Throughout the entirety of my gaming career, I’ve explored my way through RPG’s, FPS, looter shooters, strategy, turn based, platformers, and a whole array of different types of games. As far as these unique experiences go, I have to say that there’s an instant way to place yourself in a very unique place in my heart. This isn’t to say that games like Horizon Zero Dawn, The Last Guardian, or Soma can’t also share a place in my heart, no, those are in a very different spot, dedicated to story and emotional toll, and other such things. No, this specific spot in my heart is dedicated to games with character creation.
As silly as it seems, there’s absolutely something magical about being able to customize a character. The oldest customizable character game I can remember myself playing for the very first time, was Dragon Age: Origins. Despite the… aesthetic, Dragon Age provided me a way to bring a character by my own hand to life, and on top of that, sculpt and build a world based off my own decisions. As magical as this was, I felt like the voice options (which were featured exclusively in combat or issuing commands, such as “loot body”, and featured such fun and catchy phrases as: “NOW WE DO BATTLE”, “This should be amusing”, “Play fair!’, and other such choices) were particularly subpar.
As my gaming experiences grew, I found that I didn’t need to have a character that I could “project myself onto”. In fact, I felt it silly when I heard about people who disliked having characters they couldn’t project themselves onto. I never really understood that. Of course, this was only the case until recently.
As I completed my recent playthrough of Dragon Age: Origins, I had given my human mage a very extreme and exaggerated spoken voice, as it felt most appropriate for a chaotic evil playthrough for the live stream. By the time Dragon Age 2 had begun, I had forgotten how lovely Hawke’s voice was. “What’s this?”, I thought. “I can’t voice over a ridiculous voice? I can’t even decide on the voice? I’m being forced to have a beautiful voiced character, even though it looks like my Hawke has eaten a bee and is suffering an allergic reaction??”
Of course, it’s no deal breaker, but it certainly was an adjustment I had to make, coming from a more limited voice-overed game. This, combined with a more limited character creation screen, made my custom character still respectable in both appearance and voice. Granted, this will not change my chaotic evil stream objectives, but nothing will quite beat the shock value of seeing my old mage, by the name of Dudeee, Sic, who had an inverted nose tip, cheekbones that could pierce a templar’s armor, and eyes so massive that you could almost see the evil hamsters running in his head, scheming and placing rotten onions into everyone’s pouches.
It was this adjustment and one more game experience that really gave me a deeper appreciation for a thorough character creation screen. This additional experience was none other than Destiny 2.
Though my Destiny career has mostly been limited to the sequel, I am aware that your Guardian speaks in Destiny 1. However, I’d spent over a year playing as my Awoken hunter,
who is, in my head, saucy, playful, and aloof, while still being wildly over-ecstatic about accepting bounties and hunting down Taken and Fallen. As disappointed as I was that I couldn’t fine tune the features and characteristics of my character during her creation screen, I wasn’t overly put off. She was silent, and as little as that meant to me in the past, I found it refreshing and inspiring, now. When my boyfriend and I would play, it was simply an extension of us, and it became a very natural feeling.
And then, one fateful day, it happened. Forsaken rolled around. And then, she spoke.
And it wasn’t her. It wasn’t my hunter. The voice I heard was so far off from my mental idea of what my hunter would sound like, that I was initially disappointed. Although the shock value has passed, and I of course, have no beef with the situation, I still think often about it. How this foreign voice emitted from my hunter who, until previously, had sounded more closely to my voice. All of the sudden, she had this soft, sultry voice that was unmatched to anything I could do, even with extreme accents.
This doesn’t change how I feel about creating custom characters. Games that give you a character to tell a story with no way to customize outside of armor are no less important to me, either. The ultimate realization I came to after these two recent experiences simply taught me that, unlike my previous life as a gamer, being able to imagine myself more as the story experiencer as opposed to the story follower has made a larger impact than I had anticipated. I will never pick a game over another exclusively over customizability, but I will always understand on a deeper level that silent characters and custom characters truly make for dynamic gaming experience.