These Are My People, Not Characters

How attached do you get to your game characters?

I’m speaking specifically about games which allow you to customize your characters, not about characters with predetermined names and histories (sorry, Lara Croft). That most often means RPGs, though I’ve recently become pretty attached to my XCOM2 team. I often don’t see game characters as somehow being me translated to a game character, but rather as people good at what they do. I send them out on vital, dangerous missions, and they usually come back alive. Usually.

I love when games allow you to customize your characters, which is why RPGs tend to be my go-to game. But in-game character creation needs to be more than just skin-deep. I’ve played a fair amount of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 lately, which allows some limited character customization — just not enough to make me care much about my creation. Even games which I’ve played substantially, and do allow for extensive customization can fall short: I can’t say I really cared about my characters in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

But I’ve created which were, for me,  memorable characters, most in Bioware RPGs. So I’ll share a few of mine.

Fiona Hawke (Dragon Age II)
Fiona Hawke (Dragon Age II)

First up is Fiona Hawke, from Dragon Age 2. Fiona’s the roguish sort who doesn’t take life too seriously, always with a ready grin and a shoulder for a friend to lean on. However, she brooks no nonsense, and when confronted with a close friend who turned to terrible means to try to make a point, she broke with him and did the right thing.

Despite her seeming lack of seriousness, she’s perfectly willing to take on seemingly impossible

Fiona Hawke and the dragon.
Fiona Hawke and the dragon.

tasks, like finishing off an angry, wounded dragon using only her trusty dagger.

Moving on to Dragon Age: Inquisition, I’d like to present you with Siobhan Lavellan, an elven rogue. When faced with certain death at the hands of the Inquisition, she took a stand, proclaiming her innocence. The strange mark in her palm, plus her growing empathy with the people being displaced by the Templar-Mage conflict convinced the Inquisition — and especially the Divine’s right, Cassandra Pentaghast — she could be trusted.

She eventually became close to the Inquisition’s chief diplomat, Josephine Montilyet. Her adventures took her far from the wooden glades of her home, to places she’d never thought she’d experience. Eventually taking on the role of the Inquisitor, she eventually discovered that leadership often has a heavy price to pay.

Siobhan Lavellan. Elf and Inquisitor.
Siobhan Lavellan. Elf and Inquisitor.

I played all three Mass Effect games more hours than I care to count. All of the characters so created chose slightly different paths, and I felt some attachment to all of them. But when I discovered Mass Effect 3 modding, Abigail Shepard became my favorite, mainly because she was unlike most other Shepards.

abigail shepard 1
Abigail Shepard, Inquisitor. Handy with a sniper rifle, she co-opted Cerberus combat engineer armor and made it her own.

Abigail (never, never Abby) could be temperamental and judgmental, but always tried to do the right thing, up to the very end. She inspired intense loyalty among her teammates, solved galaxy-shaking problems and never shirked from making the tough call.

I just wrapped up my first run-through of XCOM2, which seemed overall a richer experience than XCOM: Enemy Within. The story felt more fleshed out, the NPC characters had more personality, and the ability to customize your characters before you even launched the game added a nice touch. So I created a bunch of characters, stealing borrowing names from Bioware games. You may recognize a few.

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Some names seem familiar…

Despite my pandering to my own love of Bioware games, my favorite character in-game turned out to be one generated by the game. Jamie “Dread” Richardson was my first psionic warrior. The only change I made to appearance was changing armor color; the biracial appearance, white hair, and other traits were all created by XCOM2. Well, there was one other change: an upgrade adding +21 will, making her unstoppable even when faced with Sectoids and Avatars.

Jamie "Dread" Richardson, psionic warrior. Pretty handy with a gun, too.
Jamie “Dread” Richardson, psionic warrior. Pretty handy with a gun, too.

It didn’t hurt she scoped her gun and worked with it to create a weapon capable of killing full-strength baddies every now and then. Accuracy, plus damage, plus killer psych powers — certainly “Dread” is an appropriate handle.

I had some fun with XCOM2’s action camera. Combined with Steam’s integrated screenshot ability, I captured a multitude of screenshots, most of which were pretty awful, but a few turned out to be keepers.. I didn’t attempt video capture, because I wanted to document characters, rather than gameplay.

Dread getting ready to bring on the pain.
Dread getting ready to bring on the pain.

I tend to like games where theme and story are strong; mechanics are important, but I’m okay if the gameplay is a little flawed, if the story, character, and world are strong. Being able to be surprised and become attached to in-game characters like Dread is what keeps me playing. Even with the occasional surprise like Jamie Richardson, the characters I tend to remember most are the ones I create.

 

 

 

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