When you play a game that has a character that you can personally relate to, no matter how small a role he or she has in the game, does it make you like the game more? Does it draw you in even just a little bit further? How do you feel about that character? I usually am one to say that the story of a game is what drives me to play it most of the time, but don’t the characters drive the story? My assertion is that, by relating to any or all characters in some way – even an insignificant way – it enhances the story for us and, ultimately, enhances our overall experience with that game. Let me tell you a tale, if you’ll indulge me for a moment….
When I played Final Fantasy VIII (that’s eight, not seven) for the first time, I was drawn right into the story because, from the very beginning, the main character, Squall, displayed qualities that I could personally relate to at the time. No, I was never of the “emo” crowd. You’d be surprised how many people refer to both Cloud and Squall as being overly emo, but I digress. Squall was quiet, didn’t like getting in other people’s way, didn’t like really socializing in general. He also certainly wasn’t cool around the ladies. Basically, he was shy and introverted. Yes, that was me. Ultimately I grew out of it, but at the time, those qualities of this character in a game drew me into the characters, the story and, really, the whole experience. Perhaps this is why I consider FFVIII one of the greatest Final Fantasy titles of all time, instead of FFVII. No, this isn’t a “what Final Fantasy is better” article, I said that to illustrate a point.
At the time, I think liking the character and the game in general just came naturally, because I subconsciously related to Squall. I don’t think I really realized that’s why I liked the game so much until years later, after I grew out of that quiet, shy, awkward phase. Ever since then, whenever I played a game that had a rather involving story (mostly RPGs, but there have been others), I would always try to find some character somewhere in the game that I could relate to. In the case of RPGs, the typical character list is pretty large, so it wasn’t hard finding some qualities in certain characters that I can personally relate to. Guess what? When I found that magical point in the game where something just “clicks”, it actually does enhance the entire experience for me.
How about you? What characters have you related to in games that you’ve played? Did it enhance your gaming experience or detract from it? You don’t have to be exactly like the character to relate to them on some level. After all, I’m certainly not a gun-blade wielding, world-saving, shaggy-haired soldier-in-training. Although, I would probably be worried if you said you related to Sephiroth because you have pyromaniac tendencies. Let’s hear of your experiences in the comments!