Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A game-based neurosis

Hello. My name is Matthew and I am a video game clothes horse.

I don't know how it happened, but at some point in time, I discovered that if you can customize a character with clothing, jewelry and hair styles purely for aesthetics and with no other game play value, I have a tendency to go overboard. In other words, I am a compulsive in-character shopper.

I certainly didn't have this problem when I was playing the Discworld MUD, as I was all business there, even with the wide variety of customizable options, so this has to be a recent occurrence.

Perhaps it was back in 2001 when I first started playing The Sims and my pack rat mentality slid past my inhibitions and I went insane downloading as many free skins and objects as I could so I had options. I also remember doing something similar though to a far lesser extent with Unreal Tournament, but since I ended up using nearly every model and voice pack to create a unique set of personalized bots, it wasn't really the same thing.

But things always seemed to be different on the console front. I mean, on most of the earlier console games, it seems like there weren't the kinds of customization options there are now. I mean, at most you might be able to choose between 5-8 different parts and between a few skin tones or clothing shades to make a character unique, both after that, it was pretty much cookie cutter.

And then I bought a Playstation 2 and customization is the way to go. I remember having the impulse to buy things that I really don't need when I first started playing Def Jam: Fight for New York, and there is the whole clothing aspect of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as well. But as I bought more games, it seemed like this neat little innovation was everywhere: EA Sports Big's Street titles, Soul Calibur III, and even The Simpsons: Hit and Run encourage you to shop for clothing in their own little worlds.

I finally realized I had a problem last night while I was playing Bully and I noticed that I was basically wearing the same shirt as the lead character. It was a heart wrenching moment for me. Put it this way, it has to say something about me that I own more clothes in a lot of individual games than I do in real life.

So I ask you, my peers, if any of you can relate to this particular mental peculiarity?


Jim Squires said...

I'm slowly starting to see where you're coming from. When I was playing Dead Rising, half the fun came from killing zombies -- the other half from putting Frank in Mega Man helmets and toddler clothes.

I'm playing Taiko DS right now. The more you play, the more clothes you unlock -- for your DRUM. And I'm hooked. Sticking a snorkel on my drum or dressing him up like a drum is providing me an infinite amount of happiness lately.

On a related note - you're playing Bully? Cool beans! I've been wanting to play it since it came out (my hero Lil' Jimmy Norton adds his voice talent to the game) but I just haven't gotten around to it. I know they'll be re-releasing it for the 360 and the Wii, but I may pick up the PS2 copy instead as soon as I'm done with my current lot of games.

Becca said...

My favorite video game series is the SSX Snowboarding series. I have no urge what so ever in my real life to go out and snowboard but I can't get enough of it on Playstation.

As you complete the game you get money and with your money you can go to a store and buy all sorts of cool stuff like boards, hats, helmets, horns, guitars...I have no clue why anyone would snowboard with a guitar strapped to their back but damn if it doesn't look cool.

In anycase I can't help but think the shopping aspect of the game isn't one of the reasons why I will not stop playing. I am determined to own everything you can buy...am I sick or what.

MC said...

Jim: You are reminding me of the accessories/presents you find in Katamari Damacy. Those were pretty sweet too. Re: Bully, I don't know what the new stuff they are adding to the game for the next gen systems, but as it is now, it is pretty sweet, though a lot shorter than GTA, but that is probably a good thing given your time constraints. It is also a good stress reliever because of you can give people wedgies and swirlies, which is always a plus.

Becca: I have SSX Tricky and I do admit that I like playing with the wardrobes. And I am familiar with SSX on Tour, which is supposed to be all about totally customizing your in-game avatar. Great call.