On…Characterization; A Recommendation

Normally on Wednesdays I have been posting some random musing or thought about the act or process of creation, but this time is a little bit different.  Today, I want to recommend a video game for anyone who wants a crash course on characterization and for anyone who just likes fun, engaging, and intriguing electronic entertainment.

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The game I am referring to is Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. It’s an independent, story driven downloadable game available through every major online store except for the Wii network. I highly recommend giving this one a try because of its well told narrative through simple mechanics in a rather short time span. The whole game should take no longer than three hours to get through, so you are not looking at a significant time commitment.

While I could praise this title on its art and world creation, the real impressive feat is how much the central characters (the titular brothers) are developed without the use of any real dialogue or words to describe them. Even so, the player perfectly understands the role and distinct personality of each brother. More importantly, just with the simplest of interactions between the brothers and townspeople, the player empathizes and relates to these characters without hesitation.

There is an adage when it comes to writing “show, don’t tell.” In video games, it goes one step further with “do, don’t show.” Essentially, this means that you should never tell your audience how they should feel about a scene, event, or character and instead demonstrate through actions what kind of individual or event is transpiring as they read. It is because of this that developing and writing complex, believable characters is rather difficult.

However, Brothers demonstrates how to perfectly achieve this lofty goals and shows that the best way to do so is to focus on the small details and let the audience fill in the rest. It’s a tricky balancing act, but the payout is worth the effort.

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