It’s only been two days and I already regret changing my main FFXIV character’s gender. Who is this total stranger running around in Eozera now? What happened to the free-spirited girl who rode to Gridania in search of fame and fortune, and ended up conquering titans and dragons? This new guy is an imposter. He hasn’t earned the right to be there.
It’s weird, is what I’m saying. Weird and unsettling. I’m probably going to change back. (It’ll cost me $10 to do that.) Despite the fact that there’s absolutely no part of me that can identify with or relate to an adorably cute Miqo’te, who always appears to be roughly 16 years old–possibly starring in her own young adult trilogy–I’ve grown attached to that character.
This episode has shown me that FFXIV is one of the best MMORPGs at making me feel a strong connection to the character I’m playing in the game. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s because of the cut scenes. Quite often, you see your character interacting with the game’s NPCs independent of your control. It shows that they have an independent personality. It makes me think of this character as real, much like I would think of and bond with a character in a novel or movie.
When I think about other games, I don’t feel the same connection. Rift is probably the only other game that I’ve invested as much time in a main character, but I don’t think of my main dwarf over there in nearly the same way. I think it’s because you never see your character in Rift as anything other than a game avatar. It’s just a model of arms and legs that stands in front of the NPC while you read dialog. Unless you put in the work yourself to “role-play” your character as you’re talking to the NPCs, there’s not as much personality there to latch on to.
So, while the cut scenes in FFXIV may be time-consuming and hokey, they apparently do a lot to draw me into the game world. To the point where changing my character’s fundamental appearance makes me feel like I’ve chopped off a limb.