I’m an RPG player. Give me twenty minutes and a decent Character Creation set up and I’ll have a full-fledged individual with a detailed and intricate backstory to provide motivations and personality quirks for flavor. This works pretty well with the fact that I’ve an annoyingly prolific imagination and the ability to type; if the game is half-way decent, by its end I’ll have at least a half-dozen fanfictions involving my character and their reactions to the plot or their story before the plot happened or some plot that I thought might be fun to write out. To me, the character isn’t me, I don’t see them as a formless avatar to fill in with myself, but they’re an entirely distinct person that I happen to just share a head-space with. I slip into their mind, their story, and act with them, in accordance to the world they breathe in and the life they’ve led. They aren’t a portal for me to experience the game but a connection, a link, for me to see through another’s perspectives in an alien world.
It’s a weird dynamic to explain, but it’s why I have no problem playing the same game multiple time (I’ve played through Dragon Age Origins nine times, four more play-throughs planned, and then its sequel, Dragon Age 2, six times.). I might know what’s going to happen when I turn that corner and I could easily structure my team so that I never hit a “crisis point” with a companion (a decision that is so abhorrent to that character that they leave, sometimes attacking you, sometimes you have to kill them), but my characters don’t. They have entirely different set of experiences and memories than I do and that, all on its own, gives them a lens to see their world differently than me. So, to keep true to the idea that they are not me, but I am them, I must give way to their lives and their choices.
This gets exciting in cases where the character and I are entirely different people. Like Daylen, my verbose mage who is probably that actual worst hero of them all. He’s pro-him. When faced with a blood-mage slaver who offered up the lives, the power, of his kidnapped slaves, Daylen shrugged and said “sure”, and accepted the meager boost that a dozen deaths gave him. If I met him in real life, we’d hate each other, and I’d probably start a fight that I’d quickly lose. Daylen is not a nice man, he’s indifferent to cruelty which, in some ways, is worse than honest evil. For most of his playthrough, I was cringing as I clicked and whispering apologies to my favorite characters. Gameplay is much easier for me when I make characters who’s motivations align closer to me, but there’s always a few wince-y moments.
Take Neria, my extremely honorable and proud dwarven noble. She believed strongly in doing the right thing and that kindness mattered, not the end result. As such, she made decisions based on that and, sometimes, they were wrong. And I, the omnipotent player who had watched this universe play through so many times, was forced to click, electively helpless, as this little warrior made ill-informed, and bad, decisions in the search for goodness. Through each decision, there was a brief struggle between what she would do and what I wanted, but we always stayed true to who she was.
I’ll refrain from talking about every playthrough I’ve ever done, but my point can be summed up in: I make the decision to subvert my desires in favor of my character’s. Terrible, loving, cruel, indifferent; it is not me, but the character, and our work together. Through this becoming another, becoming my character, each game is really a different world, because they all see different pieces.
So I wanted to ask you all: for those of you who also like RPGs, whose perspective are you taking? Is the character you, just animated and armed, or is it something along the lines of sharing an experience with a character you created?