Race and Player Character

Is Jade (the player character in Beyond Good and Evil)? It seems that that opinion vary (see, Chris Kohler’s “Jade Is Black?!”: Racial Ambiguity in Games). Kohler writes:

It’s quite likely that the game’s designers wanted Jade to be racially ambiguous, so that she would have just this effect. By which I do not mean “making people fight on message boards.” I mean causing the player to see in Jade whatever they want to see, so as to better identify with her. (Kohler.)

Pat Miller criticizes Kohler’s argument in the entry Race and Player Characters questioning whether racial ambitiousnesses will be a general design solution for making a game approachable by different groups and there is a point.

I am not certain whether Kohler’s point was intended as general design rule, but a possible design choice. However, I am not convinced on Kohler’s premises. Kohler argues: “The more details that define a character, the more you distance the player from it, and the less engaged the player becomes.” To me, it is not obvious why more details in character would inevitable lessen the engagement. On the contrary, as I have argued earlier that empathic engagement is a mode of engagement with a game that relies on defining character traits via, e.g., affective expressions (as a side note, I am not claiming that that the empathic engagement is the only mode of the engagement). Moreover, the claim neglects the links between character traits and a game systems (see, my Building and reconstructing character: A case study of Silent Hill 3).

Published by lankoski

Petri Lankoski, D.Arts, is a Associate Professor in Game Studies at the school of Communication, Media and IT at the Södertörn University, Sweden. His research focuses on game design, game characters, role-playing, and playing experience. Petri has been concentrating on single-player video games but researched also (multi-player) pnp and live-action role-playing games. This blog focuses on his research on games and related things.

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