Thursday, 9 February 2012

On identity

How much of ourselves is bound up in our avatar?

I know this is one of those perennial questions of MMO gamers, but gazing upon Bramble just now in the character selection screen, it sparked it up for me once more. You see, for some reason, I decided to give all of my Bramblicious characters in TOR a very strong identity that themed across them, not just in terms of name. They all have variants on a specific style of hair and make-up. And to be honest, I'm quite intrigued as to why I decided to do this.

From those people who know me from Lotro, there's a smaller selection who have actually met me - and to them, before we met, I kept saying 'I'm not a hobbit'. Because anyone expecting the short-haired, dark-skinned hobbit persona was going to be somewhat thrown. I'm not short, I'm pale, and my hair was distinctly longer. We used to chat sometimes in guild chat about the closeness of our avatars to our own characters, or the level of wish fulfilment. I'm not entirely sure why I ended up with a character so far from my own (although I did have that short hair when I created Brambleleaf). I think possibly there was a conscious effort to distance myself from the character. And I initially created a few characters with very different names and looks. Although you are inevitably going to caught in a restricted palette of faceshapes and hairstyles that you like.

However in TOR I have created a Bramble brand of characters (I feel like I should trademark myself). And I'm not sure why. It is quite useful now that I'm guild leader - I log in, people know it's me; there's a lot to be said for being obvious. But I decided on this look before the possibility of guild leader was ever on the cards. In fact, before TOR launched, I had a strong internal debate going about whether there was going to be a Bramble at all. And I wonder if perhaps this is why I've reacted so strongly in the other way. For whatever reason, I had threatened my own game identity; and the strong Bramble brand is a resurgence of my own belief in my identity.

(And I, of course, could well be talking bullshit.)

Indeed, my choices reflect nothing of the RP nature of the realm that we are in. And this is possibly again why I find it so difficult to make the choices which are far outside my own personality's values (sorry, Jo, I do keep trying to take the dark path). I know that people who have created avatars to personify a character that they wish to play are having a fantastic time rebelling, disdaining and cynicing (that's not a real word btw) their way around the galaxy. So having too strong a Bramble brand is possibly limiting my experience of the game. Although I still quite like me, so hey-ho.

And on a final, slightly worrying, note, I had my longish hair cut short a couple of weeks back. And realise that I now have brand Bramble's hair...


  1. The only thing Rouf and I have shared through games is a love of beer and follicular challengement. There's very little wish fulfillment there otherwise - although I have similarly wondered if people play something that they're not (not quite the same as wish fulfillment).

  2. Heh. I think I phrased it poorly, although it definitely does have that element of someone wanting to be taller, shorter, slimmer, plumper, whatever comparative you choose. But there's also that common claim that people roll alternate-sex alts so that they have something that they want to look at...