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Immersion is experiencing the story, role-playing is taking part in first person view, and observation is more of watching the story happening. And all these different playing styles may affect players choice on outfit purchasing.

Yongcheng Liu, Blogger

September 22, 2023

5 Min Read

In RPG games, you usually play as a character who takes yourself into a whole new virtual world. By roleplaying this character, you can explore the game world, interact with other NPCs, experience various thrilling and adventurous stories and quests. You constantly think about various puzzles in the game, search for the best solutions, drive the development of the game's storyline, and get various improvements and accomplishments for your character.

Immerse vs Roleplay vs Observe

The game protagonist played by the player usually has two typical images, one is immersive type, and the other is blank state type. Let me explain.

Immersive protagonist

RPGs in the early times were mostly immersive in terms of their protagonists. These protagonists have unique character settings and thinking patterns, and the game's plot will deeply depict their story background, character relationships, and personality. The protagonists express their likes, dislikes, and viewpoints through various event dialogues and take many proactive actions. And players mostly cannot change the appearance and name of the protagonist. When playing these types of games, players' experience is closer to interactive movies and television.

Blank state protagonist (roleplay vs. observe)

The biggest feature of this type of character is the lack of personality, with a complete but rarely depicted background storyline. They rarely express their opinions in the plot dialogue, and even if they have opinions, there are multiple options. Many characters of this kind do not have voiceovers, and it is difficult to say what kind of persons they are.

One viewpoint from American comic artist Scott McCloud is, "The fewer details a character has, the more likely audiences will project themselves onto that character." Many games now allow players to customize the appearance of the protagonist, such as creating their face, dyeing their hair, and even adjusting their body shape. However, it is still not possible to provide customized personal storylines for all types of "player avatars". Therefore, blank state protagonists usually lack obvious personality.

The original intention of a blank state protagonist is to allow players to really immerse themselves in the game world. However, in the process of research projects, we have found that a large number of players do not project themselves into the character, and this is found in many types of games.

For example, in MMORPGs, some male players choose to play female characters not because they want to experience the plot or battles from a female perspective, but simply because they find female characters more visually appealing. In otome games, some female players do not project themselves into the protagonist and create romantic relationships with the male characters. Instead, they sometimes use the protagonist's eyes as a camera to follow the storyline, enjoy the romantic relationships, and treat it as reading a novel or watching a TV series.

The players above, we call them spectators' perspective (or observing perspective).

The spectators' perspective has no character traits or preset restrictions, and the protagonist can be imagined as anyone. For example, adult players may choose to play the role of a young girl, raising her as a daughter. Male players playing female characters may project female personalities and appearances they expect.

To summarize the above contents: immersion is experiencing someone's love, hate, and emotional story as if you were there; roleplaying is placing oneself in the role of the protagonist, experiencing the joys and sorrows of this world; observation is taking the perspective of the protagonist as a camera, observing the stories that happen in this world.

Different ways of involving and playing result in completely different outfit purchasing decisions.

Different ways for game protagonists to get involved not only have an impact on players' narrative experiences, but what's more interesting is that we have found these three involving and playing style have distinctly different influences on players' outfit purchasing decisions.

Immersion brings added value to outfit themes.

Let me give you two examples here.

In one game, a typical immersive protagonist is created, and there are depictions of the protagonist: she’s an ordinary person who can't resist staying up late, even though she sings off-key and but still likes to hum. She is very enthusiastic towards everyone and arrives in a new city. Watching the world collapse in front of her, she continues to try to save the world for multiple times. Despite facing separation from her families and betrayal from friends, she still maintains goodwill and is always full of vitality.

There was an anniversary celebration event in this game, providing a new outfit for players, which recalls many veteran players to come back again and play the game. The reason behind it is because this outfit has important meaning in terms of storyline and players love how developers create it and incorporate stories in it.

Another game, however, has a blank state protagonist, allowing players to customize her name, face, and even height and body shape. As for the protagonist herself, the background story moves forward around her sister, who is a private detective. There is very little depiction of the protagonist herself.

The advantage of a blank state protagonist is that it can satisfy a more diverse range of observation needs. However, it is also difficult to generate empathy due to the lack of character details and distinct personality.

In game costume/outfit design, the theme of it is an important part. The storyline gives special meaning to the costumes, allowing people to resonate and collect them, adding more value to the outfit. And in some games with blank state protagonist, how outfit adds value on it is through collaborations, which gives the outfit a theme and an immersive perspective.

Fashion choices of roleplaying vs. observing

In order to better role play and immerse themselves in the story or participate in game event, players sometimes dress up and wear outfits that match the storyline.

For spectators who are mostly observing, because characters do not have distinct personality, players can easily imagine the protagonist as anyone and switch between different genders and ages without burdens. At the same time, they are not bound by fixed character choices, so switching between different styles of characters is also stress-free. This allows for a more diverse range of outfit choices for these players.

For them, the priority is to choose beautiful clothes over suitable ones for the storyline. They project their loved male/female character traits and appearances onto the characters. Therefore, when selecting outfits, they sometimes prefer styles that align with their own or other groups' expectations and preferences.

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