Character Psychology

I have already discussed two of what I consider to be core pillars to my analysis, the philology and archaeology. As Game Director Hidetaka Miyazaki himself admits in an Edge interview, he uses both elements to “tell more with less” — to show, not tell. This minimalist approach to storytelling perversely shifts some importance from the scriptwriting and environment and onto my last pillar: psychology. Some fans become so focused on what characters do that they don’t dive into why they did it. If we simply list a chronological list of events involving each character, then it will be woefully hollow. Such an account only provides insight when we then extrapolate what it reveals about the character. 

Like any good story, a Miyazaki game presents characters with specific wants and needs. And much like real people, these characters don’t act in a vacuum. In the supposition of fiction, they have personalities and life experiences which inform their decisions or impulses; put simply, their thoughts become actions. So, by looking at those actions, we can reverse-engineer their intentions and construct a psychological profile with which to judge their other behaviors, assuming we aren’t just told what they are feeling during a particular moment.

For example, say you walked into a house and found a pendant with a man’s face on it within a chest in some obscure corner. You read the item description to learn that it belongs to a housewife who always kept it with her until the day of her “terrible betrayal”. You then walk into the next room and see a peculiar sight: an older male NPC with a knife stands over the bloodied corpse of a younger male, an older female NPC sobbing in the corner. A reasonable conclusion would be that the housewife had an affair, stuffing away the treasured pendant featuring her husband out of guilt; said husband walked in on them during one of these trysts and then killed the homewrecker in a rage.

A basic understanding of human behavior allows us to connect the dots on things otherwise impossible to analyze, because characterization most often occurs through demonstration rather than information. That isn’t to say that there isn’t a degree of subjectivity to psychological analysis, but unlike people, characters tend to be simple. In most cases, a character can be reduced to one essential element, with every bit of nuance and complexity building around that cornerstone. Once we know what their core motivation is, we can infer how they think and act even in situations where such information is absent.