Character Va Va Voom

Renault used the words Va Va Voom with the help of Thierry Henry to promote their range of cars, later on they also added Animal from the Muppets. Sadly I’m not Thierry Henry and even more drastically – I’m not Animal.

I can’t really give you a detailed explanation over what the term means, although the dictionary does list alongside its entry “exciting”, “vigorous” and “attractive”. Personally I prefer the “going that extra mile” take on the phrase.

We all love games, but we love the characters more. You mention Halo and someone will mention Master Chief, Little Big Planet, Sackboy and Tomb Raider, Lara Croft. It’s the characters that help bring us back for more, the bait on a fishing rod if you will.

One might even look at successful games and take a look at their characters; do they have any prominent ones? The answer in my eyes would be a straight forward yes. Just taking a look at my shelf of games and my obsession with having things laid out in a certain way has led to my favourite games all making their way into one pile. I’d say a rough estimate would see about 80% of them have characters that have that “Va Va Voom” about them, the Big Daddy in Bioshock, the Left 4 Dead quartet and perhaps my favourite amongst the bunch, the Team Fortress 2 line up.The generic box

Team Fortress 2 is a good example of what I’m trying to talk about. On paper the game doesn’t actually sound ‘that’ great, but its execution of what it sets out to do is just superb, but ask yourself this, would Team Fortress 2 work if the characters were generic action hero a, b and c?

It probably wouldn’t, the character design that’s gone into TF2 is simply superb and in my opinion one of the best things about the game. The style of the characters doesn’t just stop at any promotional video (seriously, go watch the “Meet the…” series) or artwork, but it carries on throughout the game.

Mass Effect was a game I really enjoyed, so much so it was the first game I ever bought DLC for. But what about the characters? The background characters were great, but the main character? Stick Commander Shepherd straight into the box labelled “generic action hero” please. The game would have been that much more enjoyable if he wasn’t so bland, so basic… so generic.

Of course the use of generic action hero does work in some cases, Gears of War as an example, but there was just enough life in Dom and Marcus to see them through, although probably helped over the finish line by Cole.

There’s a lot to say about game design these days, and with an ever growing emphasis on DLC and meeting release deadlines, as well as being in a year of sequel amongst sequel it’s hard to see where exactly the next Big Daddy is going to come from.

We could do with a few more engaging characters in the gaming world, they are after all the ones we use to portray our actions in game, or interact with, so why not make them engaging and interesting?

[Tina Tuner]We don’t need another bland hero[/Tina Turner], we need more like Reaver, Sackboy and Guybrush Ulysses Threepwood, we need a few more characters with Va Va Voom.







4 responses to “Character Va Va Voom”

  1. Lorna avatar

    Agreed, I adore those chacters that pull me in like Reaver (one of my all time faves). Others such as Jimmy Hopkins from Bully makes a good showing, as does little Olimar from Pikmin and love him or hate him, Tom Nook. They can be the difference between blandness and memorability. Sometimes, even if you are a little bit disappointed by a game, the character can be that little touch which raises it up for you 🙂 I was swithering about Fable 2 until Reaver glided into the story and now it is up there in my love em pile 🙂

  2. Del Torro El Sorrow avatar
    Del Torro El Sorrow

    When you complained about Shephard being generic I began to feel really very confused at how anyone can miss that that is the POINT.

    He is blank and generic, as YOU are supposed to shape his character and not the game developers. Once you decide on what type of chap he is he stops being generic. Maybe you should start putting a little effort in to games like this?

  3. Gene avatar

    Just play Mass Effect as pure Renegade. You’ll find that Shepard is…plain awesome.

  4. Ben avatar

    The problem with Commander S was the execution of the character, as in how we were able to portray him. His voice was the main problem and it was the way that the audio had that “cut and paste” sound that broke the feeling of him.

    On paper he had the potential to be something really good but the right tools weren’t available for us to really tap into that potential, in my opinion anyway.

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