Your Character Could Be Anyone

Your Character Could Be Anyone

The trouble with games like your Dragon Age or your Skyrim is that you choose every action, every line of dialogue, and every moral choice that your character makes, as well as their appearance.

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Interesting metaphor for the series, I think the Aliens thing was just done because they had to get wackier than Saints Row: The Third somehow.

Fitting that Saints Row got it's own identity just after GTA IV, shone brightly then crashed down and neatly essentially ended just before GTA V.

I never thought about recreating my SR2 character in the Third... maybe it's time to play it again.

Too bad SR 2 while being the best didn't have a Russian female voice, so I can't retro-update my character.

I agree that the customization was the best because once you created your character, you barely had any choice, the character play themselves. I wish sometimes newer Fallouts could have some of this. Not all, just a little.

Evonisia:
Interesting metaphor for the series, I think the Aliens thing was just done because they had to get wackier than Saints Row: The Third somehow.

Oh, they could tried with a grasshopper species coming from the inside of the earth, it'd be as wackier, but yeah, I agree with the "only way forward is way out of line" theory.

Great Article. I think Yahtzee is right here.

When you get right down to it, writing is about characters. And you risk paralyzing your own story if your main character has no character. The silent protagonist is something I have grown quite tired of, despite how many good games feature them.

I find the difference between what we call 'immersion' and 'projection' interesting too. In a game like Half-Life 2, you are clearly called to project onto Gordon Freeman, a character that -when you think about it- has never actually appeared in any of his games. Same with games that let you customize your own avatar, essentially, you are called to be more projective onto them.

However, a game like Silent Hill 2 is tremendously immersive, without needing to have a blank slate for its character. We are not really called to project onto James Sunderland, and we can observe his actions and flaws from a certain distance, but it is still as impacting as if we had created him ourselves.

Isn't that the point of RPGs? To role-play? Be it in videogames, tabletop games, or in the bed room, it's still you who's playing someone else. Of course they can't surprise you since it's you who's making the decisions.

I'm not into it much myself, but people tend to like role-playing.

You know you can also play as yourself. I.e. not 'this time as a bad wizard and next time as a good warrior', but just pick whatever dialog line or action you want. That also has its appeal.

And actually I prefer to be able to make my own character rather than have another Jack Dynamite or whatever bland slate (no, not blank, bland) as a 'character'. Don't get me even started on silent protagonists, jeez.

Either way there are games for everyone. You want to roleplay? Pick Dragon Age. Want to feel like a average person superman? Pick HL2. Wanna just be wacky? Pick Saints Row.

Besides, we've already established that mixing genres doesn't work very well usually, so no point of having a silent bland protagonist in a otherwise rich RPG or vice versa. Who would roleplay as Master Chief?

My character having a personality in Fire Emblem: Awakening was a very good move on the developers part, it would have been easy to make a generic fop who was there to just fight, but they gave him/her good lines and made them have their own identity (one of which can bond with units and even marry)

When I make a character that is a bland slate, I generally project personality into them, making them their own unique character, I don't usually project myself.

I think the reason the Saints Row series isn't considered an RPG or anything similar to it (even though you can choose the look and upgrade of your boss and gang) is because the boss is his/her/its own character. The identity of the boss isn't the looks or voice, but the personality displayed. A personality which only changes slightly depending on the voice option chosen.

Might I be the first to say, Yahtzee really missed out on something by not posting an appearance of Spider.

Actually your character did talk in the first saints row, it only happened like three times though. Once for each gang and it happened on the last mission if I remember right. The only one I really remember was going up an elevator and Johnny Gat was saying he was going to skull fuck someone who had Meg Griffins voice, your character tells him he will get herpes or something, everyone just looks at your character.

Worgen:
Actually your character did talk in the first saints row, it only happened like three times though. Once for each gang and it happened on the last mission if I remember right. The only one I really remember was going up an elevator and Johnny Gat was saying he was going to skull fuck someone who had Meg Griffins voice, your character tells him he will get herpes or something, everyone just looks at your character.

The only line I remember was the very last one. Think you were talkin to some guy and you say "Can we hurry this up? I want to go to Freckle Bitches." Then the boat explodes, the end.

That's a pretty interesting way of looking at the Saints Row series. It also makes for a rather epic journey. Something which I find very interesting.

I think this might not have been their initial idea, but identity did indeed become the main franchise focus. The idea as celebrity as a form of super-ID where you're yourself to a much larger degree than anyone around you was definitely present in 3 (and what I liked about 3) and it fits well with the idea of a sandbox where you're free to do whatever you want, so what you do says something about you. And then we live in an age where Obama is a super-celebrity and projects the same force of will and personality that's an evolution from a normal celebrity. If you look at all their posters, it was clearly what they were going for with this one.

And in each game you can customise yourself more and do more and more outlandish, stylish expressive things. From jacking car, to jumping through the windscreen to tossing the cars hundreds of feet in the air.

...but I disagree with the story. Maybe it's about being lucky with who you choose, but the story often really clashed with my personality in an unreconcilable way. I couldn't figure out how torturing people in Saints Row 2 fitted in

Worgen:
Actually your character did talk in the first saints row, it only happened like three times though. Once for each gang and it happened on the last mission if I remember right. The only one I really remember was going up an elevator and Johnny Gat was saying he was going to skull fuck someone who had Meg Griffins voice, your character tells him he will get herpes or something, everyone just looks at your character.

"I'm gonna skullfuck that bitch!"

"Hope you don't mind hepatitis"

Yeah, but the best line he has is when Dex asks Luz what's in her bag, she says that it's the latest shoes and your character goes "Bullshit, that's last season's heels!".

Let's continue the analogy a bit further: the alien invasion represents THQ going under. It's a problem on a higher scale of abstraction than the individual game, just as an interstellar empire is on a higher scale than an individual planet. But just as the alien invasion gives the Saints access to weapons, vehicles and superpowers they never would have had otherwise, the demise of THQ gives the Saints Row series a chance to do things it was never allowed to do before, like explore Shaundi's struggle with survivor's guilt and openly support modding.

Sgt. Sykes:
Isn't that the point of RPGs? To role-play? Be it in videogames, tabletop games, or in the bed room, it's still you who's playing someone else. Of course they can't surprise you since it's you who's making the decisions.

Games like Skyrim are bland, open, and meaningless. Little you do is of consequence outside of superficials, and they even go out of their way to make sure you don't close off paths.

Playing a character doesn't generally mean ultimate freedom and the like.

I mean, if that's what tickles you fancy, go for it. If that's what you think of when you think "role-playing," though, you're not really using it in any conventional sense.

One of the best things about other forms of roleplaying (both tabletop AND the bedroom) is that you bump up against the characters and actions of other people. RPGs give you a sandbox to run around in, but not much real chance to develop character or to have your actions tested. VRPGs are so scared of making you do things that they'll let you meander on even the most urgent of things until you accept the latest mission, if even then.

"The fate of the world hangs in the balance! But only if you take this quest and follow this marker."

And I daresay, in other forms of roleplaying, there's an outside imperative. Whether it be your GM or your lover, if you decide that your character is going to go out and chop wood for 37 hours, someone's not going to stand for it.

In a sense, "have it your way" can actually hurt a roleplaying experience. But then again, in a world where most of us live in insulated bubbles and don't even get news that doesn't speak to us, in an on-demand world, is it any wonder that the minute we're asked to do something we don't want to we whine like entitled kids?

Roleplaying a constructed character is valid as roleplaying, often times more so than the so-called "open-world" RPGs that have become the hallmark of the "true roleplayer(TM)" which is less about roleplaying and more about self-gratification. To continue your bedroom reference, it's less roleplaying and more masturbation. And these games tend to be carefully crafted around stroking your ego as the Messiah, the Chosen One, The Next Big Thing, whatever.

And OT: I think Yahtzee's trying too hard to force a metaphor here. But then, Saints Row 3 was a hollow, shallow experience and from what I hear, SR4 is more of that but "zanier." Maybe it does reflect "us."

I missed the russian voice in creation but in many ways my character just wandered her way to then edn of the world and it does feel a complete story :)

Can't say I feel the same. For me the rise of modern game narrative has driven a large wedge between between the game and myself making immersion into these kinds of games with a heavy emphasis on dialogue and plot, unpleasantly difficult. If I wanted to enjoy a story where I didn't have control over what the character was doing, I'd just watch a movie.

When I play a game I want to be in total control, and not some impartial or at least semi-partial observer. When these modern games start dropping plot device roadblocks in my way in the vain attempt to make a rather shallow form of entrainment feel far more grandiose or meaningful than it actual is, all it does for me is make me is to unimmerse me from the game in the same way an outside distraction such as a phone call or an annoying commercial during an exciting television show would have.

Maybe it's because of the games I played in my childhood and teen years. I don't remember suffering from existential ennui when playing games such as Space Invaders or Asteroids. I don't recall feeling existential dread when controlling the space marine in Doom to blow away hoards of space demons without any cut scenes where he pauses and reflects on what this all means. For me none of that was needed.

Personally I find this attempt by companies for the past few years to add drama and semi-interactive story to these games, feels about as silly and immersion breaking as having breaks during a sports event where the players reenact scenes from Shakespeare to try to add a bit of class to the event.

Sound and furry signifying nothing, indeed.

I'm down with bringing back Riddler-chic. But it needs the cane. The Riddler's style is NOTHING without the cane!

But back to the discussion of character: With sufficient room (the game's not railroading you from Points A to B to C etc.), you don't need your main character to be a complete blank slate (the nameless, voiceless, faceless dork) to have your decisions and actions define his personality. Take Desmond Miles, in the present day parts of the Assassin's Creed saga. Not just reading his teammates' email messages, either. You could choose to make Desmond talk to them, or not. You could choose to let him out of the Animus to stretch his legs, or not.

Mod Edit: Added spoiler tags

"I'm not sure what the aliens mean, in that case. It's possible they just got bored at that point, kind of like I am now with this argument."

Har har! ^_^
Good argument as always, thanks!!!

In the first game you're a new member of the Third Street Saints, and it was the only game in which your character could not speak.

That's not entirely true. "Hope you don't mind hepatitis!" is still one of the best moments of the entire series.

nin_ninja:
I think the reason the Saints Row series isn't considered an RPG or anything similar to it (even though you can choose the look and upgrade of your boss and gang) is because the boss is his/her/its own character. The identity of the boss isn't the looks or voice, but the personality displayed. A personality which only changes slightly depending on the voice option chosen.

I know for a fact that the reason Saints Row isn't considered an RPG is because it's not an RPG. It's an open world third person shooter.

I mean really, you're just trying way too hard here. I look forward to your detailed explanation as to why Gran Turismo isn't an RPG.

interesting read.
in the third, i was a big bummed, big boobed, cockney transvestite with a moo-stash

My character went from a crazy guy who I can't remember anything else about (SR2) to a business-y type woman (SR3) to Loras Tyrell (SR4) so I pretty much just accepted in my mind that The Boss is just Doctor Who with sliders.

I like that Saints Row has made an identity of its own. It really hit a niche that GTA actually left open with GTA IV. And now SR IV took some of Prototype 2 loll which is good for me

With the exception of 3 & 4 every time I've played a different Saints Row I've made a different character.

In SR2 on PS3 I had made a character similar to myself but in better shape with the English accent. In SR1 on 360 I made some really pale white guy with different facial hair & hair color. And because that came in a double pack for SR2 on 360 I made a Mime looking chick with painted on eyebrows.

And out of all of them the closest I came to naming them was Jack in SR2 on PS3, "I Guess That's Jack" in SR1 on 360, & "I Guess That's Jack If He Was Female In An Alternate Universe".... So technically I didn't name any of them.... I guess.... And I don't know how this is all going to pan out once I play SR2 on PC.

Due to awkward reasons I've never felt the urge to play as a Male in future sequels. Too much of my character being nude or whatever that felt like I would rather stare at a Female

So SR3 on PS3 became an unintended restart. A Saints Row Character that I had created finally had a personality of their own. As in this wasn't a character I (genuinely) wanted to be but to simply admire. She ended up being named Cheshire Cat Woman. And I had fallen in love with her Russian Accent & her obsession with Pierce Washington.

So when playing SR4 I couldn't help but to feel I lost her identity along with her Cat Woman pants & boots. Gone was the Russian Accent now replaced by a French Accent. And with that was gone with the affection she had with Pierce in SR3. Once again replace by the Everyone Hates Pierce Gag of SR2.

And to make matters worse I never got to have revenge on Dex. Or find out the world truly wasn't big enough for me to hide in when a certain someone would come back from his off screen death. Or even the fear of a "Life After Death" Mr. Sunshine.

I'm not even certain if I'm looking forward to the next Saints Row story if it isn't a reboot. A large part of what made Saints Row fun for me was my own head canon.... I suppose it'll only be fun game play wise from this point on for me.

I have the same thing!
In saints row series I made a character named Equardo Mannwhor. He is a muscly and slick spaniard who works as a gigolo or simply said: a man whore.
As the series have progressed I have grown more fond of him and because of that when im searching for games, I try to find a game with character customisation so I can play as him.
It's odd how such a small thing as a fictional character can influence your game buying habits.
Does anyone have the same thing?

I've always seen narrative elements in a game as a shortcut type of thing. Like, the ideal would be a game where you actually do the scripted thing, but sometimes the designers can't figure out a way to incorporate that so they just show you doing it, or an approximation of you anyway.

They say you can be anyone, but in Saints Row Four and The Third, you are restricted to a computer-illiterate shithead!

The level of character customization is what brought me to the Saints Row series and made it my favorite sandbox game.

You made a stellar article, and I enjoyed reading it!

Haven't played Saints Row IV. But the involvement of aliens actually sounds like the next logical step in the whole identity theme. Once you've reached the peak of fame among humans, then the biggest limit to your identity is the identity of humanity as a whole. Which your own identity is still subject to. Battling against non-humans from a different planet is a way to expand your sense of existence further, even after you've reached the top on earth among your fellow species.

I actually did the same thing of recreating my SR 2 character in subsequent games.
Also with the very British voice.
OH BOI WHAT A COINCIDENCE
Guy looked like Kratos in a suit though.
The Saints Row 3 engine is actually very good for making a guy that looks like Kratos and wears a suit.

I had a pretty well thought out theory that the SR2 boss and the SRT3rd boss were actually different people, and the different way activities were presented on each game were actually because of the different way they acted and thought. But SRIV destroyed that theory! Curse them!

In SR2, I roleplayed as some badass cockney version of The Mask
The sprinting & gliding powers in SR4 gave me a different idea and I played as Kaku from CP9 of One Piece, still with the cockney accent I was used to. I wasn't able to recreate his nose :(

The Saints really have written into a corner. I suppose the only way there can be a sequel is to have the Saints vs God. Parody of God of War. HA!

theyellowmeteor:
They say you can be anyone, but in Saints Row Four and The Third, you are restricted to a computer-illiterate shithead!

Thats the problem with role-playing in SR. There is already some characterization given to your character whereas in Skyrim or Dragon Age, you determine every detail. Still, the folk around you are always pre-determined to regard you as a hero, no matter what you do.

The aliens promote you from President to an action hero. You then escalate to either "the one" (ala the Matrix) or Superman.

 

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