Confession: every RPG character I’ve ever created is a tedious Caucasian guy | PCGamesN

Confession: every RPG character I’ve ever created is a tedious Caucasian guy

RPG character creator

They’re quite often brown-haired warriors called Philip, too. I stop short of ‘Phil’ because it sounds a bit colloquial for a fantasy world full of people with apostrophes in their names. Phil sticks out among the likes of Gallaa’a Worm-Eater and Dariaquin Slendertooth, but Philip sounds like the sort of noble who'd clear your cellar of rats. 

If you're looking for a list of games to not-roleplay in, we have you covered with PC gaming's greatest RPGs

All of which is to say, I'm awful at role-playing.

In all likelihood, so are you. We’ve all been quietly, secretly role-playing as utterly banal, beige everymen for years. Creation screens continue to offer up stranger and more exotic possibilities, but the best we’ve ever managed was choosing FemShep in Mass Effect.

What’s your excuse? I’ll give you mine, flimsy as it is. When I first started to explore RPGs in the late '90s there wasn’t much about your character to manipulate, aesthetically. I could have entered those screens with the firm conviction that I’d see the game world through the eyes of a fantastical being completely unlike myself, but I’d still have ended up as a white guy with, at best, blue hair and a tribal tattoo. If you were feeling really avant-garde in 1998 you could choose to play as an Elf, but good luck building up any melee combat stats if you did.

RPG character creator Baldur's Gate

It was the Elder Scrolls series when I started to notice that games were changing in that regard. Morrowind opened the door, and Oblivion ran out of it screaming and throwing purple-cheeked Gerard Depardieu lookalikes everywhere. What the holy heck was this cat-thing looking back at me while I gently enlarged its philtrum with one of the 4,000 sliders on screen? Why did it have a Russian accent? And oh my gosh, a lizard. A lizard with customisable skin. Gaming's Citizen Kane moment.

Except, you don’t actually pick the Khajiit or the Argonian, do you? I can’t begin to imagine the sort of maniac who would. Here’s a game that invites you to spend upwards of 100 hours in its world, gradually becoming the most powerful being in the land, and… you want to spend all that time being a persecuted cat with earrings? No, no. That just isn’t going to work. Show me someone who started an Elder Scrolls title as a Khajiit rogue, and I’ll show you someone who created a new game an hour later. RPGs are a huge time investment, and if you can hit that ‘finish’ button with the absolute certainty that you’re never going to regret opting for a non-human character then you’re just better at role-playing games than me. Better than the vast majority of RPG players.

I'm not going to lose any sleep because I missed out on seeing the world of Dragon Age through the eyes of an enormous bloody Qunari, and you can't make me. Nor do I have a shred of regret about overlooking the Godlikes in Pillars of Eternity, poncing about everywhere with a glowing crescent moon where a sensible, professional haircut would have done just fine. Cliff Blezsinski once told us "I don't find a sentient mushroom aspirational" on the topic of player characters, and he hit on a profound truth with that. 

EVE Online character creator

However: would it kill me to pick, say, an Asian woman? Would my study door burst open the second I finalised that character, and would every romantic interest and hero I've ever had start barrelling into my room in hysterics? "Look at what the silly tosser's made!", they'd say in disturbingly perfect unison. "He thinks he's an Asian woman!"

Well I wouldn't know because I haven't tested that theory out, but I assume not. Nor would any such improbable and humiliating scenario unfold were I to select a hair colour or name other than my own, I'd venture. And yet here I am, saviour of numerous worlds whose physical and metaphysical properties bear no relation to reality, staunchly striding forwards with a dial tone of a player-character every single time.

I'm not implying there's any great truth to be uncovered about latent racism or sexism in any of this, just so we're clear. It's just staggering how unwilling I am to completely jettison my identity in videogames, given half a chance. Even if it makes no sense. Even if it means seeing a 5'11" guy called Philip drafted among the top picks in the NBA.

Still, I've seen stranger things happen in virtual basketball. 

NBA 2K face scan

What fantastical creations have you birthed with RPG sliders, and how did you get on with them? Let us know below.

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Sir Adrian avatarTovias avatartooandrew avatarJenks avatarPredicted Cyborg avatarDiscalceate avatar+1
Sir Adrian Avatar
1 Year ago

Picking a character you can relate to is a natural process of your brain. The whole point of RPGs is to play idealized versions of yourself and experiment from there with subsequent characters.

There aren't many asian girls going into Mass Effect saying "for my first character I'll play a burly white dude from Leeds" either

tooandrew Avatar
1 Year ago

you've lost your mind. I always play argonians - they can breathe underwater. Worth a couple of pond scum slurs if you ask me. I play khakis, too. Maybe you start a new game an hour later because it feels weird to have people shouting slurs at you.

Tovias Avatar
1 Year ago

I've never played as "myself", I normally make up my mind about a character or archetype I want

I don't see the problem with going with something you are familiar with though, I've met people who do this thing where they move their characters from game to game and I think that's cool on its own way

Jenks Avatar
1 Year ago

I usually prefer playing fantasy races when available, but when they're not I play a tall strong white male because that is what I am. What is the point of even thinking about playing a different (human) race, would you roleplay it in some different way? If you chose an asian woman, would you try to infuse your personal stereotypes into it? I'm trying to even understand the point of this article and all I can come up with is white guilt. Is a caucasian guy "tedious" because you always play one, or something else?

Predicted Cyborg Avatar
Predicted Cyborg(8 days 14 hours played)
1 Year ago

I always played Skyrim as a Khajiit. I love the fact that when in danger I snarl and the fact that I love using Beast Form just makes it extra hilarious (I am a cat that becomes a dog).

I can't imagine playing a role-playing game as a human, elf, dwarf or ANY of the typically included races. That's not interesting to me, I love to pick the different and the new. :D

Discalceate Avatar
Discalceate(4 days 10 hours played)
1 Year ago

If you were to play as an Asian woman, would you be guilty of cultural appropriation?

iluspook Avatar
iluspook(14 hours played)
11 Months ago

It all depends on how I feel, really. In Elder Scrolls, I'm always an Argonian. In Mass Effect, my commander Shephard is an awesome black guy, and I can't imagine another Shephard in his place. In GTA online, I have a gal who is half Asian and half Latino.

Do any of these "diversity choices" make me better than anyone else? Of course not...just because our choices may not be the most diverse in gaming doesn't mean we're terrible people. We just happen to be choosing who we want to play as, and most people will naturally want to associate with characters to which they can most closely relate. Others want to shake the crayon box and see what they get. Whichever way we go, it's always the right way, because it's our own choice in a game designed for us to have fun and relax, not sweat over our choices hoping they'll appease the pc patrol. The choice is provided for us, and whatever we choose is groovy. :)