As a wannabe cartoonist, one of my personal heroes is Chuck Jones. The mastermind behind Looney Tunes who brought Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and all their friends to life. There is a story that is frequently told regarding him, wherein he introduced himself to a small boy as “The person who draws Bugs Bunny”. The boy promptly corrected him, “No, you’re the person who draws pictures of Bugs Bunny.”
See, that’s how I feel about my characters in WoW. I am not Tawyn. I just play her in a video game.
Tawyn’s path to life has been a long and windy one. There were some parts of her character that I knew from the beginning: for example, that she lived in Stormwind instead of Darnassus. But most of the other aspects of her character wouldn’t manifest themselves right away. In the beginning, largely influenced by the night elf voice acting I think, she was a much nicer and more serene and overall “elfy” individual. It was my first ever Brewfest at level 50 or so where the guild running joke of Tawyn being an alcoholic surfaced, and I later decided to tie this into her personality. After that, it was just a snowball effect, with my character leaping unbidden from “neutral good” to a much more chaotic persona. She became misanthropic; a cowgirl and a mercenary. A Beast Master because beasts were the only thing she could trust. Time and all the changes it has brought to WoW had an effect on her as well, and I tend to say that she has since fled Stormwind due to the political goings-on and now wanders around Northrend as a vagabond.
When I think of her, I don’t think of her as a character in WoW. I think of her as this living, breathing individual. She is of course, not real, but it sure feels that way sometimes.
I think this may effect the way I play the game. For example, the idea of a faction- or race-change seems almost like a crime to me. Sure, there are races I like more than night elves, but the whole idea of Tawyn’s identity as a night elf and the internal struggles she has with this fact is bound tightly to her character. To change her into something different and rip that integral part of her story away is unspeakable. I don’t even like thinking about it.
At this point you may be thinking “Wow, you are superbig into roleplay, aren’t you?” to which my reply is, actually, I almost never roleplay in game. I was never comfortable with it. Primarily because I didn’t want to step into the shoes of this character who I knew I could never do justice. I always approached roleplaying with trepidation, the way an actor might approach playing some historical figure in a film. I don’t much like roleplaying because I know I am not Tawyn and am afraid I’ll play her all wrong. You’re laughing at me, telling me I invented her, but in truth it feels more like she came to me. I don’t fully know her yet. I’m still learning about her.
So it is that I have this character that popped into my head and I also play her in a video game. The video game aspect of it is a large part of it, and that’s why I never quite understood the “I don’t roleplay in WoW because stuff like spirit rez’ing is too unrealistic” thing. That doesn’t make sense to me because what’s happening is just that, a game adaptation of your character’s life. Stuff that happened in game doesn’t necessarily have to be stuff that happened to your character’s backstory. Tawyn didn’t actually murder thousands of the Defias Brotherhood. Tawyn didn’t actually wipe on Sapphiron or Curator billions of times. Tawyn didn’t actually do that infamous “torture quest”. The game is a loose roadmap for Tawyn’s life, but it’s not a home movie. Most World War 2 video games aren’t exactly how it happened either.
No, the Real Tawyn lives in my head and manifests herself to me in stories and in her little personal piece of lore that has been cooking in my head since day one.
All my other characters feel very real to me as well, of course– heck, I’ve been known to level characters only because I like their backstory— but none of them is quite as real as Tawyn is, and I think that’s why after all these years, Tawyn is still my main. Cause how can you shelf a character that real?
I gotta say, in the end, this is why I play World of Warcraft. I mean, the huntering is great. Obviously I love the huntering. But if you shoved Generic Hunter #13458 in my face and told me to play it, I’d lose interest. Very fast. Because in the end, the biggest reason I love WoW is because it’s a gateway for letting some really interesting imaginary people into my brain.
And that’s awesome.