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You Are Forced to See Through the Eyes of Someone You Don't Like or Are Ambivalent About

Consider the hypothetical game illustrated on the preceding page.

The game is set in a strange, undefined land. There is a woman (an NPC) who was the spiritual leader of her people. You (the man in this picture) and she have mutual enemies, but there are many personality conflicts between the two of you. Because you don't share her mystical religion, she treats you as unimportant, and even with pity.

What I'm doing here is flipping upside down some of the Rooting Interest Techniques to make her somewhat unlikable. In this case, we'd make her extremely arrogant and dismissive toward you. Also, she cares about her own people, but no one else (such as humans like you). Additionally, there's an instance where you could use her help and she doesn't come to your aid—not because she hates you, but because she could care less.

I wouldn't flip so many Rooting Interest Techniques, however, that I'd make her loathsome. The idea is to make the player highly ambivalent about her.

She is killed by your mutual enemy, but her spirit can survive for a short time—inside of you. If you can take her spirit through enemy terrain, you can reach the Shaman of the Mountain Pass, who can then conjure up a new body for her. But if you don't make it in time, her spirit will die, and she'll never be able to take corporeal form again.

Even though you might not like her, her own people completely depend on her. They're in grave danger if you fail. In fact, without her leadership, they'll all be slaughtered by your mutual enemy.

Furthermore, some of these people have helped save you in the past, so you feel you owe them your support.

Thus, you bear her essence inside you as you travel across a hostile land. However, things get even stranger—for her spirit is strong, and at any given time, with no predictability, you change into her.

When you become her, your weapons change. Your way of moving changes. Your abilities and skills change.

This is emotionally complex for several reasons:

  • You have to rescue her (for the good of her people), even though you don't like her or are ambivalent about her.

  • Even though you are ambivalent about her, you become her.

Now, becoming this woman would be simply an interesting way to swap one set of skills for another, but the emotion of the situation can be beefed up in a number of ways:

  • Even though she's without a body, she can still talk to you. You learn that she has great insight and kindness. Past trials of her people, and her own past hardships, forced her to become calloused. But that outer shell isn't reflective of who she truly is. Your opinion gradually changes until you see her not as strange and snobby, but as strong and wise.

  • She occasionally manifests in a sort of beautiful, translucent form, to plead for your continued help. (These manifestations happen during times when you're in your own body, not hers.) This makes her easier to relate to because you can see her.

  • The longer she's "out of body," the more her spirit fades. She's dying, and thus there's a ticking clock (a limited time). After a certain point, she'll no longer be able to be given human form again. The increased jeopardy will make you care for her even more.

  • She begins to go through an NPC Character Arc in that she starts to appreciate you. However, this wouldn't be overdone—she'd just begin to change.

Because of all these techniques, you'll increasingly feel close to her.

You'll also increasingly be willing to "be" her (feel like her) when you take her form. That's because, when you're in her form, her people defer to you, admire you, and fight to protect you. They tell you of all the great things she did for them at great risk to herself, and you realize that she's been quite a hero.

Of course, the skills you possess when she takes over will ultimately prove important in your accomplishing tasks that are necessary to fighting your way to the Shaman—the man who will make her whole.

Here's another game example, set in a contemporary, realistic setting:

A villain has gotten hold of a terrible biological weapon. He's the one you're after.

Along the way, however, you come across the scientist who created the weapon. He's not sane. Sometimes he's rational, but sometimes he's delusional. Sometimes he doesn't remember what he's done, but at other times he remembers and is filled with regret. These emotions flit through him at a rapid rate.

He begs you not to kill him. You know that he's nuts, but not evil. Yet you also realize that if you don't kill him, he could create the biological weapon all over again, during one of his crazy fits, and once again give it to someone with evil intentions.

You'll kill him; you really have no choice. But the act won't sit well with your sympathy for him. It will be an emotionally complex situation.

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