A little while ago I wrote an article about why we make our characters look the way they do. To follow up on this I have conducted a few interviews with SWTOR players asking them questions about characters they’ve made. Something I quickly picked up on was the relationship with the players motivation for gaming and the attitude he or she had towards character creation. There’s a very clear connection between these two which you will be able to see for yourself below. If you haven’t already read the original article about the psychology behind character creation I would recommend you follow the link and do so first.
Here are the summaries of four interviews highlighting some different attitudes to character creation and it’s importance:
Aaree tells me that the first character she makes in a new game generally is a slightly idealised version of her self. It’s got similar features as that of her own physical self. The alts that come after can differ a lot but tend to have one or two things in common like the eye colour or make up. She gears her characters to suit the role they play.
“As in the case with my healer sage wearing robes, ect” she explains.
Almost all of her characters are female and have always been since she started gaming years ago. Aaree does have a male character that she is very fond. She tells me she has spent a lot of time getting his appearance just right.
From talking to Aaree it is obvious that immersion is important to her when playing a game like SWTOR. This is clear from looking at everything from the way her character looks to how she gears them and even makes choices in the story fitting the personality traits she has assigned the character. Her main is female and so are most of her alts. They look either very much like her or are very different but with one or two similar characteristics (such as being human, same gender or even eye colour). If she goes for other species then these tend to be human like in their appearance, marialans or cyborgs for an example. Similarities such as these will make it easier to feel a sense of immersion into the story. It is also a way for us to explore different sides of our own personalities within the safe environment that gaming provides.
The Red Eclipse
Snave tells me that he spent more time making his main character but then modeled the other characters that came later after that. This due to a combination of limited character design options in the games he plays and him “being pretty lazy about this stuff”. He has spent much more time customising his characters outfits ect than he did in the initial character creation he informs me.
When asked if he finds his main resembles him in any way he answers: “Unfortunately I am not blue, nor do I have red eyes. I guess we have similar hair at a push but to answer the question; no I do not model characters after myself normally.”
Snave tends to play male characters although he has also spent quite some time playing female ones too.
“I wouldn’t say I had any real preference other than the size of the character effecting how quickly I perceive their motion, in games I tend to play the more mobile DPS classes so having a smaller body type gives the feeling your character is more fluid compared to the larger ones where the movement animations tend to be more cumbersome.”
Though he tells me he enjoyed the Imperial Agent story line, Snave’s answers to my questions in general suggest that immersion is not the motivation behind his playing. Being a public figure and well known player within the SWTOR community it’s easy to think that the achievement and social side of gaming drives him more. This (especially in comparison to an immersion focused player like Aaree) one could assume would result in a lower interest or need to relate to the characters that he plays. On the other hand we could presume that there might be a higher interest in how he is perceived by the community as his stream depends on. So maybe his character is not a means for Snave to connect with the story but rather to the community of players watching him.
The Red Eclipse
Bleezar is known on the servers he plays for his big, pink twi’leks. When asked about the process of creating a new character and it’s importance he tells me that he usually just picks a body type 4 twilek, makes it pink and finds some ugly markings to go with it.
“What inspired your main character to look the way he does?” I ask him.
“Well i kinda just decided that it’d be funny to make a pink twi’lek. I was most likely under the influence of alcohol at the time…”
Bleezar also tells me that his first character (picture to the left) was a pink twi’lek sentinel like all the rest to come. The only difference was the fact that he started out as a body type 3. Then Bleezar made his first alt, a sorcerer, and made it a body type 4, pink twi’lek. After this he followed that same theme with all his future characters.
“The reasoning?” he asks me. “Small OCD? makes it easier for friends/haters alike to spot you… idk.”
He also tells me he generally plays male character as it is harder to make the female ones ugly. On the topic of playing a female character as a male he also adds:
“A lot of the guys that roll female characters in this game tend to get far too obsessed with dressing them up like a barbie doll or something. That scares me!”
When questioned about how important story content is to Bleezar he tells me he doesn’t really care much for it aside from sometimes being entertained by his body type 4, pink twi’lek romancing his companions.
It is clear that immersion is not important to Bleezar. Again we seem to have a more achievement and social focused player. In this case we can see a very clear example of using ones’ characters to connect with the community of other players rather than to the story. By creating a strange, very noticeable look which Bleezar uses on all his many characters across different servers he has successfully created a brand for himself. In others you might have to look for a legacy name to connect the dots between their main and alts. Bleezar has made it even easier for people to recognise him, not just by his “Bleez”-inspired names and his legacy name but also the very distinct appearance of his characters.
The Red Eclipse
Betty tells me that when playing games where he can decide how the character will look he is very particular about getting the specific appearance he wants.
“If I don’t have a character I want to look at I can’t play it” he tells me. “If I’m going to spend 100+ hours with this character I need to be happy with how it looks.”
Non of Betty’s characters look like him in real life and they are all very different from each other. About half of his characters are female and the other half are male. This said, he explains that he does have a tendency to play his female characters more than his male ones. He elaborates on the reasons by telling me: “In most games the variety in choices when it comes to appearance and amour is much higher when playing a female character.” When Betty made his main character he simply wanted to play something that was different and not commonly played by others, so he made a body type 4 female. Turns out this suited him just fine as he realised it was an attractive body type that I assume (since it became his main) he didn’t mind spending 100+ hours looking at.
When asked if immersion is important to him Betty responds telling me that it is. “I love leveling through the SWTOR story content” he says. He seems to easily feel immersed into characters regardless if they are nothing like him in real life. Betty explains that having started playing The Witcher recently he has observed that it takes a longer time for him to make a connection to a character which he didn’t create himself.
We here seem to have a player with a vivid imagination whose inspiration for creating his characters is based on escapism. The desire is to experience new things different than what he is used to. He does not seek to validate himself through his character but rather to explore a wide variety of personas in a way he can’t in real life. Escapism is a large part of why we all love gaming and here we can see that expressed in the characters we choose to create.
Thank you to everyone who contributed with their time!