The use of archetypal characters and groups can give games writers the ability to quickly add depth through recognizeable roles, says Dan Nagler of Large animal games.
Writers of all genres have been employing archetypal roles for years, and this year’s inagural session of the game narrative summit in San Francisco would have been incomplete without a mention of the tropes of modern narrative.
Rather than encouraging developers to avoid these seeming cliches, Nagler argued in favor of their use, pointing to their accesibility and the ease of acceptance with a wide audience.
By using the same character dynamics and relationships as the classics of world literature, television, and movies, games developers are building on a cultural understanding that strengthens rather than detracts from the voice of their story.
Some simple examples of this are the "buddy cop" pairings found in the "red-oni, blue-oni" pairings of Japanese literature, the "freudian trio" embodied by the central characters in Harry Potter, and the Quartet of characters seen in Ninja Turtles and Star Fox.
Nagler discussed groupings of five characters as well, such as the archetypal grouping of the Star Wars trilogy, but pointed out that these can be subdivided into a buddy cop pairing (Luke & Han) and the classic "freudian" trio (Chewie, Leia, and the droids)
The use of these pairings allows for rapid implementation of narrative design, and gives the user a ready-made framework with which to understand the innovations and unique creations within the game.
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