Ever since the original The Legend of Zelda let you name your save file, I’ve been trying to live out some world saving fantasies by making myself in video games. I’ve prevented the utter destruction of humanity countless times in the Final Fantasy series. I’ve braved the barren nuclear wasteland of Fallout. Even the virtual sports world has been utterly dominated by the 5’4″ wunderkind known as Terry Kennair – fearless, boring-ass, tiny, bearded white dude.
When it came time to make my character in the fantastic anime-cop action extravaganza Astral Chain, I began how I always do – by making a version of the same damn dude I’ve played as for 30ish years. Several minutes in to this familiar character creation, a much more intriguing idea dawned upon me. What if this time I made my far more badass Indian wife, Robin, instead? In recent years, some of my best gaming experiences have been as female characters from the ultimate mercenary Kassandra in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey to the far more resilient and less-booby Lara Croft of the most recent Tomb Raider reboot. Surely, the outcome would be even more incredible with an actual person I am deeply connected to.
The results were perfect. The actual player character in Astral Chain spends the game mainly in silence, listening to others drone on about the Kojima-level craziness consuming the world. Had I built yet another lame caucasian hero that I’ve been 5000 other times, I wouldn’t have given the slightest crap about my protagonist, but by turning the hero into the far more interesting Robin, I suddenly was heavily invested in kicking as much ass as possible, while being as stylish as I could be. I had created a believable hero with just the right amount of swagger and toughness to save the world.
When comparing levels of badassery between my wife and I, the results aren’t even close. Sure she’s a Hufflepuff at heart, but so was Cedric Diggory. She spends her days being basically a real life superhero saving lives as a doctor while non-chalantly growing another human inside of her for good measure. Meanwhile, despite my claims to Gryffindor like a third cousin of the Weasley’s, I spend my day in meetings tiptoeing the fine line of Scrum to deliver software on time and eradicate bugs. I mean, I guess it makes sense which one of us would need the excitement of video games, but it sure made a whole lot more sense who had the style and grace under pressure to save this fictional dystopia.
Each crushing combo, every killer motorcycle sequence, and all random selfies with the many fantastic and good cats and dogs found throughout the streets of the Ark just felt right coming from my amazing wife. Knowing it was her out there gave instant personality to this otherwise silent character that likely increased my enjoyment of one of the best games of the year by an order of magnitude or so. The next time that character customizer pops up in a game, I’ll think twice before subjecting the virtual world to yet another mundane hero and give it the badass they deserve.