If my real life personality reflected my in game characters then I would be adopting the persona of a cold lifeless body most days. Having spent the best part of the last hour nestled behind crates, walls and rocks employing my Red Dead Evans Repeater rifle to good effect on any such opponent that dared blink, I got to ponder the relationship between my real and in-game personalities. Is my real personality really that cautious and disciplined?
If I’m honest, then I must admit that I tend to be more impulsive and rash in many of my day to day decisions. So if I reflect my personality in the virtual world then I should be that cowboy sprinting down main street whooping and firing and dying in a hail of enemy shells. In other first person shooter games of which I have offered myself as cannon fodder I tend to play the same – remaining hidden and waiting for the enemy to make a move. So who am I? Am I the sneaky hidden marksman or the gun totting lunatic? So, perhaps I have a split personality? In fact when I think more on this issue, it’s more likely that I have multiple personalities.
To complicate matters, if we switch game genres I’m pretty sure that I’m someone else entirely. Take Oblivion – that’s me , the blur of action with the big sword as I charge headlong into the unknown. So what’s this telling me? That I’m unstable, or that I adapt my style to the gaming environment? I don’t think this chameleon-type change is restricted to gaming time. I think our personalities are much more malleable than we give them credit for.
Psychological studies have shown that if we mic you up and listen to what you say and how you say it during the course of a normal day, you not only change words depending on who you are with, you also change accents and tone emphasis! Contrary to the media’s view that we should all be locked away and heavily sedated if we show any personality inconsistencies, I firmly believe that adapting our personalities to suit the company we keep is vital to our acceptance and ultimate survival. We will show different emphasis in terms of our character when we are at work, at home or our with friends. In order to succeed and run the gauntlet of what life throws at us, we need to be flexible. This is true of gaming life, too. We choose personas that we feel suit a particular genre or style of game.
We recently tested the personalities of 80 RPG gamers and investigated how their personality mapped onto what characters they liked to play and what character alignment they mostly adopted. It was interesting to see that the gamers who scored highest on psychoticism chose to play healers and priests, whilst those scoring highest on extraversion preferred playing thieves. The most interesting finding was that in terms of adopted player alignment, it was extroverts (not those high in psychoticism) who favored playing ‘evil’ characters. These results suggest that we don’t actually adopt our real personalities in games. What we do, as we do in real life, is choose the best personality that fits the task or, dare I say, brings the best fun and enjoyment. It makes you wonder who would win if we could play against all our alter egos in a deathmatch game!