Beauty a gameplay attribute?

So, I just couldn’t resist! I’ve been reading C. Jason Smith’s “Body Matters in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games” .

It’s an interesting read. And sometimes I really wish I’d been an avid gamer all my life, because it seems like I’ve missed out on so much!!

He states that avatars in MMOs have two bodies, the numerical and the graphic. And this is what fascinated me:

  • “Despite their differences, however, all MMOs, make the choice of the avatar and its appearance (and thereby the virtual gender of the character) a central concern. Some of these choices have both a numerical and visual value. For example, “comeliness” (or “attractiveness”) may have a numerical value, say 60/100, which affects character interaction with non-player characters (NPCs). The NPC shopkeeper might sell their products cheaper to a “pretty” woman or give them more information than a less attractive character. Visually, however, other players might not be inclined to agree with the numerical assessment and might choose to ignore it altogether. In traditional RPGs, it was technically not possible to “ignore” the statistic: the Game Master (GM) or Dungeon Master (DM) was supposed to give the “pretty” player a statistical chance of using their looks to convince other players to have their characters do something they were not particularly inclined to do otherwise.”

Isn’t this interesting? It’s so weird, because I’ve always kinda known that this existed, it’s just never been a part of my own gameplay experience. I definately agree with the numerical/graphical distinction and when it comes to the numerical ‘attractiveness’ I suppose it all comes down to which game you are playing. How often do you encounter NPCs who will take this into account? If your avatar’s attractiveness was more to lure other players – well then these numerical attributes are pointless. The wise gameplay there would be to have the numerical attributes which will give you more money so you can buy more things. As Smith says, “Money buys you individuality” and it is this individuality that makes you ‘attractive’ to other players.

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