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Article - 'Cause & Affect' by Guest

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Nov 14, 2004


Sogon Cires explains affect in your stories, including sadness and anger. A very good read!


Cause & Affect
By: Sogon Cires

No my friend, that’s not a typo. Affect means, “A feeling or emotion as distinguished from cognition, thought, or action.” (Quoted from the American Heritage Dictionary) That basically means how people act when something bad happens to them. I’ve noticed quite a few novice games don’t really acknowledge affect. Though it’s not as rampart a problem as typos, it still can really ruin an otherwise good RPG. I’m no expert on psychology, no one really is, but I’d like to offer you some ways to imply affect in your game. I’ll cover the basic sad and angry stuff, but I’m also going to discuss some lesser-known aspects of affect later on, so stick around and maybe you’ll learn some things!

Boohoo! I wost my bwankie
Did your long time love just get eviscerated in a battle against the one true evil? Ain’t that but a bitch… In one game I was playing recently, the last boss in the game vaporized the hero’s lady friend. What did the hero do? Did he get angry and release a super-nova blast fueled by the memory of his lost love and destroy the baddie? Nope, he fell to his feet and cried, bitched, and moaned! Yeah, it was sad, but that just wasn’t realistic given the circumstances. If a big bad ugly came up to you, and burned up your boo, would you:
A) Break down and cry while the monster is still there
B) Take your ball and leave
C) Get even and open a can o’ whoop ass!
Of course the answer is C, if you answered otherwise you should kindly close the browser and go hang yourself. Whilst the monster is right in front of the hero, he should have put the kibosh on his evil ways and mourned later when the world was safe and the credits had already rolled. If his honey had died in a horrible car crash then it would be a different story, he’d probably start crying right away. Yeah, I’m making some mighty big assumptions here, who’d know what the hero would do in any situation? Not everyone reacts the same way. While this is largely true, I still maintain that unless your character has some sort of emotional impairment he should get angry at the baddie who killed his girl before he starts to cry.

Crying is okay at times, remember that it is perfectly natural for anyone to cry, but it is NOT socially acceptable. I can’t think of one culture where crying is perfectly fine thing to do. Crying is a sign of weakness, no matter how you spin the bottle; if you cry in public you’ve automatically got no balls (Sorry to the women readers, I’m just appealing to the masses). I’m talking about crying full blast, with the snot and everything, a single drop rolling down your cheek can be oh so cool under the right circumstance. This includes the ladies.

Oh! You-Damn! Freakin’ sturpid smart-alliky…go to your room!
If you don’t recognize the above line, it’s likely you never put the cat in the washing machine. Well, you should, it’s a lot of fun. Now that I’ve made that point, I think I’ll move on to the real meaning of this section. Anger! Before we get the heart of this section I want you to know that if you’ve ever let the air our of someone's tires then you might need to read this, but if you’ve ever taken a baseball bat to a windshield, then you’re far more in touch with your inner anger than anyone has a right to be, and you should skip this section, since you’re already so proficient in the subject. In fact, you should be writing this section!

Anger is fun. Your brain shuts down and you can’t talk in full sentences anymore, your hands can flail randomly around your head, and you left arm can go tingly…oh the wonders of anger. In most RPGs anger is represented with nothing but capital letters, observe; “ARGH! I HATE KOREAN FOOD!!!” Also take not of the three exclamation points, this means something…I have no idea what, but it does mean something. I don’t think that when people are mad they talk in all capitols, but I could be wrong…it’s very hard to detect spoken capital letters. When I represent anger I sometimes use red letters, or I use the other characters to inform the player he’s angry, like this.

John: Bob…are you okay?
John: Calm down Bob, no need to get angry.
Bob:Don’t tell me how to feel damn it! If I want to be angry there isn’t a thing you can do about it! So go sit on it!

Wow, I don’t know about you, but I think Bob is a pile of crap. Anger is hard to get right, but there’s really no way to do it wrong. So here’s where I’ll end this section

“Hello there, I’m a nut, nice to meet you!”
Okay, so we know affect is important to a character…but what about when a character shows no affect? It’s possible, and it’s pretty common. Certain loons grow up without emotions. They’re soulless automatons, they kill without mercy and they feel neither love nor compassion. Don’t these people sound cool? Well, on paper they do, but I’d hate to run into these nuts. In fifth grade I knew this kid that kept pulling the skin off of his finger, he’d cut into his finger, and pull on the skin until it came up! This kid was a loon for sure, and I knew that if the urge came over him he’d kill me and not bat an eye. I’d rather eat calamari than see this freak again. And for good reason, a few years ago he killed a guy in Dallas. These people who lose their affect are completely incurable, they’ll spend their entire lives ruled by the most basic of instincts.

But just because you don’t always display affect doesn’t make you a psychopath, most people hide their affect, and some make it a point never to show their true emotions. While these people will and do have a hard time operating in society, it’s not impossible for them to live a happy life.

Show’s Over
Yeah, you heard me. It’s finally over. I didn’t cover as many fields as I would have liked to, but I’m sure you can use this as the foundation to creating great characters complete with affect in your game. So get out there and start making you characters come alive with emotion or dead inside with a complete lack of affect.

And remember… assume makes an ass out of you and me...