this story I read a long time ago about this professor who gave his students 2 options for their final exam in pottery. The first was to submit 50, even if they were terrible. The second was to just make one but to make sure that it was amazing, stunningly perfect. Surprisingly enough, the students who submitted 50 often had far greater work than the students who just submitted one. I bet I totally messed up that story, but my point is that the more you doodle, the more likely you are to find an amazing design that really encapsulates everything you want your character to be.


7. Choose colors carefully

Colors convey mood, so they’re essential. Darker colors usually mean gloom and doom and somber attitudes, whereas bright pastels can indicate a cheery personality. The same character colored differently will definitely evoke different emotions in your players, so why not try various color schemes to see which one seems to fit your character the best?

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Click here to read Rin Fizzle’s profile

DISCLAIMER: THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS POST ARE SOLELY THOSE OF THE AUTHOR. THESE VIEWS AND OPINIONS DO NOT NECESSARILY REPRESENT THOSE OF SALJACK ENTERPRISES, AND IT’S STAFF, AND ANY/ALL CONTRIBUTORS TO THE SALJACK ENTERPRISES WEBSITES. SALJACK ENTERPRISES MAKES NO WARRANTY OR REPRESENTATION REGARDING, DOES NOT ENDORSE, IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH AND IS NOT IN ANY WAY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE LINKED WEBSITES OR ANY CONTENT THAT APPEARS ON IT. IF YOU DECIDE TO VISIT ANY LINKED WEBSITE, YOU DO SO AT YOUR OWN RISK, AND IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO REVIEW THE TERMS OF USE OF THE RELEVANT LINKED WEBSITE.

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26 thoughts on “Rin’s Room #40: What Makes A Good Video Game Character?

  1. Abby says:

    I agree with the quirks. It helps the character become more relatable to the gamer. It’s all about having a good grasp of what your character stands for.

    Like

  2. I am stunned to what you said that “AVOID MAKING THEM PERFECT.” Indeed, many thinks that a perfect video game character is what attracts most player. Unluckily, they are wrong to such way of thinking.

    Like

  3. micorobin says:

    Make them OP and not nerfed them. What I mean is do not nerfed people just to make others look cool. I know this is video games but I see this problem everywhere. An example would be BATMAN in both games and series depictions,

    Like

  4. luffyzorro2012 says:

    The latest HITMAN is good because they HUMANIZE Agent 47. That aspect really gets me and he is superhuman to boot.

    Like

  5. Alma Maym says:

    I agree. Exaggerating a character design can make them look more iconic, interesting, and cute too. I am also a fun of Mickey Mouse and Pikachu.

    Like

  6. Mau says:

    Interesting post Rin! It made me think what makes me choose a character among others. Unfortunately, I do think the characters has to be appealing visually. Most people are drawn to bad-ass looking characters with awesome/quirky costumes and weapons. Or maybe it also depends on the genre of the game?

    Like

  7. valine13 says:

    Agree with all this. Have to think it through with something you really really like to have as a character. Putting it into life.

    Like

  8. darkkvader says:

    It may really take years to do it but its gonna be worth it with these points followed. Nice!

    Like

  9. I love characters that have a backstory and especially when they aren’t created so perfect. Gives a factor that I can relate to the character and appreciate their story!

    Like

  10. garymick344 says:

    This all sounds so easy on paper but designing a character is almost impossible nowadays, what with all the heroes and heroines introduced by countless video games over the years. You can come up with an original design but you’ll still have to figure out his or her backstory… and I bet you’ll probably end up replicating some other character’s history, too. #RealTalk

    Like

  11. irabrady44 says:

    Some great tips you have here, Rin! Game devs, take note! 😀

    Like

  12. Chatingale says:

    Yes, I agree with what you have said here. I enjoy characters which I can relate to which is like seeing yourself in them.

    Like

  13. Amanda says:

    Nice info. I agree for not making them too perfect. Although they’re just a character, its fun to have some kind of relation with them 😉

    Like

  14. P Siason says:

    Characters should really have interesting backstories so that the players can understand and relate to the characters they choose. It’s not just how they look like but rather how players relate to their stories. The colors that make up the appearance of the character are also essential in capturing the eyes of the players.

    Like

  15. roberachi says:

    I love your ideas about not making the characters perfect, many a times developers make perfect characters that the gamers tend not to relate to because they are too perfect-non human. Also the background story is very important for the characters and it must be a flowing background story i.e. doesn’t change in every chapter or new version of the game. Nice piece.

    Like

  16. decipherlove says:

    I Agree to the idea of creating a good Backstory take for example Cj from GTA he couldve been just another Gangsta in another Game but some Girl Gamers like the idea of humanizing the character, because of the excerpts from the Game We understood that he was doing all those things for something and he needed to build his reputation again in his turf.

    Like

  17. mchesk16 says:

    Very solid points. People want a well-rounded character they can relate to; not a bubble gum perfect entity with annoying catch phrases. Thanks for the read!

    Like

  18. elisemenezes says:

    I agree with this one. When playing a game, having a character that you like and can relate to is an important part of the overall gaming experience. Great job on this article!

    Like

  19. gayanag says:

    I like this point EXAGGERATE CERTAIN CHARACTERISTICS. Most of the characters in video games possess some kind of unusual characteristics which will make them interesting to the users. Creating a backstory is something interesting which I have not heard before. Nice writeup.

    Like

  20. This is very timely topic. I am no game creator but I love articles like these. Keep them coming!!!

    Like

  21. amaterasu123 says:

    The story says it all. It sets the tone it can either make or break a character. Just look at the greats like Goku & Superman.

    Like

  22. rob3rtow says:

    A good backstory may be crucial but I like how some games put in a ton of character development for some of their protagonists. If you don’t want the face of the video game franchise to be linear, it pays to have him/her go through some form of maturity/growth.

    Like

  23. hals3y says:

    My game developer friends will defo find these food for thought useful! Thanks for these tips, Rin!

    Like

  24. chinodc1 says:

    Creating a backstory for a character is very important. It defines them in people’s heads.

    Like

  25. A unique trait or physical asset of a character is definitely needed. It’s for people to know instantly the name of the character when they see them.

    Like

  26. I agree to all tips in this article especially Number 1 and Number 5. First of all, don’t make your character too perfect because it will make the viewers bored because they know that he/she will win anyway. Make it more like human, like Son Goku who gets stronger after every battle. Then, Number 5 is exaggerate some characters. In this way, he/she will become lovable and it will leave a mark to the viewers.

    Like

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