How to be a Geek: Role Playing Games

Commander Sheppard slowly enters the room, her Carnifex pistol gripped tightly in her hands and leveled with her face as she comes around the corner.  She can hear them before she sees them, the heavy Bartarian breathing a dead give-away.  There are four of them, heavily armed mercs, and they have hostages.  Sheppard doesn’t flinch as she stares down her sights, the iron numbs lined up directly between the merc-leader’s top eyes.  Garrus and Tali both do the same, emulating their Commander’s action, each waiting to see what she does.  Shepperd’s index finger tightens around the trigger, squeezing the metal it to its limit.  She’s knows that with an ounce more of pressure the gun will fire and blood will be spilt.

For the Mass Effect series this is a common crossroad, a chance to be a paragon of good or be a renegade and go evil.  So pop quiz hotshot: A Batarian merc has hostages.  What do you do?  What do you do?  (Shoot the hostage and have a drink with the merc.)

How does a geek handle this situation?

Well if the geek is anything like myself, (nobody is like you) then this decision involves more than just am I being good or am I being bad?  This decision, and everyone just like it, all comes down to the greater question of who am I playing?

Ever since I started playing Bioware games, back in the Baldur’s Gate days, I’ve always enjoyed their games.  I could build MY character and have him do whatever he wished in the game, but character creation for me went deeper than just what class, what race, and what I looked like.  Character creation became a deeper thing for me.

I approach each new character like a story in a book.  As I build my character, and the early levels in a game, I start to ask myself questions.  Who is this character?  What does he believe?  What does he think?  Some games make it simple.

In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic you played an amnesiac hero walking up on Taris.  From here I deduced that I needed to learn my back-story, learn my history and find out who I am.  From that I decided that my Scoundrel, a man named Jett, was going to be a talker.  He would still draw a blaster when needed but the truth of the matter was he’d rather talk his way out then shoot.

In Mass Effect I choose my Sheppard, a red-headed Vanguard woman, to be a soldier’s solider.  She lives by the Vegetius saying “Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum.” (Really Latin? You pompus jerk).  Translated it means If you want peace, prepare for war.  My Sheppard, Commander Allana Sheppard, would fight for peace, she’d put a bullet in your brain or biotic you across the room if you dared harm an innocent.  She knew loses were unavoidable in war, they were not acceptable but they were going to happen.

The answers I choose at creation governed how I react to each crossroad.  I’d stop, pause, and ask myself not what would Commander Sheppard do? (We totally need those bracelets WWCSD) but what would MY Commander Sheppard do?

This doesn’t always turn out well.

When time came to fight Sovereign over the Citadel my Sheppard was there but when the Council needed help and she had to choose between saving the Council or saving everybody else on the Citadel my Sheppard to let them die to save the Citadel.   This was apparently evil.

In Dragon Age: Origin when my dwarven fighter wandered into Redcliff in the midst of a zombie invasion he was forced to make a decision.  Either he slays the possessed child responsible for the undead’s attraction or go off a long quest to save this child’s soul.   My dwarf was of noble birth.  He was trained to care about more than just one life, he was raised to care about the people.  So despite that this child was blood kin of the King he slue the child to protect the city.  This was apparently evil.

Video games, especially adventure and RPGs, are designed to evoke emotion and tug at your heart strings but for some of us making the character our own requires a whole other degree of devotion.  As the world of video games dives deeper into storytelling and character development, the choices our characters make are not longer going to be influenced by just the urge to be good or evil, but by the emotional attachment we feel for them.  Hopefully designer will see this and start to make character options more complex.

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