Let's preface this a little. Video games are a fairly new medium and expecting them to give us the ability to "find ourselves" in them is a lot of pressure for so young an arena of expression. Mankind has most likely always told stories with characters, but one of the oldest forms of this is theatre (at least in terms of fiction being considered art made for the consumption of a commercial audience), specifically Ancient Greek theatre. In Greek Tragedies characters brought about their own downfall through human traits; faults that they could not overcome. The eponymous heroine in Sophocles' Electra yearns for revenge after the death of her father. Obviously her revenge stems from love, but she chases her super-objective so doggedly that she kills her mother only to find no solace, increasing her grief. Although an extreme example, Electra is a surprisingly palatable character; we all have faults that we cannot overcome and seeing Electra's own faults make her easy to sympathise and identify with. Jumping forward a few thousand years to 1951, we see the publication of J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. With many discovering the book, to this day, in their formative teenage years (the years in which we start to discover who we really are) the teenage protagonist Holden Caulfield has become something of an icon. The worries Holden has are shared by many, teenagers and adults alike, men and women, the wonderful humanity and confusion of Holden crossing the social boundaries of sex, gender and age to give millions something to identify with and see themselves in. Considering fiction has such a rich history of helping audiences find themselves, or at least mirror parts of them, maybe it isn't such a tall order to expect video games to do the same.
Sticking with Resident Evil 2 for a moment, we see a very similar humanity in Claire. As she tells Leon in the wonderfully clumsy line of dialogue, she has "come to find her brother; Chris" (perhaps not the most pertinent information when escaping a hoard of the undead). As much as Claire is driven on through the game by her own survival (and later on assuring Sherry's) her main motivation is to find her brother. We can surmise from this that the most important thing to Claire is her family, a theme that will ring true with many in the audience - giving them yet another character to identify with.
Interestingly, identity itself is a recurring theme in video games (Persona 4 is, essentially, a journey of self-discovery for the characters... wait a minute! That's why they called it that!), but the loss of identity is even more so. In Final Fantasy VII (one day I'll write an article without mentioning Final Fantasy, I promise!) Cloud is a well defined character with a past told in fantastic detail, only for us to discover he has, in fact, taken on the persona of his dead friend Zack Fair. This becomes an important plot point and we see Cloud gradually rebuild himself and find his own personality and memories with the help of his friends.
A similar theme is echoed in the Metal Gear Solid series. Fox Hound agent Raiden, through many injuries, is gradually augmented into a cyborg, becoming an ever more complex and successful killing machine, until that's practically all he is - a machine leading us to a question - where does identity end? Where does humanity end?
Sam Leeves is the author of the novels 'Endless Tides' and 'In the Footsteps of the Behemoth', he is also a member of The Fawcett Society. Find him on twitter, @CptSkyheart.