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The Gaming Iconoclast: Old (Un?)-Faithful

Rafe Brox

Young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot.
-- Oscar Wilde

The notion of having one main character or avatar that claims the bulk of one's play time and attention is fairly straightforward. It simplifies raid life for your officers, for one thing -- avoiding loot drama and similar chaos -- and gives your friends a convenient fall-back name to call you by on Ventrilo or in person. Even those folks who are able to juggle a large number of characters at or near endgame -- whatever level that might be -- typically have one they designate as their primary one. However, that character might not be their first, or favorite. That oddly enduring but tenuous bond exists for may gamers -- the one toon you keep coming back to, even though it may have shortcomings, or be badly-equipped, or not in demand.

In a similar vein to the previous installment of TGI, where we touched on the notion of changing titles altogether, we'd like to explore this notion of having a favorite character. Don't break out the Peter Gabriel yet, we're not going to be pining for lost love, or the one who got away here. Rather, let's take a look at what keeps us coming back to a particular digital minion despite the allure of new and different ones, both within a single game and among the myriad titles we can possibly choose from.

Frequently, this attachment and affection are bestowed upon the first character we create in a particular world, often before we even understand the nuanced mechanics of the universe it will inhabit. Unsullied by experience, this naïve adventurer can represent an honest foray into the world at large. Surprising approximately nobody, every time this has been up to me, I've done either something completely clichéd or utterly ridiculous (Night Elf Hunter for the former, Twi'lek Ranger for the latter). Almost without fail, these misbegotten creatures are the most durable ones during my tenure with a particular title.

There is a measure of loyalty to them; a feeling of obligation. We may have sired imperfect progeny, but we are still their creator, and they our creation, so we must watch over their existence with a benevolent eye and caring hand.

Or, you know, re-roll quickly and quietly, and smack the Delete key before anyone else lays eyes on such an abomination (it's okay, Gabe, you can do it).

Often, however, these initial creations are supplanted later on by more useful, or more powerful, or more fun-to-play characters. Sometimes that's based on the needs of their guild; my current main character's gestation was the Guild Leader saying, "We're kinda low on priests, if you wanna get your butt over here and roll Horde-side." (I never pretended to be hard to coerce, I just hate the architecture.) You may be perpetually annoyed with your first toon, and it's your second, or fifth, or ninth iteration that gains traction.

But, somewhere, one of them keeps you coming back, never fading fully into obscurity, like an old flame that still smolders, or that t-shirt you can't bring yourself to retire. It's unfair to ask a parent to pick a favorite child; we have no such compunctions about tabbing one character or another as our favorite, even when our tastes can sometimes be fickle, mutable things.

One of my guild-mates put it this way: Sounds like me and [my hunter]. She's been my main, then got shelved for [my priest], then was my main [again], then got shelved for [my tank]. But I love her and always go back to her. Sentimental favorite.

It may be that MMOs foster a sort of high-speed serial monogamy in many of us with a side of, "You may not be Mr. Right, but you can be Mr. Right Now." But later, after the shiny has worn off that new skill bar and the hot-key rotations are no longer novel, there are those times when you just want to slip into something a little more comfortable.

And that favorite toon will be waiting, won't it?

No, that is not his hair. Rafe Brox spends an inordinate amount of time annoying people who think they know more than he does. When not causing friends and enemies alike to /facepalm electronically, he can be found extolling the virtues of the weird peripherals in his life, from kettlebells to the Trackman Marble. If you, too, would like to tell Rafe exactly how wrong he is doing it, the target coordinates are rafe.brox AT weblogsinc DOT com.

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