What defines a person? What is the thing that is at their core, which makes them who they are? There can be many things that do this, which can be small or large parts of their lives. As a gamer, we have a way to extend these definitions of ourselves into the virtual world through the characters we play.
Of course, not everyone does this. There are people who play only for the enjoyment of what a certain character can do or a role that is required. I believe that someone who truly enjoys playing a certain character does so because it’s something they can identify with.
Looking back at the characters I’ve played over the years, I can see a progression of how I identified with these characters and why I chose what I did. More so, I can see why I’ve stuck with my Tauren Druid so long and still really enjoy playing him.
Of my many characters, I’m only going to focus on two: my previous main, a Blood Elf Paladin and my current main, a Tauren Druid.
I stuck with my Paladin for a long time, starting on BC launch day and raiding as a healer through Tier 5 stuff (Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep). This was my first experience playing a melee oriented class that I actually enjoyed, as previously I had played only ranged/magic classes in my online gaming career. With this character, I found that I could identify with him somewhat.
In real life, I’m a very ordinary guy. I work for a living, I have a great family, I do very normal stuff. However, part of what I do in my job is help people out (since I work for a bank, it just happens to be financial help), and that is part of who I am.
When I focused on being a healer and a paladin, I could identify with what the paladin is supposed to be. A protector of others, putting other people ahead of one’s self. As I was healing my guildmates and keeping them alive through these encounters, I could see myself in that role as well. Because of this, I believe that I stayed with the character for a while.
The Paladin was a member of the Blood Knights, originally siphoning power from M’uru, and thinking that he was just doing this for his own advancement. Yet, as time went on he realized that he actually liked being able to help others out. Rather than just being another Blood Elf minion, he established himself as a member of his guild and a vital member of a raiding team. When he found out about the betrayal of Prince Kael’thas, he decided to focus on the friends he had made in his guild and only be loosely affiliated with the Blood Knights, even though the Sunwell was restored.
My current main character was born because my wife had recently started playing WoW as well, and we wanted to level characters together. She had created a Tauren Shaman, and I wanted to create a new Druid – hoping that it was better than the original time I tried to level one in Vanilla. We had a lot of fun, and made it to max level in Burning Crusade, and I eventually made him my new main.
I see my Druid’s identity as part of that original experience. He was going through the world with his wife, trying to help people out and bring glory to the Horde. His loyalty is first to his family, then to his fellow Tauren, then the Horde. This is basically how I am in my real life situation.
Our experiences shape who we are, in-game and out. Whether that is a traumatic experience that makes you cringe when you see spiders, or a smile whenever you see kittens because you just love them. If you value protecting others by keeping them safe, a healer or tank might be a good option for you because it aligns with natural personality. If you protect others by removing things that would cause others harm, there’s DPS for you. What type of DPS? Take out your frustration by stabbing things as a rogue. Enjoy setting things on fire as a warlock.
WoW’s longevity can be credited to a number of things, and I believe that relatable characters is a very big part. I wrote about this before regarding NPCs, but this definitely also applies to player-controlled characters as well. Why have a hero if you hate being that person?