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Freedom!!! (In Games)
I remember the first time my friend told me about the game Just Cause 2. He had the means to buy the game upon release and was able to play it immediately. As soon as he saw me the day after release, he started flooding my ears with stories of driving a sports car into a dude whilst dragging an explosive barrel behind him with his handy dandy grappling hook. Needless to say, I needed this game. Something inside me always had a special place for sandbox games, so this game was a haven for creative missions and wacky stunts. After saving for weeks and waiting for a used and cheaper copy of the game to appear at my local Gamestop, I was able to get it. Nearly three years later, I still play the game.
What was it about this game that drove me so nuts about playing it? Pure and simple freedom, that’s what. Even when the story was stereotypical action movie-esque, (albeit fun) I could still stray from the beaten path and fly a helicopter into an oil rig. The freedom to do and play how I please left me satisfied until… Well even until today. To be blunt about it, this is how more games should play out. I’m not saying every game should include a grappling hook and jet planes, but why can’t more games include freedom? Even linear games! When a game allows a player to venture off and look around rather than setting a clear (and rather convenient) path it creates a broader sense of accomplishment and completion to those that take the time to look around and explore. And for those that choose not to, they still play through the level as if it weren’t open for exploration.
Again, I’m not saying that every game should be an open world sandbox. However, the more openness and exploration a game allows, the longer and better the gaming experience will be. I am a completionist myself, and when a game allows for freedom, I go exploring and try to find every secret I can find, every achievement I can get, and every unlockable I can unlock. Hopefully more games will start to allow more freedom, and hopefully that will be soon.
The only other problem that then arrives when games allow freedom, is just how much freedom to allow the player. It may seem that there is no such thing as too much freedom in a game, but what would happen if a game like Telltale’s The Walking Dead allowed the player to fly a helicopter into the undead. It would nearly ruin the game. This fine line is one that many game developers find hard to distinguish and therefore, usually avoid entirely. Well, the issue continues, and will most likely stay that way, unfortunately, with the exception of those few incredible games that implement freedom in just the right way. Should more games have more freedoms in the way they play, or are they just fine the way they are? let us know in the comments what you think!