Mere minutes after I posted my take on Baldur’s Gate 3’s character creator, Larian Studios (coincidentally) announced the release of a third hotfix for its long-awaited CRPG, which contained this intriguing morsel:
“Before the fixes, let’s share something you’ve created yourselves (this is your own fault) through your choices in character creation. We took the most popular choices in character creation, and recreated this. We thought our analytics system wasn’t working! We checked. It is.”
“Congratulations, you’ve basically made the default Vault Dweller. What the hell guys. We gave you demon eyes, horns, and even tails. We are sorely disappointed. Go crazy. We worked hard on this!”
While my first reaction was “good lord y’all are boring,” after I marinated in it a little bit I realised there’s a powerful message here.
Even when presented with a wealth of options and opportunities, people will still default to making what’s comfortable and familiar: themselves. Shouldn’t that mean, then, when game makers implement these character-creation engines they should add options that reflect all of what humanity has to offer, rather than just a narrow band of it?
That goes beyond even my constant gripe about hair and skin. It means body types, facial hair, head coverings, and skin conditions (my life for vitiligo skin option so I can create my own Winnie Harlow). Games in modern settings need accessory options to include hearing and mobility aids. Hell, I’m sure the creative minds at Larian Studios could find a way to D&D-ify a hearing aid.
It also means making sure that a game’s world is as diverse as the characters being made for it. We need to see all different kinds of people — short, tall, fat, brown, hard of hearing, blind — in order to create the rich worlds boasted about on the back of game boxes (yes, games hardly come in boxes anymore, but work with me here).
That’s a lot of work, I know, and given the recent discourse about crunch I am loath to suggest anything that would make developing a game like Baldur’s Gate 3 more arduous. But hopefully, even when a game doesn’t have the resources to offer a robust character creator, developers can use findings like Larian’s as a reminder to better avoid the common trap of “make everyone look like me” and perhaps think a little bit outside of the beefy-white-guy box when creating their main characters and NPCs. Switch it up a little bit, as a treat!
So yeah, take a minute and have a chuckle while also understanding just how important it really is to be able to see yourself in the games you play. That said, c’mon y’all, do better, at least give the guy pink hair or something.