Self Insert MC's Versus MC's with Personality

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sasquatchii
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Self Insert MC's Versus MC's with Personality

#1 Post by sasquatchii » Wed Jul 30, 2014 11:45 pm

Which do you guys prefer: Main characters that are generic and bland (so players can self-insert), or main characters with their own personalities and back stories?

I have played games with both types, and have enjoyed both. Although, I think I have played more games with generic characters than games with MCs that have more characterization.

As I write the VN I'm working on now, I realize my MC is definitely going to be very characterized, with a personality and mindset very different than most peoples'.

Do you guys see this as a good thing or a bad thing? What are the benefits of both types? Are there any huge cons to either type? Are there other types of protagonists on VN's that I'm missing?

Sorry if this has been brought up before, I'm still fairly new to the forums, and this question has been at the back of my mind for a bit!
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Re: Self Insert MC's Versus MC's with Personality

#2 Post by Chocopyro » Thu Jul 31, 2014 12:04 am

Nah, I agree with you. The only games I actually prefer a generic, bland protagonist are the games like Persona where you choose just about everything you say anyways. Otherwise, I like main characters with colorful personalities, backbones, certain views of the world (Even if they differ from my own) and with one hell of an experience or story to tell. I like main characters who really feel like they have roots in the world.

Basically it boils down to this for me: Games where I'm playing a more story-centric role, I prefer characters who have their own egos. In games where I'm more interacting with the world and exploring it, I prefer "puppet" protagonists if you could call them that. XD

And yeah, its been brought up before, though most of the time I see the topic pop up in threads with a different topic anyways.
Last edited by Chocopyro on Thu Jul 31, 2014 12:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Self Insert MC's Versus MC's with Personality

#3 Post by Asceai » Thu Jul 31, 2014 12:07 am

I wouldn't mind if the former kind of protagonist disappeared entirely.

In any case, as I have a personality I relate better to a protagonist with a personality. So the 'blank slate' protagonist automatically fails in its stated objective.

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Re: Self Insert MC's Versus MC's with Personality

#4 Post by sempersapiens » Thu Jul 31, 2014 12:07 am

I think what's important is having a character the player can relate to. You can accomplish this by letting the player make all the choices and basically make the character act like they would, or you can give the character a more distinct personality with less player control, but give the player insight into why they make the choices they do. I feel like the self-insert type probably works better for light-hearted dating games, while a more defined character would be better in a more serious story, but I'm sure a good writer could make it work the other way around.

What I don't think I would like is having a player character that's somewhere in between the two. If I can act like myself most of the time, but then there's one part where the character just decides to be an asshole and I have no choice in the matter, that would probably annoy me. But if the character is just always an asshole and I can never change that, then that's fine as long as it's well-written.

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Re: Self Insert MC's Versus MC's with Personality

#5 Post by Rossfellow » Thu Jul 31, 2014 12:09 am

It really depends on the story you're trying to portray and the feel you're going for. Both are ultimately effective but one must know their strengths.

One is connecting with a character, and the other is being the character. I'm not a fan of the latter, but Persona pulls this off so well that the lack of personality becomes a personality in itself.
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Re: Self Insert MC's Versus MC's with Personality

#6 Post by Mad Harlequin » Thu Jul 31, 2014 5:07 am

I've always been wary of self-inserts. I feel that even works requiring blank-slate protagonists should give them a foundation for whatever personality the player chooses to create. When done well, self-inserts can be as engaging as a well written protagonist with a predetermined personality.
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Re: Self Insert MC's Versus MC's with Personality

#7 Post by Onomatopoeia » Thu Jul 31, 2014 5:31 am

sasquatchii wrote:I have played games with both types, and have enjoyed both.
Agreed.
Rossfellow wrote:It really depends on the story you're trying to portray and the feel you're going for.
Excellent point!

Just as you, Sasquatchii, I do enjoy both, but only if I'm warned about what what I'm getting into.

Very recently I played two games. Both of them assured me that I would be able shape the personality of the character and my decisions would affect the outcome of the story. Neither delivered on their promises and ruined what I could have otherwise thought to be a compelling and fun story.

I've also encountered the exact opposite - equally upsetting.

So... I have no answer to your questions, but as advice from a player's perspective: let us know which direction you're going to go in, no matter what you decide.

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Re: Self Insert MC's Versus MC's with Personality

#8 Post by Ishvke » Thu Jul 31, 2014 12:51 pm

Self-insert MCs are gross imo.
This opinion may, however, just stem from the fact that most, if not all, the self-insert MCs I've played have been in your everyday, identical slife otomes.
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Re: Self Insert MC's Versus MC's with Personality

#9 Post by sasquatchii » Thu Jul 31, 2014 8:09 pm

sempersapiens wrote:I think what's important is having a character the player can relate to.

What I don't think I would like is having a player character that's somewhere in between the two. If I can act like myself most of the time, but then there's one part where the character just decides to be an asshole and I have no choice in the matter, that would probably annoy me. But if the character is just always an asshole and I can never change that, then that's fine as long as it's well-written.
I couldn't agree more! And I think you have a good point about decisions in game making. I have yet to play a VN that is somewhere between the two- I bet that could be very frustrating for players.
Onomatopoeia wrote: Just as you, Sasquatchii, I do enjoy both, but only if I'm warned about what what I'm getting into.

Very recently I played two games. Both of them assured me that I would be able shape the personality of the character and my decisions would affect the outcome of the story. Neither delivered on their promises and ruined what I could have otherwise thought to be a compelling and fun story.

I've also encountered the exact opposite - equally upsetting.

So... I have no answer to your questions, but as advice from a player's perspective: let us know which direction you're going to go in, no matter what you decide.
This is good advice- I think transparency is key when letting players know what your game is like. I can totally understand being annoyed or upset if you were told one thing about a game and it turned out that the game was the complete opposite!
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Re: Self Insert MC's Versus MC's with Personality

#10 Post by ark99k » Sun Aug 10, 2014 1:13 am

I like main characters who are their own person because not does that make a more consistent storyline, but it also gives me something to take from the vn. When they have their own opinions it gives me an opportunity to broaden my horizons. Maybe I'm thinking too much, but I like things that make me think.

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Re: Self Insert MC's Versus MC's with Personality

#11 Post by Holland » Sun Aug 10, 2014 11:55 am

I appreciate a good character, but it's particularly frustrating when you're playing a game as a character with a set personality that you absolutely can't stand. That's always a risk when it comes to creating that kind of character. However, I believe all main characters should have thoroughly fleshed backstories (unless that's the point of the story). I dislike it when you're playing a VN and there's no thorough explanation of how you ended up where you are as the character regardless of the presence of a personality. Yet, I enjoy self-insert leads, so long as there are a lot of options. I just don't think all stories are well suited for 'insert self' leads - i.e. linear visual novels where you don't get to make many choices or have the same ending no matter what route you take. Those just seem pointless to me unless the lead has a very strong personality.

I also think that there should be *something* unique to the character to take back in self-insert. Maybe the lead has a habit of cursing no matter what nice options you choose? Maybe the lead is really naiive and means the opposite of what you think when you choose an option? (i.e. - you: "Sleep with me!" other character: *strips* lead: "Whoah wait that's not what I meant!") It's easiest to think of it in the term of fan art; it makes no sense if everyone is drawing a character that looks the same but acts totally different. The lead character should really have a few solid personality traits with or without an impact on the story.

And for reference: In the VN I'm working on right now, the lead starts out with amnesia, and the player can mold their personality based on their dialogue responses. Regaining the character's memories brings in their original attitude as a split personality that shows in response to fighting or certain triggers. It's kind of a mesh of both.

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Re: Self Insert MC's Versus MC's with Personality

#12 Post by gekiganwing » Sun Aug 10, 2014 1:01 pm

If you ask me, I don't think the term "self insert" has much of any positive connotations. Perhaps this stems back to all the time I spent looking through '90s fanfiction based on Ranma 1/2. At the time, I thought there were a lot of stories that introduced nearly invincible characters, and that paired them off with one of the girls.

Anyway, I don't mind blank slate main characters, and I'm also okay with clearly defined main characters. A couple of other things that I might also enjoy, though they're a bit rare to find:

* There is no point of view character. The story is told from either third person omniscient or limited point of view. (Yes, there are a few examples in English on the VNDB.)
* A raising simulation in which the main character's actions shape a different character's personality.
BarabiSama wrote:In the VN I'm working on right now... the player can mold their personality based on their dialogue responses.
I consider this to be another interesting design choice.

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Re: Self Insert MC's Versus MC's with Personality

#13 Post by SundownKid » Sun Aug 10, 2014 2:17 pm

I always prefer a well defined MC with a personality over a generic insert MC. It's the same was in RPGs, I am not a big fan of silent protagonists or totally customizable player stand-ins over a jRPG-style main character. Though in the case of Fire Emblem Awakening, I like how they made the MC customizable and yet still have a personality and character. It doesn't always work, though.

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Re: Self Insert MC's Versus MC's with Personality

#14 Post by E-night » Sun Aug 10, 2014 2:46 pm

I have only rarely felt that I played a character that I felt had was truely blank slade and being able to self insert where I could play as myself in a vn and thus self insert characters often just become bland characters that I don't care about.


Blank slade/self insert doesn't work for me in VN's because in 9/10 vn's is written in first person and with access to the mc's thoughts and feelings which means the MC can never truely be a blank slade, which makes the MC an self insert and comes with unspoken rule about what is 'normal' and I often end up feeling abnormal because I don't act like that at all.

For me if I care more about the LI's/NPC than the main character, I don't enjoy the story. I also don't have to love the MC, as long as I am not indifferent to the main character and the main character's fate I can enjoy the story.

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Re: Self Insert MC's Versus MC's with Personality

#15 Post by Kokoro Hane » Sun Aug 10, 2014 6:16 pm

I prefer MCs that are their own characters, such as Okarin from Steins;Gate is a good example. I usually try to write MCs that have their own personality and will do things in the story not even caused by some of the choices you make for them. Usually when I write for an MC, the most I do is present a choice that will affect certain aspects of how the story unfolds rather than building the MC's personality. The character already has set feelings and choices are usually legit things they would think about briefly before deciding.
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