Introduction to Games Design – Character Design

Character Design is clearly a very important skill in a Games Designer’s toolkit. Characters in games drive the story, whether for good or for bad. This makes designing a good character of paramount importance.

We spent a session discussing this at a little bit more length. One of the things that we touched on was how a lot of male characters are created so similarly, especially of games within specific genres (Action, Sci-fi etc…). My tutor referred to this as the “Vin Diesel Approach” (not a technical term) as all the characters in the example looked like Vin Diesel.

The Vin Diesel Approach (Images courtesy of IGN)

The Vin Diesel Approach (Images courtesy of IGN)

One reason why this is fairly common place in these games is that providing the player with a bland character allows the player to more easily project themselves onto the player. However, I do not believe this is necessarily the best way to create a character, as it does not make you feel any sort of empathy with the character. It does not allow you to understand the character, which can create issues with player immersion.

This can also be seen in female characters. However, with female characters, it’s more common to see them over-sexualised (Lara Croft, Tifa Lockhart, Oerba Dia Vanille for example). This can be put down to a number of different reasons, and it can be argued that we’re starting to move away from this to some extent.

I believe the main reason this is the case is because video games in the past have been predominantly a male past time. Female characters were seen at one point as a way of injecting sex appeal into a game. However, more and more girls are getting involved not just with the playing of the games but the making of them. As time goes on, I fully expect female characters to be represented much differently.

With all these things in mind, it’s clear to see that if you want to create an original, memorable character, it’s important to really get the basics right. This can be achieved in character design by creating a character design document. These documents can quite often be huge, but what you will often find is that the person who has created this document will literally document everything about the character, even if the game does not touch on it.

For example, if a character has a scar on his face, the game may not neccesarily allude to this during the game, but the designer will know exactly how, where and why the character got the scar, and will explain this in this document.

A good character design template can be found here. I intend to expand on this by creating a character of my own and posting it here on my blog.

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