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Personal Identity And RPGs


574_600One of my first articles on this website was a piece on the many habits one develops over the years whilst playing RPGs. These habits are inevitable of course, so many years of play will simply train you into it. But I had to wonder how many habits do people specifically build into their characters themselves. What personality traits do you simply find all of your characters following, and why? With this article I hope to explore that a little bit, because as many of us know, an RPG character isn’t just for Christmas. I myself have certain characters that stick in my heart and refuse to move out no matter how long it’s been since I loaded my last save. I can’t help it, over the course of my time with them they simply burrowed in, and more than a few times I saw pieces of myself within them.

So how many of us do this? I’ve always kept to the practice that the first character I make is, essentially, me. It’s never a male character if I can help it, they always have brown hair and immaculate cheekbones (don’t deny it!), and they’re always just a little bit snarky, but with good intentions.

My first character in Dragon Age: Origins was Untitled-1named Alayna, and she conformed to the above traits. However, I made Alayna during a time in my life where simply put, I was not happy, and even I couldn’t be myself. So I made her who I wanted to be, a strong, brave, sarcastic leader, who didn’t simply shy away from her problems. While playing Dragon Age: Origins, not only did Alayna dig her way into my heart, she became a small part of me that helped me with my problems, even if I didn’t realise it at the time. I gave her the traits that I wanted to have, and I started to adapt them to myself, and in that way I found out who I truly was. And of course, there are multiple factors at play here, but on the whole I think that if I’d never picked up that copy of Dragon Age, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today.

So since Alayna went so well, I should have just went and tried to replicate her across all my games, and had a happy, snarky little romp through a field full of dragons wherever I went, right? But the truth is I couldn’t do that, Alayna’s story was done, I’d built up a full head-canon of what her life was like, and she’d already served her purpose of helping me find my own personality. So it was time for me to spread out and find out who else I wanted to be, if only for a few hours each day.

When I started Dragon Age: Inquisition I went into it with the mindset of “I will play this as if I were the Inquisitor myself!”. However, as the time went on, I started to find that I didn’t connect with the character enough to call her my own. She had a life behind her that wasn’t shown in the game. She had a family in another land, and a history  that I could only guess at. So instead of making her myself, I filled in the  blanks. I played her as if she really had been stuck in a tower, with only  other mages to talk to for 20 years, and that only now was she starting to  come out of her shell. I played her as if the very idea of being a leader  terrified her, but since it was thrust upon her, she had to deal with it. I  played her with an irrational fear of nugs, because every single time  without hesitation she would scream “YES! I KILLED IT!” whenever I hit  one by accident. All of this culminated into a character that I honestly  love, and a character I would realistically want to be friends with. But  she still held some personal traits such as her physical appearance, gender and sexuality.

I’ve met many people who tend to play opposite gender in video games, whether it be for a personal reason, a fashion statement or merely wanting to access the plot that’s not open to them. But all of them seem to follow this rule that a small piece of them will remain in the character. I have one friend who played opposite gender to access the story, but still played their character as a strong, loyal warrior, and another who somehow managed to give Commander Shepard her case of ADD. Whether you realise it or not while playing, these things just seem to slip in subconsciously, and before you know it the strong and in control Commander Shepard is running around looking at all the pretty lights on the Citadel instead of saving the galaxy. I could play a complete psychopath based around Harley Quinn, and I guarantee, she’d still be a feminist. Albeit, she might deal with sexist comments with more of a hammer to the face than a stern talking to.

So what are peoples opinions on this? Am I blowing smoke, or do you find that no matter what character you play, they always seem to get distracted by pretty flowers? Let us know in the comments and let us know what character you’ve made that you relate to, would love to see some more discussion on this… If only so I know I’m not crazy for relating to a lump of pixels!