Last post we talked about characters, mainly protagonists. In keeping with the same thread, I want to touch on static protagonists, and I can’t think of a better example than video game protagonists.
The guy from King’s Field the Ancient City
Nothing is known about who you are, from where you came, or what you can do then BAM! you get the cursed idol, and off you go to return it to the altar and destroy the root of some kind of evil, which may or may not be evil, but just darkness…or whatever.
So, with this totally static character, the audience/player never sees any kind of change. Hell, the protagonist never says a word. What, then, makes it interesting? How does the story move forward?
The environment. The further towards the dark altar you go, the more about that particular and mysterious world is revealed. This static issue may well be why so many people don’t get into video games. It does, however, draw in players who are imaginative enough to replace the character with themselves. Childish? Maybe, but what’s wrong with being enamored with the magic of childhood? Did we not all pretend to be knights slaying dragons, or princesses riding off on a white horse?
A better example is the Dragonborn from Skyrim
While the newest DLC allows the protagonist, who is Dragonborn, to meet and fight the first Dragonborn, the Dragonborn you play is much more mysterious than Mirak, the badguy.
In Skyrim you are some dude/chick about to get your head lopped off for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is no clue given to how you got to where you were, or why you were there in the first place.
As the game progresses, either by you venturing off on your on own or by following quest lines, the game reveals all kinds of dynamic stories, but the protagonist is rather one dimensional. Sure, you can give snippy replies, or very regal replies to dialogue, but if you wish to see all that the game has to offer, you bounce between the very good person spectrum to the very bad person spectrum, and nothing ever makes you a clearly cut, defined character.
So, again, it is the world that draws us in, the supporting characters, the music, the sights.
I have found that the static protagonist is a video game staple; we rarely if ever find them in books, TV, or movies. Matter of fact, I can’t readily produce one example.
There is also a form of dynamic character in some video games, but this is relatively new; only available now that games can produce such high quality worlds. I mean, when comparing the protagonist from Halo, to the two crazy dudes from Contra, we see a huge rise in complexity; we get a back story, plot development, etc.
In the Mass Effect Series we see even more. Regardless of playing as John or Jane Shepard, the player gets to be either good, bad, or neutral and some of the impending circumstances do force a very small change in the character.
Lately, I have seen the writing in games surpass script writing for television and movies. I have also seen it surpass many books, and truthfully, many of these mainstream authors are simply being decimated in the context of creativity. Then again, that’s why they sell so well. You see, games tend to stay completely true to very neatly defined genres, and so their admirers are hardcore fans of that genre. These other authors write in and around all kinds of genres then they get lumped into a category called genre fiction. I mean, what the hell is that, anyway?
True fans of any specific genre tend to find indie writers, who write stories in their favored genre. The downfall here is that these indie authors don’t have degrees in English literature and composition. They don’t have access to professional editors with doctorates in literature, so the work, while extremely creative, suffers in the technical aspect.
Regardless of all that, and with the advent of XBox One, we’re about to embark upon an age of magic, sci fi, and action, the likes of which no one has ever seen. That coupled with the rise of indie writers, producers, composers, and programmers working together, is going to overthrow the well known, and kind of dated, mainstream entertainment media.
Did you know that Lionsgate is an indie company?
How much longer before indie game producers release something totally original?
Some people still denounce games, but the writing there is really coming together, and anyone who doesn’t keep up, as a writer or a fan, is going to miss out on super cool stuff.
Back to the key point, here, static characters can make a dynamic universe all the more interesting whereas dynamic characters take the forefront in plots for stories with a static universe.
What do you think? I’d love to hear everyone’s opinion.