Monday, December 17, 2012

Turn Offs and Character Development

I recently posed the following question on twitter and facebook: "For those of you who play romance games, what's an instant turn off in a pursuable character?" The seed of this question grew from a romance game I'm currently playing with characters that I've found to be wholely unlikeable. I found it a chore to get some of the "good" endings, because I disliked the character so much that a romantic end seemed like the worse way to go. I wondered, "Do people out there actually like this stuff, or am I just being unreasonable about my fictional dating life?" So I figured I'd ask if other people has things that are an "instant no."

Answers ranged from serious character flaws (things that would probably result in a court order, should someone IRL behave that way) to things that others would actually consider a turn on or a good point (especially in the looks department).

A lot of people noted that if the writing is solid, or if the character manages to grow, then they'll happily follow any romance path. It's a good point, because in any story, characters need to grow and develop. Character flaws make for interesting stories, and learning to overcome negative points is part of the standard journey. I read a review of The Flower Shop by someone who quit after five minutes because Steve was a creeper and a jerk. While I definitely wrote Steve as a jerk in the start, I wanted to show that he grew and matured as a person over the course of the game (and he winds up being the most empathetic suitor in the sequel). It disappointed me that someone would throw away the game so quickly, but then I wondered if players feel the same way about potential suitors.

Is a very negative point enough to turn you off from the start? On the flip side, one of the most frequent turn offs was a "perfect" person. I'm not entirely sure if there's a final conclusion to this post. I just want to organize my thoughts a bit and hear your ideas on it.


Sarah Galbraith said...
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Sarah Galbraith said...
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Sarah Galbraith said...
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Anonymous said...

I think trying to make Steve funny was a nice idea to add a point of sympathy, but he's still really weak in the redeeming qualities without foreshadowing of his potential in the demo, and the jokes start trying our patience as much as they do his ex, his father and his uncle.

A flaw makes a character believable. A character who's lazy, sexist, undependable, immature and not interested in the welfare of others is an unsympathetic character and those need to either be tragic, bizarrely fascinating, or pretty obviously showing an avenue for changing.

Also Sarah, if you're an editor look at your own wordcount here; this isn't your blog.

Bleh said...

Yea, tried to trim it down and make it less bloggy only to forgot that there's no edit button in certain commenty locations. =( Ah well. ;-; Sorry~ Will remove them. =)

Annie said...

The "perfect person" isn't necessarily a turn-off for me. They just need to perfect *and* interesting. I know that sounds impossible, but I think it's been done quite well in literary works. Monsieur Myriel in Les Mis, Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, the titular Last Unicorn, and so on.

If there's one thing I can't stand in fictional love interests, it's bigotry of some sort that gets treated as a good or "romantic" thing. For instance, that classic comment: "Please don't do anything dangerous. You're a girl." Unless the playable character calls them out on it, that's enough to convince me to switch routes immediately.

Yuki said...

When it comes to turn offs in dating sims, I don't have any with regards to looks, just in character.

An example of a character whose route I found hard to play, I'd like to point to Rin from Katawa Shoujo. While I liked the other routes from the game (especially Hanako's and Lily's - I haven't finished Emi's yet), Rin's didn't seem to be that good. I liked Rin's general premise (a socially awkward artist), but I noticed there was little to no chemistry between her and the main character - she seemed to push him away and wasn't direct about what she wanted and felt, which was just frustrating to me. Especially the moments where she tries to explain herself, but just ends up rambling nonsense and gets frustrated.
To be honest, she didn't seem like she needed a boyfriend - a good friend would've been way better.

So in short, my biggest turn off would be characters that get frustrated with themselves when they are trying to talk to me.

Another one is manipulative characters that keep betraying and/or hurting you while the main character keeps going back to them because they somehow love this person more than they value themselves.

I mainly play dating sims because I enjoy in-depth interactions between characters. If there's bad communication going on or low compatibility between characters, I don't find the routes where this is an issue enjoyable.

That being said, I also have to agree with Annie on the bigotry being treated as romantic thing. I do not mind it when bigotry is a flaw that is put in to make a character overcome it, however - it can make for really good story material, at least if done tastefully (which, admittedly, can be really hard).

I hope this has been helpful!

Thelo said...

I would say that I while don't really have specific turn-offs, the accumulation of character flaws vs strengths over time can get enough to make me disgusted. In other words, it's okay for a character to have some flaws, but they certainly should have clear strengths to make up for their flaws - such that I can see them as worthy people.

So for instance, it's okay for a character to be socially awkward and even somewhat rude, but extremely passionate in some domain they love. It's okay for a character to be generally lazy and a goof-off, but pleasant and funny in social situations and thoughtful of their friends. But if a character is both socially withdrawn and also generally lazy, and we never see any other strength of character, then it wouldn't be okay.

VN protagonists are probably the most dangerous about this - it's easy to write them with mild flaws such as laziness, but no actual character strengths to balance them. So even if their flaws are very mild, the character ends up leaving an overall negative impression.

As far as I'm concerned, there isn't really any magic bullet to it, it's really all about striking an overall positive balance with the character's qualities. ^_^;

WhatSheSaid said...

I think the only thing that turns me off if I encounter such characters is when their actions are portrayed as 'good' by the other characters or the protagonist. There's a fine line between making a character's sentences end in ~'s ninety percent of the time to make her sound cute and making me facepalm every time his/her sprite shows up.
On another note, I also read somewhere you don't have to make your characters likable--make them readable. This is where the writer's ability to thread words together comes in. One can have all the messed-up, crazy characters, but that doesn't mean the readers have to dislike them. One example I can list at the top of my head is the increase of popular TV shows with anti-heroes (Breaking Bad, Dexter, etc). They're certainly not saints, but they are compelling.

Alice Avery said...

I'll follow any path with any type of Character as long as it's a good story.

If it is a well written everything about the game is interesting.
I think your games are well thought out. Your telling a story and letting me be a part of it by making choices.
It does not matter if a guy/girl is my type. I just like to watch their relationships develop based on the choices that are made.
It is impossible to suit every one taste in a partner but it is possible to entertain most everyone with good writing. Mass character flaws is not a problem in my book if the person is believable.
Thanks for letting me share my two cents :P I think you do good work!

titi said...

I'm alright with a 'perfect' character or any kind of suitors, so far, no suitor character has managed to turn me off (and I've played dating sims A LOT). And regarding Steve, he is the kind of guy whom I'd definitely stay away from in real life, but because it's a dating sim and it's made by YOU ;) so I know he'll turned out just right and swoony at the end.

What usually turn me off or made me quit the game is the PLAYER character. If it isn't done right, especially if they make the player as some meek, whiny, can't-do-anything, damsel-in-distress type that needs to be rescued ALL THE TIME by her suitors. Probably some people find it attractive or self-represent, because I find this type of player character in a lot of dating games.
I'd give examples just to be completely honest (and because it has been bugging me for a long time) and also to help sakevisual avoid this kind of character :) --> the iPhone apps Shall We Date? series by solmare (Ninja Love, Heian Love, whatever-love, and its entire spawn), a lot of dating-sim iPhone apps that I just couldn't remember because of the fast rate I delete them.
Or the type that doesn't have any character development at all until the end. The one that is too perfect and Mary Sue-ish that her suitors fall for her hard without any other reasons. She is always the same from beginning to end without any development, and her imperfect suitors must change their ways to get her in the game. I find it unrelatable to me.
Examples: again, the Solmare apps, Always Remember Me

Thankfully, you have always managed to avoid this kind of mistakes, and your characters (so far) are pretty much perfect to me, just keep it up! :D

ljf said...

I have just seen this post and I would like to leave a comment (hope you're still interested).

I really dislike it when the player character is obviously immature. I just find it really jarring.

For example, When playing 'Winter in Fairbrook', When Natalie was complaining about Susana's vegetarian cooking, I felt that was really closed minded.

I would mind less in a 'date-able' character bit I need to be able to relate to Natalie!