Vanity: How my hatred of a character’s appearance made me hate a game

When I played SWTOR in beta, my favourite character was an Imperial Agent (not pictured). I was a cyborg with a cool implant just above my left eye, which made it look like I always had an eyebrow raised. Combined with a smooth voice, devilish charm, and shrewd initiative, I felt like a mix between James Bond and Spock.

So when the game launched, I tried to recreate that character. Unfortunately, my preferred implant was missing and cyborgs were stuck with these ugly red eye piece things. I made a human instead and decided to go with the same overall look, less the implant.

I ended up a baby-faced pretty boy, and I hated it.

Agent Aniar

In-game, the character looked like plastic. No scars, no complexion, no distinguishing characteristics. What is curious is that, by extension, I ended up hating the class. Everything felt wrong, and every conversation with people (the entire game, all the quests and interactions with NPCs, is voice acted) frustrated me. This is particularly bad because the conversations are one of the things I love about this game, and this plastic Ken doll of a character made me not want to have any. Because this plastic character was so despised, I hated Imperial Agent as well.

I decided over the weekend to give the class another try, so I made a rattataki and started playing. Suddenly, I loved playing an Agent again.

Agent Iskar

Curiously, I’m also playing him a bit differently. I think because I disliked the appearance of my first agent, I played him fairly neutral. He was a wishy-washy pansy. My second agent is flirtatious, a bit of a rebel, and interested in both credits and power. He is following the path of the dark side, and I’m enjoying it a hundred times more.

This has taught me an interesting lesson: we are interested in, or attracted to, visual complexity to some extent. Now, generally speaking, humans find beauty in symmetry, and the less symmetrical something is, the less beautiful we consider it. But at least in the case of these characters, the more complex I make the face, the more interesting I find it. I want to look at the faces more. My sith warrior is all kinds of scarred and tattooed, but I think he looks awesome. I want to play that guy just to see him in conversations, as compared to my human agent which just makes me want to avoid the game altogether.

There’s a lot of noise being made in the gaming community right now about game mechanics or story vs. visuals, and how we care less about visuals than about mechanics/story. I would agree with that, but I think I have to add a caveat: while the visuals don’t have to be advanced, 3D, or incredibly beautiful, they can’t be bland or boring either. We are visual creatures, and in the end, we want to see something new.

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