Personalization in Video Games

The impact and importance of in-game customization

Kavishma Jayasinghe
7 min readJul 3, 2019
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Skill Tree Menu

When it comes to any product, having a tailored experience is a very important factor as this can, sometimes, be the sole driving cause for the user to take part in the journey the product offers.

This is known as Personalization, the process of providing content, functionality or information based on the individual user’s characteristics or preferences as well as giving the user the freedom to tame the experience of the product to their interests.

This can be done by the system, whereby it will gather data relating to the user over time and will study this data so it can accurately provide information or other elements that will match the needs of the user. This can also be done by the user whereby they can decide to customize a product that will match their requirements and will give them a very self-made experience.

In video games, both of the above is applied in order to provide the player with a very immersive experience but we’re going to talk about the latter, which is a mechanic that is very important, especially in large, sandbox or open world games.

The importance of character customization

FIFA 19 Character Creation

Whether it’s a sports or RPG game, having an option to create your own character can change the entire game and will affect the mentality of the player largely.

Having this option drives the player to invest time into the overall game because they are essentially creating their own adventure and their taking themselves (or the characters that they created) through a story of their liking, which is what video games are all about and that is to craft worlds or stories that are otherwise dreams in reality.

Not only character creation but majority of the games that are released now, linear or non-linear, offers some sort of customization or edit option for the protagonist or a group of characters. Games like The Witcher 3, allows the player to customize the gear of the main protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, in accordance to their play style and situations thrown to them by the game itself.

The Witcher 3 Inventory

This is just as important as character creation because it gives the player the chance to adapt to the environment of the game or to handle the situation the way they fit with the items they posses, which at the end of the day, provides a unique experience that differs from one player to another.

These are mechanics that future games should continue to implement and keep alive because players, like myself, are largely satisfied with the option to fully create our own characters and to customize what we have along the way as we progress through the game.

Mechanics to create your character or to alter the items you have connects you to the game. It engraves your personality and your identity to the in-game world and that creates immersion.

This is why a personalized experience matters in video games because it breathes life to yourself within the game and thats why you’ll keep coming back for more by devoting your time to the world the game tries to establish.

Fallout 4 and it’s perfect hit on personalization

Fallout 4 Screenshot by Bethesda Studios

The game that came into my mind as I’m writing this was Bethesda’s infamous game franchise Fallout. Released back in 2015, Fallout 4 offered a lot of new and refined gameplay mechanics that really added value to the player’s time in it’s in-game world.

Character Creation in Fallout 4

In Fallout 4, when you start a new game, you’re given the option to create your character. From adjusting the size of your cheekbones to adding blemishes to your face, the character creation was very in-depth. It was so deep that when you create your character (Male or Female), your likeness is used to morph the looks of your child in-game, which was at the time, very interesting and new.

The game is about survival. It’s a very large open world game set in a post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland with a lot of story and side quests to keep you busy for a very long time. Having your own character really impacts the way you play the game.

You’re creating a story for yourself here and you’re telling an adventure that your character embarked on the moment you start playing the game. To see the character progress through and change along the way is really interesting and it really is fulfilling.

Imagine a scenario where Fallout 4 decided to completely remove the customization aspect. The game would be entirely different and from a player perspective, I don’t think I would put in the hours I would with my own character if I was to play with a default character that you can’t even alter.

Fallout 4 Weapon Crafting System

Fallout 4 also offers a weapon crafting system, where you can come up with a variety of weapon builds and you even get to name your own weapon. This can be one of the reasons why players will devote their efforts to the combat system because you get to craft or upgrade your weapons with what you find and you also get to name it to whatever you prefer as a way to make it memorable.

Fallout 4 Settlement Building

It also gave you the ability to create your own settlement for your survivors, which was very new at the time. This really expanded the game and it gave the players something extra to focus on.

Creating your own town in this post-apocalyptic world was about making a change and you get to see settlements evolve overtime. You also get to create multiple settlements, which gives you the opportunity to create trade routes for each of these locations.

Fallout 4, by no means, is a perfect game but it had mechanics that added value to your play time. Having the options to create your character, to create your settlement and to create your own weapons was an optional part of the game. But that optional part is what made us invest hours into the in-game world that it tried to create.

These mechanics, whether optional or mandatory, were one of the reasons why players kept replaying the game and this really was an experience that we, the player, got to build and nurture.

This was personalization at best because it gave the player the ability to customize the experience of the product to their needs.

Each adventure of Fallout 4 was unique from one player to another because of these mechanics.

Bethesda and their attention to customization

Fallout 4 was an excellent example. It realized my existence and it gave me the freedom to adjust the game according to my preferences. Whether its finding the next settlement to build or progressing through the story to find my once lost family, it gave me the freedom to do what I wanted.

This is what Bethesda games do. They give us games that are very large and they maintain their core gameplay and story mechanics while allowing you, the player, to create your own adventure. Customization is an optional part of the game that adds value to your gameplay. You can either completely ignore it or you can invest your time into it.

Despite the old backlash on Fallout 76, if you were to completely ignore the recent events, we’re always very excited to see what Bethesda has in store for us every year.

This is mainly because they have given us a very enjoyable experience through the games they have released over time and we keep coming back for more. We keep coming back because of what they create and when they create, they include these customization aspects that creates immersion. Their ability to create an immersive experience is what drives us to purchase their games and to invest countless of hours into the in-game world.

This is why a tailored player experience is a crucial gameplay aspect that should not be forgotten in the future.

Thank you, Reader!

I appreciate you taking the time to read this story. I hope it was insightful and valuable! Please feel free to leave your feedback and suggestions in the comments below.

Have a great day!



Kavishma Jayasinghe

Associate UX Lead @Corzent | Pop Culture Nerd | Minimalist. I write about things that I’m passionate about.