The Psychology Behind Character Creation

In real life there is no appearance modification station and in order to alter the way we are seen by the rest of the world we have to resolve to less flexible means. We can change our clothes, get tattoos or piercings. We can colour our hair, style it or choose to shave it. We can even go down a “body size” or two by changing our diet or going to the gym yet it’s pretty clear that our real life customization tools are far more limited than those in game. When we enter the virtual world of online gaming it is so easy to make the avatar representing us look however we want them to. So what lies behind the choices we make when we create these in game manifestations of ourselves?

Recent research is telling us that when our choice is not effected by in game mechanics (for an example choosing to be a certain class for a stat increase) we are prone to want to create slightly idealised versions of ourselves. This said we don’t necessarily seek perfection. Often a flaw or other resemblance to our own physical selves helps us relate to the character we are playing.

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Take a seat, and tell me where it began.

“So, tell me, how did you start?” He lit a cigarette and took a sip of his coffee. He was looking at me with genuine interest and curiousity, he really could not understand me. According to him, there’s not many girls around, who do this. Nonsense. I know plenty. It’s not really a big deal. But hey, he travelled quite a lot to meet me here, so I might as well start talking I suppose.

So I told him. I told him, that it’s a very funny beginning, because it was actually my father who gave me the first one when I was 14. He couldn’t possibly know I will get addicted after all. If I wanted to be completely honest though, I tried it first with my cousin when we were twelve. Little kids, knowing nothing about this stuff, but we stayed up late cause we were enjoying it immensely, sometimes even til midnight. We thought we were so cool that time. I didn’t know I’ll come to the state where I usually stay awake until 4-5 in the morning just because it is simply too hard to stop. The guy started to laugh, his eyes sparkling joyfully. For some reason he found my story utterly entertaining. Well, suit yourself man… So anyway, I continued. I said I started lightly, did similar things for like two years, and only on every second weekends. But shortly after that, I needed something new, had to dig in deeper. Soon I found myself doing harder and more complicated stuff, and almost on every day basis.

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The Gorgeous GM pt. 1

At a party, Rebecca, a friend of a friend, asked me what games I played and if I could advice her something to try. She was into the phone games, (feeding pets, growing pumpkins, decorating houses, the works) and wanted to broaden her horizon. Something sweet, not too brutal, no walking around with a gun.

Maybe you will like Warcraft, I said. The same quick reward system, and you can be an elf. She wanted to be an elf. I sent her an invitiation, and she created a blonde hunter elf. I showed her around for the first couple of hours and left her to it.

At that point I was not playing Warcraft much, so it took a couple of days before I checked up on her. She had levelled a lot, asked me an incredible amount of questions and didn’t really have time to listen to the answers. I saw the signs. She was falling for it. And she was falling hard. Soon she told me about her spreadsheets, her own gear calculating system and self programmed hovering tools. I pictured her desk as glowing screens in center, surrounded by scribbled notes, empty cans of Red Bull and forgotten foods.

She wanted to be the best.

She wanted to raid and be top dps.

She got into a guild and started raiding a couple of times a week. And it went well; she was making progress, learning the tactics, topping the dps. And she expected the same dedication of others. This guild had the fairly common guy-girl leadership. She got along great with everybody, but not that great with leadergirl. There was tension between them. Then Leadergirl cancelled some raids, changed times and switched players around teams for no apparent reason. Rebecca got angry with Leadergirl, I want to play, why did you cancel, we need to progress, why did we get the noob healer, and as reply Leadergirl kicked her. Just like that.

Hours spend on various mumbles. This guild had to be crushed. She would take away her team and start her own guild.

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Ranked PvP and why Bioware needs it

Every day millions of people all over the world interact with each other in online environments known as MMORPGs. Asking these players why they play reveals a wide variation of motives. Nick Yee made a study of this subject. Using this I will tonight write down a short and (hopefully) easy to read analysis of the long term benefits that could be gained from a functional ranked PvP scene.

Let us start by asking why people play these types of games. If we can first articulate the motivations then this provides a foundation to explore the methods of creating a satisfying in game environment. For game developers finding out more about player motivation is important since it can emphasise how certain game mechanics may attract or alienate different types of players. Though Bartle’s Player Types is a well-known player taxonomy it would be hard to use on a practical basis unless it was validated with more verifiable data. I will instead use the paper by Nick Yee: Motivations for Play in Online Games. In this study three main components emerged as the principal incentives.

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If we now take a closer look at rated gaming in SWTOR we have two types of ranked PvP queues available (even if they are highly dysfunctional due to reasons like imbalance between classes and poor matchmaking resulting in the existing population feeling discouraged to queue).

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Hiding behind a virtual mask

The world wide web is filled with people behind masks. What do I mean by that? One of my favourite writers once said:

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth.”
– Oscar Wilde

This sentiment seems to be both true and untrue at the very same time. Oscar Wilde’s aphorisms often makes a person think “Yes, that is very true. Wait… Is that really true?”.

There seem to be things that people are more willing to reveal only when hidden behind the mask of animosity.

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Booty Bay

My guild at the time had some good players. The best of them was 14 y.o. Ben.

One day, Ben and I were playing together. More specifically, he was boosting and chaperoning my alt in Booty Bay. Me looting as fast as possible, while he cleared the way, and killed of random Alliance on the side. We discussed Cassius Clay. Talked briefly about Ghost in the Shell. And then I casually mentioned an ex.

His tone of voice changed.
‘Why did you break up?’
Too serious. He sounded too serious.

Why. Because he was an idiot. Because it was based on that one perfect summer evening, with the endless talking, where it seemed destined to be.  Because hormones don’t think long term. Because of unconscious patterns you end up repeating, but shouldn’t.  Because I lied to myself. Because all of that, and none of that.

‘We didn’t fit together. We thought we did, but we didn’t.’

‘Yeah,’ he said.
After a pause. ‘Yeah, my mom said the same.’

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Red pill, blue pill

You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

Existentialist Jean-Paul Sarte said “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”

Sartre was of the belief that ours is a godless universe. Thus there are no absolute guide or understanding in life, neither is there a moral code for us to follow. Sartre meant that we are all radically free. Free to the point of feeling abandoned and forced to take full responsibility for everything that happens, even though we probably don’t really want to.

He also famously said “Existence precedes essence” meaning one first exists, then invents oneself through the choices we make.

The responsibilities that come attached with this freedom can be quite intimidating.

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Hey, I’m Canis

Playing computer games is deteriorative, completely useless, devours your time and energy, and it makes you a hopeless addict. The violence shown on screen triggers agression, all the time spent stooped over the keyboard could be put in much better use, and you’ll become so utterly antisocial, that muttering one single sensible sentence at for example the dining table is going to be the worst nightmare ever. You will soon realise you started to measure people’s worth in dps and hps, your biggest dilemma will be to decide whether to be a mage or a warrior, and lag, low fps will become your sworn enemies. This whole thing called gaming is just one oversized black hole anyway, somewhere in the endless labirynth of the universe, which sucks you in with no chance to escape whatsoever.

*insert disk scratch sound*

Woah wait, we have some serious things to discuss here my friend…

So first of all, let me introduce myself. I’m Canis. A realistic dreamer, devoted listener, lover of meaningful silence and metaphores, and a relentless hound hunting sins and secrets. With my fellow gamers, we’re here to show You, that there’s a lot more to gaming than you’d ever imagine. So let us take You on a journey you won’t forget! We’re diving deep, and when I say deep, I mean Mariana Trench, Challenger Deep.

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Virtual Friends

I have spent time in gaming environments, and part of that in MMO’s. Playing with others. To quote Phyllis Greenacre If two people are repeatedly alone together, some sort of emotional bond will develop between them. Does this apply to virtual relations? What are these anyway? How much of it, if any, is real?

Often I am surprised how accurate gaming friends can judge me. That’s not for you. Watch that movie, you will like it. Omg, you forgot, of course you did. Spot on. At least some of me shines through. But, there are also gaps with real life and sometimes they pop up in little things. F.e., in game, I am seen as someone who can cook. IRL, in any event ever where I had to bring a homemade dish, I’m questioned about who made it. And eyed suspiciously when I reply that I made it myself.

How much do I colour, do I create while interacting online? (I do that irl too, but I can’t help doing more of it online, right?) Things do happen, though.  Liking some, disliking others. Nightly confessions, sharing, an infatuation, disappointments, getting angry. Real feelings. In that sense it is real.
And connections, emotional bonds, leave traces, and memories.

Not to mention what happens when you meet, and worlds clash.

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Hello, I’m Noctua

Here I find myself, one little night owl in a great big world called the Internet. Though I’ve found my way here many a time before, the world of gaming is still new to me. Maybe that is why my fascination with online gaming and the communities that dwell there was so striking.

Having always taken a great interest in human behaviour and interaction I was intrigued. I often find myself examining people around me, not just in my everyday life, but in game too.

Though a surface can be a beautiful thing, I’ve always found that what lies underneath it is far more compelling. To increase my understanding of people around me and human nature in general has always been a slight obsession of mine. In this blog I will write down my thoughts on everything from gaming to psychology and philosophy. Most likely I will be up typing away in the middle of the night when all decent people are fast asleep in their beds.

That’s me and my story of how I ended up in this little corner of cyberspace tonight. Feel free to comment, say hi or introduce yourself below. Sweet dreams everyone.

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