The Oblivious Player Character (Help)

Morning, everyone!

I tried expressing my intent and realized I did it wrong. As I am prone to doing.

In a project I’m working on, the Player Character finds themself in a strange situation where they are surrounded by people they don’t know. People who they will be stuck with for the indiscernible future.

For this project, I do want there to be a focus on romance. In Interactive Fiction, romance can be navigated easily. Such as choosing to be a more shy Player Character, one that is bold in their interests or flirting, and some that dart between the two (depending on the RO).

However, I also have seen where the Player Character is in denial of their feelings (aware of them, but, for some reason or another, fighting that). Those choices are often pretty clear.

What I’m wanting to discuss is how, in a story, one might portray a character who isn’t aware they are interested in a RO. This is something I have a hard time understanding, personally, but it is a dynamic I would like to explore. Part of it for my own sake, as this is a way to better understand something that does confuse me. Writing has always been my way of learning more about emotions, and how they’re expressed, but there are some topics that have a group of people chime in on that are far more helpful than a few static pages on the internet.

So, my question is this:

How would you all show the Player Character is attracted to someone but isn’t aware of it?

Original Post, Poorly Explained. Read if you wish.

I’ve been away for a long while, largely working on a few ideas for projects I have, and one of them I was reminded of when I was reading Disliked Elements, Mechanics, and Tropes earlier. I’ve been there a few times, as I find it enlightening to read in many cases.

One particular aspect of the story I’m working on does dip into the section below:

In a lot of stories I’ve read, there are, in many of them, three approaches to romance. There is the denial path, where the Player Character is either unaware they are crushing on someone (this one confuses me) or they are fighting against their interest and attraction (this one I find fascinating).

Following Denial, the PC is aware they are crushing on a Romantic Love Interest. They can respond in a more shy manner, a very bold manner, or somewhere caught between. In some, the RO might have a crush on the PC and approach. As stated by Foxboi, in a lot of cases, the PC can miss all the signals.

In a story I’m building, I want to approach the romance in it in a way that is enjoyable.

I get the bold/shy/neutral responses, but, for the life of me, I can’t really think of how someone could be unaware they have a crush on someone. I can get behind a PC that is in denial that they’re interested in a RO. A PC that fights their attraction, that’s fascinating.

But how can a person, in a story, be presented as oblivious to the fact they’re crushing on someone?

This small thing is something I can’t wrap my head around. Might be Aspie Brain Syndrome, as I do, in my own life, take everything very literally. I can get mixed signals when someone likes me because I don’t know how to “read between the lines,” but that’s me not fully understanding what someone else is feeling.

Any thoughts on this would be delightful. This is one part of my project I’m hung up on (another odd way to say I’m stuck, but it is what it is).

Well, I can tell you this much - I very much don’t interpret correctly what I’m feeling at times (I’m guessing my brain has some mixed wires especially when my hormonal states are on the fritz) so to me, it’s not that unreasonable to not understand what you’re feeling. How that translates to romantic feelings though, I don’t know.

4 Likes

So you want to write this trope into your game, but you don’t understand it? Why do you want to add it? Do you find it interesting? Is there something you want to explore, or you feel like you have to?

I think it has to do with the character not having experienced romantic feelings before (like M from TWC, for example) or in my game, the MC might be oblivious because they just didn’t care about romantic entaglements with humans (or any other being) before. That’s my two cents.

4 Likes

It’s something I really want to explore. It’s not something I feel has to be in the story, but it is something I do want to play around with. I’ve been in a few relationships, but those all happened after several years of knowing each other. And it didn’t even start with ‘I have a crush on this person.’

It was…more along the lines of us knowing each other a while before he asked me to go out with him, and I was willing to give it a try because I know and trust this person. It wasn’t because I found myself wanting to be with him, nor was there really a reason to not give it a try. To just see how things went.

It lasted about two years, and we split up on good terms. Still friends.

I have a hard time reading other people’s expressions unless they’re the sort that ‘hit you over the head,’ like a person being angry is something I can pick up. The red face, the scowl, signs I’ve been taught to look for.

I remember those little pictures of different facial expressions I was taught as a kid where the teacher would say, “this person is sad, this person is upset, this person is disgusted.” I spent a long time trying to memorize those pictures, the different expressions, and those are still how I attempt to figure out what another person might be feeling.

Doesn’t always work. Some people can be pissed off and not have any expression on their face.

So, I guess it’s trying to pinpoint how a character would begin. I know a lot of the general signs a person experiences when they like someone – thinking a lot about a person, feeling safe with that person, being a bit jealous of the people with them (like, being a bit upset they’re paying attention to someone else but not you), and wanting to spend a lot of time with that person.

This could also be platonic, as well.

More days than not, I don’t understand my own feelings unless I’m anxious, angry, or sad.

Everything else is ‘meh.’ Until it isn’t.

I would like to work out a path where the Player Character doesn’t know they like this person and slowly build up to that moment when it dawns on them. Just…in a way that doesn’t make them look dumber than a box of plaster rocks. This means delving into an area I have a hard time understanding myself, as I’m not someone that is generally interested in people in a romantic manner.

3 Likes

It isn’t ‘meh’ in my case; it’s just that I interpret the feeling in question as being one thing while it actually is something else.

2 Likes

I’ve done the same, in many cases.

Emotions are complicated for everyone, but some of us have a bit of a harder time.

1 Like

Well, point being - I don’t see why attraction couldn’t translate to “I’m feeling weird, what did I do now?” or somesuch. But then again, I don’t really do romance.

1 Like

A good point, I’ll say.

I would assume that someone who doesn’t do romance but finds themselves with a crush might think that, such as the “butterflies” someone feels would likely be an odd sensation.

Thinking of butterflies, I’ll need to research that phenomenon. Because I know it isn’t literal butterflies fluttering around in that person’s stomach (unless they ate them, of course).

1 Like

First off… long time no chat :smile:.

Secondly I’m not sure if you’d find this helpful, I’d suggest going on youtube for reference… but think of it this way, when forming a relationship one’s intentions, feelings sometimes they’re desires have to be reciprocated ( let’s call it communication) I mean we’re not Jedi…

Prime e.g. The different dynamics between heterosexual male and female…
Men tend to be more dominant (forceful and aggressive) and emotionally stable, while women tend to be more sensitive, warm (attentive to others) and apprehensive - in general ( disclosure taken off, of google but you get the gist )
Recap the former is direct, assertive the latter subtle, attentive…

To summarize evoke a sense of hesitancy, indecisiveness by describing the tone you want to portray, be descriptive as possible yet simple… it has to feel natural… from the way the R.O. glance towards the M.C. - to they’re conflicted inner thoughts or vise - verse…

Ah, got it. Well, now that I think about it I do have some personal experience being obliviously crushing on someone. I tend to put people in “boxes” in my head so when someone is in the “friend box” I don’t tend to see them as a potential partner so to speak. So when 2 years ago I had a crush on a friend I didn’t realize what was going on for months :sweat_smile:

So if an MC went through something like that I wouldn’t think they are annoying or obtuse, I would connect with them. Sometimes it’s a lack of experience, sometimes it’s about realizing something we didn’t know about ourselves. I guess if you had the MC being like “I want to hold their hand… I must really like to be their friend” to “do I really want to kiss my friend?” to “uh-oh” it won’t read as if you were trying to force a trope.

Edit:

This is the thing; sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between romantic and platonic feelings.

2 Likes

That’s a good point to keep in mind, really. The way most men tend to think or approach a situation is a lot different than how a woman would. I’ve heard many men I’ve known reference the way a woman thinks as ‘mental ADHD,’ which was a fun way to put it.

I’ll see if I can hunt down a video or two. Might find something on YouTube.

That is going to go into my notes’ section, 100%.

I do something very similar to that, and I don’t like people moving from one description to another. On my end, a person is either someone I’m “attached to,” such as my sister and her kids, close friends, acquaintances (such as coworkers or classmates), and complete strangers that cease to exist when I’m not interacting with them (which sounds harsher than I intend it to be).

I haven’t developed a crush on a friend, so I don’t really have anything to click with there, but you do provide some good examples of thought processes. Which I thank you for.

And therein lies the difficulty of the task I’m undertaking.

I think the ‘oblivious’ PC would be a good addition to the story, overall, because of some of the other aspects of the story that makes emotions a possible area of conflict for them. They might be really good at pinpointing what other people are experiencing but suck at recognizing the same emotions in themself.

I do know the ‘Unknowingly in Love’ is a trope. A popular trope. When I start working on the romance sections, planning those out in detail, I want to ensure I can write them in a manner that isn’t cringy.

I want it to feel…real. If that makes sense.

1 Like

Sometimes with many emotions–not just romantic–one can realize that something has been building up at the subconscious level for a long time before one actually becomes conscious of it.

The only time I’ve been to Venice, “city of love,” my visit was dominated by my wife coming to realize just how deeply angry she was at me for my workaholism and unavailability during our then-nearly-finished years in Afghanistan. Those were big, inconvenient feelings that she (unconsciously) hadn’t let herself feel until that moment. But when they hit, it wasn’t the start of those feelings–it was the emergence of something that had been there for a while, shaping her reactions and actions in ways she’d not fully understood until then.

How would you write something like that in an IF? Giving someone an up-front choice about it would be very co-authorial–“my character is unaware of this important thing that I the reader am aware of, and have chosen that the MC will be unaware of.” The author could then write in the MC reacting in small ways consistent with unacknowledged romantic feelings (e.g. being happier around the RO or sharing important things more freely with them, for reasons the MC doesn’t understand), and offer the reader the choice later to have those feeling come into conscious realization.

Or it would work fine as a retrospective choice about a character you’ve been interacting with for a while, without the author having to write the RO differently up to that point. “I realize that this whole time, these feelings have been building…”

4 Likes

I think, if I was going to write something like that, I would build it up slowly. Smaller choices steadily stack upon one another until it boils over in whatever way that it will come forth.

In the story I’m working on (lots of planning before jumping into the actual writing), the Player will be interacting with a small group of characters that builds over time. All strangers (to the PC), but a lot of the NPCs know one another. So, in this, the Player will be learning about the ROs through the main storyline as well as their own “side quests.”

Definitely food for thought.

1 Like

I completely get it, it’s the same for me :laughing:

Glad to help.

Oof, isnt that how it usually goes for everyone?/j

Is it? I’m equally bad at knowing what others feel like as I am at knowing what I feel.

Yes! I’ve met a lot of people who aren’t in agreement, so it’s nice to know someone who is! :smiley:

1 Like

Is it necessary for the reader to know if they want the PC to romance the RO right away? I feel like you could write the relationship developing in a platonic way first and then give a choice later to turn it romantic. You don’t have to explicitly state in writing that the PC wasn’t aware of a crush on the RO. I’m sure that could be one of the many reasons the reader comes up with by themselves.

If you do want to explore it more though, for me personally, I’m asexual and some degree of aromantic I haven’t figured out yet. When I first meet people, what I feel first is if there’s an aesthetic attraction. Like if I like how they look in a purely aesthetic way. I do sometimes get crushes on first sight, but I also sometimes on first sight get this feeling that I really want to be their friend. It feels as intense as a crush but it’s not a crush and I’m aware of that. And it’s not like I want to be their friend for ulterior motives. I just strongly feel like I want to be their friend in a slightly irrational way like how crushes work.

With these friendships, I do find myself thinking of them all the time, looking forward to talking to them, getting slightly jealous if they hang out with other people, etc. The same way I am when I have a crush on someone, except it’s in a platonic way. I don’t have any friendships like this currently, but when I look back on a certain one I feel like they might have had a crush on me. I enjoyed being their friend and never felt like I wanted anything else, but if they had asked me out I think I would have said yes. I’m alright with where we ended up, but I could also see that there could’ve been a chance for it to turn into something else.

In my case it’s not really obliviousness, but if you want to write one I think it would be best to start with an aesthetic attraction, build up a really strong platonic relationship that kinda blurs the lines, and then hit with the romantic realization.

2 Likes

I am… I’m really oblivious to the fact that I actually someone. One time a guy asked me out on DAY ONE OF MEETING EACH OTHER and I said to myself “Huh that’s a really friend. Us going for coffee? So sweet.” fast forward to three days I asked him what made him do that… He actually had to explain it to me that he liked me for 20 minutes.That was how dummy thick my brain is.

And another one is a guy in highschool (realized I liked him after graduating.) He was really really nice and one day we were going home from school and he pulled me close and said “You should walk beside me I don’t want you getting hurt and stuff.” My heart went BOOM I was flustered for 10 minutes straight just figuring out what happened. (just a bit sad that I realized I liked him just after graduation :cry:.)

I do want more oblivious MC’s though, I really enjoy playing as them. Hmm maybe wait no @Nhia said it better than I can ever do :joy:

2 Likes

The way I’m planning to set it up is that it’s a “slow burn,” as in the Players will spend time with the ROs before a choice will pop up that will start the romance aspect (and if they choose no, they won’t be locked out – it’ll be taken as a ‘I don’t know anyone well enough to know if I’m attracted to them yet’ sort of thing.

This, here, was what I was sort of thinking about starting with. If the Player finds them attractive in a physical sense. Or maybe they like how they present themselves (charming, broody, mysterious, etc…)

One of the ROs is pretty forward in having a physical relationship without any romance involved. He offers it right in the beginning with an open invite for the PC if they ever want to “have some fun.”

In this spot, the PC can be onboard with that, as they can have a physical relationship with someone they think looks attractive or some other quality they think is nice without having a crush on them or even being someone they would want to be in a relationship with.

I do want to tailor a lot of the story to the interactions between the PC and the ROs, as the ROs have their own likes and dislikes (including what they find attractive in a person), and will respond accordingly. It’s one thing I’ve always found lacking in romance in a lot of the stories/games I’ve spent time in – a lot of focus on the PC, what the PC wants and likes, but not all that often on the ROs themselves in their own interests and desires.

That’s kind of how I want to start. Aesthetic to start.

Sprinkle in other choices where they might get flustered, and be confused by it.

And choices where they can determine if that person is someone they would like to be intimate with, with or without a relationship or even any emotional attachments.

Might deal with a ton of coding, but I think it would interesting to see unfold as I go.

I’ve played a few with the Oblivious MC, and I adore them.

In one particular story, the MC I created was a bit oblivious, shy, and had a habit of not wanting to engage in a physical confrontation. So she’d hide behind someone or something if given the chance.

If one of her dear ones were in trouble, however, she would jump in happily.

2 Likes

Well, I know what it is like not to pickup social cues from other people, or from body language. This has been years ago, but she regularly took my schedule from me, in a play full manner. However, to me it was getting purity annoying. Been happening for about some time, until one of my other friends pointed out that she liked me.

I guess she has been obvious, but to me it was not so much.

I guess it all depends on how you read certain information from people. One person would see it one way and another would not even notice.

Don’t know if this helps or not. But that is my experience of things.

1 Like
These are spoilers for a movie that came out in 1999 called Fight Club.

Before there was a movie, Fight Club was a novel. During the section at the beginning with the support groups the M.C. keeps narrating what he doesn’t like about Marla (Helena Bonham Carter). The paragraphs where he does this all follow this format:

  1. Marla with her {undesired action}
  2. and her {undesirable behavioral trait}
  3. and her {desirable physical trait}.

The first instance the author kept the physical trait something that wasn’t necessarily attractive to everyone, then gradually ramped up the blatancy. The second time I was like, “uhhh… whatever.” The third time I went, “pillowy soft lips?” Eventually he’s just listing things he likes about Marla’s body.