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Playing Your Story
One of the most unique aspects of gaming as a medium is that you, the gamer, can customize the character in a way that suits you. Whether you are levelling up your character in a unique way or choosing their background story, video games are the only medium that allows you to tell your story instead of experiencing someone else’s.
At the same time, many of the best games of this generation have leaned more towards the cinematic side, with very defined characters whose stories you play through. These characters are by no means a blank slate, and have obvious personalities. Yet, as previously stated, these games are often some of the best ones out there. Examples of these games include Eternal Darkness, the Final Fantasy series, the Uncharted series, and many more. The question is, what type of game is better, one where you play through a story, or one where you create the story?
Ultimately, it is often a matter of preference. Personally, I often feel lost in games like the Elder Scrolls where there is so much to do that you aren’t asking what thing to do next, but instead which thing to do next. Games like Uncharted are very direct, and I never wonder what I need to do next. At the same time, I also enjoy games with open-world aspects. For example, one of my favorite games of all time is Burnout: Paradise, an open-world racing game. I enjoy this particular open world game because presents very clear objectives and does not have the “jumble” of quests that clutter the worlds of Skyrim and Oblivion; I always know exactly what I need to do next.
Anyone who has read my writing knows that I am always a big proponent of games doing things that only a video game can do, and sometimes I feel like these cinematic games are not taking advantage of the medium as much as they should be. While they are fun, these cinematic games with defined characters are not quite as “gamey” as they could be. But do all games need to necessarily be “gamey”? I don’t think so.
Video games should allow the player to create their own story, with the amount of freedom in the creation of that story up to the game. In Skyrim, I could live as a hermit up in the mountains, while in Uncharted, I could be the guy who only uses a pistol because of his irrational vendetta against heavy weapons. There are varying degrees of customization and freedom in video games, but they all are able to do one thing that no other medium can do: allow the player to create his or her own story.