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Why Are Gamers So Attached to Their RPG Characters?

As gamers, we all get pretty immersed in what we’re playing and feel quite passionate about the campaigns we have been involved in, and the adventures we have had. Some people liken reading books to having real experiences, but for gamers, we tend to feel like the things we’ve done in games are real achievements and real mysteries we’ve figured out.

Roleplaying games are often the ones that really make us feel this way, having created a player character using your own ideas about how you’d want to interact with people in that setting, and exploring the worlds of a game through their eyes. You make friends, make discoveries, and manage the actions of your character so carefully that it can feel, in a good game, like a real world that you are engaging with and real quests you are going on.

But imagine losing a character you have put so much time in with. Imagine someone overwriting your save and starting a new game in something like Fallout 4 or Skyrim. You’d probably be annoyed to lose all the hard work you had put into the game and all the hours of grinding towards an achievement, but it can be more than that. Losing a character you built and spent a lot of time playing as can be incredibly sad, too.

We Become Attached to What We Create

Some people play roleplaying games as themselves, basically making a character build that represents their own skills and talents, modified for the world they are playing in. Others create a new person using the parameters of the game and try to think about their motivations and how they should behave in the world. Others still just try and balance the stats to give their character the easiest time in the game. These are all fun ways to play something that is designed to let you build your own unique person and explore the world as them. Sandbox type games and games with vast open worlds can be explored as a strong fighter, an evil character, or just a person like you. Usually as you level up, your character becomes fairly well rounded unless you are focusing on a certain direction with them, and they become less specialized, but you usually have an idea of what they were all about when you made them, and this is something you get attached to.

Whether your character is an in game avatar of yourself, an interesting creation with cool abilities and motivations, or a character you’ve designed to perform well in the game, you have normally put a lot of thought into making them and want certain things for them.

Games Use This Connection

In a lot of games, this connection we all feel to the characters we have built is used to add some emotional depth. If you consider a roguelike style game, where your character dies and is lost forever and you build a new one each time, the sense of urgency and not wanting a good character build to die is a big part of what makes the game tense. In a game like Darkest Dungeon, where you play the role of someone managing teams of adventurers, each character gets a set of traits and has experiences that make them all feel unique. When they die, which they often do, they are gone forever and while there are plenty more to replace them, the work you spent on building them up makes each one feel like a real, unwanted loss rather than just another replaceable character being used as cannon fodder. This makes the game feel difficult and emotionally tense, even though in reality, you as the ‘manager’ can’t really die, and have a never ending supply of new characters you can use.

In RPGs, usually you don’t have to lose your character, as death can be resolved by loading a save from before whatever killed you or respawning. In these types of games, you are sometimes punished in some way for death by losing some items or, like in the Fable games, gaining some scars, but it isn’t final. You get to make mistakes and try things out, However, developers know there is something important and visceral about seeing your character lying in a pool of blood and having to go back and try again. ‘You died’ is a message we all want to avoid that has some emotional importance even in games where you can just go back to where you were and try again.

Characters in MMOs Can Even Be Valuable

In the world of MMO games, which can include PC games like World of Warcraft as well as a lot of cool mobile games like the ones at https://mobilegamerhub.com/, you can find that characters people have built and worked with can be very valuable assets. There is even a market for people selling WoW characters at a high level to people who want to do well in the game but don’t want the grind of building a high level character themselves. The work that goes into a good character is something that is appreciated in the gaming world, and can even make a character a commodity. While many people are still emotionally attached to their characters, the value of a good character is something that is known, and so players who have put the work in to making a strong character that can do well in an MMO often see them as a real thing of real world value, as well as a creation they are proud of.

It is interesting to think about how we view our player characters, and how much this adds to the game. Losing a well made character with a lot of history can be really devastating, and make you feel like you have lost not just hours of work, but a friend. This is something game developers use to make games richer experiences and add tension and drama.

Nick Saban

By Nick Saban

Nick is a social and community editor for gaming news. He spends his time figuring out how to involve readers better in our journalism, and trying to ensure we cover the topics and angles they want us to cover. As-well-as gaming he also writes about politics, books, music, film, technology and cycling.