The Importance of Great Character Designs in Games

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Computer graphics has seen remarkable advancement in the past two decades.

But even in the 2D pixel art days, game players have always been attracted to games revolving around charismatic characters. Today, with computer graphics being deployable across many platforms with a wide spectrum of possibilities with less technical inhibitions, many of these characters have been immortalized into 3D versions.

The very fact that these characters survived the transition from 2D to 3D is testimony of the fact that their charisma spans across the different generations. Examples are Super Mario, Donkey Kong and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Good character designs can help to make a game look that much more interesting and propel sales. But great character designs can actually help to create huge franchises out of games, build up companies and even shape the landscape of the gaming industry.

Again, we should take a close look at how Super Mario, Donkey Kong and Sonic the Hedgehog have helped to create a legacy for themselves and their companies.

Mario used to be known as Jumpman and he debuted virtually unknown in the earlier Donkey Kong games. Just look at where he is today.

As of 1999, Super Mario Bros. was the best selling video game for all time and was largely responsible for the initial success of the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was even responsible for ending the two year slump of video game sales in the United States after the video game crash of 1983. Mario has an entire series of video games to his name and his hit game Super Mario Bros.
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has been ported to almost every single one of Nintendo’s major gaming consoles. Mario is probably the single most recognizable gaming character in history today! It is amazing when you think how the folks over at Nintendo saw his star potential and took the first steps to ‘grooming’ him.

Sonic the Hedgehog – a rolling hedgehog which runs at super-sonic speed – is the lead character of a video game series under the same name released by Sega, as well as numerous spin-off comics, cartoons and books. The first game in the franchise was released on June 23rd, 1991 in order to provide Sega with a mascot to rival Nintendo’s flagship character Mario. Since then, Sonic has become one of the world’s best-known video game characters, with his series having sold over 45 million copies. In 2005, Sonic was one of the first game character inducted into the Walk of Game, alongside Mario, Halo and Link.

I cannot stress enough on the importance of looking beyond the physical appearance and taking into consideration other factors which are just as important – if not more important – for the character’s success. These include looking at licensing and merchandising potential and enriching the character with a personality and story.

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