Reality is one of the hardest things to face in our lives. The constant struggle that we face every day can make even the simplest of task extremely daunting. But, sometimes at the end of the day all you want to do is take a breather, lie down for a second, and connect with those friends that only exist in the “Virtual World”. To spend a few hours with those close friends of ours that we call video game characters.
Yes, anyone who considers himself a gamer will understand what it means when I write: we love (insert character here) from (insert video game here). This topic is very well researched and various dissertations have been written in the matter. We’re human, and it is just the way we are built. It’s not hard to empathize with the hero who is destined to save the world, or the rebellious princess who wants to escape the tyranny of some madman. As humans we are simply programmed to act in such a manner.
In the following video it is explained the major reasons for the bonds we form with these characters:
These are as such:
- Humanity (without stepping into the uncanny valley)
- Attractiveness (physically (this can be cute or appealing in any form), socially, or task attractiveness)
- Contingency (interactions with the character actually matter)
This makes sense, yes on a deep level we can connect with these characters because they are their own person. We want to help them achieve their goals. Nay, I say indeed it is our responsibility to help them achieve their goal. If the characters we play as are completely unlikeable. It will detract from the experience and as such it is (almost) imperative that we see something in these characters that makes us want to assist them in their journey.
Vyse the Legendary Sky Pirate from Skies of Arcadia (Eternal Arcadia for those in Japan)
Skies of Arcadia’s Vyse was born during the era where brooding/angsty such as Cloud (FF7) types were very popular. Yet, Vyse was optimistic, cheerful. He never gave up in the face of adversity. His motto used to be “impossible is just a word that people use to feel good when they quit”. Vyse was just a regular man who decided to take a stand against Valua. This made me fall absolutely in love with him, he was my hero. In spite of not being real, Vyse did a lot for my life. It’s thanks to him that I’m probably a sailor right now.
Vyse has also had such a profound impact in my life. I believe he helped shape me into the man I am today. My dreams might not be as big as his, but I intend to accomplish them nonetheless. He has all the characteristics listed in the aforementioned video, but there was more to my connection with him than simply fitting a small, but well defined criteria. I know for certain there are more reasons than that for how we as gamers connect to these characters.
Let me explain what I mean. When I was growing up, I did not have the best home environment that a child/teenager could ask for. I never truly had a good male role-model which I could look up to because my (insert female parental unit here) taste in men was not adequate to say the least. Discovering Vyse was pure coincidence for me. I had visited a friend who had a demo of the game. It had a small clip in which Vyse and his friends discussed their goals. Vyse was determined to help out his friends and make his dream come true. But, most of all he wanted freedom. He left his home at the tender age of 16 to explore the world. Who doesn’t dream of being able to do this?
Needless to say Skies of Arcadia had me hooked. I wanted, nay, needed to help him accomplish his dreams. If I could help Vyse with his dreams perhaps mine wouldn’t seem so distant. Skies of Arcadia itself had a tremendous sense of freedom in the places you could explore. Arcadia was very much a living breathing world. Players found themselves in an universe filled with rich lore which was awaiting exploration. This game was the glass half-full embodiment of the age of exploration, and it was glorious. In essence everything I wanted, this game provided for me.
I wanted freedom from my environment, it gave it to me. I wanted optimism in an environment that seemed to want to kill my aspirations and it came packed with it. While, Vyse did not have any vices despite what his name might imply, at that time in my life I didn’t require someone with them. I was born to a world filled with vice and negativity. I needed someone who would always be there for his friends without fail.
I’m sure there are others out there who’ve needed a friend. Perhaps who live in situations that are less than optimal without any hope. Somebody who we can relate to, when it appears that nobody else seems to understand our plight. The best part is that we often fill the void of our lives with them, and suddenly life doesn’t seem so bad. It might be difficult at times, but we have someone who is struggling alongside us and winning. One of the perks is that if a character commits a mistake, the player can correct it, and feel that their accomplishment is ours as well. While they might not be real to others, they might as well be to us.
We cling to these characters because through them we can envision (and live) a life in which success is not an unachievable goal. Not matter how much life tries to beat us down, we will overcome.