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Article - 'Triggering Anger' by Xanqui

An item about Game Design posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

An article about giving your characters motivation to get revenge.

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NOTE: This article contains some spoilers to games. The game will be clearly labeled, so if you are currently/planning on playing any of these games or seeing any of these movies, please don’t read that section. Or at least, don’t blame me for ruining it for you. Don’t worry though, because all of the secrets that I mention are revealed near the beginnings of these games.

Would it really bother you if you turned out to be a clone of a great warrior who died a thousand years ago? Would it cause you to randomly kill everyone in sight, form a massive army, and take over the world? I sure would, but would anyone really care all that much? Of course not. The idea of someone with a depressing history turning evil on a whim makes no sense.

“But Xanqui, Hitler turned evil!” Not really. He was pretty much evil from the start. Raised by people who didn’t like others all that much, then dealing with those he hated for some time would surely drive someone towards evilness.

But surely, there’s not enough time in your book or your game to give an entire background of the villain to show exactly why they’re evil. So how can we solve this problem quickly and efficiently? We must trigger anger by breaking the rules of reality. Your storyline is not reality. You have control over it, so you choose what happens.

My previous article got bad reviews because I used Final Fantasy as an example, so for those of you who want to hear examples that AREN’T related to Final Fantasy, scroll down. For those of you who couldn’t care less, continue reading.

I based that first paragraph on Sephiroth. In Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth appears to change from good to evil within a span of about five minutes of game time. Upon learning about himself being a clone, he freaked out, locked himself up, and didn’t leave the Shinra Mansion until he was certain that he was out of place among everyone else. So what did he decide to do? He decided to KILL EVERYONE! Right?

Wrong. Sephiroth had hidden motivation. The game didn’t go into great detail about this, but gave just enough information to let the player know that Hojo specifically designed him to search for the Promised Land. It was Sephiroth’s DESTINY to summon his clones to the crater, where he would create meteor to destroy the world, and thus, find the Promised Land…and kill everyone in the process. Instead of focusing on these details, the game made it appear that Sephiroth’s only motivation to kill was because he was a clone.

But let’s focus on some other types of motivations.

NON-FINAL FANTASY SECTION


The IUF Chronicles
I’ve decided to use my storyline as an example. The primary villain of the series is a species known as the Zukians, who seem to want to kill everything in sight. But as the story progresses, the characters begin to realize that the Zukians had a horrible past, and the gods of their universe tortured the species by depriving them of food and natural resources. The Zukians evolved to adapt to harsh environments, but the gods kept making it worse and worse, until finally, the Zukians destroyed their gods, and learned to live without them. Of course, with all of this power and now evolved into viscous beasts, the Zukians decided to spread across the realm to use their abilities.

Of course, this wasn’t on a whim. This took trillions of years for the Zukians to finally change. But the reader learns all of this in a single chapter.

Ah, does it make sense now? Anger is triggered on a whim to the audience, but to the characters, it can take years and years before anything changes.

But not all anger comes from villains. What about the heroes?

Max Payne.
I tried to play this game all the way through, but the controls annoyed me. I finally got sick of it and uninstalled it from my computer. But the main character of that story, Max Payne, gets really super pissed when gangsters kill his wife and child/ren. Now, I’m not entirely sure what this had to do with the story, but this affected his personality greatly. Once a cop with morals and dignity, now a depressed near-maniac, Max has pretty much lost all reason to live. All he wants to do is get through life as best he can, and end the crime ring in New York City.

Max narrates the story throughout the game, occasionally dropping hints with a subtle tone that expressed his anger towards the villains. If you ever get a chance, read Woman’s parodies of Max Payne’s soliloquies.

The (Ani)Matrix
You’d probably expect me to mention Agent Smith, but he’s not the important one here. It’s the machines. Long before the Matrix takes place (apparently 100 years before), the robots tried to make peace with the humans. But the humans were jerks, and beat the crap out of them because they were robots, and humans didn't want robots to have power. So the robots created their own colony and left the humans alone. All was right, until the robots finally decided to join the United Nations, where they were again, beat up.

The humans then launched a full-scale invasion of the robots, and killed pretty much all of them. The survivors, now really super-pissed-off, fought back. Since humans provided a great power source, the robots created the Matrix by learning how to manipulate the human mind.

It took a hell of a lot for the robots to finally fight back. They did everything they could to maintain peace with the humans, but even a robot can only take so much. There comes a time for just about anyone when, after so much torment, they snap. It’s like the little kid being picked on for years, and one day he comes into school with a heavy bat and finally wins a fight.



So there’s your answer. How do you trigger anger? You torment the crap out of the person until they reach their breaking point. But by the time a character reaches that breaking point, you can’t really blame them for hating their enemy, or even hating the world. They forget their purpose in life, and focus on destruction, because they want to get revenge on the world.

It works just like energy. Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. So let’s overflow an object with energy, such as heat, which will cause the object to explode. Now, fill a human being with anger by beating the crap out of it every day, and one day, what’s that person going to do? EXPLODE!

I can’t get into any more detail without getting anymore redundant. I will suggest, however, that you pay attention to stories with villains. The whole obsession with power doesn’t really have to do with anger, but if you’d like to read about that, I have a series of articles titled: Cruel Intentions, which goes into detail about villains. Anyway, pay attention to the ways these poor bastards are tortured, and if you’re interested in creating a character that is based around anger, use the ideas.

Geez…if I put the Cruel Intentions title on all of my articles relating to villains…this would be like…number eight.

Read Part Two of this Article: Balancing Good and Evil