I Tried To Create The Fattest Man I Could
Look, I just wanted to roll as a fat guy. I love a good, immersive experience, and I’d feel more immersed if I wasn’t some beautiful, hulking Nord. That’s not me, you know?! I can relate to the lack of skill you start off with in most of these games (watching me shoot an arrow is positively a treat), but I’ll be able to relate more if my character is a somewhat homely, tubby white male.
Those were my thoughts as I created my character in Oblivion, but I soon found myself wondering if I’d have similar difficulties creating this mythical Hero With a Potbelly in other games, too. After a quick glance at the titles in my library, a few others surfaced that would also allow character creation, though I soon discovered that my wont was not to be sated.
So, here’s a good joke for you: Final Fantasy XIII doesn’t allow character creation due to its tight narrative constraints.
But seriously, games that don’t allow players to design their own characters are usually keeping a short leash on the story for a reason, and they sometimes involve fewer traditional role-playing elements as well. That’s fine, but it ruled out several games for my experiment. However, when you do have the option to create your character, I found that the choices are surprisingly limited.
Skyrim was my first stop in this rather odd journey (which by now had blossomed into a full-blown desire to simply create the fattest character I could), and to my delight there was an immediate option for weight. Here was my result with the weight for the character maxed out:
Well, that’s not at all what I was after. I wanted someone who looked like a regular at The Bannered Mare. Adding insult to injury, the weight was nearly maxed by default, so making any changes whatsoever left me with a character that looked downright sickly.
Next, I tried out the character creation in Mass Effect 2. The game makes it interesting by making it part of the story, allowing the player to have a hand in Shepard’s facial reconstruction following the opening cinematic where he’s blown to chunks. In trying to make (recreate?) the largest character possible, this was my result:
The bad news is that, while I could equip Shepard with a laughable mustache (if that’s what you’d call that thing) and a sweet, emo haircut, there wasn’t even an option for weight or any kind of body type. You’re playing as a sweet, buff soldier, whether you like it or not.
The good news is that, in the future, apparently obesity doesn’t exist. Citadel? More like… Fitadel!
Speaking of this awesome future free of fat, the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Fallout: New Vegas represented my final attempt. Lo, I was encouraged by the following result:
Now, see!? That’s promising. That’s not the face of an athlete, let me put it that way. But when I switched to the third-person view, I was disappointed to see this:
Sweet frijoles! It looks like I molded a G.I. Joe out of Silly Putty and now we’re just going to plop on this oddly ripped fellow in a t-shirt. Look at those guns! Seriously, we can have intelligent discourse about this article and we can disagree about some of the points, but don’t try and tell me that face belongs on that body.
It’s not even like I’m looking to make a fat fat guy; I don’t want, like, needs-a-Rascal-everywhere fat. I’m just saying that I know more men with potbellies than not, and it would be interesting to see that represented somewhere. Anywhere.
In developers’ defense, there have to be limits. After all, characters have to actually fit in the game world, and more seriously, there are programming constraints that have to be adhered to for the characters to interact with that world correctly. We joke that Bethesda’s games are glitchy and unplayable, but you haven’t seen anything until you try to take Dom DeLuise for a stroll through Tamriel.
Maybe instead of a game that limits your powers because you haven’t met the right wizard yet, you could experience a limited skill set because it was more realistic. Instead of being able to scale scale buildings or teleport, maybe you could experience a game as someone who’s intelligent.
The solution doesn’t have to be “let me play as a chubby dude.” It may be much simpler, and by proxy, more realistic. For example, you’d need to go to a library to gain the knowledge to complete a particular task. As other alternatives, you could be forced to find a clean urinal at a Denny’s or try to get service at a bar if you aren’t svelte and attractive.
As our industry marches towards experiences that are more immersive, it will become increasingly difficult for some people to get that immersion without feeling like they are actually being represented. And in time, maybe we can all have some more… robust options.