Gamer Psychology: Character Race
For a number of years now, IÂve made MMORPGs my business and in those years there are some thoughts and ideas IÂve always wondered about. Today, IÂm going to put one of those ideas forward and I want to hear your thoughts on the subject. Even though IÂve always had a fascination with science in general, I do not profess to be a scientist, psychologist, or anything else of the sort. In other words, if my statements below convince you that youÂre the most horrible human being in existence and are a potential mass murderer because you chose to play a Gnome in EverQuest 7 years ago, take a deep breath and stop. These are just thoughts and ideas, not a medical diagnosis of your various mental problems so, you know, chin up and all that!
So, hereÂs the deal. Over the years IÂve always wondered if the race you choose for a character says anything about the type of person you are at your core. For me, a game needs to have an ÂevilÂ race option to stand any solid chance of keeping me long term. We all have different sides of our own personalities, but IÂve noticed that not only do I tend to choose the same type of races when I play an MMORPG, I find that I canÂt enjoy a game if I donÂt have a character that fits into that general concept.
IÂll give you a good example of what IÂm talking about. The Lord of the Rings Online is a good game. When looked at from all angles that matter to me and my style of playing MMORPGs, there is a lot to enjoy about the game. ThereÂs a range of races, different starting areas, lots of open areas to hunt in, dungeons and ruins scattered about for exploring, and plenty of interactive gameplay in combat (at least with the Warden). On the surface, all of this adds up to one conclusion Â I should love the game. The reality, however, is that I donÂt. ItÂs all for one simple reason too Â I donÂt have an evil race to play.
Just typing that Âout loudÂ makes it sound inanely stupid even to me. The most bizarre part about it is that even with evil races and classes I donÂt actually go about doing anything particularly evil when I play (minus slaughtering ÂgoodÂ guards whenever I get the opportunity and maybe the occasional bunny burning fest). I just like having a sense of character background and history and, for whatever reason, it canÂt be good. If they made an evil elf faction or something playable in LotRO, I would probably be all over the game but, since they donÂt, I simply canÂt get into it.
For years, my wife has on occasion asked me why I play evil characters in every game that gives me the opportunity. IÂve always replied with the same answer: ÂSince IÂm such a good and pure of heart person in real life, I need to have an outlet for evil deeds in a world that wonÂt actually hurt anyone.Â
Of course, at this she rolls her eyes and says, ÂOMG, youÂre such a geekÂ, and walks away. But I think there may be some semblance of truth to my assertion that I play evil because IÂm good in real life. ItÂs not that IÂm anything close to a saint in the way I live my life, but in general I hold myself to a high standard of conduct. I have no patience for people who donÂt treat others with respect, kindness, and humility. I have even less patience if that person is current or former military like me.
But does my military background really have anything to do with the characters I choose? At its heart, I think it may. You see, there is one exception to my need to play an evil character, and thatÂs if the character is in any kind of military organization, such as when playing Commander Sheppard in the Mass Effect trilogy. I was the epitome of my Captain America standard for the first one, and only deviated from military protocol later when I felt a decision required decisive action and whatever it took to Âget the job done.Â I like the structure and order this setup provides.
ItÂs in there that I think the answer to my question lies. In life, we all want to be heard, we all want to have a choice, and we all have our own way of doing things. In reality, thatÂs not only a good thing, itÂs the very core of what it means to be human and to progress, to change, and to improve. I recognize the need for this in the real world and IÂve learned to accept and even embrace it.
In the gaming world though, I can be my true self and that, like it or not, would be a totalitarian. I really am that person whose very first instinct in any situation is that IÂm right, it should be done my way, and why the hell are you questioning any of the orders IÂm giving. The household I grew up in, combined with my time in the Marine Corps, only pushed that concept further and further into my psyche. Over the years, IÂve learned to instantly quash that reaction, to take a step back, and listen to the suggestions of those around me. Even further, I now recognize that in the real scheme of things I know jack squat, so I actively seek out those who know more than I do so I can learn.
To get back to my point, itÂs that sense of control and the standing order to not question things that makes the evil races I tend to play so appealing. ItÂs not that I revel in acts of evil; itÂs the historical lore of the race that compels me: ruling with an iron first, a clear sense of hierarchy and command structure, and working for a common goal, even if itÂs as a tiny cog in the wheel. These are all things that are nothing but destructive in todayÂs world, though, except in a very small number of situations, such as warfare, disaster rescue, or other similar emergency scenarios where seconds can make the difference between life and death. In other words, itÂs not the way to live a real life, but a very comforting scenario when playing in a virtual world. And thatÂs why I think the race you choose really does say something about the type of person you are.