These days it seems that social issues are sky high on everybody’s agenda, even in the world of gaming. While the list of topics is pretty extensive, one of the most common subjects people take issue with is human representation, or misrepresentation, to be precise. From stereotypical or sexualised depictions of women to the over-saturation of Caucasian protagonists, many people are tired of the current game structures and are appealing for more variation. While there are many reasons behind the chosen depictions of protagonists in gaming, there is simpler solution than forcing developers to create fan-approved, female, racially-diverse leading roles. This solution is, of course, character creation.

Letting every player design their own protagonist is without a doubt the key to the social-conscious future the masses are looking for. I’m not talking general aesthetic modifications like outfits or weapons, either, but the entire form of the character. It may seem like an obvious and far from radical suggestion, but I really don’t think this mechanic is exploited enough in the industry. I would estimate that less than 20% of the games in my own collection feature character creation or multiple protagonist options, while about half feature a Caucasian male in their lead role. That’s not nearly enough diversity.

There is just so much to gain from character creation that I believe more developers should be embracing it. Not only does it add more variation to gaming from an aesthetic level, but it also makes the entire experience more personal and immersive. When your own unique and probably strangely dressed character is put through stressful situations, you’re suddenly much more concerned about them because of the emotional attachment. By putting time and care into the individuality of your characters you’ve managed to create a stronger connection to the world behind your screen. This adds a whole new layer of depth and allows you to become further engrossed in the experience the game has on offer.

With that said, I do appreciate that for designers and developers this approach probably means more work. I can only imagine how much more straight forward it is to make one character model than allowing for hundreds of variables. I’ve seen my fair few of graphical hiccups from character creation titles, too, long hairstyles cutting into shoulders or clothing being amongst the most common, but it doesn’t have to be that complex a system.


If building characters from the ground up is too demanding, I think players should at least be given a selection of default protagonist to choose from instead. This way the developers still maintain most of the control over the technical side of the designs, but give their players enough options so the game has a personal spin. Quite a few titles already implement this system, usually giving you the choice between a male or female protagonist, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be difficult for more to supply some race preferences, too. Less modelling issues, more diversity in gaming. Win, win.

Now, I’m aware this isn’t applicable to every title. I’m not suggesting we should throw away the days of iconic and recognisable heroes, just that it’s time to move on from trying to put a specific face on every game. Of course you can’t build your own Batman, or suddenly drop Lara from her beloved tomb raiding expeditions, but we should keep these examples as the exception, not the rule. I can also see the concept may be problematic for heavily story driven games such as The Walking Dead, and practically impossible for games that use a lot of CGI scenes (here’s looking at you, Final Fantasy), but for every other third person game with a painfully generic protagonist, why not go for it? Why not give the people what they want?

All I’m saying is that with all the problems there are in the gaming world, this little, nagging issue of misrepresentation could be eased with a mass exodus to character creation or, at the least, multiple protagonist choices. It may not be the perfect solution, but it’s a good place to start. No, it doesn’t have to be in every title, because there will always be exceptions, but I feel a lot of games only have something to gain from this method. With very few ways that more choice can harm a game experience, I think it’s about time that more developers gave it a shot.