The power of character customization in video games

Malik Frierson

We are well on our way to the return of one of the most celebrated game series of all time, the “Mass Effect” saga–a game series that promotes character customization from physical appearance to mental and emotional state. But, what is it that makes creating our own hero so appealing?

Video games have been evolving to become more immersive and bringing us into the world of the game. What better way to do that then let us, the player, control every aspect of the protagonist? The result is a gaming experience where we connect to the story, game play and characters deeper than is possible with a pre-made character made by the game’s developer. It also helps boost the overall confidence of the player while playing the game. There’s just something satisfying when we step into the shoes of the hero–or in some cases, the villain–we create.

In “Mass Effect,” you create your own version of the great space hero Commander Shepard. You decide on Shepard’s look, personality, romance, mental state and even what he says. That level of creativity and control over the protagonist helped the game become one of the most celebrated game franchises in history. When you interacted with a character in the game, you really feel like it is you interacting with the characters. When the epic universe-changing moments happen, you feel like an awesome space hero. This is one of the major benefits of character customization. It allows a special type of immersion that uplifts the player and unlocks the hero we all have hiding deep inside of us.

Bioware, the company behind the saga, has realized the power that character creation has and has now used it on several of their other games to much success.

Bethesda, another gaming company, has also perfected the art of character customization. By making their protagonist silent, they add even more opportunity for the persona of the created character to project on. When you journeyed through the mutant infested wastelands in “Fallout” or faced demon gods in “The Elder Scrolls,” you really felt like it was your story as the character you molded talks, fights and evolves. Finishing the game leaves you with a unique sense of accomplishment. Where some people may see it as just beating a game, you know that you saved the land from darkness with your awesome alter-ego.

In the end, the art of character creation is a well appreciated feature in video games that has the extremely pleasant effect of immersing us, the players, into fantastical worlds. It also reminds us that there is a great and powerful person inside us all–no matter how different we are.