What are the best practices for designing inclusive character customization options in RPGs?

As avid game players, you're probably familiar with the thrill of customizing your own character in a Role Playing Game (RPG). The chance to inhabit a new persona, whether it's a stalwart knight, a cunning rogue, or a powerful sorceress, is an integral part of the RPG experience. But how often have you found customization options that truly reflect your identity, or a diversity of identities?

In this article, we'll delve into best practices for designing inclusive character customization options in RPGs. This study will take into consideration the needs and desires of a wide variety of players, and draw upon scholarly articles and established design principles. We are confident that this contribution will support game designers and players alike in creating and experiencing more inclusive and diverse gaming worlds.

Recognizing the Wide Spectrum of Player Identities

Before we begin, let's understand that players come from all walks of life. They have different skin tones, body types, genders, and abilities. Their identities are complex and nuanced, and games should reflect this reality. Designing RPGs that allow players to create characters who resemble them is an effective way to foster player engagement and immersion.

Character customization that allows for true self-expression will not only satisfy a wider range of players but also support their learning journey as they navigate unfamiliar worlds and scenarios. This inclusivity can be achieved by offering a broad range of body types, skin tones, hair styles, facial features, and voice options. The more diverse the options available, the more likely players are to feel represented.

The Importance of Body Representation and Diversity

In many RPGs, players have limited options when it comes to character creation. Often, the available body models are based on unrealistic, idealized forms that do not reflect the diversity of the human body. This practice can alienate players who do not see themselves represented in the game.

To combat this, game designers should include a wide array of body types and sizes in character customization options. This should not just be limited to height and weight sliders, but also incorporate a variety of shapes, proportions, and physical abilities. Including options for characters with disabilities is another important step towards inclusivity.

Gender Representation and Fluidity

The binary gender system is another area in RPG design that needs improvement. Many games offer only male or female character options, which leaves non-binary and transgender players unrepresented.

To address this, RPG designers should allow players to customize their characters' gender independently of their body type and voice. This will enable players to create characters that align with their identity, whether that's male, female, non-binary, or anywhere along the gender spectrum. Designers can also provide options for non-gendered clothing and hairstyles, so players can express their characters' gender identity freely.

The Role of Skin Tone and Ethnic Features in Character Customization

Incorporating a diverse range of skin tones and ethnic features is an essential aspect of inclusive character design. Many games offer a limited palette of skin tones, and often neglect to include diverse hair textures and facial features. This lack of representation can make players of color feel overlooked and unimportant.

To avoid this, designers should offer an inclusive range of skin tones, hair types, and facial features. They should also avoid stereotypical representations and consult with diverse groups of players to ensure accuracy and respectfulness.

The Influence of Scholarly Study and Google's Contribution to Inclusive Design

Inclusive design principles are not new. Many scholarly studies have been conducted on this subject, and game designers can benefit from their findings. For example, a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) search can provide access to a wealth of research on inclusive design.

Google's Design team has also made a significant contribution to inclusive design. Their guidelines emphasize empathy, listening to users, and considering diversity from the very beginning of the design process. By applying these principles, game designers can create RPGs that truly reflect the diversity of their player base.

Remember that inclusivity in RPG character customization is not just about offering a wide range of options. It's about acknowledging the diversity of player identities and reflecting them accurately and respectfully in the game. By doing so, game designers can make players feel seen and valued, fostering a deeper connection to the game.

Pioneering Inclusion with RPG Maker

The gaming industry has taken a significant leap forward in inclusivity, thanks to the innovative RPG Maker. RPG Maker is a game development engine used primarily for the creation of role-playing games. It's known for its ease of use and flexibility, making it a popular choice among both amateur and professional game developers.

RPG Maker stands out in its approach to character design and customization. It provides a vast library of assets and customization options, allowing for a level of diversity and inclusivity rarely seen in role-playing games. With RPG Maker, players can create characters that accurately reflect their identities.

The engine offers a broad range of body types, skin tones, hair styles, and facial features, giving players the freedom to create characters that look like them. Moreover, with the inclusion of varied voice options and non-gender-conforming clothing styles, RPG Maker takes a big stride towards gender representation and fluidity.

Importantly, RPG Maker also emphasizes the inclusion of characters with disabilities, a demographic that is often overlooked in game design. It enables players to design characters with various physical abilities, breaking the mold of the typically able-bodied characters seen in most role-playing games.

Creating a game with RPG Maker is more than just about character creation; it's about celebrating the diversity of player identities and letting that diversity shine in the gaming world. By incorporating these inclusive design principles, RPG Maker sets a precedent and challenges other game engines to follow suit.

In conclusion, it's crucial to remember that inclusivity in character creation should be the norm, not the exception, in RPG design. Designers have a responsibility to foster a gaming environment where everyone, regardless of their identity, can feel seen, valued, and represented.

Game developers and designers have a wealth of resources at their disposal to ensure inclusivity. Scholarly articles, such as those found on Google Scholar, provide valuable insights and research on the topic. Online communities, with their insightful, funny, and sometimes unhelpful threads messages, offer firsthand accounts of player experiences and desires. These resources, coupled with inclusive design tools like RPG Maker, can guide designers towards creating more diverse and representative games.

Inclusive design is more than just a box to tick off; it's an opportunity for game developers to celebrate, support, and love the diversity of their player base. It's about letting players see themselves in the characters they create, fostering a deeper connection with the game. Inclusive design makes role-playing games not just more engaging, but more enriching and meaningful.

The journey to complete inclusivity in RPGs is a long one, but with every new game release, every report of a new contribution, and every insightful message thread, we are getting closer. As players and game designers, we can all play a part in this exciting evolution of the role-playing game industry.