I’ve got a problem. I can’t stop remaking myself in the Final Fantasy 14 (opens in new tab) character creator. Twenty hours is a long time to spend fiddling with yourself (ooo-err), even if I have been playing the game for over two years now, but I just can’t help myself. As I’ve constantly changed as a person over that time, my avatar has had to keep up with me.
There’s a perverse joy in experimenting with eyebrow sliders in any given game, be that to create the perfect Guardian in Destiny (opens in new tab), or Hunter in Bloodborne (opens in new tab). And I know I’m not alone in restarting Dragon Age: Inquisition several times because I just couldn’t stand to look at a slightly ‘wrong’ pout for 60 hours, even though lip girth has no bearing on my enjoyment of slicing through corrupted templars.
Some games just stick with you more than others, however, and Final Fantasy 14 is one of those games for me. Not only is it a fantastic MMO on console, its world is beautifully rich. It feels as though I’m an actual part of it, and it’s for that reason that I find myself constantly tinkering away at my virtual face before I step into the realms of Eorzea.
It’s not like I’m even creating new characters to play with. I could be experimenting by making burly blacksmiths or tiny mages to give a different perspective to the game, but instead I just keep trying to perfectly recapture myself over and over again. They rarely make it out of the creation screen either, designed to just sit there as a reflection of myself in that single moment.
My characters always have a theme - I always give myself reddish hair, even though I’ve never actually sported a crimson mop in real life. I always have scars, or, at the very least, a particular dark-looking tattoo option. My hair is never long, and my eyebrows are always large. And while I do like to think I have a strong brow game in real life, I definitely don’t have facial scarring or the type of ink on my face that would put an employer off, but even so these things always speak to me. Something about these things is inherently ‘me’, some psychological facet of myself thinks they’re the best way to show off who I am as a person
Some things change though. When I go through periods of anxiety I change my character to something burlier in an attempt to feel stronger, the blue-tinged mega muscles and confident striding animations of a Roegadyn giving me a greater sense of presence than the way I’m feeling. Her hulking mass and stern face perfectly representing my feelings of not being ‘girly’ enough.
When I’m feeling a bit fragile or small, I opt for the more elegant Elezen, their reserved movements and slightly down-turned mouths speak to my quiet nature. The increased height of both makes them stand taller than the other races, not quite at home in the crowd, and never quite fitting in. I don’t ever feel ‘normal’ or ‘cute’ so I never opt for the human races or the adorable cat girls that you see prancing around.
I’m sure for others it’s different, the sprightliness of the feline Miqo'te might be a better representation of your personality than it is mine. The cuteness and absurdity of the potato-like Lalafell might show off your humorous, but subtly evil leanings. Or maybe blue pigtails say something to you about wanting to feel graceful. While other players may run around oblivious, these physical traits can hold a lot more personal meaning than most realise.
Rarely do people feel the same way about themselves as they did two months ago, and rarely do people come across a way to represent those subtle shifts so easily. Some might do it by changing their style with make-up and clothes, but for me it’s ear-lengths and height sliders. Just like how I can’t change everything about myself in real life, there are some traits I’m compelled to keep. I might change from a lanky elf to a blue-skinned she-hulk every now and then, but the scars and red hair are still the same.