Continuing on with my posts about MMORPG's (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) I wanted to explore out some a key feature that is a common staple in most of these games. And that is the ability to customize and create your Avatar/ In Game Hero.
In games such as World of Warcraft (WOW), Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (SWTOR) or Guild Wars 2 (GW2). The player is given the ability to decide various features that you character can have. Many times you will be able to choose various races (Humans, Orcs, Elves, Cyborgs, Gnomes, Rodians, etc), hair color, hair style, eye color, facial features such as tattoos or scars, Gender (Male/ Female), or even times body type (Tall, skinny, Buff).
A lot MMO's allow players to create an avatar to represent them in-game. Since the overall essence of an RPG is to the assume the role of archetype character who progresses in skills and levels while completing tasks, missions and various tasks throughout the game. Certain MMO's allow the choices for a character to make to have long term consequences either good or bad depending on the players choice. An example can be seen in SW:TOR where certain quests will allow the player to have choice between and light side (good choice) or dark side(evil choice). Overtime in the game if you continue to make dark side choices the avatar's appearance will begin to change. The ability for an MMO to give the player customization options allows the player to express themselves individually within the fantasy virtual world. While most games you control a preset character such as Mario in Super Mario Bros, or Lara Croft in Tomb Raider; the player is controlling the hero and is confined to a pre-determined fate. Whereas in MMO's, you create your character, you have the ability to name it, give it a personality, choose where you want to go.
A interesting article I found created various tests and surveys that attempted to examine how players use the in game tools for character creation to create an ideal version of themselves than that of their real life versions actually are. The article is written by Katherine Bessiere, M.A., A. Fleming Seay, Ph.D, and Sara Kiesler, Ph.D. and much of their results did prove their hypothesis that many players create their avatar to be an ideal version of themselves. At times their character will have characteristics and traits much different to the player.
The article can be found at this site http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/cpb.2007.9994
In my next post I think I'm going to attempt to locate more research about the psychology between a player and the avatar them emulate while playing an MMO. There are various articles that I've browsed to showcase results where most players attempt to emulate a character with greater values and characteristics than themselves in their own lives.