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HelloSkitty

Non-humanoid Protagonist

9 posts in this topic

You are a pixel and you have landed inside a Fractal to save the other pixels from certain death.

You are an ant (seen on the screen as a pixel) and you must lead your colony to conquer the other colonies.

You are a [insert pixel sized creature] and you must [something]


Without human qualities, how do you keep someone interested? Every story I've read, every game I've played, the protagonist is either a human, or an animal with human qualities. But is is possible to keep anyone interested in a story where the main character is a sentient piece of paper? Is the reason that it is not done because people can only relate to other humans?

Uncle Worm and Pacman are examples where the protagonist has no human qualities whatsoever, but those are also arcade games with no storyline or plot.
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Anything that's sentient has human qualities because sentience is a human quality. Eating or collecting, running away, rescuing, and conquering are all activities humans do for motives they share with animals. Anything can work as a protagonist if you give it a motive, activity, and goal that make sense to players. There are definitely existing published stories where the protagonist is something other than a human or animal. I believe Philip K. Dick did a short story where the main character is a shoe, although I'd have to make sure I'm remembering correctly. I'm quite fond of the Edward Gorey story The Epiplectic Bicycle, although it has human characters as well. Actually commercials are a great place to research this. There are many many commercials which tell a little story about a car or a shoe or a scrubbing bubble.
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Rubber and Flower seem very much like what I am looking for, which very abnormal main characters. I do actually remember a commericial about a romance between brooms, so there are probably others similar to it. And:

[quote]
[color=#1C2837][size=2]Anything can work as a protagonist if you give it a motive, activity, and goal that make sense to players. [/size][/color]
[/quote]

I will, very much so, keep that in mind. Thanks for examples, I'll be sure to check them all out!
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I'm reminded of a game called Gish (at least I think that's the name, it was the main character's name at least) where you played as an amorphous blob of goo. The gameplay looked pretty novel, but I'll admit I don't know what the plot was (although it did have one). I think it's fair to say it's not that difficult to get players invested in non humanoids. SimAnt is another example I thought of almost immediately, although it's definitely less of the sort of game you seem to be aiming for.

It's difficult to not impart[i] some[/i] humanity into any sort of protagonist, so in the end, players will almost always be able to find some sort of connection. If you try too hard to subvert that, you're probably going to run into problems. Or a simple arcade game like you mention before.
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You mean this?
[quote]
[font=Arial, Arial, mono][size=2]With his gelatinous structure as his only means of defense, Gish must follow the echoing cries of his damsel in distress deep into the earth below. What freakish creatures dwell in this subterranean land? Who is Brea's captor? And just how far down does the rabbit hole go?

Life isn't easy when you're a 12 pound ball of tar... [/size][/font]
[/quote]

That is exactly what I was looking for! I'm going to try the demo really quick to get a better idea on the story elements. Perhaps also find ways to weave humor into the fact that the game centers on a little viscous ball...
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[quote name='HelloSkitty' timestamp='1313769475' post='4851251']is is possible to keep anyone interested in a story where the main character is a sentient piece of paper?
[/quote]
Yes. With "body" language (1). Or with sound (2).

1. Like the animated desk lamp we used to see on movie screens, or like the movie Wall-E, or the way R2D2 moved.

2. Like the blobs in the PSP game LocoRoco, or the movie Wall-E, or the way R2D2 sounded.
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I would say "yes"; simply "yes". You just need to have a clear role and actions you can take to fulfill that role and then you don't even need a "protagonist" at all, not even an implicit protagonist. It can just be you and some falling squares. Go nuts, just make sure the audience is entertained with whatever you do put in.

As for a story, again, just make sure the audience is entertained.

I once saw an animated short on - I think - Animaniacs which was literally about a piece of wrapping paper that was somewhat shiny and it was narrated. It wasn't even an anthropomorphic piece of paper. It was just some trash. It had to be like 15 years ago and I only saw it once but I definitely remember it. It worked because the narration of what was happening to it gave a certain angle on what was happening that let you project how you'd feel if you were the piece of paper.

Your goals are entertainment and engagement. Everything else is tactics.
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[quote name='HelloSkitty' timestamp='1313769475' post='4851251']
Without human qualities, how do you keep someone interested? Every story I've read, every game I've played, the protagonist is either a human, or an animal with human qualities. But is is possible to keep anyone interested in a story where the main character is a sentient piece of paper?[/quote]

The answer is yes, hands down. But the top developers are mostly into appealing to the masses, which means that a human protagonists becomes the standard. Essentially, the less antropomorphic you get, the less people will be able to relate to them. But antropomorphism isn't just the biology or anatomy, it's also the behaviours, dialogue and more.

Personally, I relate better to beasts like lizardmen, catmen, dog/wolfmen, orcs, undead and so on, because they're the "freakshows" of the world - the ultimate underdogs.
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