If you’ve been reading my Edge column, you are truly blessed. May the reindeer and elves shine on you, ’cause I love this column and I’m having a blast, and your eyeballs are the reason.
Here are the last ones of the year. First off, I argue why we should stop paying attention to game stories (and how bad they are), and start investing in the thing games do well: creating memorable characters.
There’s an old debate about which is more important – the plot or the characters. But look across the pop mediasphere, and you’ll see that characters are winning. Television shows, comic books, movie franchises, and even lines of toys depend on characters as the hook that keeps the audience coming back, while storylines are just a fleeting way to give them something to do. If you have characters that people love, they will stick around while you flog the property years past its sell date. And if you don’t have good characters, the most radical plot twists in history will not save you.
… and then, I write a column about my abandoned plan for an altenate reality game about Santa Claus:
I would make a joke about how the kids at school are old enough to tell my son that there’s no Santa Claus. This would bother me, because hey, I’ve made it to my thirties without letting anybody convince me that Santa’s not real. In fact, I happen to know that there is a conspiracy out there, and they want us to think St. Nick is a myth, a dangerous hallucination. But I believe, natch, that Santa is real – and play my game, and you would get to save him.
And of course, there’s a reason I bring this up:
We don’t use our imagination in games, and our videogames rarely ask for it in the first place. Make-believe is the exception rather than the rule, and if we get really caught up in a game – if we scream “Oscar mike, stay frosty!” with gusto and spittle in Modern Warfare multiplayer – well, that’s kinda embarrassing. After all, what’s the absolute zero least cool game in the world? Live-action role-playing. I mean, those people run around in the woods in capes.
I’m taking it easy this weekend, but I’ve got a few ideas brewing for next year. The column has done really well, and some of them have been very well received. The voice is feeling more natural, too. So definitely expect to keep seeing this every week over at Edge Online. (And if you have an idea, a new game, or just something you want to talk with me about, don’t hesitate – chris [ at ] savetherobot.com.)