Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Character Creator Mode: Active

I'm pretty sure I have spent more time in the character creator then actually playing Dragon Age: Inquisition. Which is saying a lot because I have racked up 45 hours of game time. That OCD is making it difficult to progress with the primary story-line. But! I've locked in my romance with Cullen, so all is right in the digital world.

But even now the character creation is my menu-mode of choice. I don't actually play as the characters that I have created. Maybe after my first run through Inquisition I'll load a file, but until my first game is completed, these are mini-games. Something to explore and see just how detailed BioWare made their creator system. Can I alter one's jaw to look like an overbite? Or can I twist it to give an extra dimple to the middle of their chin? Maybe if I push the cheekbones back we can get an Angelina Jolie, Rosario Dawson hybrid face on the Qun female...that would be an interesting challenge. Let's do it!

And that's how I spend my time in Dragon Age these days - not fighting demons and closing green portals, but making a bunch of digital characters to see how far I can go before the game stops me.

Character creator systems are becoming more advanced every year. I remember when The Sims first released under Maxis. It's not as polished as it looks now, but in the year 2000 it was glorious. As gamers we were use to starting up the console and going right into the action. So when The Sims provided us with a different approach and allowed us to make our characters, it was a unique experience.You could change their height, their clothing, their hair color, the game gave you control on how you want your Sim and your Sim family to appear. My biggest complaint with The Sims 3 was the removal of so many of the customization features. By the second game you could adjust your Sim's voice, their eyes, cheekbones, where their brows sit on their face, how their nose tilts, and mods were encouraged!

And then Star Wars: Galaxies came out. I was in character creator heaven. On online game with a seemingly endless list of customization was unheard of. I made hundreds of characters that never made it past character creation. I wanted to see how crazy I could make a Wookie or a Twi'lek before it got to be too silly for my tastes. While many scoffed at the lower graphics of backgrounds and some cities to make up for the higher volume of unique characters, it felt like a true Star Wars experience. The movies never showcased aliens looking exactly the same. Everyone was different, even those of the same race. And that translated well into the online world. It made for a unique experience upon every login.

It may sound like vanity, and to some extent with my subconscious it probably is. But my  interest in the character creations are not to make the prettiest elves in all the land. I want to see what I can create. I love being able to take the image of a human and transforming it into a witch, an ogre, a unicorn, whatever the system will allow me to do. It doesn't matter if it's realistic or what might be considered "beautiful," it's about the process and trying to find new ways to mess with the system. My intent is not to break the game or to mod it, but to make unique characters based on the parameters I've been given. It's a virtual playground by making unique faces and body-types.

Why do I do this? I'm not really certain. You could say that a part of myself is trying to find my own identity within the video games, but I have yet to make a digital character that looks like me. In fact, when given the option to play as another race, I go for it. I'm never the Human in Final Fantasy XI or XIV (which I began playing last week). I was a Human once on World of Warcraft and disliked it. Started over with a Blood Elf and an Undead. In Galaxies I went Twi'lek and Wookie. Old Republic it was Human only because I really, really, really wanted to play as an Imperial Agent and the best story-line options are only available to the Human race. As soon as I hit 50, I unlocked the ability to choose any race for that job and made a Twi'lek and Cathar, two dominate races on the Republic side.

Or maybe it's an extension of my playful side. I do cosplay, after all, and enjoy dressing up as a different character every time. I don't know, really. My degrees are in film, not psychology.

I just know that I love to make new characters that I never play. I love the customization and would rather spend all day tweaking and twirling digital images then running through the forest, slaying dragons.


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