Welcome back to the second entry in a series entitled Character Games 101!
Last week we talked about how putting your character into a RPG can help fill gaps in their profile that you’d never considered before. This week, we’re gonna talk about what happens if we streamline that characterization process instead of expand upon it–what happens when we tunnel-vision the questions instead of wander around in them?
Character Games #2: Akinator
So, there’s a really fun website that a lot of people play with in their free time, and I’m going to link it, I promise–at the end of this post. Otherwise you’re gonna get distracted and–hey! Don’t scroll down yet! The link will lead to a game called Akinator, which is essentially 20 Questions but where, instead of guessing from the categories “animal, vegetable, or mineral” (which by the way, is an incredibly bizarre taxonomical hierarchy?), it guesses fictional characters based on your yes or no answers! Pretty neat, right?
Aside from being horrifically addictive and mindblowingly in-depth, Akinator gives us an opportunity to inspect your character in simpler ways that the moral dilemmas of RPGs might not. Does your character drink coffee? Do they know how to use a gun? Does your character have any connections to medicine? These questions–albeit bizarre to answer knowing that Akinator is not going to be able to guess your character–are a good way to get a feel for how to wrap your character into a neat little package. Akinator asks questions that cut straight to the core and sift through characteristics with sweeping generalizations, and while this may sound like a bad thing, it’s actually something of which you can take advantage.
You see, our favorite characters from literature can still be summarized in a way that might come across as insulting or oversimplified. Luna Lovegood: quirky, bizarre, intelligent. Schmendrick: bumbling, kindhearted, loyal. Magnus Chase: witty, good, brave. But to say that they can be boiled down to a few adjectives isn’t to undermine the validity of these characters… in fact, character tropes are wildly successful because they work, it works to have someone fit nicely into a box once stripped of what makes them unique.
Go through Akinator and answer the questions about your character as best as you can. Given, when you get to questions like “did you create this character?” you could just end the game by admitting it, but if you stick it out and pick another series? That’s the fun part–whether you know the series from which Akinator guesses or not, give it a shot. See what character you get. Then, once you see profiles that are similar in nature to your own character, you have a unique opportunity to compare the two and see what works about the one that is well-known. Don’t know anything about the character you got? The internet’s got your back. Goodreads, Wikia pages, and IMDB are overlooked wealths of people gushing about their favorite characters.
I did this just now with the protagonist of my kids series; I got Ivy from Ivy and Bean. Right off of the bat this is heartening, because it tells me that I’ve written a character that falls into the genre for which I’m aiming. Now, I read a lot of kids books, but never this particular series, so this also gives me the opportunity to look up Ivy, see what readers think about her and what role she plays in her books. A quick check on Goodreads lets me know that she is generally well-liked, a bookworm of sorts in comparison to her friend Bean, but the real shining point is her friendship with Bean. Coincidentally, my character’s interactions with the people in her life is also my focal point for her growth, so I will try even harder to depict realistically the interpersonal relationships of my main character.
Okay, as promised, here is Akinator! Have fun, try not to get too distracted, and keep writing!