I'm launching a new recurring series here on Brainy Gamer called Character Close-up. I intend to carefully consider selected characters from narrative games in an effort to better understand how they convey meaning to us through their design, presentation, storytelling, and interactive relationship with the player.
I've focused on characters here many times, but never in a truly sustained way that tracks the arc of a character through an entire game. Don't worry, I'm not interested in recounting a blow-by-blow account of plot-points so much as chronicling a character's path through a game, taking into consideration the ludic, narrative, and aesthetic elements of that journey.
As is often the case with video games, we're all figuring out how to do this as we go along (which is half the fun, I think). Artists and scholars have well-honed tools for analyzing characters in books, plays, and films; but we continue to invent, borrow, and modify the tools and language needed to carefully scrutinize video games. Part of my effort is to see if I can help advance that ball a bit farther down the field - without drowning myself in jargon or academese. Mixed metaphors there. Sorry.
I've chosen as my first subject: Jade from Beyond Good & Evil. Jade's stature has continued to grow among gamers in many circles, and she is routinely listed among the best video game characters of all time. She's a smart, intrepid photo-journalist who busts open conspiracies and rescues orphaned kids. She even meditates. Five years after she first appeared, Jade still stands out from the crowd. She was a breath of fresh air to me back in 2003, and I'm eager to give the game a closer look to understand why. Perhaps, with dozens more games under my belt, I'll perceive her differently now. We'll see.
For my first time out, I'll be assisted by the members of the Vintage Game Club. We began our playthrough of Beyond Good & Evil today, and I'm sure I'll learn a great deal from the many informed opinions I always discover there. If you'd like to join us, please feel free to pop over and sign up. We'd love to have you.
I hope you will find this project interesting and useful. As always, I value your comments and feedback...especially on a series that I'm sure will evolve as I go along. I'll return tomorrow with some thoughts on Beyond Good & Evil's expositional presentation of Jade in the early stages of the game.