Personality. The most vital ingredient when making a character, and the bridge between player and avatar to connect them both. These characters will have a purpose in their game which affects how they act and what their morals are either against the players will or according to how the player progresses. And it’s decisions like these that influence the player and manipulates their decisions or views in game.
Lets take Kratos, from the God of War series. Tormented by his past, wearing the ashes of his family, and wronged by almost everyone, its pretty obvious that this guy is a very unhappy man. And angry. Really angry. Right from the start menu we are looking into the face of our protagonist, with not even a glimmer of content present on his face. Gradually his anger rises in later installment, as his body moves with every breath he takes, staring right into your soul. This one-to-one approach puts the player in a position of complete obedience to Kratos, and almost harbors his rage when learning more about his story.
In his blinding rage, Kratos rarely holds any consideration for anyone that crosses his path, and if killing that being gets them out of his way, then so be it, and the player can’t argue with this. Even when dealing with helpless people, anyone showing signs of weakness and of no use to Kratos, will be dealt with against players will and gradually they will feel as though these actions are necessary. The players morals are diminished when put into the role of a raging badass, and even their conscience will be muted because of the godly powers they have at their fingertips. And with that feeling buzzing through their veins, having sex with mythical babes feels like a much deserved reward. But not always do we submit ourselves to these emotionless actions and actually feel a moral engagement, a cringe, a twitch of pain or remorse for the crimes committed.
In the book Game Writing: Narrative Skills for Videogames, there is a chapter about character personality, and in one section mentions how personality can be used to conceal purpose. Which is where our buddy Kratos is mentioned, where he kills a man in order to open a bridge to further is journey. The man is depicted as an object of gameplay, such as the rope for the bride, rather than another being.
However, we do come across many games that give us the choice to act according to how we feel, which reflects on good or bad karma and effects both how the character is seen both visually and socially (in-game). For example, Fallout 3 and infamous have a good and bad system that spreads through that virtual world. NPC’s will react according to what the players moral views stand. So if Cole takes the route of ‘infamous’, there will be posters depicting him as a villain and citizens will not be cheering for him. But this is all due to the players decisions!