Public Opinion

As I explore what connects the real world to the world of videogames, I have found some compelling bits of information on why we are so drawn to videogames instead of real life, and a lot of it has to do with the characters we play as. While I have yet to clarify my position on why, exactly, individuals find so much more freedom and achievement playing as fictional characters, I suspect that it has something to do with the potential to get more done and a lack of judgment by other people. Thoughts on this?

The real reason I am writing is because I want to know what types of people gamers manifest themselves in in the videogames they play. Do you usually adopt a character that you share a gender identity with? Do you pick a character who is most similar to you or do you go with someone completely different? Why do you think this is?

If you do choose or customize a character that looks like you, what features do you make sure your avatar has that represent yourself? For example, the clothing might be less important to you than the eye color, or the hairstyle. For example, if I have a choice, I always pick a female character with as many triats of mine as possible because I like to feel like I am part of the game. What do these important representations tell you about yourself? I am curious to know what people see in their avatar that empowers them in a way that the real world does not.

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3 thoughts on “Public Opinion”

  1. Identification with a character in an avatar has something to do with make-believe. When someone engages in make-believe he or she imagines that the are someone different, and then further imagines that they are completing some activity as that person. This second part is essential; as a kid, when I would make-believe that I was Indiana Jones, I would not make believe that I was grading Archaeology papers, or reading on a plane; I would pretend I was saving the world from the Nazis. This is to say, the activity that is being imagined is just as important as the character because make believing gives us a chance not only to identify with characters, but to imagine what it is like to be those characters. Video games can bring our make believe worlds to life, in a way that other mediums can’t, because they allow us to do things as other characters. No longer do I have to wave a broken broomstick around, while murmuring ‘vwing’ in order to make believe I’m a Jedi; video games put me in control of a Jedi in a fight.

    But it seems that what a person can make-believe is limited by the features of themselves that they view as essential, or unchangaeble. That is, the character that the person pretends to be can never be so different from the actual person, that the actual person can’t relate to the character.

    The activity of make-believe is meant to allow the person to pretend what it would be like if certain fashions of themselves were different: what it would be like if they had more abilities, or were out hunting for ancient artifacts in wild countries. But the person must still be able to identify and relate to the character they are pretending to be, or otherwise they will not be able to imagine themselves as being this character. Because of this I think the person and the character must share certain characteristics that the person considers to be essetial features of themselves (gender seems to be a good candidate for such a feature), in order to fully engage in the activity of enhanced make-believing that video games allow. I never made-believe that I was a female character, nor have I ever created female avatar, because in some sense I view my “Y’ chromosome as an essential part of my makeup. I wouldn’t be me without it. And because of this, to make believe that I was a woman would cause me to feel a certain degree of cognitive dissonance, and diminish the whole activity. That is, I would find it hard to imagine what it would be for me to be a female, since my gender is wrapped up in my self-identity. I think this is unsurprising since gender is such a large part of self-identification, but it would be interesting to see what other features go in to these limits on make-believe: does race influence it, does relative physical appearance?

  2. I usually play diverse characters. It’s par for the course for me to have 4 or 5 different saves in an RPG I’m playing, where each character is either a different class or gender or race, as many of the fantasy games would have it. I notice when I pick characters in games like those, I actively choose the various races (elves in Skyrim or turians in Mass Effect) far more than I do humans. I play as a human all the time in most other games. I am human. Let me try something different. That’s my usual mindset, I think.

    Sometimes I might have one character who’s kind of like me, and then I’ll make others very different, each kind of having their own story. I think it’s my inner novelist working those details out, but when I play, for instance, a female high elf, I’m not really relating her to me at all. It’s a different character with a totally different background. That’s the sort of thing I’ve always found interesting with character creation: you can just do whatever, and there are plenty of different outcomes and characters you can wind up with. However, I’m also curious to see if a lot of people often try to reflect themselves into the game, or if they don’t necessarily treat the characters they’re playing as “themselves,” so to speak.

  3. One of my cousins just gave me GTA5 as a gift, which is troubling to me because I don’t own a PS3, my brother does. Any who, I just popped the game in an hour ago, and obviously, the first thing I had to do was create a character to play as.
    At first I didn’t care who I played as, I just wanted to play. But after playing it for a while, I became more and more immersed in the game. So immersed, that as we speak, I am also customizing a character.
    I started of by creating a character that was the complete opposite of me, but as I began detailing him, I decided to have fun with it, until now, that I am designing it to resemble me.
    I began wondering why I came to this decesion until I finally realized why. Since I was going to be playing a first person game that allowed me to do illegal and gruesome deeds, deeds so insane, that I would never even imagined or considered.
    So in summation, I feel, I personally, customize the avatar to resemble me as much as possible, and since its pretend, we all have an inert tendency to rebel and to violate authority, so we might as well take advantage of it and put ourselves as the avatar.

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