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The Importance of Writing a Character with Flaws

kawaiidaigakusei at 12:00AM, March 12, 2018
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In the latest issue of Game Informer, a magazine produced by GameStop in North America, there was an entire article about a new game being released called “Night in the Woods” featuring anthropomorphic animals that exhibit mental health characteristics such as depression and bipolar disorder. This article struck a chord with me because it is not every day that a video game covers concepts like mental health that have a stigma in modern society.

The reason the article stood out to me was that it mentioned that writing a character with “flaws” (I do not believe anything associated with mental health a flaw) is more relatable than typical Mary Sue characters that have no flaws. If a character does not ever experience a conflict, it is hard for the average reader to understand.

According to the Night in the Woods developer, Scott Benson, he believes, “with characters, you have to give them failures,” because it gives them an extra dimension for the player to relate. I know plenty of people in my own personal circle of friends who could benefit from playing a game that features flawed characters without a negative tone. Somehow, seeing a character expressing sad emotions seems more real than sad.

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anonymous?

Banes at 8:38PM, March 12, 2018

Cool stuff! For sure, characters who flawlessly go through the story are not interesting and are usually impossible to root for. Used Books, that's a different take on things, and I agree; qualities and specifics of the characters can be positives or negatives depending on the situation. I think we need to see the downsides of those traits as well as the upsides. Then we pretty much get the effect of "flaws" or "limitations".

ozoneocean at 6:19PM, March 12, 2018

Wow Amelia, good look from the inside of Game development there :D

AmeliaP at 1:24PM, March 12, 2018

"featuring anthropomorphic animals that exhibit mental health characteristics such as depression and bipolar disorder." And I thought "Hotline Miami" XD. Aw man. It's a discussion in infinite loop about games and narrative (GDC shows it), many of them talking how the linear narrative doesn't work on games and so on. Characters have the same problem, because there's the player interference. It's good to use the "classic" narrative and character development as a starting point, but...

KimLuster at 10:07AM, March 12, 2018

Very good point, UB!

usedbooks at 10:01AM, March 12, 2018

Even poor vision and alcoholism can be assets. An alcoholic might be able to drink more if it becomes something needed (maybe drinking a rival under the table). I am desperately near-sighted, but without my glasses, I can view things much closer, which allows me to see tiny details on specimens without a magnifying glass. ;) It takes a little creativity to make use of your characters' traits as both good and bad, but it makes a more interesting story, imo.

KimLuster at 8:22AM, March 12, 2018

I agree with UB in that sometimes a 'flaw' is really just a trait that makes a character a non-cardboard cutout (ie. not boring)! True flaws, things that work against the character as much as an antagonist does, sometimes I find them stressful (Harry Potter losing his glasses during those tense moments, the alcoholic going on a binge at the worst moment...), but they certainly add to the drama and suspense!!

usedbooks at 12:11AM, March 12, 2018

Optimism can also be a flaw if it causes failures in a character's goals/mission. Honestly, I don't see character traits as objective strength/weaknesses. I prefer writing characters with traits that are both, subjectively, and placing characters in the situations where the traits help or hinder.


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