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In response to "Fall of the House of Bellic" from The Escapist Forum: There's a more practical reason sandbox games try not to end on this kind of plot note. The end of GTA4 was so empty and hollow that, however artistically interesting it may have been, I put down the controller and never again set foot in the world of GTA4.
This was not the case with GTA3, VC, and SA... the benefit of ending "on top of the world" in those games was that you then got to spend a great deal of time enjoying your mastery of the environment; effectively giving us a chance to fully appreciate the sand in the box. I know there are many people who immediately jump into the open world and enjoy it regardless, but those are usually the same people who have never bothered to finish the main plot of any GTA game in the first place.
Fallout 3 suffered from this as well, only worse, because your inability to keep enjoying the sandbox world was actually enforced, and not simply based on your own despondent lack of interest. Of course you could always simply load your pre-end-game save in Fallout 3, but just as with GTA, without even the trappings of plot or immersion, the sandbox world loses its hold on me.
Great article, some really good arguements for video games as an art form.
If you were to believe Escapist users, every game ever made is art of the highest order that will be immortalized in history, just like Mona Lisa.
Gamers are so desperate to be seen as grownups engaged in Serious Business that they'll call anything art. GTA IV is not particularly original and has nothing to say that hasn't already been said to death by countless crime stories.
Trying to tie the gameplay and story together is silly. They are divorced from each other completely. In the story Niko is a pretty sympathetic guy while in the game he is a monstrous psychopath.
In response to "Playing the Hand You're Dealt" from The Escapist Forum: I think this article hit the nail on the head when it said that the Yakuza games were more concerned with telling a story than actually simulating Japanese gang life.
The main character Kazuma himself is a perfect example of the "Honor and Humanity" the article describes as well as the romanticized pre-RICO mafioso that "How Games Get the Mob Wrong" criticizes. The circumstances of Yakuza's storyline however cannot be completely glossed over.
At the beginning of the first game the main character Kazuma is fresh out of 10 years of prison and totally cut off from his organization because he took the rep for a murder committed by a guy he grew up with - his brother for all intents and purposes (That's not a spoiler it happens within the first 30 minutes of the game). He's no longer a full-time Yakuza. The girl he babysits is the child of the woman who might as well have been his fiancee.
From what I remember, most of guys in that game shown stealing, extorting, and pimping are young kids who better exemplify the heartless modern mafia described in this week's articles. Compared to them Kazuma looks like an oldschooler enthralled to the old ways, and that's probably what Sega wants to make him out to be.
By the end of the first game Kazuma seems to have every intention of leaving the gangster lifestyle behind. By the beginning of the third game he's running an orphanage. The fourth game currently in development will actually star three playable characters in addition to Kazuma - one of them a loan shark, one a thoroughly corrupt cop, and one a mafia assassin.
Oh, and real porn stars cameo in these games.