In the beginning, there was Pac Man and Donkey Kong. I won't even mention the nameless fuck who couldn't pilot for shit in Galaga. Then we were given Mario, Link, Billy and Bimmy. Then Sonic, then Toe Jam then...eh, you get where I'm going with this. We have celebrated fantastic video game characters over the years, same as we have celebrated movie and television characters. However, we felt that much closer to VG characters, because of the interactivity of controlling their adventures.
As these mainstream and platform games took the majority of gaming's attention, some RPGs offered up characters that gave you the option of customizing the names of your characters.
This allowed perhaps an even deeper connection to the character on screen, as he/she interacted with others within the game, referred to as the name you have chosen for them. I admit my blasphemy: I changed Cloud's name when I first played FF7. I was unaware of the rules sanctioned by the RPG elite, as to how much of a FAIL maneuver that was.
Then the great game of WCW vs nWo: Revenge came out. You couldn't create your own character, but you could damn well fully edit a current wrestler to be whatever the flip you wanted them to look like. I thought that we reached the pinnacle of customization until WWE: Wrestlemania came out like a year or two later. This was the first time fully custom characters could come into the fold for me to toy with.
My created roster consisted of one wrestler, then two, then two more, then eventually I filled the entire created slots. Between my friend and I, we didn't compete in actual matches, but how many cool and unique characters we could come up with. It got so involved that we had our core crew of like 5 or 6 characters each that evolved into the PS2 Smackdown versions. With the create mode much more in depth, we truly were fans of creating our own characters as apposed to just playing the game itself, let alone the regular characters.
At this time, I was still playing platform, survivor horror and other games. In my sports games, I even started to toy with created players. That's more of a cheap way of playing, but it has its moments. There were also games coming out where you could edit a characters look, none as involved as Carl Johnson from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. CJ was so awesomely customizable that hardly anyone had him looking the same. If you went over a friends house to pass the controller around when you died, you felt a little detached to CJ cuz those weren't the threads you had him rockin' in your game.
I am such a big fan of custom and created characters in gaming. I like knowing that I can have a game everyone else has, but have it be my own at the same time. I got this feeling even more as I've played and completed the Saint's Row games. The first game felt a little generic, as your guy spewed maybe 5 lines total in the game, sounding semi-appropriately like a deaf-mute. In SR2, with the better create mode and voice option, you really feel like you made a character for this game that maybe everyone should play as. To see my character not only in the game kicking all types of ass and in cut scenes actually looking and acting awesomely, it really expands the total experience of a game. A few scenes in particular had me going back to the tv at my crib to watch them over again.
I know that this type of gameplay often leads to weak stories, as the better story-driven games have awesome, established protagonists. It's just fun being able to enjoy a story -- no matter how flawed -- where your character is the one owning the day.
What do you guys think?