Here we are in the dark, spoOoOOoky, and waning hours of Halloween. We had a few trick-or-treaters today — not enough to empty our giant bowl of candy (oh darn). It seems Batman and Bratz (ugh) are quite popular among the kids, though we did get a very creative My Little Pony. But we all know Halloween costumes are not relegated to the youth. Did you dress up in costume today? Perhaps you are still dressed up, wondering where you are, what you’ve been doing, and why tequila shots make you feel all numby and stuff. Halloween’s not my favorite holiday, but I do enjoy costumes and seeing what adult costumes are this year’s latest and greatest. (Or, if you’re a girl, this year’s most asinine ways to just barely cover up your lady parts.)
It’s fun to step outside yourself for a day (props to cosplayers for whom Halloween is every day), and become something else. It’s a little unfortunate that Halloween has, for some, become the dumb, drunk, and horny holiday, but people are people, so why should it be that you and I should get along so awfully?
Oh Depeche Mode, ye purveyors of truth and synthesizers.
That notion of stepping into someone else’s shoes or “dressing up” as a particular character spills over into video games, no? Some of us probably take it less seriously than others. Me, well, I have something of a problem with it. And I don’t mean I hate it; I mean that, when the opportunity is presented, I spend an inordinate amount of time crafting and maintaining my character. I can’t look like the “perfect” sexy nurse on Halloween or otherwise, but dammit, I’ll make a super cute game character, as long as the options are there.
I’ve hinted at this in other posts, but character customization is probably one of the primarily things that got me back into serious gaming. Sure, I played Mass Effect several times because I liked it, but also because I constantly wanted to change/improve my character’s look; and that was despite knowing that looks had absolutely nothing to do with the game. And yet, they had everything to do with it because I had to look at my Shepard all the time. If something was off about his/her face, it bothered me throughout the game. The same went for Dragon Age: Origins and Skyrim (barely).
Now plenty of games don’t have any character customization (DLC and such not included) – Arkham City, Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed, Final Fantasy, anything Mario, etc. But lots of games offer clothing, armor, or accessory options, and those are even more dangerous for someone with my habits. For every minute I spent creating a Shepard, I spent 10 minutes deciding what Niko with going to wear in GTA IV, dying my Fable hero’s clothing, or choosing accessories for my awesome sackgirl in Little Big Planet. This addiction to changing and creating characters in games probably says something about my own secret self-loathing, my search for “perfection,” and etc. with the psycho-babble. Some people are fine with having/creating “ugly” characters; but I have enough imperfections in my life, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not wanting to transfer those imperfections to your Shephards, heroes, and dragon fighters.
So forgive me if I spend 40 hours of an 80 hour game making my video game character look just right. He/She has to look great for whatever occasion, raiding a base on a foreign planet, going to a strip club, saving the good people of Albion, killing dragons, or whatever. If someone had to look at me for 80 hours, I’d at least try to look decent….or indecent, if that’s what was called for. But more likely decent; I look better that way.
Unrelated postscript: I do hope that anyone reading who was affected by Hurricane Sandy is doing alright. Our little corner of NJ came through just fine, but so many other parts of the state didn’t. All Jersey Shore jokes aside, it’s a real mess there — the losses are staggering for that area. We’re very glad that none of our friends and family decided to venture out that way before the storm. We are lucky to still have power, as many of our neighbors are without it. Sandy was mean, and, as with Katrina, was surely a taste of weather to come; but we (the collective “we”) will certainly pull through.
Stay safe, dear readers, wherever you are.