Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Face of Gaming

Note to game developers: how a character looks matters. Next year’s Wildstar is already having its own mini-crisis on the ‘sexualization’ of some of the races in the MMO by Carbine studios. Call of Duty developer Infinity Ward made headlines earlier in the year by announcing that it would allow female avatars in the multiplayer section of its game for the first time. Mass Effect 3 had a firestorm of controversy for allowing fans to pick the face of ‘FemShep’. Accusations flew that BioWare was rewriting history and sexualizing the female version of Commander Shepherd. And the list goes on, gamers have a great deal of emotion in the way the characters they play are portrayed and made to appear.

I suppose it’s not that surprising. When gamers talk about characters they love from the Mass Effect series or they point to Bioshocks’ Elizabeth, or Joel and Ellie they clearly take possession of the characters from their favorite games. Even Nintendo’s stable of well-loved if generic archetypes are remembered fondly by fans.

Consider Bungie's Destiny. Even with its gender-locked classes (unconfirmed as of yet), its character creation for a First Person Shooter will be considered groundbreaking at launch. Gender-locked classes are considered the kiss of death for a MMO, and yet single player games have no problem keeping the sad tradition alive. Gamers want to control their characters down to their very bones and developers should take heed, the more gamers feel attached to their avatars the less likely they are t0 go somewhere else.

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