Video game customization
It never ceases to amaze me how much time and effort I bother to put into my characters in video games. Inevitably, when offered the chance to customize my character at the beginning of the game, I spend up to 20 minutes trying to give him the exact forehead shape I want, or make his nose look exactly as it should. I sweat and finagle the details until my character looks exactly as I want him to: a manly expression of video game prowess and male beauty.
And then, within the first 10 minutes, I find a helmet that gives me +10 defense and my immaculate face is never seen again.
This is so common that often I forget what my characters even look like. I once made a character in Skyrim, and just to mix things up, I made him look like he was in his 70's.
He had a huge grey beard and long grey hair and his face was appropriately wrinkled. I promptly slapped an iron helmet on my head and forgot I was old. About halfway through the game I took off my then-dwarven helmet to replace it and happened to be in third-person mode. Lo and behold, it was still the same old guy I had spent so much time on earlier in the game.
I ran around without a helmet for a while just to remind myself of why I made a custom character in the first place, but eventually a fight with a dragon all but forced me back to a helmet and my individuality was gone again.
I have to wonder why I bother. Why do I insist on spending time messing with this guy's appearance if he's not even going to see the light of day? What about the process of creating a character is so fulfilling?
I have to suspect it has something to do with identity. Game developers want a player to immerse themselves, to really put themselves in the game and play as if the player is his or her character. They want you to like yourself. To that end, they let you make yourself whatever you want to be.
Whether or not you can see what you look like on a regular basis doesn't matter. It's still 'you' under all that plate armor. By building a customized appearance early on, you tie yourself to the digital avatar you control and connect to the game. Even if you intentionally make your character look like a freak, you still connect to him or her by the act of intentionally changing his or her features.
Heck, I'm playing a Mass Effect run as Tijuana Shepherd, a 40-year-old woman who suffers from a terrible case of fish-face, but I still feel attached to the character because I bothered to give it time and attention, and because I'm in control of her actions (although I see myself a lot more in Mass Effect than I thought I would'that fish face may have been a bad choice').
I suppose my obsession with customization boils down to a desire to better connect to my characters. I want to take part in the world of the game to its fullest so I put myself in the game as best I can, whether that be with a square-jawed emblem of masculinity or a 50 year old man with bug eyes and a dad 'stache. Even though I might never see my own face again, I'll still give my character the time and attention he deserves.
Hopefully, though, I'll take off my helmet long enough to laugh at the silliness of a mutant fish-faced monstrosity saving the world.