May 24, 2010
Playing With Myself
Last week, I finished my first playthrough of Mass Effect. I had the option of starting a new character and class. I decided to make a different version of my my original Commander Shepard with slightly different features, hair color, class, and personality.
And yet...I found it difficult to let go of my heroic, plain Jane, good-hearted Shepard I had just finished playing with. That got me thinking about main characters in RPGs.
I noticed after playing Knights of the Old Republic, that I had a similar feeling. Leaving behind my character from the MMORPG Final Fantasy XI was hard to do, and often times, I miss playing her. But why? Why do we have such attachments to certain video game characters?
My own theory is that in RPGs where we fully customize characters and make decisions that affect the game, those characters reflect ourselves. We, the gamers, make the choices. From my own experience, I find that I choose to play female avatars with similar physical traits to my own, and usually play the "good version" first. So after investing hours upon hours playing my personification and making my desicions, I've become quite attached to my virtual self and find it difficult to play the game again as someone who is not "me." I like this person. I relate to this character. Why? Because they are a reflection of myself. And who do we know better than our own selves?
Then I consider RPGs where the main characters are not customizable. These are characters designed by someone else. Yes, we sometimes make decisions on how to interact, like in the Persona games; yet these non-custom characters don't feel like they are a part of our consciousness. Tidus is not me. Vyse is not me. Sora is not me. Nathan Drake is not me. Starkiller is not me. Even the nameless Suikoden heroes are not me (Then again, they have almost no personality anyway). When I finish a game with characters like those, I feel satisfied, like I put down a good book, but I never find it hard to say goodbye because it is someone else's adventure.
In conclusion, I believe that we take more personal pleasure in RPGs where the main characters is a personified embodiment of ourselves. Why? Because in doing so, we gain a genuine sense of accomplishement, as though we are personally performing these home/world/galaxy-saving feats. The heroes are ourselves, and in turn, we are the heroes.