Character Development in Gaming

Three characters which show a level of diversity in storytelling in the video-gaming world:  Symmetra  on the left,  Geralt  from The Witcher in the centre,  Champa  from Missing: The Complete Saga on the right 

Three characters which show a level of diversity in storytelling in the video-gaming world: Symmetra on the left, Geralt from The Witcher in the centre, Champa from Missing: The Complete Saga on the right 

Senior Creative Kayle and his dog Mickey

Senior Creative Kayle and his dog Mickey

At Cognitive we know that storytelling is the key to helping land important messages. For millennia humans have used storytelling as a vessel for common knowledge, to impart wisdom and to educate. In the digital age storytelling is perhaps more important than its ever been. However, for as complex and sophisticated as our technology gets, storytelling remains an archetypal human element. The ghost in the machine that connects us to one another.

In this blog post, our talented Senior Creative, Kayle has explains how he thinks storytelling works within the video games he loves to play.

Kayle. Over the past four decades, video games have established themselves as one of the largest storytelling mediums in the modern world. They have the ability to talk directly to people from a wide range of backgrounds and are a truly democratic and accessible art form that transcends the boundaries of age, culture, ethnicity and language. Creating such broad appeal is reliant on the development of diverse and characters that we can all relate to.

Gone are the days of simple narratives with one dimensional characters. Computing power, sophisticated programming and large and talented development teams mean that games now can broach a variety of difficult subject matters, like child abduction and trafficking (‘Missing: The Complete Saga’), immersive characters with autism (Symmetra of ‘Overwatch’) and political satire (‘Not a Hero’) to name a few.  The gaming world has expanded its horizons exponentially. The creative fantasy worlds they project now reflect a core of all-too-real issues in the modern world.

I have picked out three characters from games that I enjoy playing. Suzanne has illustrated them beautifully.

Symmetra is on the left. She is drawn with icons based on her in-game abilities. As her name suggests, the character can create symmetrical traps and shields to aid teammates or hinder enemy players. She has a very unique style of play, almost like a ballerina-engineer, she's a very cool character!

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On the right of the illustration is Champa from 'Missing: The Complete Saga’. The character comes with a development tree, which is another form of mapping within the game. As you progress through the storyline you unlock and build a 'talent' tree. Each point earned in the game will allow the player to enhance certain abilities or play-styles. For example, if you are a player who likes to sneak around - there's a talent that will increase your speed or decrease the chance of NPCs (Non-Playable Characters) seeing you.

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But when it comes to telling a compelling and complicated story through immersive environments, enhanced with great voice acting and sound design, there is only one game that comes to my mind - ‘The Witcher 3’ by games developer Cd Projekt Red. This game offers everything! Full spectrum emotions enabled by sophisticated character development and action-packed gameplay, which allows for greater immersion. The Witcher character is in the centre of our illustration. He is Geralt. Known as 'Wolf' or 'White Wolf'. He has different abilities, such as brewing potions to enhance his abilities. He Wields a sword of steel, for fighting generic characters (mostly humans) and a sword of silver, for fighting creatures of a magical origin (ghouls, drowners and werewolves.) There is a secondary game within the game. A turn-based card game called Gwent. Every character that is encountered plays this game of Gwent. These collectable cards further the narrative of the game, informing us of other characters, for example, from Geralt's past and other useful and narrative building information about lore, beasts and monsters of the land.

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The Witcher games are based and built in the world that is described in Andrzej Sapkowski’s fantasy books. The game designers and developers use this rich well of content to fill every possible outcome relating to Geralt's past and future creating a rich and immersive world. You are placed at the centre of the action and storyline involving numerous character interactions. You don’t have to know the past to play the future. It is all explained through immersive gameplay and interaction. With the help of stunning visuals, strong character design and animation, weather systems, immersive environments and excellent voice acting, the story becomes instantly appealing as you traverse this mythical world. Information is unpacked, designed and delivered to help create believability allowing the audiences to understand the events in real-time, thus keeping exposition to a minimum. The story is incredibly detailed, rich, and deserves the time to be taken in. The brilliant news is you get to choose your how you do this, whether you enjoy cinematic experiences or prefer a quiet read, there is something for you in this game.'

Here at Cognitive, we love to unpack complex information and repackage it into easy-to-understand storytelling with the aid of script-writing, narration, illustration, and animation.  Like video games, we aim to engage and totally immerse our audiences attention and focus, taking them on a journey through a landscape of entertaining and highly-visual content we hope will be remembered long into the future.  A key part of this is creating relevant and memorable characters that help to 'carry' the story.  Here is a simple example of an explainer video where we created three recognisable characters that help to make the sensitive topic of alcoholism more accessible to more people. You can watch the animation we made for Alcoholics Anonymous here.