Adding Grit to the equation…
It’s not that I didn’t think there were enough personality traits to work with already. I mean, there’s sixteen of them! However, the traits did not seem to adequately cover characters that can simply hang in there while going through hell, despite what you’d think of their personalities otherwise. It’s the same in the real world as well as in Hollywood: Some people are more easily discouraged than others to keep on keeping on. You can hear of people getting stuck in mountain passes for weeks on end, who hung on to a thin thread of life just long enough to be rescued, and those who unfortunately did not make it. Some of that is due to a trait that is partly genetic, and partly imparted through childhood. And that trait is Grit.
Grit, by any other name…
Grit is somewhat hard to describe until you see someone who has it. Even through acting, only a relatively few can truly portray it: Clint Eastwood, Jack Palance, etc. They’ve done great jobs portraying gritty cowboys, and cowboys, in general, are recognized the world over as being gritty. But within the cowboys are all of the different personalities that you would fine elsewhere. You have the brave cowboys, and the cowards; those who help others, and those who are only out for themselves, and everyone in-between. Some cowboys wrote memoirs and were showmen, and some were introverted or illiterate. But even the most sensitive cowboy needed to endure the day-to-day hardships of living in the west, and that is not quite covered by other traits, or even other things such as skills or strength.
In fact, strength and skill can only get you so far. One reason why the term “City Slicker” is a derogatory remark to those travelling to the west from the more populated (and comfortable) is that those coming west, brought up without as much hardship as those on the frontier, either failed relatively quickly to adapt to conditions and returned east, or had to learn to survive in harsher environments (though, if you found a niche that did not require the kind of grit required by those living harder lives, you could easily make a living). In modern terms, the same holds true. Adventurers and explorers require a kind of grit that is not often found, and whether they’re serious, social, callous, or gregarious, they have a quality that allows them to move through the wilds enduring pain, exposure, fatigue, hunger, and other elements that would halt and slowly(or quickly) kill the unprepared.
Great, where do we use it?
Anywhere appropriate! But not as a measure of self-esteem. That kind of measurement grew out of the self-esteem movement of the 70s and 80s, and while it is important for other things, it does not accurately reflect Grit, nor does Grit accurately reflect self-esteem. Indeed, there are those with very low self-esteem who simply slog through life and take everything thrown at them. But use it to figure out how long a character can persevere, keep focus, persist in their beliefs and opinions, fight a losing battle (not every unit in an RTS need mindlessly fight to the death or retreat once their utility function tells them they’re going to lose), or even obsess (because Grit can contribute to the bad side of personalities as well).
Examples of conditions that require a high level of Grit are abundant in human history: Slavery, concentration camps, prisons, being lost in the wild, natural disasters, etc. And that’s what Grit boils down to: Life needs to survive, and if the conditions can be endured, then they will be- but the length of time that they can be endured for means that not all will make it. From bacteria to bugs to animals to humans, that is the case (even if, as in the example above, we cause some of the worst conditions that we need to endure).
Well, this was kind of short…
I’d like to throw some examples up of me adjusting the personality templates and the summary functions I use to outline the effects of the trait on those personalities, but as you’ll see next week, I’m working on the AI to get it ready for GDC in San Francisco! I’m not giving any talks, unless you want to sit down over lunch or dinner and hear me blather on about Interrogative, and where I see it going in the near future. If you do want to sit down and talk about it, I’m available, and will have a simple demo of the features of Interrogative to show off on my laptop.
As a matter of fact, I’m hoping to be able to show it off a bit in the next blog (not the tool though, the tool is still butt-ugly).