How about some clichés?

Everytime I go over the project pages of the newest games, there’s a big chance I find a post that critizises the writer of that particulary game, or actually the story he or she wrote, as it contains clichés. Clichés are bad, mean and evil expressions, phrases or ideas that should not be found in ones story. It ruins your game they tell me.In this post I would like to try to convince you that you will need some clichés for people to be able to play your game, unless you are such a great writer that any phrase you make, takes the breath of the one who reads it. No, clichés aren’t always annoying or bad or even evil. Most of the times you don’t even recognize them, as they comfort you, make you feel right. The reason why consists of multiple factors.

From wikipedia

A cliché (from French, klɪ’ʃe) is a phrase, expression, or idea that has been overused to the point of losing its intended force or novelty, especially when at some time it was considered distinctively forceful or novel. The term is most likely to be used in a negative context.

“Cliché” applies also to almost any situation, plot device, subject, characterization, figure of speech, or object—in short, any sign—that has become overly familiar or commonplace.

Because the novelty or frequency of an expression’s use varies across different times and places, whether or not it is a cliché depends largely on who uses it, the context in which it is used, and who is making the judgment.

The meaning of a particular cliché may shift over time, often leading to confusion or misuse.

The key thing about our Cliché, is that it is overused. Please emphasize the part where it says: “that has become overly familiar or commonplace”. The thing we know is that everone will recognize it, as it is so commonly used.

However, before I tell you what these clichés do your game good, I like to state that I think that the term has become a cliché itself. It is so greatly overused. When people read a story, and someone starts about the 7 crystals, people start to scream that it sucks, as having 7 crystals is such a sin. One should read beyond these lines and place it into a context. Perhaps these 7 chrystals are magically left when some cave collapsed, and they have nothing to do with the actual story. Who would have thought of that? Suddenly it isn’t the 7 magic elemental crystals anymore, but just 7 ordinary crystals that have no purpose.

Yes yes, I exagerated on that example, but that is how you should look at it. So I am now going to cut to the case. Clichés are not bad because:

  1. Clichés can be found in all great-sellers. Meaning, there has to be a positive side.
  2. Clichés are familliar things. People know what they do, what’s around it and how to deal with it.
    1. Given the knowledge of the fact how people will deal with the subject, can help you constructing something unexpected, raising the awareness of the player and increasing the fun-level of the story they encounter. However, Please note:
      1. Adding many anti-clichés will confuse people, they are constantly wrong about everything. Not only can this piss them off, they can also stop playing as they don’t get the story or current event anymore.
      2. Predicatability equals structure. If you know what lays ahead, you can work towards it. Removing this predictability will certainly create chaos, misunderstandings and do no good to your player’s acceptance of the story he is in.
    2. Because people know what to do, the thing becomes recognizable, increasing the playability of your game. You don’t need to understand every little detail of the sotry and pay attention to every phrase; it is a cliché, you know what happens/happened/will happen.
  3. A cliché is known as it left a certain memory-stamp over and over. If you know that something worked (for instance a battle-system) perfectly before, it will work again.
  4. Clichés are almost unavoidable.
    1. People tend to go into repetition, it comforts them. Going over something you know is much less stressfull then something unknown. On the other hand however, something unknown can be much more exiting then something you already know.
    2. Things that are clichés are mainly things that either are ideas that come from people with no inspirations or are ideas that are good, funny, common for many people. You can relate this to a debate. Say you are contra, and you are giving 10 good reasons, in your opinion the best, there’s a big chance that someone who has to give his 10 best reasons has more then one reason incommon with you. Replace reason by idea, and you see what I’m pointing at
  5. You know that clichés stand aside unoriginality. That means you automaticly know what is original, meaning you can spend more time in writing that original idea down instead of looking the idea-concept up on the internet to see if someone used it.

See, not everything is as bad as it looks. Just try to alternate repetition with originality. You can give the player some comforting rest by throwing in something known and make him sit on the tip of his chair by filling him with originality.

I have gathered some sites for you, so you can look up what is done, and what is not. Maybe you can use it, maybe you don’t. One thing is for sure, I did, and it helped me out alot. Have a look around on the following sites and good luck:


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