My roommate and I have nights that we call floor wine nights. These are exactly what they sound like: we grab a bottle of wine, two wine glasses, and sit on our kitchen floor, drinking and chatting about things that are going on in our lives. The most recent floor wine night came on the heels of me having hit a particularly rough patch in my life: a recent break-up, an impending layoff from work, and a whole host of other things here and there. It was a night that got me thinking about a lot of things, and particularly, how I see myself.
Funnily enough, the only way I could explain how I was feeling was to talk about why I love playing as Salvador in Borderlands 2. And then I thought about it: wait, no, I also play as Brick in the first Borderlands. And while I played as Nisha in the The Pre-Sequel, it didn’t feel right. “It’s funny to me,” I said, “that with all my self-esteem issues, I never play as an attractive woman. I always go for the loud, boisterous, overly hulked up man characters.”
I realized it was because for me, these characters represented something I was striving to find in my own, personal life: to be able to unapologetically take up space. Brick and Salvador are not afraid to be seen and to be seen taking up space. They revel in their size and occupy it confidently (something I have never been able to do).
Usually I try to make myself as small and unobtrusive as I can. I sit as compact as possible, never in somebody’s way. If I could just phase into the walls and furniture, you bet I would. So why then wouldn’t I be drawn to a beautiful, powerful, funny, smart, and sexy character like Lilith, who could phase where she needed to be but was also confident in herself? Because it’s not enough for me.
I need Salvador and Brick’s loudness, their lack of subtlety in size and nature. It’s the little things about their personalities.
Brick’s character card in Borderlands introduces him as “Brick as himself.” He isn’t anything other than what he is — and more importantly, that’s all he needs to be. Salvador hums “In The Hall of the Mountain King” and shouts, “I am everything,” “Oh, it’s good to be me,” and “I am very good at killing” (be still my beating heart). They’re vocal acts that defiantly declare against being insignificant and invisible.
Salvador is a lesson in positive thinking and breaking negative back-talk. It’s my own power fantasy, one that chases a mentality I try to implement in my own life. The irony that Salvador shouts “Screw you, Freud” as he begins to gunzerk [editor note: Sal’s a Gunzerker, as in “gun berzerker,’ I’m assuming] as a way to give a middle finger or two to the idea that Salvador is overcompensating for his small statute by dual wielding large weapons is not lost on me here, either.
Personality versus Playstyle
Talking about why people play the characters or classes they do is such a fascinating and oddly intimate way to see how a person not only approaches games as a player, but also how they see themselves. When I posed this question to Twitter, the range of responses I received was remarkable: people approach selection, whether consciously or not, with a very explicit goal in mind – one that may or may not be related to the actual game itself. Justin Carter (@GigawattConduit) was one of the first to respond to my tweet, with an enthusiastic “this could be fun!”
For Carter, choosing Axton in Borderlands 2 came down not to what this character represented for himself, as choosing Salvador and Brick did for me, but rather what the character was capable of replicating for Carter. “I usually prefer to play as the soldier class in games,” Carter explains to me. “So with Borderlands 2, Axton has a turret that draws the heat off of you and will kill enemies if you’re down but not out. It’s decent when you start out, but in later levels, it becomes pretty freaking powerful. One skill tree lets you throw the turret out, it teleports, and creates a nuclear explosion when it reappears. Naturally, I use this whenever I’m feeling like a cheapskate, which is all the time.”
For Carter, choosing soldier classes in shooters is his go-to, because the idea is that these classes will come with more firepower. And it’s this playstyle of heavy firepower, including a full range of weapons, and the ability to go guns blazing that trumps the visual appeal of a character for Carter.
“Typically, I like to go in guns blazing with the best weapons in my arsenal. In games like Borderlands or Mass Effect, you can’t really get that across yourself, since your weapons are typically seen on your back outside of combat,” Carter says. “But in something like Diablo 3, I deck myself out with the snazziest looking armor and most badass looking swords possible.”
This is something I can, and others, can relate to whole-heartedly. Because when it comes down to it, choosing a character or certain class is about choosing the avatar that you can really gel with.
Whether it’s a way to tap into a fantasy you’re trying to embody in a certain way, or a strategy for best completing the challenges put forth in the game, character and class selection offers a fun way to get to know those you play games with. This is why it’s one of my favourite questions to ask people. And why it works as a great way to make small talk with none of the excruciating teeth-pulling of regular small talk. Think of it as an ice-breaker question. It’ll at least be something different than “What animal do you see yourself as?”
What influences your choice of character or class in your favourite games? Tweet at us @dorkshelf and let us know!