Videogames in Critical Contexts HNRS 353-002 (Spring 2012)


A Closer Look at the Plinkett Test

Following the Dramatic Storytelling in Games presentation by Seamus Sullivan at the Writing for Games Conference on Tuesday, I wanted to further investigate his second tip for creating videogame characters: Apply the Plinkett Test. I personally had never heard of this test, and thought Sullivan's description of it was intriguing. Basically, the test consists of describing a character in a story, or movie, or game, without referencing their appearance, profession, or what they do in the story. Sullivan asked a few members of the audience to present their favorite videogame characters and subject them to this test. Two of the proposed characters were Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario. Surprisingly, even with the little narrative, per say, that exist in the games that these characters are a part of, the audience members were able to describe these characters using this test, describing Sonic as cocky, and sort of a BA with a good heart, and Mario as a light-hearted hero. Now of course, not all games are intended to have characters that play integral roles in the games themselves, and some omit characters completely. But, for the games that Sullivan was pinpointing, it was interesting to think about just how crucial it is to develop characters that the audience can really relate to, in and out of the game. The Plinkett test is a great indicator as to how well we will be able to associate with these characters, and just how much we will invest in them. Mario and Sonic are two great examples of characters that are globally recognized because players see them as more than just a hedgehog and a plumber. Gamers worldwide relate to the character of these characters, for lack of a better terminology. When developing games that are story-based, Sullivan stressed just how crucial it is to give the player someone to see themselves in, because this is in fact who will be leading us through the entire game. Also, Sullivan proposed that if the main character is going to be rather void of details, that there should be other non-player characters (NPC's) that fulfill this same purpose.

Anyway, I just found this test to be very accurate in terms of identifying characters with more to them than a name and face, but rather, an identity. If you're interested, you can view the original Plinkett Test from Red Letter Media here, beginning at around the 7:00 mark. (WARNING: Graphic Language.) In this original test, the characters in Star Wars Episode I were being put to the test. Through this video you can see the stark contrast between the greatly detailed and rounded characters of the first movies, versus the empty, essentially floating characters of Episode I. The video in its entirety is pretty entertaining if you're interested, but you'll find the Plinkett Test applied at that location.

This test, and (the playwright) Sullivan's presentation are yet a further demonstration of the interconnectivity between the integral component of storytelling in all areas: literature, movies, and videogames.

Posted by lhokanso

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