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Feb 24 2012

Three Characters People Respect: The Fans and their Appreciation

While that may be true or untrue, this one is about fans who don't go crazy everywhere.

Now, we’ve talked about fandom. We’ve talked about how said fandom can blow things out of proportion and create and destroy ideas and concepts that flesh out the story by rather well-defined writers and designers. This is a far different matter than simple and rabid fandom; that refers to a inconsistent and mostly emotional people who see only that their favored character as either the best of the most deserving of praise above others. These kinds of fans analyze and emphasize the attributes and flaws of the characters and their thoughts, as well as expand and create the world they are from into a coherent and respectable narrative through a critical lens. This may take any form in terms of drawings to fiction to videos meant for character exploration.

The interesting bits come from most series some would certainly expect, but others would not. What fellow gamers have to remember is that the more implication and sublety that are read into a game with less concrete details, the more we feel inclined to build them up and connect the dots because those characters feel relateable to us. My article this week will feature three such heroes, the worlds that have been built and expanded by fans, and how certain examples truly show their great skill. As someone who appreciates the culture and fan-created work in its forms through quality and respect for the original work, I don’t mind sharing the love. And for an added bonus, I shall place a different character for a specific kind of genre; platformer, first-person shooter and role-playing. Let us begin.

 Platformer: Mega Man

And look at all that. This is the big haul, and a bunch of people know it.

The blue bomber, the first of the many robots with a strong will and stronger moral center is one of the more appreciated characters in gaming communities mainly because the science fiction elements combined with a long-and-winding storyline; him as well as his fellow protagonists. X, his brother who would serve to be the progenitor of Reploids-robotic humanity personified- and the threat that would come. And then, generations after his time, his closest ally and greatest rival would take up arms against threats near and far….some far closer than even he imagined.

This level of respect and development comes from very dedicated fans who enjoy what has been made, but also feel betrayed at the same time. That idea comes from a former appreciation from Capcom and the creator of the Robot, Kenji Inafune. After a falling out, the company went and released a number of titles to his titular series without his appreciation or knowledge…while he was still with the company. After creating Megaman Zero, he shouldered that problem and went back to his roots with the newly created Megaman games in 8-bit glory. When he left the company with his own ventures, Capcom kept the license. And now they are making decisions based on a poor-grasp of parody and nostalgia: Many are quite unhappy with the “Mega Man” that will appear in Street Fighter x Tekken. Not because the character isn’t appreciated as a parody, but because they believed the company turned on them by mistreating Inafune’s work.

While the level of appreciation wavers between the new games and the old-school wannabes like 9 and 10, the fans tend to trust what they’ve been told without the corporate mandate; the eight original games with Megaman and Bass, alongside the first five of the X series and final three Zero games tell the story of the “Robot Master” timeline while the “Network” timeline focuses on the other scientist by taking the reins. Fans have built and expanded upon that story to appreciate the timeline and motivations of all involved. Some in consistent series of fan-created fiction. Adding the conflict of soul to machine and the very human fear of fearing something we create ourselves, fiction spread over numerous authors flesh out the human conflict as well as the robotic and reploid. And coming soon, the continual saga of three authors will be melded through one, interpreting the struggle of a psychotic roboticist and his ‘children’ will connect across time. Look towards the Legacy of Metal, and you’ll find what you’re looking for.

 First-Person Shooter: J.C. Denton

Look at this suave guy. He's got the cool, and the guns to back it up.

There was a big reason people were more than a little concerned about the new Deus Ex game by Square-Enix; the character and conflict of man and machine that came from the cyborg known as J.C Denton. This sneaky agent deals with human transmorphism in a world where computers are second nature and the value of a human life and opinion are slowly dwindling. Turned against his former employers, J.C uncovers a conspiracy deeply versed in his own family, two whole nations and multiple criminal organizations later to protect the world from nuclear war.

Deus Ex was not only a heavily immersed psychological story of identity and personality swayed by the strength of growing technology, but a character study on the elite professional archetype seen all over fiction. Denton may have been a professional killer and covert operative, but he was still a man who was close to his brother and the organization who modified everything about him. Through his monotone, there’s a lot of nuanced emotion. Then that company lost its way and used their people as commodity; not inherently good or evil, just the way of doing business. This game has been modded, especially the second one. In it, people have explored and modified the dialogue options of its main characters and his conversations with Denton to reflect the actions of the first game provided that ending was taken. The reflection of Denton’s character in this manner only improves the second game’s villain. There is also the Presidental Emergency mod, which tried to set up Denton as a secret service agent. While the work has been discontinued, to place some time into designing a role for this man provides for me some respect. There a tad more for Deus Ex as well.

Role-Playing: The Child of Bhaal

"Hey, broseph! Wanna maim some villagers, then check out for ice cream? Kickin!"

And now for the creme-de-la-creme. I have mentioned the Big World Project before. Alongside that project are a number of character and character improvement mods which add flavor and dialogue not only with the player to better inform their choices as a personal being, but also between each other. In the quest of many murders and even more heartache, the life of adventure is a beautiful thing where people are added and easily created new personalities.

What makes the Child of Bhaal so liked as a character comes from a very simple notion of simplicity and lack of requirements. The new lord of Murder can be good or evil, since murder can be achieved in both those ends. It can also exist from any profession and any way of life; magic, martial and religious notions have all lead to that same terrible fate, especially on Faerun. And of course it goes without question that wherever murder took place, you could be sure that Bhaal could have been there. A purely blank slate, the Lord of Murder is an effective and well-designed evolution of a character to adventure and personal development. And why not include hundreds of different works and stories built straight into the game to associate that respect? There are more than a number of stories and illustrations about them, but when built into the game itself, there is also that level of dedication present which is hard to deny. While the quality may sometimes be suspect or capable of being too gamebreaking, the level of enjoyment that the game brought is pretty clear.

Next week, I feel more inclined to fans and the fan communities. On that note, I feel like sharing games from that place more directly with my readers here. Four Games, brought to you by those who enjoy a good game and look to their past to carve out a piece of the future through nostalgia.

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