Bree’s column last week about sex in MMOs set off an interesting discussion in our office chat, mostly of the pros and cons and logistics of a sex system in an MMO. Personally, I am not against having some sort of “whoopie” system in-game, but I don’t see (a) why it would be worth the fuss to add it in, (b) how it could be accomplished in an interesting manner, and (c) how multiplayer games would deal with issues of minors and potential for abuse.
Anyhow, that led me to say that I simply wouldn’t engage in sex in a video game, whether it be with another player character or an NPC. At this point in my life, it feels too much like being unfaithful to my wife, so I elect not to. Plus, from past encounters in CRPGs and the like, it never feels like it adds much at all. If I’m romancing a character, the dialogue is always more interesting to me than an awkward cutscene that fades to black.
So saying this led me to do a little thinking about who I felt my character was in-game. And the truth is… I don’t know.
Without ever having deeply contemplated it, I’ve found myself striding a line between two positions. The first is that my characters are merely a digital extension of the human me. They have no personality apart from me, and while they look cooler and have powers in cyberspace, they are (to borrow a biblical phrase) in the world but not of it. They are visitors because they are puppets of me, speaking with my voice and making decisions as I would make them if I were there.
The second is that my characters are a fictional collaboration between the assets and story of the developers and my own imagination. They are not me the person, but me roleplaying (to a degree) a certain character. I know I’ve done this in the past, because I’ve started to see my characters as having their own personalities, attitudes, and history. I’ve also had them make decisions that I, personally, would not. Like my character in the Fallout 2 series — I wouldn’t steal, but he has no problem with it.
I don’t willfully choose between going in-character and simply using an avatar, other than what feels right at the moment. But it weirds me out a little to see that I’m not consistent in doing one or the other. Are my characters female because I am expressing my girly nature or because I think capable female protagonists are awesome? Do I make in-game moral decisions based on my darker nature or because my imagination has empowered that character to do what they would do on their own?
Who am I?
I don’t like thinking about this too much. Makes my brain hurt.