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If offered the choice, who would you rather pick: A character with a high “strength” rating and high HP or the “team oriented” healer, who shies away from combat because they are extremely weak?
Chances are you prefer the first choice. Eager to prove yourself in battle, you'd choose the character that commands the most respect from both sides — and is also just plain awesome.
But that choice seems too easy. After all, why would you want to play a character who is constantly dying and isn’t seeing much action?
The allure of all-powerful characters like Kratos is strong. A fair number of titles star regular human beings, such as the survivors in the Left 4 Dead series or Niko from Grand Theft Auto 4. But even those characters often display superhuman and abilities, and they are able to endure many more injuries than any ordinary human.
Many games give the appearance of a “normal” character, yet these characters need superhuman qualities for gameplay purposes. How frustrating would it be if your character died with one hit or grew too tired to walk?
What about social interaction games such as Second Life? You can make your avatar do “normal” activities, like talking to others or shopping. But then again, you can also make you character fly. (The last time I tried, I couldn’t fly in real life.)
If you ignore the whole flying thing, your avatar in Second Life is perhaps the closest you can get to an “ordinary” character in a video game. The problem is, I find Second Life incredibly boring, and I’m even hesitant to label it a "game." I might be able to outfit my character to look like a badass, but that doesn’t erase my character’s insignificance in the overall world. My character is just like everyone else. I don’t have any superpowers that set me apart, and I can do most of the in-game activites in real life, anyway.
It’s no wonder that I (along with many others) always choose the character that can destroy worlds with a glance. Video games often provide a form of escapism, where I can do things I would not (and should not) be able to do in reality. If the character in the game is essentially a digital form of myself, I generally uninterested.
Sports franches feature regular characters (or players, in other words) who don’t have any superhuman powers. Yet unlike Second Life, these types of games are actually entertaining. The basketball player that you control in NBA 2K11 might not be a superhuman, but to the player, he's close enough. Not everyone can be Kobe Bryant or LeBron James.
Your mission: Give Cole a beer.
How about a game starring an average Joe or Jane? Let the player play as Zeke rather than Cole in Infamous, and you've got a completely different experience. Playing as the superhero’s sidekick is a relatively novel concept, but perhaps this is for a good reason, as Second Life shows. It would be hard to market a game where you sit around and watch an NPC look good doing all the work.
We would much rather be the ones who blow stuff up and determine the fate of the galaxy.