The Beauty of Awesome Character Creation

Posted by Lisa Galarneau on August 14, 2013 in Editorial -- Share:

I mentioned in a recent article that character creation is one of my kid’s favorite activities, and she typically spends as much time creating and adorning her characters (and their homes!) as she does playing most games.  But she takes it even a step further, often creating families of characters for whom she builds complex back stories and interactions.  It’s like she creates a whole other version of the game to suit her specific needs.

It’s a curious phenomenon, this new-found ability to spawn myriad versions of oneself and delightfully share them with others via games. Researchers refer to these activities as identity play, and spend rather a lot of time talking about it. Essentially we live in a world of people who all have multiple identities they utilize. I, for instance, have work-me, play-me, Mom-me, gal pal-me, academic me and many more. Aside from that, playing with identity is one of the things kids do SO often. Just think about all the dress-up games, and the ‘I’ll be a soldier and you be the general’ games kids love to play. Playing with identity allows them explore facets of themselves, sometimes realistically, but more often fantastically.

One of my kid’s major deals is that she won’t play games that won’t allow her to have female characters. Just won’t even consider them. She’s also come to expect character customization, even from relatively simple games. Her characters (or avatars) are always cute or beautiful, and very nicely dressed. It’s a bit of, ‘okay, fashion complete, check! Let’s go kick some booty’! I understand this proclivity as I am much the same. I LOVE beautiful characters in games, and love them even more when I can play with them. Some of them look like me, others don’t, but I am always creating a slightly idealized version of me. Taller, yes, thinner, lovely clothing and/or armor, and butt-kicky. That bit’s important because beauty and brawn are where it’s really at.

So here’s a selection of the best games for character creation:

The Secret World

This online role-playing game is set in the real world, so the options don’t tend to be as comprehensive as say, your favorite fantasy game.  But if real world characters are your thing, this game is a great option.

Dynasty Warriors 7

If samurai and ancient legions of Asia are your thing, this game is a good option. Sixty-two dynasty warriors to play with!

Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 have some of the most beautiful characters I have seen, along with emotes (like dancing) and other characteristics that help bring them to life.

City Girl

A light Facebook game, but your virtual closet never seemed better.

Pet Society

Here’s one where you can customize your pet to maximum cute factor.

Superhero lore seems especially well suited to complex and enjoyable character creation. I’ve mentioned City of Heroes/City of Villainsabout a zillion times (the game is now defunct), and they really set the standard for me in terms of flexibility, novelty, and amusement.

Marvel Superhero Creator:

DC Universe

 

Do you have some games that are favorites from a character creation standpoint? Let us know what’s great and not so great and we can include your input in a future article.

Written by

Dr. Lisa Galarneau is a socio-cultural anthropologist, futurist and games researcher. She's been playing video games since 1981 (Pong!) and loves adventure-style games, RPGs, online games, simulations and anything novel. Her love for games has been passed onto her gamer kid, and she spends a lot of time observing and pondering the future of games.

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