Bonding With Characters

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.

Imposter!
Imposter! You don’t deserve to be in that grand company!

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.

She looks mad about being cast aside, actually.
Her duty is not yet complete.

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.

3 thoughts on “Bonding With Characters”

  1. I agree. I think despite my character being silent, just the facial expressions and reactions I see in the cut scenes endear her to me. On my main, I’ve only ever used a fantasia to tweak minor things that I couldn’t fix otherwise. I have twice used it to switch races for alts, but I’m thinking about changing one back.

    It’s funny that I have all this ability to change my characters however I want, but I rarely use it. I have one character who still has two fantasias just taking up space on his retainer.

  2. This morning I put $20 in my Steam wallet because I wanted a $10 name change and some fluff in The Secret World. I changed my name to what I thought I liked and continued playing while deciding what to spend the rest on.

    Ten minutes went by and I found myself spending the other $10 to change my name back. I had become attached to it even though it wasn’t exactly what I wanted when I created the character.

    It’s a good thing I don’t mind donating to Funcom every now and then.

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