What, for you, creates a compelling character? Quite often in games, there is the ability to create a character that is supposed to represent you, and I assume here you'll have a real established character type. So what, to you, makes a compelling character?
DC: I discovered something very interesting that people probably knew before me, but I personally discovered it. It doesn't matter if you control different characters. In Fahrenheit, you could control Lucas Kane, who is this handsome, typical hero. You're controlling Carla Valenti. She's a female cop - a different character - and Tyler Miles, this black cop, and a couple of others.
When I wrote that, people were telling me, "Players won't enjoy playing with these characters, because they will feel empathy with Lucas Kane, and they will only want to play with him, because he's the hero. He's cute, he's really at the core of the story, and we want to be him." And in fact, when the game was released, you know what? You can very easily come from one to another character without any problem.
And it made me realize that identification and how you project yourself into a character and how you feel empathy with the character is something very easy. It's a feeling that's very easy to create, and you can project yourself into pretty much anything. I read some very interesting stuff with someone who was talking about the first shooters that happened in the video game industry - with the spaceships that you need to shoot. People tended to say, "I died," when they lost. "I died?" It's not me! I mean, come on, it's four white pixels on screen being hurt by something.
In fact, the thing was, people can project themselves into pretty much anything. It doesn't have to be realistic. It can be just four pixels, as long as they decided it's them. So the same thing happens. You can see the same thing in cinema. In cinema, you don't always feel empathy only for the main character. There are many movies that have been made where there are different stories that are being told, and you realize that the audience can feel empathy for all the characters that are on-screen, and that works very well.
So back to your question (laughter), when I create characters, I try to start with an archetype. When I say "archetype," I don't mean "caricature". I mean archetype. An archetype is someone who very quickly you seem to know and you think you know him or her by the way he looks, talks, behaves, moves, and by his voice and whatever. What is interesting is to start with an archetype, because you create immediate empathy. And then you can add an extra layer of complexity to your character. So you seem to know him, but you discover there's extra depth. I think that's really interesting.
But what I don't do... I don't like caricatures in games, like the player always wants the hero to have big muscles, and to be a big guy voiced like that, or if I'm a woman, I want to be a female with big boobs. Games have done that again and again and continue to do that, and now they seem to say, "You're the rookie. The young guy who just arrives in the Army." You discover controls at the same time as your character, and it's been done. There are different stories and characters to create than hunky rookies or girls with big boobs.
I personally am extremely tired of that, and this is me and not everyone, obviously, because those games still sell. But for me, I'll turn on a game like that, and unless there's something really interesting to do or some interesting promise for the future in the game, I'll turn it off in five minutes, or not even turn it on in the first place. I look at everything like, "Oh, yep. There's that big guy with the gun."
DC: That's one problem with this industry, is that we continue to do games only for teenagers, or what we believe teenagers want. We believe that teenagers want to have big muscles and be very assertive and have pecs and blah blah blah. And if you're a girl, you want a very nice, sexy girl, because this is what teenagers want.
I don't know if it's true. I don't know if teenagers really want that, or if they're starting to be tired with that. Hopefully they are. But this is ridiculous. This medium is trying to be mature, and we need to have content for teenagers and kids, but it would be great to start to have some content for others. It still needs to be seen. This industry still seems to focus on teenagers. I don't know why, when there's a huge market out there's that female, older people, and adults.
I think a lot of it has to do with types of media or stories that inspire the developers of games, which quite often is simply other games. I do get the feeling sometimes that some people are making games without reading books or going outside and interacting with the world.
DC: My theory is that video games initially were made by teenagers, for teenagers.
BS: Emotional teenagers, sometimes.
DC: Yeah, but also what is interesting with teenagers is that it's really the age where we try to test the limits. For these games, this is what they're doing. Look at GTA. It's really breaking the rules and doing everything that is forbidden. This is what you do when you're a teenager. You want to test the limits. You want to know what is allowed and what is forbidden, and that's fine.
I would be really happy with that if there were also content for adults, because when you get older, you ask for more experience. You want some depth, meaning, and not to be taken like an idiot. You want to be talked to like you would talk to an adult. So that's a big problem in this industry, I think.