How do you design a good character?

What do a marble, a hedgehog, a spaceship, a plumber and seven different shaped blocks have in common? They have all been the main characters in a computer game.

Computer games need to have stories with interesting characters in them or people won’t want to play them. Every story has a character to cheer for. They don’t need to be living things either. Anything that has a personality can be a character.

One of the first computer game characters wasn't a human or an animal. Watch this clip from CBBC's Appsolute Genius to find out how a pizza inspired Toru Iwatani to create Pac-Man!

Inspiration can come from anywhere! Next time you are out and about, keep a look out for anything that might make a good character.

How do you create memorable characters?

Creating your very own computer game character can be a difficult task. Where do you start?

There is no right or wrong way to come up with an idea for your character. You could start by thinking about what you want your character to accomplish in your story. What challenges will they face and what skills will they need?

Once you have a rough idea, look all around you for inspiration. You never know what will set off your imagination. If Toru Iwatani was inspired by a pizza when he created Pac-Man, just think what could inspire you!

You could look at different styles of art work, or at the people and objects you see every day. Looking at your favourite stories and characters can provide inspiration too, but be careful not to copy them.

An illustrated superhero character
Who will be the hero of your game?

Creating your character

There are lots of different things to think about when you are creating a new character:

Design - what will your character look like?

Will your character be a person or an object? Big or small? Be inspired by the world around you.

Sketch computer game character and image on tablet.

Personality - how is your character going to act?

What kind of personality will your character have? Funny, clever, heroic, scared? How can this be shown in your game or story?

An illustration of two different expressions

Story - what will your character be doing?

What problem will your character be trying to solve or overcome? Are they finding treasure? Are they rescuing their best friend?

An illustrated character typing on a laptop.

Setting - where will your story be set?

Will your story be set underwater? In a castle with dragons? The setting can influence your design. If it is in space they may want to have a space suit.

An illustrated character standing in front of a map

What will your game be about?

A memorable character is very important but you also need an interesting setting and an exciting story for your game.

Sometimes you will start with the character and then develop the story and setting. Other times you will have an idea for a story first and then develop characters to go into that story.

A story is like climbing a mountain

You start at the bottom and introduce the characters, the setting and a problem that needs to be solved. As you climb the mountain you go on an adventure or a journey to solve the problem. Things get more exciting as you reach and go over the top. Then you resolve the problem and climb back down to the end of the story.

The setting of a story helps to make the characters more believable. Wizards usually live in fantasy worlds with castles and dragons. Robots usually live in futuristic cities or spaceships. Describe your setting with all of your senses. What does it look like? What does it smell like? What can you hear?

A computer screen with a spaceship sprite
Finding a believable setting for your characters is important. A game with aliens and spaceships might be set in a distant galaxy, far away from Earth.