Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Who Needs Friends?

Chuck Wendig | 22 Mar 2011 13:09
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Don't we gain a more emotional and meaningful reaction if we are given emotional and meaningful connections to the game world and those characters that surround us?

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This is by no means a universal problem, of course. Ezio in Assassin's Creed II feels like a character who is deeply connected to the world around him. He has family and his family has friends. (This is compared to his present-day alter-ego, Desmond Miles, who seems to revert to the blank slate so popular in games. Desmond seems to be a nobody, while Ezio feels like a very distinct somebody.)

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When Ezio walks around Florence, characters know him. They don't merely know of him.

And therein lies a critical different between "know" and "know of." The latter indicates notoriety and little else. The former, however, reveals connection.

The best example of this might be the separation between the last two Fallout games. Fallout 3 depicts your character as the Wasteland Wanderer, yes - an almost mythic figure stalking the bombed-out ruins of DC and its suburbs. However, you were born in a Vault. The beginning of the game reveals this birth - not as a fully-grown adult mannequin with a big question mark above your head, but rather as an actual infant pulled screaming from your dying mother's womb. You establish friendships with characters inside that Vault, and those friendships come back into the game at later stages. You were part of an ecosystem. Yes, some characters have heard of you, but other characters actually know you.

This is in opposition to the Courier protagonist found in Fallout: New Vegas. There, as you travel the Mojave Wasteland, you are forever "that dude who got shot and was left for dead in Goodsprings." The world sets up an uncomfortable dichotomy: you were once a known, working courier, and yet upon getting shot in the head, any and all of your apparent connections to the world in which you lived are now erased. You are, in effect, utterly without friends. It's like you never existed before being pulled from the grave. The world knows of you. But nobody seems to know you. Nobody seems to have ever known you.
You are tabula rasa. You are a blank slate.

You are disconnected.

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