Day 10 - Lens 82: The Lens of Collusion
Characters should fulfill their roles in the game world, but when possible, also serve as the minions of the game designer, ensuring an engaging experience for the player. To make sure your characters are living up to this responsibility, ask yourself these questions:
What do I what the player to experience?
This question has two answers, one is what I want them to experience in the moment of play and the second is how I want that experience to change them through play. During play I want to evoke excitement and intensity. During player confrontation I want to evoke tension, suspicion, greed, hostility, fear... Throughout the game I want to evoke a sense of concentration and strategy in tension with confusion and a sense of things spinning out of control. In the resolution I want to evoke a sense of inevitability and responsibility.
How can the characters help fulfill this experience without compromising their goals in the game world?
You would think that in an abstract strategy game there wouldn't really be any characters. In one sense there aren't, or it might be more accurate to say that the game could be played in the absence of those characters? In the process of writing the rules and establishing the theming of the game I developed a narrator character for the game 'The Teller'. He (she?) does a lot to set the tone of the game, to set player expectations and in the end to point out the underlying themes in case the winner missed them.
The other 'characters' are barely that, but maybe they are still doing a job. The chits the player collects as resources are 'citizens' they become 'warriors' in your tribe and the pieces players capture for points are 'The Heads of the City'.
Does that characterization contribute to all of those complex emotional goals I listed in answer to the first question? I think they do in that they help to involve the player in the story of the game world and that greater investment translates into stronger emotional responses to the mechanics that come after.