Video games are a great way to escape from reality. Even more so than movies and books, they provide the best way of stepping outside of our regular world because they allow us to be IN the game world. While that may sound bad on the surface, it actually isn’t. People need a way to get away from their daily struggles and humdrum existence. Games provide a safe and entertaining way of doing that. I personally love playing a game and letting myself get lost in its story and characters.
Games are also something that people take very personally, which makes perfect sense of course. You’re actually interacting with the game world and investing many hours into them. People want to actually inhabit the games they play and this is why many people — if the games have the option to allow it — create characters that resemble themselves. It’s a way to make an already personal experience even more intimate.
I’m not one of these people. I would never EVER create a character that resembles me or even create a custom one from scratch. Whatever is the stock model or whichever character is on the game box is the one I always choose. Most gamers love to customize their characters yet I shy away from doing that. Let me explain why.
Honestly, my life is a pretty basic and even boring one. I’m nothing like the people I admire, be they celebrities, scientists or world leaders. I’m essentially a nobody who will not be remembered by anyone one hundred years from now. Why would I want to inject myself into a video game where all of these grand and interesting things are happening? Seeing myself in a video game is a big reminder that I will never be able to do any of these cool things I’m doing in the game or be a great and important person like my player character. It would be a lie.
Having myself in the game will instantly kill the fantasy aspect of it. I want to play a game to escape from my normal, boring and meaningless life. I want to be so engrossed by a game that I forget that I am even playing it. Having a character that looks just like myself would be a big reminder that this is a video game and not a cool alternate world that I get to visit.
This maybe says something about how I feel about myself but when I play a game the last thing I want to be is myself. When I play as Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect games I never think “what would I do in this situation?” Instead I say “what would Renegade/Paragon Shepard do in this situation?” The same applies to any other game that gives me a choice; I decide what type of character I want to play as and play that role as best as possible. I guess you can say that I become a method actor since I try to really get into the head of my character so I can act as they would.
In many ways, all narrative driven games are role-playing games. I want to play the role of someone who is not me. I take that character’s traits and run with them to fully live out the fantasy of being someone other than myself. I want to see the world through different eyes and act in ways I normally wouldn’t or can’t. I want to fully become another person. This is why I have no problems playing as a woman and in many cases, prefer to play as a female over a male character. It’s the ultimate way for me to play as a character that is wholly unlike myself.
As I write this I’m noticing a bit of a disconnect with what I’m saying. I don’t want to play as myself in a game yet I want to vicariously live through the characters I play as. I see myself as the character but I don’t want the character to be me, Tony Polanco. That’s something best left for a psychologist to figure out I suppose.
Aside from my personal feelings about playing as a character that looks and acts like me, there are aesthetic reasons why I don’t like to custom make characters either. By this I mean characters that don’t resemble myself but are original creations. I’m not a fan of them.
I’ll get right to it, most custom characters look downright ugly. Every time I have attempted to make a custom character they’ve come out looking like some sort of horrible, mutated freak. The reason is obvious: I’m not a designer and I have to make do with stock parts. Yes, in some games you can change the body parts’ parameters but the end results are rarely good. I’ve seen some awesome custom characters from other people but those usually come from the PC crowd who can mod a character to holy Hell. Most of us don’t have these tools available to us and get stuck creating abominations which are best locked up in a cave so that they can never see the light of day.
I should note that I don’t have the same gripes when it comes to customizing equipment. The way guns or armor look make no difference to me, as I always go for the stuff with the best stats, not what looks best — even when I do think one piece of armor looks cooler than another. Efficiency overrides aesthetic desires in this case.
While I appreciate that certain games give people a choice over how their characters look, I am not one who will utilize these tools. Again, games are a way for me to escape my mundane existence and the last thing I’m trying to do is ruin that up by having my stupid self in a game. No thank you. Let me play as the cool warrior who gets all the chicks and saves the world and is nothing like me. That’s escapism at its best and that’s what I want when I play video games.