339/366 – Character Design Enjoyment
I’ve always been one to value gameplay over looks, but that might be because I have a fairly long gaming history. Starting out with 8-bit or lower games means that you learn to appreciate a game that can play as well or better than it looks.
But character design is something that nevertheless pops into the equation and it’s for pretty obvious reasons. A cast of characters in a game sets the stage for how players perceive either themselves in a role or how they view a villain as a legitimate enemy threat. Weak character designs lead to players not having that ability to identify or immerse themselves in a character they’re controlling or in not really feeling too invested in a conflict with an antagonist. They also have a problem in making things too generic or forced-looking, or worse, copied from other places.
Solid character designs contribute to a game’s recognizable aura and identity, and the best of them become pretty iconic. Who doesn’t recognize the stocky mustached plumber that Mario has become, or the blue streaking hedgehog that is Sonic? Who doesn’t immediately think assassin when the white-hooded Altair is on the screen, a look then passed down onto generations in the game? These are just a few small examples of how character design can matter and should matter.
These days, we’re poised for the next generation of iconic characters in games. Whether they are reimagined like the new younger Lara Croft or are brand new for a new set of games like Clem in The Walking Dead, it’s more important than ever for today’s games to get their look right, and that starts with the characters the player sees the most. Will we see this generation’s Mario? That’s hard to tell with so many choices, but I’d hope that’s the end goal for any of the aspiring game series out there looking to establish themselves in a sea of games.