Identifying with Characters

What are some characteristics in Bayonetta that would make her a relatable character that people could identify with?

“Video games have an unmet potential to create complexity by letting people experience the world from different perspectives. Part of this position is that in a video game, you yourself have to act as a given character.” – James Paul Gee

For this week, I wanted to explore identifying with game characters and what that means for the player and game itself. I think if the goal for designers is to create a character that serves as good representation, relatability with said character is important. I used Adrienne Shaw’s chapter, “Does Anyone Really Identify with Lara Croft? Unpacking Identification in Video Games?”, from her book to explore the topic more. Shaw interviewed people and had them play games and afterwards spoke to them about identifying with the characters and what they meant to them. Obviously the results were varied and subjective but “the ways interviewees connected with media characters encompassed the expected identifies, as well as life experience, personalities, senses of humor, actions and choices. In general it was described as emotion or intellectual connection (or both)…” (69) Except some of the interviewees said that “they sympathized and perhaps even empathized with a character in a show, but they did not feel as that this meant they identified with them” (70). As there was such diverse answers and differentiating between identifying with and identifying as, Shaw says that identification is also “about seeing ourselves reflected in the world and relating to images of others” (70). Surface level identifiers such as race, age, and gender were not enough to simply form a connection with a character. The character’s personality and experiences were more important. For some, identifying with a character was not important at all and had nothing to do with enjoyment. One person even said that they were least likely to play violent games due to she identified as anti violent. If the game seemed less like something that they could relate to then the greater the chance they would not play it. In a way, negative representation matters but not necessarily positive representation. So, what I assumed going into the reading, when it comes to identifying with a character it is all very subjective and really depends on the player. When it comes to making a relatable character, the experiences and background story of the character seems to matter more than appearance. A woman of color could be the main character but if not portrayed or designed correctly, than the fact that she is a woman of color does not really seem to matter. If a game developer wants to purposefully design a character to be good representation and someone people can relate to , than the surface level traits are just the beginning. If a game developer just wants to create a fun game and good representation is not their goal, as long as it is not negative than people seem to be okay with it.

I think this can be seen a lot with Bayonetta because although her backstory it not something happens to people “in real life” she has characteristics and a personality that some women can relate to and that is important. She is intelligent, powerful, can be callous but can also be caring. She has a unique personality that many female characters in games do not often compare to. So although many people do sexualize her, and that is due to the surface level appearances, it is important for a character to be more than just their appearance. I think Tiff Chow is a good person to bring up again when it comes to speaking about Bayonetta and relatability because to her Bayonetta is way too campy and exaggerated and her sexuality is just a surface level trait that needs more substance. She states, “Perhaps if the Bayonetta‘s storyline and narrative were more compelling I’d be more convinced that Bayonetta’s sexuality is substantial and worth recognizing, but I think we can all agree that that’s not the case.”

Character Design and Design Documents

Some extra readings I did to research more character design and design documents:


What’s Next:

I want to do one last in depth (meta) analysis of the debates surrounding Bayonetta. I want to look at the arguments for and against her and what people have done to create certain pictures of her. By doing this, I hope to understand the ideas and concepts behind them in order to start creating a strategy on creating a character that could represent a female character with sexual agency.

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