I’m a sarcastic, 6’1”, 175 pound, brown haired, brown eyed, 18 year-old boy. I know this, you (now, at least) know this. What’s the problem? There should be absolutely no issue with these facts. I’m comfortable with them. They, in some ways, define me.
Maybe I’m wrong, though. Maybe I’m a sewer-dwelling, hooded cat-human.
Yes, that sounds as hopelessly ridiculous to me as it does to you. Trust me.
This is just the idea that Arc System Works’s new idiosynchratic 2D fighter, BlazBlue (Pronounced “blaze blue.” Or, “blaze bleu,” if you prefer.), has presented me with. Or rather, the crisis it has bestowed unto me.
You see, there are a bevy of characters to choose from in the game. You’ve got your consummate big, melee guy; there’s the scantily clad, disproportioned female, providing a misogynistic outlet for the game (which, of course, is certainly a different discussion to be had); there’s the generic, brown-haired, determined young-guy; and, just generally, a number of varied personalities.
So why, out of all these, have I chosen Taokaka? Why have I elected to have the, for all intents and purposes, on-screen representation of myself be the one that ends all of her sentences with “meow,” and sounds suspiciously like Blossom from “Powerpuff Girls?”
My answer is that it’s because of her advantages in combat. I mean, there is a reason, after all, that Chris Farley described his as “catlike” speed and reflexes; Taokaka is swift and sleek. She has, for example, a move where she deftly bounces in retreat, only to pounce sharply forward, swiping her opponents and leaving them in shock (lest they hold their guard).
But is it possible that it’s some other motive that makes me choose her? After all, I mean, if we’re talking about likeness here, I should probably be choosing the generic boy-hero. He is, without a doubt, the character in the game with whom I can relate the most. He is also, in all probability, the character most likely to, in fact, purchase a copy of BlazBlue.
Yet, I’ve always had a tendency to choose characters with the same qualities (read: strengths/abilities) as Taokaka: surreptitious agility. Sneaky characters; characters whose mannerisms belie their psychological nature. Taokaka is constantly begging for food, and scarfs it down like a fatty, yet she’s quick, agile, and in shape. Sounds like a pretty great existence, if you were to ask me.
At the same time, though, I legitimately find Taokaka to be an absurd caricature. So, why choose her?
It’s possible, I think, that the answer lies in philosophy, like most useless quandaries.
You see, classical Greek philosopher Plato once devised an idea called ‘The Theory of Forms.’ What this theory asserts is that the real world is not the world that we can see, feel, taste, or hear, because these are all ephemeral sensations—rather, abstract ideas that persist through time constitute reality, and the material world is merely a reflection of this realism.
Elaborating on this logic, isn’t it then possible that my choosing of Taokaka – and, thusly, any person’s preference towards different protagonists in games – is merely a reflection of the ideas, and qualities, that they aspire to, or wish to emulate? Is it actually the character that the player chooses, or the qualities, constituting reality, that are represented by said character?
I’d choose the latter, although that might not be true for every gamer. But consider this: two of the most popular, acclaimed video game series’ of all time are Valve’s brilliant Half-Life franchise, and Nintendo’s genre-defining Legend of Zelda; both of these game series’, despite their many clearly-defined, characterized personalities, feature silent, rather ambiguous protagonists. Their defining qualities are universally acceptable and admirable: bravery, heroism, and honor. And, because of their vows of silence in such robust, lively worlds, they have an uncanny ability to, much more than most video game protagonists, actually become an extension of the player. Therefore, gamers get the most intimate relationship to the “real world” – or, at least, the “reality” that the Link (Legend of Zelda) and Gordon Freeman (Half-Life) reflect – by playing these two franchises.
So, when Taokaka declares, after a fight, “You should eat meat buns, they make your boobies bigger!” I don’t care, because that’s wholly separate from the character I’m playing in the game. I don’t step into the shoes of a weird, cat-human mutation—I step into the shoes of agility, speed, and sneakiness.
This post was also published on my newly-realized blog, over at pressthestart.com.