Fake game Friday: Player versus Character

I just finished reading The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia, and it gave me a pretty unusual (but hopefully interesting) idea for a short, independent game.

Initially charting the picaresque adventures of a bed-wetting father and his lime addicted daughter as they make a new life together, The People of Paper takes a sharp narrative turn about a quarter through the book. Tired of being forced into absurd, depressing situations for the entertainment of the reader, the characters literally revolt against the author who has created them. In order to dissuade the author from writing about their thoughts, the characters force themselves to think of meaningless gibberish; attempting to grant themselves some sort of privacy from the prying eyes of the reader, the characters cover passages — and sometimes, entire pages — in black bars. The protagonists refuse to continue the story as it is written, and the rest of the novel chronicles the characters’ war against the author, Salvador Plascencia. 

After finishing the novel and coincidentally watching Duck Amuck, the greatest Warner Bros cartooon ever made (posted above), I thought it might be fun to play a meta-videogame where the player and the game’s protagonist constantly fought one another.  

Games like BioShock or Portal thematically focus on slavery versus freedom; the player is encouraged to break free of their controlling overlords (GladDOS in Portal, you-know-who in BioShock) and gain their own freedom. That’s all well and good, but what about a game from the other perspective? What about turning the player into the omnipotent, dictatorial overlord and forcing them to keep the game’s characters under control? It is, after all, the position we’re in every single game we play. We always pretend to be the person we’re controlling, but what if the person we’re controlling doesn’t agree with what we want them to do?

I have little beyond a vague inkling as to what this sort of game would entail, to be perfectly honest. First-person perspective is out: it’d be either an RTS, a third person shooter, or, ideally, an adventure game. 

I imagine cursor fights: you click somewhere you want the character to go, but he refuses, or evades your own cursor as you try to click on him. Sort of like Cursor Thief in reverse.

The point of the game would have to revolve solely around controlling the protagonist, obviously; otherwise, the player’s fussing about with the hero would seem like an irritating distraction rather than an odd, potentially interesting bit of gameplay in and of itself. Such a game would have to be independently made and short as hell (the joke would only be funny for so long), but I’d still be really interested to see some sort of videogame along the lines of People of Paper or Duck Amuck. And no, the DS Duck Amuck game doesn’t count.

I dunno — can you think of any specific gameplay conceits centered around the idea of the player fighting with his protagonist?

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Anthony Burch
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