CTS – Character

Characters with side refers to someone who may not be entirely truthful and have another side to them, for example “I think they had a bit of side”. An example of this is Deadpool.

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The typical characteristics of characters in what you may call mainstream media tends to shape our understanding of how characters should act or be represented. The way characters are represented is akin to semiotics being a language of signs and character representation being a language of characters.

However they are ultimately all constructs, unreal or not natural. Character development goes back to Aristotle, who was a source for theatrical standards.

Catharsis is a feeling of happiness or an emotional sense of relief and Aristotle wanted an audience to lose themselves in the theatrical productions and relieve themselves of their worries, a sensation of catharsis.

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Archetype – something molded first from a model. A typical example of something.

Stereotype – A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

Does it matter how we represent men and women?

Lara started out as an overly sexualized but strong female character, it doesn’t excuse her design but it would be over simplifying the situation to think that is all about her as she has never really been a damsel in distress. In the modern Tomb Raider games Lara is more realistically designed and proportioned but this makes her seem weaker and slightly more like a damsel in distress because she seems more relate-able and less like a caricature as she tended to look like in the earlier games.

I think it does matter how we represent women in games, but I think it’s not really a black and white situation. For instance if there’s a female character in a video-game who dresses or acts a certain way for her own reasons then…well, it would be “nice” i suppose if she wasn’t designed that way but I think to eliminate the problem entirely or at least never discuss it would be like pretending the problem never existed in the first place.

Lara Croft is an infamous example because her original design was sexualized and the developers admitted that was to appeal to a younger male audience, but to never have characters who were dressed or acted a certain way would be like saying “Well, Modern Lara Croft is suitably dressed and proportioned so sexism has been defeated”.

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Mad Moxxi in the Borderlands series is an example of a character who uses her sexuality and dress to deceive others and hide her true self. You only discover in the third game that basically everything about her is a lie and in reality she is a southern-drawl accented mechanic who dresses and acts the way she does in her bar to be in command of the situation. Borderlands doesn’t take itself seriously and pokes fun at everything and parodies everything which helps this aspect of Moxxi to work.

Another character, Quiet in Metal Gear Solid V, had a similar background but essentially failed by having no real reason to dress the way she does and also have her outfit be near-nude rather than to fulfill any role.

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How are characters constructed?

“Story: Substance, structure, style and the principles of screenwriting” (Robert McKee, 1998)

Physical Appearance

Mannerisms

Style of speech and gesture

Age, IQ

“can only be expressed through the choice in dilemma. How the person chooses to act under pressure is who he is – the greater the pressure, the truer and deeper the choice to the character”

“If the character is too neat a fit with their actions, the audience will be excluded…”

To make characters interesting for the player or viewer you want to subvert expectations and have characters act with depth and defy their appearances at times.

McKee makes a distinction between stereotypical stories (they stay at home) and archetypal stories (they travel) and the world of the “eminent artist” where: “the ordinary becomes extraordinary”.

Bertholt Brecht was a German political figure who believed that theater could be used to change society rather than simply exist to reflect aspects of society. He invented Epic Theater, which should make the audience think about real world problems and realities rather than simply believing in the fiction of the characters.

Brecht’s concept of Epic Theater was to allow the audience to relate to someone’s reason and reality rather and to make them think about things rather than simply think “Oh, that’s happy” or sad etc. It could not be devoid of emotion but it couldn’t be superficial where the was one aspect to it and he wanted people to think about cultural relevance like the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party.

What is our relationship with characters?

I feel like characters can be extensions of us, as we can recognize aspects of characters that we can relate to but it is quite rare to relate to a character completely. I also think there can be a huge variety of characters who you can relate to if they go through situations you recognize, even if you went through them many years ago. For instance the cast of Persona 4 are largely mid/late teenagers but they go through a huge range of recognizable scenarios and periods of doubt and crisis of coincidence which makes them immensely relate-able and endearing.

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Can Deadpool be seen as a descendant of Brecht’s attitude to theatrical character?

I don’t think so. I don’t really think Deadpool has anything that deep behind the character, and there’s no problem with that, but he’s not really a character with broad or deep commentary on social issues.

 

 

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