In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, Ben creates a freakishly realistic virtual version of himself.
Everyone’s favourite subject is themselves, so naturally the first thing I do in the character-creator of every RPG I ever play is reconstruct my own face.
Some people like building their idealised hero with a gigantic stubbly jaw, some like making a grotesque freak as an act of defiance, some make dictators for some reason, and some just hit the randomiser button and get on with it because they realise they’ll only see the backs of their avatar most of the time anyway. But games are about escapism! Or at least escaping to a world in which I look like myself.
I’ve been doing it since Morrowind, resisting the lure of creating a 6ft cat man to instead imprint on a Breton soldier whose only relation to my teenage self was his foolish hair, and later graduated to Skyrim which gave me the option to sculpt a slightly more detailed potato-faced warrior.
What does it say about me that, in a magical world where you can live the life of a sorcerer with a lizard face, I choose to play as myself? I don’t know. It’s not about vanity, so leave my massive ego out of this. It’s because I want to live vicariously through my characters, and that’s hard to do when they look like generic box-art cover men (although to be fair I am pretty generic-looking).
As visuals improve, so does my level of immersion. No joke, in Fallout 4 I actually got an out-of-body experience the first time I spun the camera around to marvel at my character’s familiar mug. He is my most Ben-like Ben ever, and as such, likely because it was 1am and I drank five coffees that day, caused an identity crisis. What if he’s the real one and I’m the imposter? Despite his overly charismatic American accent that can’t be altered, I feel much more connected to my character than in Fallout 3. This guy doesn’t merely look like me—he is me. My robot butler even calls me by name.
And it’s not just RPGs that I grace with my face, it’s any game in which you can customise a character. I’ve still got the Rainbow Six Vegas save file containing my no-nonsense counter-terrorist operative wearing the dull expression I mapped onto him through the image import feature at age 15, and I love how even in the most fiercest firefights he looks utterly, contemptuously bored with the world. I was listening to a lot of Smiths back then.
I’m not above tweaking my appearance slightly. In NBA 2K16 my basketballer is a mirror image save for the fact he’s 7ft 2, and my WWE 2K16 wrestler wears a pair of spandex Union Jack pants because I feel like my preferable real life outfit of black jeans and a comfortable jumper wouldn’t get the crowd buzzing. EVE: Online? Impossibly glossy hair that I couldn’t achieve after even a thousand dowsings of Imperial Leather strength and shine shampoo. And Saint’s Row IV? Copious nudity.
So yes, I love creating myself in games not because I’m disproportionately fond of me, but because it lets me travel other worlds, albeit en route through the uncanny valley, and experience the crazy life of a man wearing my face.