Game Development Reference
Still, this is a very tricky approach because it can easily devolve into film noire
melodrama or hard-boiled hackneyed.
6.11 First-Person Characters: Identity Crisis Central
Most non-game narratives, be they cinematic or fiction, rely on the main character.
The protagonist is the spine of the story. It's about his life changing because of events
that become the focus of the movie or novel; the conflict comes from the character
trying to return to his normal life or (at least) a better one. For good stories, the
character changes as a result of his ordeal. Now here's the crux: in FPSs, the main
character is invisible because we don't see his face often, and almost as seldom hear
him speak. And the protagonist is rarely afforded much of a personality to begin
with, so where does that leave the notion of character in a story? More importantly,
how does that impact the story?
In video games, character growth seems to have been replaced by the character's
coolness factor. What can be said about the histories or personalities of Master Chief
or the Marine in Doom ? Tough isn't the breadth of someone's traits; it's simple wish-
fulfillment for the player. The situations have likewise become nearly extraneous to
the character's personal life. Events exist as puzzles or obstacles for him to overcome,
but there's little stake in the protagonist's private affairs.
While “art” might demand that the protagonist has more substance than what
is normally found in an FPS, the fact is that video games must experiment with the
mold because the main character is a fusion of art, animation, gameplay mechan-
ics, and personality. And to experiment with the mold, you must understand the
advantages and disadvantages of having a silent, obscured hero.
Advantages: I Wouldn't Do That
Most people relate stories of their gaming experience with one simple pronoun: “I.”
I flipped over his head and blasted him.
There is no distinction between what someone accomplishes as a character and as a
player. While this is true of all styles of video games, FPSs are the only genre where
you and the character are “virtually synonymous.” And in many ways, you aren't in
the character's head so much as the character is you. This creates an interesting situa-
tion for writers since developers seem to deliberately strip the character of personality
and voice. Nothing gets the player more into the head of the character (physically)
like an FPS; thus, developers are worried about alienating the player by having the
character act in a way that the player disapproves of.