Meeting our MMO Doppelgangers

Custom character creation is one of the most defining aspects of the MMORPG genre. Stuck with alter egos longterm, players may spend more or less time initially creating their character’s looks but almost everyone agrees that it’s important not everybody look the same in massively multiplayer games. As a non-alt player who cares about customization a great deal, I have high expectations of character creation screens. But whether a game makes it easy or very hard to create a more unique avatar, adventuring alongside thousands of other players means that one day it is inevitably going to happen: you meet your doppelganger online.

My human priest in WoW was far from a popular model in an MMO that has always offered very little in terms of individualism. While scores of white- and violet-haired nightelf twins were running around everywhere in vanilla WoW, it took months before I encountered “myself” in Azeroth. I still remember how weird this felt – in fact, I remember being mildly annoyed about it. Wearing the same gear was obviously inevitable in early WoW but looking the exact same all the way down to the bend of your nose was a big no-no in my book. Whenever I re-encountered that player in Ironforge, I would rush in and out of the auction house quickly. Go away, imposter!


This is an intervention! (

I never even thought about this issue until I encountered the above tweet the other day. It certainly didn’t occur to me that there could be such approval for MMO doppelgangers. I guess encountering someone with the same taste as you is some kind of confirmation but I still can’t feel positive about it. Maybe it’s a matter of being too immersed in your online self (there’s no identical me in real life…I think), in a way it takes away from the whole illusion created by virtual worlds. It’s probably a little silly of me too, but…..don’t copy my character design, okay??

Happy Friday to all the unique butterflies out there!


  1. It may depend a lot on the game. WoW had relatively few customization options and a lot of people, so doppelgangers were everywhere unless you used that “hit by a hammer to the nose as a child” human male face.

    In games with more options and less people where it’s far less common, it’s more of a fun rare experience than a weird one.

    But I guess for some people it’s just plain weird, no matter what. It does make you feel less unique when there’s another you running around.

    1. It is definitely much harder in a game like FFXIV to spot yourself, but not impossible. I guess Black Desert will break that norm though.

    1. It’s funny you mention that, I don’t think I ever had an issue with NPCs looking like me! For some reason that’s different and can be funny indeed. 😀

  2. I freaking hate even the mere idea of having an MMO doppleganger. I try like hell to make my character look as unique as possible, right down to choosing the most “unappealing” race because it lessens the chance.

    The flipside for me, though, is WildStar. I could not resist the call of the Aurin. Couldn’t do it.

    1. I don’t like playing unappealing (to me) characters but I definitely get the problem. Ideally you can make a unique character that also pleases you. 🙂 I could not have played an orc female in WoW for example…

  3. Hmm, I don’t think I’ve ever run into a doppelganger of any of my characters, not even in WoW. I think it’s because I tend to pick the less traditionally pretty options at character creation. In WoW for example, my main was a female troll (not that popular to begin with), and among that minority group, 90% tended to pick the same “pretty” face (which I personally thought was more dead-eyed than anything…) while I didn’t. Likewise in SWTOR, my main uses the least popular body type, so that alone makes her different from the vast majority of characters I meet, not to mention details like face or hair.

    The only “impostor” issues I’ve had is with names – when SWTOR had its big server merges back in the day, I lost my name to someone else so I’m now stuck with a funny accent in my name. Whenever I see the other Shintar, I feel like I’ve run into my personal nemesis. 😛

    1. Ouch…yes names are another world of pain. I completely understand the issue, I always hated it when my names weren’t available. That’s also why I do like the first name + family name option nowadays, at least that way I can go with Sylvara Whatever if need be.

  4. I’m with you, Syl. My tastes in characters are very non-standard, so it’s a bit jarring to see someone else who looks exactly like me. Statistically, yeah, it’ll happen especially if the number of customization options is low. But, still….

    In WoW, I played a night elf male but I took the “old” looking face. It was so rare, I don’t remember seeing anyone else with it, let alone another druid with long purple hair. In FFXIV, I play a male Roegadyn, which is only beat in rarity with the female Roegadyn as a gender/race choice. Just finding another Roegadyn in your duty group is pretty rare, so finding someone who looked exactly like me would be mind-boggling.

    Perhaps part of it is wanting to think I’m personally a unique snowflake who doesn’t fit easily into pre-defined categories. But it’s likely that eventually someone will stumble across the same (or similar enough) settings in character creation to match your character.

    1. I love Roes! I think FFXIV is pretty oookay customization wise, the poor facial choices and missing height slider aside. That last one really needs to become a standard in more MMOs.

  5. I’m with Shintar – physical lookalikes don’t bother me (not that I can really recall running into any), but losing ‘your’ name either because someone beat you to it or due to server merges is annoying. When SWTOR launched I had a character called Tremayne, the Tremayne legacy name and was very pleased to have my assassin called Darth Seethe. Once the dust had settled from the server merges, I’d lost all three. Having said that, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen the other Tremayne on The Red Eclipse, so it’s possible that ‘my’ name is stuck on a dormant account. One of the things Cryptic do right is to allow non-unique names and have a unique chat handle for the account instead.

    1. Yeah that’s a good way of solving it – another option I quiet like is first name + family name. That way you never run out of your favorite first names.

  6. When I made my Orc Rogue in 2005 I hadn’t seen a screenshot of or Thrall himself ingame – imagine my shock a week later when I noticed I looked 90% like him…

    Then again on at least 2 occasions I had heard of people asking me if I was there and there on a specific day (in real life) because they thought they had seen me – so maybe I even have 2 real people lookalikes. 😛

    My hope is that in the latter case a side-by-side comparison in daylight would show enough differences to be at ease again. In the former case of avatars… I think I find it mildly amusing 🙂

    1. This only ever happened to me once; a distant acquaintance swore they had met me in cinema a week earlier but it definitely wasn’t me. I still have a hard time believing in real life doppelgangers..some people are just lousy with remembering faces. 😉

  7. Interesting topic. I’m sorry to admit I’m more with Alek Bock here; I like non-standard (uncommon) looks on my characters but always enjoy meeting a character that looks like mine. (At least similar; I’m not sure if I met one that looked the same.) Maybe I was happy because it felt like a validation of my sense for esthetics (being rare is not the only thing I go for), I never considered that point… It seems to make sense, I just never had the idea by myself.

    I understand how can people who roll common combinations (my most played characters were a dwarf lady in WoW and a female alchemist on a small pre-transcended RO server – all characters in RO wear an “uniform” based on their class and gender and only their hair and headgear can be customized/seen – both were the most rare combos in the games, I believe) be unhappy about meeting their doppelgangers when there’s so many of them! As I said before, I’m not even sure I met a character that looked like mine, maybe once per several years on average…

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