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Children's Fantasy

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Hello everyone:

I've been around these forums for a while, lurking and such, and decided on a whim that I should post something here.

I read a book called Lazarillo de Tormes the other day (it's similar to Huckleberry Finn), and this made me think: How can I make a game that's truly about children? It's no more made for children than either of the books I just mentioned, but the protagonist is a child. The story is picaresque and a bildungsroman: I would prefer that it is fantasy, but I'm just brainstorming here.

I don't have time right now to post more, but what do you think?

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Just ask yourself what you did when you were little and iterate on that.
The aesthetics are difficult to re-invent from the perspective of a grown up, i guess...

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Shouldn't this be in "writing for games"?

About kids stories, the things you did as a child and the way you thought back then may make a great inspiration. Also you could talk to some kid and ask about his/her fantasies.

About Lazarillo i've readed it and i remember the part of the fake miracle, so funny.

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I'm not a huge fan of very young protagonists in stories except in two cases:

First, I like kids to be central when the story is designed to present candidly and without bias a commonsense truth that many adults are unable to see. Huck Finn's unique perspective on life and his ability to view complex social issues from a fresh and unadulterated perspective gave Twain a good way to offer his observations without actively calling his audience baggage-laden tools. That's great.

Second, young characters are a great vehicle for messages of growth and maturation. I recently watched the Gurren Lagann series on the internet, and I was initially repulsed by the central character, Simon, because he was a little kid in a giant robot suit and that's a recipe for a lot of Japanese exports that I find odious. Over the course of the series, he grows up, gains insight into the badass adult characters from the earlier episodes, finds himself in an unpleasantly grown-up bureaucratic situation and ultimately finds his strength in a blend of his newfound adult perspective and his regained adolescent clarity. That really worked for me.

So if you're going to make a story for adults and featuring children, make sure that it's worthwhile.

I just googled "bildungsroman", and it's apparently a really convenient way of encapsulating my second point, so I'll just encourage you to cling to that. It's a narrative challengs, which supports klefebz's assertion that it's a writing problem more than a game design problem. Make sure that the game has enough linearity to properly express that progression, but beware making it too preachy or boring.

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Quote:
Original post by klefebz
Shouldn't this be in "writing for games"?


Yes it should. [smile]

Stories with child main characters tend to be of two major types: school story, or adventure where the child is not accompanied by any (responsible) adults. Adventures can overlap with school stories; the school part can include social drama, comedy, or romance, while the adventure part can include sports, fighting, fantasy elements, mystery elements, horror elements, and maroonings or journeys. The school story does not have to be a literal school, it can be any setting where several children are living together mostly without adult interference; for example Useless Animals is a cute cartoon about a mixed group of young animals living in the woods.

Huckleberry Finn for example is an adventure journey with some comedy elements and some social drama elements. The Jim Henson Movie Labyrinth is a fantasy adventure journey with some comedy and romance elements. The Harry Potter series is split between a school story and a fighting adventure, with some mystery, horror, romance, and comedy elements. So, pick which of these elements you want to be in your story, and what you want your setting to be.

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This thread was meant to be more about game design, but I suppose I didn't get to the point. =/

How would one model the perspective of a child? I can imagine a game that would subvert reality, like Don Quixote, or has an unreliable narrator, like Huck Finn and some of the stories in the Arabian Nights. It's not as easy to critique society in a video game as in a book, but I cannot readily think of another reason to play as a youth.

What is the measure of roleplaying? Is a game that makes the player doubt reality a good idea?

I'll start a new thread in game design on roleplaying.

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I think there are several other reasons to make a game with a child main character than critiquing society. If you want the player to approach the game world with a childlike or dreamlike mindset (perhaps the game is cartoon/humor and you don't want the player to be distracted by lack of realism), giving them a child avatar encourages them to do that. Or, perhaps you want to tell a story about a theme (e.g. friendship, fairness, the power of the imagination, one's relationship with a parent...) which seems more directly relevant to children than adults. You might still want to present this theme to adults, but presenting it from the viewpoint of a child character can avoid irrelevancies and ambiguities that would creep in if you did the same story with an adult character.

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Re: Sunandshadow

Quote:
Original post by Sun Wukong
This thread was meant to be more about game design, but I suppose I didn't get to the point. =/

How would one model the perspective of a child? I can imagine a game that would subvert reality, like Don Quixote, or has an unreliable narrator, like Huck Finn and some of the stories in the Arabian Nights. It's not as easy to critique society in a video game as in a book, but I cannot readily think of another reason to play as a youth.

What is the measure of roleplaying? Is a game that makes the player doubt reality a good idea?

I'll start a new thread in game design on roleplaying.


Maybe he is not talking about a game where not only does the player controls a child protagonist, but one where the player could win only if they think like a child. So it is a game where the player could try to use the PC as a vessel of an adult mind, but in that game, as long as the player is thinking like an adult, the player would lose.

If this is the case, then a pivotal design question is,

"Why should the player lose if they think like an adult?"

To answer this question, Sun Wukong was thinking along the line that:

o Because the adult way of thinking is wrong.
o .. Since the game says that the adult thinking is wrong, the game is a critique of society

There could be other reasons, some are innocent:

o Because the PC is surrounded by other kids and the only help the PC can get is from those kids. So if the player thinks like an adult, the other kids will not understand.

o Because the player cannot directly control the action of the PC, instead, the player can only give commands. If the player gives adult-like commands, the PC will not understand, or misunderstand and do the wrong action.

o Because the content of the game is mischievous, and the more the PC acts like an adult, the more severe the punishment would be.

But ultimately, I don't think there is something wrong if the message of the game is exactly that, "Because the adult way of thinking is wrong."

Quote:
What is the measure of roleplaying? Is a game that makes the player doubt reality a good idea?


What is the design goal? Is it trying to get a message across? Is it trying to be popular? My thought is that if a game tries to make the player doubt reality, the arguments in the game should either be solid (or it would feel like a bad propaganda), or undetectable by the player's conscious mind.

[Edited by - Wai on October 25, 2010 4:47:22 PM]

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