Signals, Noise, and the job of the Author

Created: 2020-01-28 15:38

Last Modified: 2020-01-29 16:10

After my dismal failure to come up with a succinct emotion system (or at least reconcile that system with actual data), I have had a revelation. My job as an author/game developer is not to try to make reality into game form. My job is to deliver an escape for people that they can accept enough to believe, and believe enough to escape. Escapism require a certain amount of collusion between author and audience. I can expect some level of participation on the part of the audience in maintaining the suspension of disbelief. At least if I have presented a compelling story. There is no tale that critics can take afterwards and say "well, sure it's a best seller/blockbuster/etc. But did you actually look at the physics/psychology/economics/etc?"

This is liberating and somewhat scary. I had been a slave to detail up to this point figuring that if I cobbled together enough plausible systems engineering grade research some sort of story would fall out of it. Or, perhaps, this ship would be some sort of living museum for the player to explore with the characters almost as docents to explore the world with. Looking back, that was a bit stupid of me. I mean, there is a ship, I did spend a long time on it, and you better bet that if you peal back a panel there WILL be a plausible set of utilities behind it. But a game with ONLY that will not appeal to many people. Real Sci-Fi nerds want a warp drive and aliens. People who study ships would demand a greater level of detail than I as an artist working on my own could ever hope to deliver. Most people, being people, are primarily intersted in the people who live on board.

There is a law of diminishing returns on how much detail is required to make something convincing. And that is my real goal: convince the audience that this place is real. Convince them that the ship is pretty well thought out. Convince them that a population of real people live on it. Convince them that the strange events on board are governed by sound science, plausible human behavior, and/or the rules of my magic system.

My study if scriptwriting an literature has turned something else up though. People expect certain things to happen, even though they are completely counter to what would happen in reality. There is a counter effect where reality is a little to strange for people to believe. I also have to take care to avoid getting so detailed that it exposes other flaws in my presentation.

My characters are fictional NPCs in an RPG. They are not going to pass the Turning Test. And indeed, their characterizations need to conform to literary archetypes, for the audience to truly accept them. Archetypes are not real people. They have to be more than real in some senses, and less in others. They are a distortion. An art form. A creation.

So along those lines, I give you Breaking down Character Archetypes into Personality Components