Over on RPGwatch, there’s an interesting article entitled “The Avatar And Me”. It discusses, to an extent, the difference between playing a character in a RPG, and “being there yourself”.

“Being there” is mainly in the realm of combat. We saw this in Oblivion, where fighting was not dependent on any skills, but on how well you manipulated the controls in real-time. This can, of course, be extended to any other physical action, such as running or jumping.

Does this sort of thing really make you feel it’s you, personally, in the game? That viewpoint will differ from player to player. For me, the answer, of course, is no.

The characters I create for any RPG are likely to be stronger, faster, and healthier than I am in real life. More agile and dexterous, too. If the “real me” were in any combat situation, it would be over fast.

On the other hand, these same characters come with a profession. It’s expected they will be at least marginally competent in that area. But this is a competence I don’t have in real life. Even if I had, say, sword training, that would not be anywhere the same as using a mouse and keyboard.

For me, playing these characters is the chance to have skills and abilities I don’t possess in the real world. Thus, in the matter of fighting, it’s the character who should be hitting (or not hitting) based on the relevant skill system.

Forcing me to do the work adds nothing positive to the experience. It just makes me angry and frustrated. After all, that’s not me on the screen, it’s my alter ego, someone created to face the challenges in the game.

This can also be said for the “social” skills, such as Diplomacy or Persuasion. Some of us, in real life, may be diplomatic or persuasive. Not everyone is, however, and if you want to try such a character, you need the skills in-game.

What I would like to see – as mentioned in my Oblivion review, is choice. Say, at the start of a new game, you could choose for combat to be “active”, with you doing the fighting via mouse/keyboard/joystick, and “character”, where the combat is handled in traditional style, based on the character’s skills and abilities.

Once chosen, the style is fixed for that character and can’t be changed. That might make it easier to program.

With this method, action/RPGs could appeal to a broader audience. Gamers could play in the way most comfortable for them, without missing anything. Whether the developers would do this is, of course, another matter.

The Avatar And Me on RPGWatch