Sometimes a game will pique my interest because it has an interesting visual design. Other times it will be a mechanic or two that I can really resonate with. Whatever the reason I or you may find that hooks us in at first glance, I find myself going to games from a certain developer or within a certain franchise for nothing but the people. A game with well crafted characters is more than all the elements that we might associate with a game. It is an experience, it is sitting down with some good pals and saving the world. I could just be doing nothing and still finding something to take away from being around nice people.
Think about all those shows or games where you do something equivalent to filler, just useless busy work in the grand scheme of the plot to have you use up more of your time. Some games you can feel the filler within it might as well blare a siren announcing so. Other times its a little less enjoyable than the core game or show but still a pretty solid session. This can come from simply tight controls that work with you to a visual or audial quirk that can get you through. Most of the time though I find just hanging around the cast can whittle away time like nothing else.
I don’t just go back to the old games because they are what I grew up on. I go back because these characters hit all they need to on my personal checklist. I enjoy playing this character simply out of being this character, I find defeating these enemies fun because of who/what they are to me. There wasn’t a need for a dramatic plot but there was always a need to make these simple characters appealing in the older systems restraints.
Think about why we have parties of characters in JPRGs. Yeah it serves a purpose as having multiple roles allows you to face each situation with a tool for the job. God forbid having just one character, the black mage, trying to even get past the first boss let alone the whole game. We have a party more than just for effective gameplay though, its to create a dynamic group of friends we can work with. These people can just be their skills and nothing else, gameplay wouldn’t suffer. Hell I do it often when I don’t like the character of a member, you are my healing mule now shut up and support me ya damn tool.
When they do work as a character though, I get a few best friends to go adventuring with. The game evolves from a single persons hope to save the world to a collective of people somewhat representing the kinds of people the world consists of and their hope to escape disaster or what have you. I’ve spoken before about that one character in the group that is pretty much your soul motivation, the one whose problems take priority over tool #4 whose entire role is debuff and shut the hell up. Finding the friend you enjoy as good company can make you ignore the cruel facts of many JRPGs.
What cruel facts? The likely grinding, the plot possibly being as convoluted as it can be, all those hours you are gonna sink into this game as if it is some rule that if you are role playing it needs 40+ hours or you are a living sin. Not complaining mind you on most occasions but we’ve all played that game which should have ended a few McGuffins ago. Considering how few games mess with the formula of the JRPG, I’d say it is the companionship between the many party member you may come to care about that drives players onward.
A franchise may spew out another game that isn’t really doing that much different, yet people will still likely buy it. Some of it is the truth we all have come to accept is that some will buy anything, the stupid consumers. I don’t believe that is the one single truth of the matter. Sometimes we really do love hanging out with the characters of the universe. Even if objectively judged within the medium it doesn’t do anything different, it’s still a new story about that character you like seeing punch things. I love it when he punches things, he punches things when I would in these situations. I’d like to invite him over for a BBQ.
Mario is more than just good gameplay, these are old friends at this point. Seeing these characters is the party every so often where we hang out and jump on those turtles we’ve come to love throwing down pits. Some of them deserve it after The Lost Levels though. These characters aren’t deep in any way which is why I feel many like to write them off as kiddy. Yet simplicity through which genius flows through is a trait we laud in every medium. Character creation can also benefit from simple, endearing characters. No backstories, no dramatic choices they make that reflect on their beliefs. These things can be good but it doesn’t mean we should write off the pure joy of a simple, fun old friend to relax with.
Gamings favourite characters are often so disgustingly simple…simply enjoyable, nothing else.
What characters do you really like “hanging out” with? What were the ones that you simply couldn’t stand and brought the experience down? Will we keep a balance of simple and complicated characters as we move forward in gaming? Thanks for the read and I’ll see you later.