Robin Sloan

Robin Sloan

I am a Lecturer and Programme Leader for BA (Hons) Game Design and Production Management at Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland.

Location Dundee, Scotland


  • I find this projection of character on to other objects really fascinating also, and how we infer personality and intent from a graphic or agent based on its behaviour more than its appearance. That's why I really love Thomas Was Alone by Mike Bithell - although there is narrative context provided, the graphic design is flat and geometric and we infer so much...

  • Manic Miner remains a defining game for me, as simple as it may have been! It remains one of the games that terrified me the most as I died so, so often...

  • Hi Jennifer - you sound like you are coming from the same place I came from! I was broadly interested in games and art, and studied as an artist first before specializing in games. I hope this course does help you on the journey towards university study ;-)

  • Robin Sloan replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    Hi there - yes I agree this is an important part of character design. Identity is one thing for sure, but it's so important to be able to make characters who are not like ourselves but with whom we can establish a meaningful connection. It helps us to understand the world through others' eyes, and games have a powerful means of achieving this by making you the...

  • Empathy and suspension of disbelief are so important to all character work, for sure! Game characters then have their own challenges, particularly when establishing empathy with a complex player character...

  • Hi Aaliyah - it's great to hear you have a specific interest that you can connect to character design. Mythology is such a rich source to draw from for compelling and interesting character designs ;-)

  • Hi Adam. I like your comment on movement that is difficult to learn but that creates for an amazing experience. We'd call this the flow state - where you develop your skills to the point that you feel a balance between difficulty and your own skills, and it creates a feeling of focus and enjoyment!

  • Hi and welcome - I think it's great that you are really invested in the design and creative aspects of game storytelling even thought you want to move towards programming as a vocation. If it's a career in games you are looking at, then a varied set of interests beyond your core discipline is really helpful :)

  • Welcome, Nathan. Thank you for both of your points - this roughly aligns with some of the course content, also, with Week 1 focused more on the storytelling and Week 2 on visualisation. I hope that you find the course helpful :)

  • Hello Leonie and welcome to the course. And thank you for your example of Blackwood Crossing - I think this is an excellent example of authentic and emotionally-charged game character design, and definitely a game I would recommend course participants check out.

  • Hi Saskia. I think a lot of people come into games with this nervousness over their experience - just today I was working with a collaborator on a game concept we are creating for them, and she had to admit she hadn’t experienced any kind of digital game since the arcades in the early 1980s! But games have come on a lot, and as Leia suggests there is a...

  • I think number 2 is a particularly good question - games are one medium that allow us to ‘be’ or experience a different role or perspective. Encouraging people to step into someone else’s shoes is an important consideration in the development of a game character.

  • Welcome to the course. Curiosity is the key, and it’s great to have you signed up looking to learn more about game design in order to better understand how games are made. I hope some of your curiosity is satisfied over the 2 weeks :)

  • Thanks for identifying that - the glossary should include all abbreviations, so this was overlooked.

  • I’m not familiar with this competition, but I see that it is part of an ESRC funded project at Bangor. The ESRC is one of the main UK research funding councils and funds the UK’s research in the economic and social sciences.

  • Thanks for your comments so far. I expect into Week 2 we will see more people comment as they pick up the course, so it’s always a good idea to come back and learn from the comments that build up.

    I find it particularly interesting to see what interests everyone about game character design, and also the variety of backgrounds folks come from. I’m looking...

  • Welcome, Kitty! Thanks for sharing your background and aspirations for the course, I hope that some of the concepts we discuss in week 1 (socially around gameplay/agency) are useful to you.

  • Hi Tom, glad to see you made it on to the course! Also great to read that we have a shared fondness for the characters of Thomas Was Alone!

  • Welcome, and thanks for sharing. I really hope that this course provides further insight for you!

  • Welcome, Katie!

    One of my PhD students is researching cosplay as a practice, specifically the overlap with games and play! It's really interesting to learn that this is your background interest, and I hope that the course gives you some useful ideas!

  • Hello Syed, and welcome! It's great to see game designers on the course. Much of the content is fairly general, in that it can be applied across different game types, platforms, and budgets. So hopefully you'll be able to take some ideas from the course forward into an android game ;-)

  • Hi there! It's always great to read how many people are keen to learn more about entering game development as a career. I hope that this course provides some useful knowledge and information for you!

  • Hi Freddy, and welcome to the course.

    Gamers of the same era - I also had an Atari ST! It was an excellent computer if you were a kid growing up in the late 80s... and it was a revelation moving to the Atari ST from the ZX Spectrum!

    Hope you find this course of interest!

  • Hi Veronika, apologies for my late response to your introduction. It's interesting to read that you are coming into this course with a digital painting background - I hope that the course can feed back into your practice or help you better understand the process for visualising characters for games.

  • Hi Emilie, thank you for joining the course. My response is a little delayed, but I hope that you found the course useful. It's great to hear that you are working in localisation but have a interest in storytelling for games :-)

  • Thanks Sebastian for your feedback! I hope that you find the right community college for you. There are also lots of excellent game design courses out there, so it all depends on where you are looking to study.

  • Thanks Mike for the feedback, the sound quality is something that is being investigated. It's also good to get feedback on illustration of examples, so I can look to see where this can be better explained. Good luck with your future study and (hopefully!) the move into game design :-)

  • Thanks Vlad for your feedback, I'm glad you enjoyed this course.

  • Thanks Laura for your feedback, I'm glad that the course has given you some added knowledge that might help you as you go forward into future study.

  • Thanks, Martin ;-)

  • Thanks Monette for taking the course. Thanks also for the feedback on week 2, I'll examine some of this content and think about how more of an introduction can be added to the concepts discussed ;-)

  • Thanks David for participating to the end of the course!

  • Thanks for your feedback Willie, It's good to know that the overlaps with animation were identified but new areas of application in games were also there for you to find out about!

  • Thanks for the feedback Mike, it's good to know about the different perspectives of those who participated in the course

  • Thanks for participating in the course, Colin!

  • Thank you Andrew for your feedback, I'm happy that the course was useful!

  • Hi Shane,

    Welcome to the course, and also to gaming more generally.

    You are right that there have been longstanding issues with representation of women not only within games (and it's still a major problem), but also within the mindset of game publishers. Games have been poorly targeted at women and girls, and a side effect of that has been an...

  • Hi Andrew, and welcome to the course!

    Is that the MA at Brunel? I've found myself spotting some course titles I am familiar with here!

    You are right that Nathan can come across as fairly typical of the charming, masculine hero. But I also find him really well-rounded, authentic, and totally matched to the swashbuckling adventure genre (as a...

  • Hello Ailyn, and welcome!

    I think that's an excellent observation. Appeal isn't always about the obvious. In fact, if we went with our own first instincts or prejudices, we can end up with really quite repetitive and dull visual designs and concepts. Mario is a great example of an unlikely game character hero.

  • Hello Pamela! I'm glad to read the varied backgrounds of the folks joining the course.

    I was really keen not to make this a technical course, focussing on the technical or software based processes of character creation. Character design is so much broader than the 'how' component. In fact, I'm keen to stress with my own students the importance of 'why' ......

  • Hi Emma,

    Your educational journey so far actually sounds very suited to artistic roles in the games industry. In fact that mix of both Fine Art and a design subject such as Illustration is really a solid foundation for game art roles, as this suggests you will have strong observational and analytical art skill and a good knowledge of visual design. If...

  • Hello and welcome! I hope that this course provides some foundation as you progress on your chosen career path. We'll cover more visual design content in week 2, but the basis for good character design work always stems from a solid idea of the character, their personality, and their story.

  • Hello Gizem,

    Complete originality is obviously a challenging feat to pull off, and all the ideas we can come up with will always be compared with past ideas. I think better that fretting too much about originality, is understanding and appreciating what makes for 2-dimensional, flat, or stereotypical characters first (so as not to fall into any cliche...

  • Hello Adham, and welcome! I'm glad that this short course can provide you with a learning opportunity that may not be available locally. Hopefully you take something useful from the next 2 weeks!

  • Hi and welcome to the course! I think what you say really gets to the heart of what is authentic and logical about game (or any) characters. No matter the context or genre or audience, we need to feel that their thinking and the ideas they embody feel real.

  • Hi Benny,

    Thank you for your feedback, and also for linking your game character concept. I have to say I do love character ensemble concepts - where you have to draw on a range of character types that are defined by their own abilities. This can obviously be used for complex and strategic gameplay, as in team RPG games. But I actually prefer the more...

  • Thank you for this contribution. I am aware of the game but have never played it, so it's great to read something about an unfamiliar game. I'll be checking this out later on!

  • Thanks Monette! You have also reminded me that I have not played a DMC game since the first release on the PS2, over 15 years ago! This is definitely something I will need to rectify, particularly given the series' prominence and how often it comes up in discussion of memorable games and characters.

  • Thank you, this is much appreciated feedback!

  • Hi Justin,

    That sounds like an entirely appropriate approach to take, to me! There are great lessons that we can learn about character, plot, and other narrative elements by studying how narratives are delivered across different media.

  • Hello Kelly,

    I love to read accidental introductions into game creation like this! This happens so much in game jams, and I am really excited about the democratisation of game development (in other words, that it has become easier than ever to get involved in game development using intuitive and free tools).

    If this course gets you started on a journey...

  • Hello Christhian,

    It sounds as though we have shared academic interests in the interaction between digital games and society/culture. In particular I am very interested in how representation is handled within games. Just this week one of the papers I saw presented discussed the fact that there remains an enormous gap between gamer demographics and the...

  • Hi Kieran - sounds like timing was everything in this instance! We'll definitely be looking at the connection between player and character in this introduction to character design ;)

  • Hello Laura, thanks for joining the course. I hope that this provides some additional insights for you as you develop your skills in and knowledge of game design.

  • Of course, slamming his face against the wall may be the name of the game! But yes you are correct Clarisse, we really do need to have some sort of connection or bond with the characters we control. In many games, players spend far more hours with a character than they do in a film or novel, for instance. The character has to be rounded and believable enough,...

  • Hello Ruben,

    That's great to read that you are interested in the ways games can be used in learning (which is one of the main themes of the conference I am at this week - CHI Play). Certainly one of the common themes I have observed with educational games is the need for more engaging story and characters. Oftentimes, audiences perceive a gap between the...

  • Elaine is an excellent character. She stood out for me in the first game in the series, as she is clearly the capable hero compared to the bumbling wannabe Guybrush!

  • Thank you all so far for your contributions, this is really interesting to read what characters stand out for you.

    No Guybrush Threepwood yet? Particularly in the Curse of Monkey Island.

    Which... I've just double-checked... is now a 20-year-old game. Yikes.

  • Thanks for your thoughts. I think shorter videos can be helpful, or perhaps adding more additional materials for download if that would be useful? I'll be sure to invest in more nice sweaters and do more speaking-to-camera videos in the future :-)

  • Thanks, Hollie, for this summary of Max. This is a great game to play to learn more about interaction between player and non-player characters through narrative choices.

  • Robin Sloan replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    Thanks, Alasdair. Corvo is a great example of a character for analysis. I particularly like the player option to play Dishonored 2 as either Corvo or his daughter Emily, a decision made right at the start. The game provides players with multiple ways of playing with both characters, which is a great way to explore character through choice and actions in a...

  • Thanks, Ben. The Zelda series is a great example of the hero's journey, and the thematic statement aligns with this.

  • Thank you for this contribution on the Uncharted series and Nathan Drake. This series provides some of the richest characters in any game series, in terms of their characterisation, relationships, voice acting, and acted performance.

  • Thanks for this contribution, Willie. I think it's great to see this explained as a shadow archetype, which goes to show how this archetype can make for compelling character story in games.

  • Thank you for taking the time to work through week 1, Hollie. Your summary is much appreciated!

    You are right that personality is another level of discussion, and there is a lot we can take from Psychology. I can recommend researching the big 5 personality traits as a start point. This can help us to understand how our character's personality may be better...

  • Thank you Willie for this summary, and I'm really glad this has been useful for you. You are very right about getting the concept of the character worked out first before you get too caught up in visual iteration. We need to know who they are and what they are about before we can visualise them as rich, breathing characters.

  • Thank you for your summary, Ananya, I am glad this has been helpful.

  • Thanks Kay for your summary, I am glad that you have taken something from this first week. We can definitely take schematics and frameworks further and consider for instance, personality types, political belief systems etc. for narrative design. If at the end of the course you feel there is something more specific you would like to know about game character...

  • Hi Eric, welcome!

    I hope you are in the right place, then, as we won't be covering technical aspects such as 3D, but will be discussing story!

  • Hi Oliver,

    Character customisation is such a massive part of the design process today, and no longer just constrained to MMOs or RPGs more widely. I won't cover customisation exactly on this course, but I do discuss it in my book. From this course the week 2 discussion on visualisation ties into customisation of character.

  • Hallo en Welkom, Anca!

    I am familiar with that course title, which I think is NHTV Breda? If I am right, that's an excellent school, so I hope you take everything you can from the experience!

  • Hi David,

    I agree that idealistic characters can be very flat and cliche. Complex or flawed characters can make for much more interesting anti-heroes. I think games are starting to explore the anti-hero archetype more effectively than in the early days of gaming, when most characters in action-orientated games were effectively the ideal hero type.

  • Hi Monette! I hope this can kindle your imagination a little, but I can make no promises!

    I find the best way to get excited about character is to look for inspiration in unusual or unexpected places. So watching films or TV you wouldn't normally watch, reading books or comics outside your own tastes. Even watching 24-hour news to see what characters and...

  • Hi Ben,

    Encouraging students to think about their characters more critically is really important. I often find students do get infatuated by the technical aspects of game character design, i.e. how they are modelled, sculpted, painted etc. Understanding who the characters are, why they exist, and what they tell us about the human condition (through both...

  • Hi Megan,

    Visual design, or character art, was my first passion coming into game development as well! I started off studying digital art and working in an art role. I think it's a great time to get interested in character art for games, as the tools and software that is available today is very intuitive to use and there is excellent online support. Most...

  • The emotional connection we have with NPCs - particularly companion characters - is really one of the most powerful aspects of game character design. X-Com is a great example, as are games like Mass Effect when it comes to characters you bond with but may lose. I also think games such as Ico and Bioshock Infinite provide nice examples of companions that are...

  • Hi Adrian, great to meet you here! I hope that the course will help you make some of these connections. Week 2 will focus in on the visualisation and communication of character through body and expression, and so maybe this content will help you when you are thinking of how to match appearance to personality.

  • Hi Lauren,

    You are right in that this is one of the challenges of effective character design for games. Players taking control (even partially) of a character means that the designer has got to cede some of their own authorial control. It's a difficult balancing act!

  • Hello Hollie. It's great to read that you are working on your own projects. I hope that you can take something from the course or recommended reading than helps you with this work.

  • Hi Jason - great to meet you here! This is pretty much what this course aims to introduce, so I hope you are in the right place!

  • Hello Dragana - thank you for joining, and I hope this course gets you started on the road to game making. It's a great time to experiment with game creation, now that designing, developing and releasing games is much easier than it has been in the past. There are lots of good game creation tools out there now, and many are free to use.

    You may also find...

  • Hi Spencer,

    Emotional tone is right up my street, and was at the centre of the study I did for my PhD in game character animation. I think there is a really interesting overlap between the psychology and aesthetics of emotion, and this overlaps with mood, personality, and atmosphere. In this course I'm not going to touch on much of the psychology of...

  • Hi Scott. I think this is a really valid point, that there needs to be a logic behind a character. This is what allows them to feel authentic within the game world and narrative. Looking cool definitely helps with branding and hooking players, and can also make a game more aesthetically pleasing and exciting, but without the logic a character can feel...

  • Hi Martin! It is great to see you here. I hope there is something extra here for you, and also it'd be great to see you feeding back to others on the course, drawing upon your existing game design knowledge.

  • Hi Erin,

    It's not unusual to feel like you are the only girl in your school who is into games, but often that's because games have typically been promoted and sold as product and culture for boys. That's changed a lot in recent years, and actually what you find in a lot of the audience studies is that boys and girls play games more or less equally. The more...

  • Hi Miles,

    The interaction between player action/choice and character responses/behaviours is one of my main interests too, and you identify good examples of games that provide interesting character case studies. We'll discuss visual design in week 2 which should help a bit with how to best visualise and present characters, although we won't delve into...

  • Hi Nathan, great to see you here. It sounds like what you are looking for falls within some of the topics over the 2 week course, particularly about backstory and supporting the visual design. I hope this provides a good foundation for you going forward!

  • Hi Christoper,

    I'm sorry that the sound quality here is distracting. Unfortunately the only way to capture this interview was over Skype, which meant a little background noise crept in. I've added a full transcript as a PDF as an alternative.

  • Hi Ananya, I'm glad that the examples help. If there are any specific areas you could use more help with I'm happy to help if I can. If you have commented elsewhere in the course (in relation to the content you found a little difficult) I'll try my best to work through and respond to this soon!

  • Robin Sloan replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    Lara seems to be a common character in terms of impact on gamers, and her strength and confidence seem to be attributes that stand out.

  • I found the AC2 trilogy of the Assassin's Creed series to be the most interesting to me, as Ezio's journey over the three games is really well produced.

  • Great range of memorably characters. Link (in all variations) and Solid Snake seem to be recurring characters when it comes to our shared memories of classic games!

  • Life is Strange is one of my favourite games of the past few years, and I agree the characterisation of Max and Chloe is really emotional.

    I presented a short academic paper on Life is Strange in 2016 which is free to access. If this interests you, you can access it here:

  • Some great choices there. The music of Manic Miner still haunts me today!

  • Is that the original Fable? I find this whole series very interesting stylistically, as well as its capacity to incorporate some degree of moral choice into character development.

  • Hi Gharib - this course doesn't have a specific tutorial, as it is aimed at everyone interested in game characters, with no pre-existing skills in say, character art, drawing, or software. We'll cover more of a broad introduction to the key knowledge that underpins the design of characters in relation to gameplay, narrative, and visualisation.

  • Hi Benny,

    Drawing is a really important skill, and we'll discuss this more in week 2 in relation to drawing practice and anatomical knowledge. I hope you get some useful learning from the course, and that this serves as a launchpad for more study!

  • Hi Zak,

    Functionality and authenticity are two excellent measures for character success in games. As you know, there are so many opportunities for us to push at the limits of a game character, opportunities we aren't provided with when watching a film or reading a novel. So maintaining coherent functionality and consistent authenticity is definitely...

  • Hello Kay,

    You are certainly not alone! But yes Wii-Fit is indeed a video game! I hope that you are able to get something valuable from the course that you can transfer into your own teaching. There is definitely overlap with the broader humanities, but also some models and theories of game character design that are more centred on the unique properties of...

  • Hi Willie,

    Moving from the military into games is a big career change, but it sounds like you are on a journey towards something you are really passionate about. I know people who are now in games who were previously in the armed services, police, or even healthcare, so it's not an uncommon journey! Studying 3D animation is definitely a great place to...