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character development
personality traits
grand theft auto
player campaign
gaming experience
complete control
motivations
Character Development In Online Gaming
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Online gaming is a huge part of gaming in general now-a-days, so it is no surprise that many of them have an online component. You have your Uncharted 2's and your Grand Theft Auto's that have great character arcs in the single player campaign, but then you hop on to multiplayer and you quickly realize that this part of your gaming experience is devoid of any sort of character development. Sure, you can customize your character in a way that gives him a unique identity i.e. an awesome fedora and a pink shirt (which was my preference in customizing my Sully in the Uncharted 3 beta), but that is all. It does not impact gameplay in any meaningful way, nor does it show what your characters personality is like. These personality traits are tied to very specific things that are outside the scope of the online multiplayer experience.

The Developers Character It has always been assumed that character development works best in a single player mode. This is because the developer has complete control of what the character you’re playing as can do or say, and ultimately feel. Can your character climb? Is he/she witty? Is he/she capable of shooting a gun? The developer controls all of these things; the player simply has to fill in the role when it is time for gameplay (I will refer to gameplay as any time control is given to the player). Unfortunately, this formula never makes it in to the online multiplayer experience. You cannot give this character your own personality because he/she already has a set of motivations and flaws. However, things can drastically change when you have a mic (microphone/ headset).

The Mic's Character Your online avatar gets a little more personality when you have a headset, but that is not always a good thing. If we look at games like Call of Duty, which have a huge online user base, there can be a lot of negatives to having your own avatar infused with your personality. With a mic, your avatars personality is strongly dictated by what you say. If you are homophobic or constantly throwing out racial slurs, your character will become the embodiment of those words, and ultimately a mirror image of how you feel about the world. In that sense, developers have succeeded in bring character development into online gaming (assuming the homophobe or the racist come to the realization that the behavior needs to change). But again, this is solely dictated by words, not by actions.

The some-what Ideal Character What if you could have an online experience in which your actions could affect how your character acts? As farfetched as it sounds, I believe it is very much possible. Let’s take the experience of an online first person shooter. Let’s say you kill another player with your gun. You kill and move on to the next. But, what if through that action and other contextual ones, you could infuse your character with personality?

I'll give you an example: Say you killed another player, jumped on the downed avatars body, and taunted the player. The more you did these actions, the more your avatars personality would be swayed one way or the other. In this instance, your character would slowly become the joker of the team; killing enemy players whilst laughing at their inability to do the same. You would be rewarded by doing these actions to encourage that play style.

What if you wanted to play it straight and just kill an enemy and move on to the next? You would slowly earn characteristics of a soldier, and be rewarded accordingly. This would not only give the avatar YOUR personality traits, but it would also be closer to the true meaning of a custom class (a job within the game that you could tweak to make your own). If you wanted to play stealthily, your character would slowly acquire characteristics of a quiet individual. You can, of course, have mutations where you play stealthily yet have the joker characteristics of taunting after a kill. It would be great to be identified as the stealthy comic relief of the team without developers needing to tell you any specifics of that avatar.

In Conclusion There are many ways to experience multiplayer games. There is no right or wrong way. Sometimes the developer wants to set a specific rule set for a character. Sometimes you dictate how people view your avatar. For those looking for something new out of online multiplayer, the future could lead to many amazing things if more developers and publishers could find a way to marry contextual gameplay and story in which it benefits character development on the side of the user.


Street Talk

iZero  

First off, I would like to say GREAT ARTICLE. I feel you on the whole online avatars should embody our personalities. However, with the amount the gaming community bashing one another, throwing out homophobic and racial slurs.. why would you want to implement any sort of personality? To me that sounds like they would be cutting the longevity of their product online. I mean, you made a point when they started talking about Call of Duty. In a way we have our character development, but only by the equipment and perks we unlock or the attachments we use. (IE: MW3) It's going to be a while before there will be legitimate character customization in that sense lol

Reply
  about 7 years ago
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