This feature appears in a number of different games and in many different forms. The purpose varies, though usually the feature is simply used to give the player a greater sense of belonging, that is, to help them feel more attached to the player character, or avatar. This is especially important in certain kinds of RPGs, particularly MMORPGs, where players take on an entire new persona in a whole new world.
There are 3 main kinds of character creation, but most implementations overlap with 2 or more of them. Those 3 kinds are:
Player Character Creation
This is the most common kind of character creation. Essentially, the player creates an avatar to play as in the game. The scope with which they can edit their avatar varies, but lately games such as expansive RPGs have allowed significant customization ( Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
is a good example) - players are able to modify everything from face shape and size to the angle of the nose. Games which offer more limited customization might simply let players choose from a set number of variables ( Tony Hawk's American Sk8Land
, Halo 3
multiplayer or Lego Star Wars 2
Non-Player Character Creation
This is where the player is creating a character with whom they will be interacting or meeting, rather than playing as. It's most commonly seen in "god" games
such as The Sims
, or Spore
. In games like these, players are encouraged to become attached to their creations, so the widest possible range of customization is offered. In other cases, players may simply be creating teammates or opponents, which can mean their options are more limited.
Global Character Creation
This is a relatively new form of character creation, popularized by Nintendo
with the Wii's Miis
, and then later used again by Microsoft
in the New Xbox Experience
as Avatars. Global Character Creation allows players to create global characters across an entire system, to represent themselves (Or friends) in a wide variety of games, either as player characters or as spectators or even both. These characters tend to be exaggerated, or cartoony in style and offer fewer options than games with custom character creation systems like Elder Scrolls IV, but they do allow players to created caricatures to identify with and save developers the trouble of implementing their own character creation systems.