Archetype vs. Stereotype, The Dealio

Clint-Eastwood-Photograph-C12149814.jpegIn Activision employee James Portnow's weekly column, he justifiably calls out the gaming industry for creating stereotypes where they mean to create archetypes.

we tend to end up with stereotypes when what we're looking for is archetypes. If you look at almost all of the most memorable videogame characters...they are all archetypical. The problem is that the line between an archetype and a stereotype is very subtle and, as established above, conveying that subtlety in the limited context of a videogame is often too much to ask.

But Portnow might be giving the industry a bit too much credit, as many games are clearly the result of developers with Hollywood hard-ons who are packing too much in...generally in the form of cliché (Gears of War, though a ton of fun, is totally guilty of this).

I also think subtlety is another word for restraint, and it's often the silent types who transcend to archetypes: think Mario or the Clint Eastwood cowboy. Videogame characters often play silently and then wisecrack it up during cut scenes.

But can anyone give a concrete reason why Marcus Fenix is not an archetype (and I'd argue never will be) while Snake (from Metal Gear fame) is?

Then again, look at the Team Fortress 2 videos. They are full of stereotypes, yet they are fun and fresh because they are poking fun at said stereotypes (or drinking the Koolaid with such ferocity that it's all new again). They make us laugh at silly debates like this.

There's no conclusion here, but hopefully the beginning of another discussion. GAME DESIGN: Character Archetype vs. Stereotype [nextgen]


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