For the last few weeks I succumbed to one of my greatest vices. No amount of therapy, psychological or pharmaceutical, can help me now.
I have dived into the world of Vesperia. Tales of Vesperia, to be exact. A role-playing game for Xbox 360, released in 2008. Yes, this game is ancient history. But I have not finished it, which is why I am diving into it with a vengeance. Because I have to know the end of the story.
And, no, watching a spoiler reel is not enough. I have to experience the story myself and live with the characters (for over 60 hours!).
RPGs and I have a long relationship. They were my first foray into videogames and, unlike platformers, have stuck with me. I can tell you everything you need to know about Rose from Dragoon or Auron from Final Fantasy X. The complexity of the characters in these games draws me to them, time and time again.
This relationship I have with Vesperia occurs with anyone who dives into a good story. The characters draw them into a universe, enveloping them in the process. Yes, not every good “story” has flesh-and-blood characters. But would they not draw you closer if you had a companion to walk with you?
While videogames may not be the most productive use of one’s time, there is definitely something to be gained from studying the way that RPGs unfold their stories. Their attention to characters – all of them – create an amazing tapestry with charming complexity. While the English (and translation) of these videogames often leave something to be desired, these character studies provide methods to creating believable, complex characters.
The largest point that RPGs make is that every character has a purpose. No one is really expendable – every individual has a past, present, future, emotions, feelings and dreams. Yes, characters have a role to play in the story, but they, themselves, have a purpose and goal. Whether or not it is in line your own goal, you, as a writer, must understand the character’s needs and desires – even if the character does not quite understand them.
Granting every character a purpose – not just the protaganist – will create a more vibrant fabric with which to write. Every event will have dozens of viewpoints, not just one. Perhaps you will even decide to go with another character than what you started with in the process. By widening your writing viewpoint you will have endless possibilities for plot and detail.
While not every story you will write will be a set of character study, take a moment and consider the “writing style” of the RPG. As you write to discover your characters, you may find that you don’t have as finite an ending as you once thought. Don’t worry; the best stories are those that make beautiful the journey, not just the destination.