298: Who Needs Friends?

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Who Needs Friends?

Protagonists in videogames regularly save the world, the universe, and the princess. So why don't they ever have any friends?

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Holy shit this was an amazing read.

Agreed 100%. More 'friendly' interactions=more emotional input. If a character dies, so what? If a character dies that you previously had interaction with, much more different.

The Darkness has one amazing example that I always pull out of my ass. It concerns your girlfriend Jenny...and it's an incredibly simple yet emotional scene where you spend the night with her. You can choose to leave early, choose to tell her what you really do, or choose to sit down with her and watch an entire movie. It's epic, and it's what makes the game so powerful.

Good points, but it's worth noting you can have great games and a decent story without playing the most sociable character on the planet. Portal, Hitman series, Prince of DouchePersia...if it fits, it works.

So while their is a loner theme (though not the most prevalent in video games), I think it has to be looked at in a case by case basis...I always thought the argument could be made that Mass Effect's Shephard could be more loner while still interesting...

Still quite amazing though what can be accomplished with such minor changes as you mentioned earlier in the article. What a difference it made in Half-Life just to have a few people call out your name and another to say he wants to meet up with you after work!

Actually, there's a good reason John-117 (Master Chief) seems so friendless: The last of his friends all died in the last month or he believes they're dead. The Rookie, well, he has the excuse of being new to the squad, and all his friends have recently died as well. Noble Six has been isolated from people most of his life. Plus, you know, he and John are super soldiers kidnapped (or, in 6's case, recruited) at the age of 6. But yeah, alot of characters are oddly friendless.

I think one of the problems with this COULD be however that building an emotional bond not only the ingame characters value, but also - and more importantly - the player takes its time and it happens all too often[1] in games nowadays that you have to start with an action scene to hook the player before taking a more conventional pacing and starting slowly, at the beginning.

Not to say that building this kind of relationships always takes this long.

It's also entirely imaginable that you could simply demonstrate an already existing friendship by showing off teamwork in the heat of whatever conflict your game revolves around. Some people can emotionally connect with a character after a few scenes of being awesome. Other people need to "live" through tough situations with them, maybe even from the point before the friendship is formed.
A problem with an already existing friendship the player has to accept[2] is that if you want to include backstory between the two you'll probably have to do it by using "As you know..." or "Hey, remember when..." which in my opinion are only enjoyable phrases when they actually recite something awesome you did, even better if it was an optional detail that went without remark in statistics like, say, not killing the bandit leader, but hitting him with a tranquilizer gun, something that isn't an obvious moral choice like Bioware does them, something subtle.

But I digress.
TL;DR: Sometimes friendships can take too much buildup compared to its value for the player, tho this isn't supposed to mean they're impossible to write or anything like that. But yes, it also struck me that most fictional characters either don't have friends or all of them are in some way relevant to the plot. Might be a nice change of pace to just have someone to talk about stuff with, who knows?

[1] based on my personal experience, but then again this limitation is true for the every post, right?
[2] Sounds forced, but can work out pretty well if the character is written well and isn't a completely unlikable...

That was an interesting read with some good points, although I do disagree with the claim that people will stop reading or switch off if your character is a loner who initially has no friends. That's just not true. The Man with No Name in A Fistfull of Dollars, John Rambo in First Blood (the book, not the film), two examples of interesting, loner characters off the top of my head. The mysterious drifter is a classic character archetype for a reason.

The obvious reason for this in rpgs is that the friendless bastard is more of a blank slate, and the only games that allow you to have friends without sacrificing the player's freedom of choice are the ones that allow for background customization - either by selecting a preset background or via Fallout 3's more roundabout method where you get to play through some events.

Something I would like to add to this is that it's easy to just hand the character a bunch of connections than it is to have the character actually build friendships in gameplay. One of my favourite examples of this is actually how New Vegas handles the follower questlines. You don't just walk up to them and go "Hey, wanna travel?"(Well, ok, not to all of them). You need to enamour yourself to them via a quest-line or something. And then, once you've travelled around a bit, some of them feel that they can ask you a favour, or suggest a joint venture. That gave me a much more "real" feeling of "They ask this of me because they like me. Yay!" than I've gotten in a lot of games.

The problem with just giving a character friends as a back-story is that more often than not it doesn't make a difference when you're an hour into game-play.

hansari:
Good points, but it's worth noting you can have great games and a decent story without playing the most sociable character on the planet. Portal, Hitman series, Prince of DouchePersia...if it fits, it works.

So while their is a loner theme (though not the most prevalent in video games), I think it has to be looked at in a case by case basis...I always thought the argument could be made that Mass Effect's Shephard could be more loner while still interesting...

Still quite amazing though what can be accomplished with such minor changes as you mentioned earlier in the article. What a difference it made in Half-Life just to have a few people call out your name and another to say he wants to meet up with you after work!

I knew I wanted to say something about Half-Life, but you summed it up with that last sentence. Maybe the reason people feel such a connection with Alyx is because she calls your name, talks to you. Of course, there are probably a whole lot of reasons why people feel such a connection to Alyx. Also remember that Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which had boring combat that perforated different parts of the game, had that one girl as your partner through the entire game. Like Alyx, I think a lot of people feel a connection to her and that makes the game better as a whole.

This is opposed to Call of Duty, where people are always barking orders at you like you're a fucking machine. CoD4 is one of the best shooters ever, but even it has dry emotionless characters. Halo 1's interaction between Master Chief and Cortana illustrates something there, but it was never really explored.

And then Mass Effect - as many problems as the gameplay has, part of the addiction is probably how you can make and break relationships. Same with Fallout 3 and Oblivion.

Anyway, great article. I just thought I'd give a few more examples.

Most JRPGs have you start out in a small village with family and friends, some of whom accompany you through the entire story. Pokemon, most Final Fantasy games, Chrono Trigger all come to mind.

...and these games routinely get panned by the Western media for extolling the "power of friendship". That's probably why we see so many Western games about loners. In America, friendship (other than the shallow "bro" variety) is just downright corny.

The first console RPG I really delved into was FFIX and surprisingly just about everyone has friends or is at least connected through past experiences.

Makes the game world feel a lot more lively than say playing Pokemon Red/Blue although they felt alive because everyone play with their REAL friends.

I know of you, but this article almost makes me wish to actually know you. Definitely a nice read.

And I agree. I absolutely loved FallOut 3 because I always felt I belonged inside that world. New Vegas I have still yet to really get into because I just feel like another nobody who's story could honestly be left untold.

And here is where gaming has not improved over the years. I've always been an avid Role-Playing Gamer, somewhat because I prefer slower-paced (turn-based) action, somewhat because I love a good (adventure) story, but mainly because I love getting enthralled in what I'm playing. And the best, and easiest, way for a game to envelope me so is to make me feel like I belong there. Like I want to be there, even if it's a bad situation. Give me a personal reason for wanting to shoot all those terrorists. Besides because they're terrorists. And kudos if you give me reason to desire to kill with actual story instead of the old cliche, they killed your family and now I want revenge. Revenge very rarely ever gives one the feeling of being a hero. Just sinking down to thier level.

I play games solo for the most part. Busy schedule, eratic playing times, and no desire to game with strangers makes this the obvious choice (plus I usually just prefer it that way.) But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate a feeling of not being alone within my gaming world.

Yeah, amazing and finally another brilliant article there.

I always enjoyed being presented with clear friends along the and this is exactly why Mass Effect I & II completely done flawless when it came to Garrus. Sure, he might be calibrating a bit too much in Mass Effect II but hear me out.

The moment you meet this guy, you simply have some Turian wanting to chase this guy Saren and escape the red tape C-Sec kept throwing out to him. But the more you progress, the further you got to learn about him. In fact, sometimes you alter his way of thinking and form a bond with this guy, he clearly might be a leader but always a loyal follower/friend/brother-in-arms because you slowly but surely established something with this guy.

The moment I saw Garrus Vakarian back on Omega, I was thoroughly surprised but overjoyed to see an old friend, much like my Shepard expressed that same joy. Thus the routine started over, but this time you have a Garrus infused with your teachings and his own, sometimes he's conflicted but you are always there to offer an ear and a advice here and there along the road.

His personal mission was intense and you could see how he was conflicted or not depending on your actions in the prequel but nevertheless, you people have eachother's back no matter what happens. Those subtle or rather grand actions made those two games so great for me. Also, Wrex is a prime example but this becoming a big rant and I think I made my point.

A game with actual friends is worth it's weight in GOLD!

There's a good reason for this. Let's think about the games that you do have friends in.
Gears of War. Do you give a shit about your thicknecked team mate and his stupid wife? No, me neither. He's the character's friend not the player's. And were any of you ever happy to hear "Niko, my cousin! Let's go bowling"?
Game developers aren't able to make friendships matter in games, because they aren't using the medium properly. They're trying to tell stories the same was that films do, but that doesn't work. You can accept that Tony Montana and Manny are friends, and you can become attached to them, but the moment you take control of Scarface in TWIY you instantly cease to give a shit about any living connections he might have. He stops being Tony and becomes you, playing as Tony. And you, personally, don't give a shit.
It could only possibly work in role playing games, and at the moment that would just feel restricting. Somebody'll figure it out one day, but for now we don't need more "friends" in video games.

A really enjoyable read, and I agree, even if there are omissions to the rule, most game's characters with friends tend to feel more humane, even in futuristic pace with aliens, cyborgs and more, having allies and friendships make the game more real. Let's accept it, it's easy to believe a character like Gordon Freeman was part of a bigger group in half life 2, than going alone like the first one. Having old friends, new friends, know people, and even people who suddenly recognize you and your merits feels good. I heard about pokemon but it would be better if, i.e., after winning the league people recognized you and wanted a rematch, or you heard characters saying things like, "I battled against him when he just started" or "he helped me with ______" I don't know, there is a lot of potential in friendships in games, it can be hard, but implementing them gives the game a lot more deep in my eyes.

Of course all of this IMO.

Straying Bullet:
Yeah, amazing and finally another brilliant article there.

I always enjoyed being presented with clear friends along the and this is exactly why Mass Effect I & II completely done flawless when it came to Garrus. Sure, he might be calibrating a bit too much in Mass Effect II but hear me out.

The moment you meet this guy, you simply have some Turian wanting to chase this guy Saren and escape the red tape C-Sec kept throwing out to him. But the more you progress, the further you got to learn about him. In fact, sometimes you alter his way of thinking and form a bond with this guy, he clearly might be a leader but always a loyal follower/friend/brother-in-arms because you slowly but surely established something with this guy.

The moment I saw Garrus Vakarian back on Omega, I was thoroughly surprised but overjoyed to see an old friend, much like my Shepard expressed that same joy. Thus the routine started over, but this time you have a Garrus infused with your teachings and his own, sometimes he's conflicted but you are always there to offer an ear and a advice here and there along the road.

His personal mission was intense and you could see how he was conflicted or not depending on your actions in the prequel but nevertheless, you people have eachother's back no matter what happens. Those subtle or rather grand actions made those two games so great for me. Also, Wrex is a prime example but this becoming a big rant and I think I made my point.

A game with actual friends is worth it's weight in GOLD!

I agree with all of the above. Reunion with the characters from Mass Effect really felt like you saw old friends.

believer258:
This is opposed to Call of Duty, where people are always barking orders at you like you're a fucking machine. CoD4 is one of the best shooters ever, but even it has dry emotionless characters.

Well, I actually got emotionally wrapped up into the Modern Warfare games. (Spoiler warning, though you should've beaten them by now) I really felt sad when I saw Ghost die. He felt like a buddy. A friend. And several times throughout the game Soap always checks up on how Roach is doing, implying they're friends. When you die, sometimes he'll scream "Roach! No!". So, yeah, Call Of Duty is not so emotionless, I actually found it really emotional.

greatslack:
Most JRPGs have you start out in a small village with family and friends, some of whom accompany you through the entire story. Pokemon, most Final Fantasy games, Chrono Trigger all come to mind.

...and these games routinely get panned by the Western media for extolling the "power of friendship". That's probably why we see so many Western games about loners. In America, friendship (other than the shallow "bro" variety) is just downright corny.

Great point there, reading the article it was the exact one I wanted to raise myself. Although I do understand the problem as to why they do get slated for the whole "power of friendship" thing though.

They often take it too far. Often enough it makes team members fall flat and seem shallow because they blindly follow whatever mister leader protagonist person himself has to say about the situation and the only real problem that generally emerges within the group is the occasional party member not fully trusting his newfound friends yet, doing something mean... Only to be instantly forgiven and seeing his wrongs. It's... shallow writing at best. Nothing is ever really explored. They could go deeper into personalities with it and how they all grew up together or met each other, but they generally don't. It's easier on the writers as it doesn't have them move too far away from shallow arche-types.

Not to say all JRPGs are shallow and badly written of course, I love JRPGs as well as WRPGs, and I wouldn't be the last to admit that both genres are often stuck with the same formulas and types in their own way. Still, most of the JRPGs series do often start with a general story for the first game and just repeat the same general outline for the next one with a slightly different character group. Again, look far enough into that glass and you can say the same thing about WRPGs.

One game that came to mind reading this that played the friendship/trust thing well, at least if my memory serves me correctly was BioShock. You had one friendly figure who was contacting you through the course of the game, and I think most of us knew what direction it started taking later on.

I think the series that does the friendship thing best in terms of shooters is a multiplayer shooter though, the Left4Dead series. Pretty much every character in that series has had enough time to tell us who they are, what they did and what they're interested in during small-talk to distract themselves from the situation they're in. Especially Ellis. Shut up Ellis.

Let me start off by saying I fully agree with you on your article. Good developed human characters are rare but worth it so much in games. Personally your description on that proposed scene for MW2 would have made the game a lot better, the only good example of a character like that being Woods in COD: Black Ops.

However I need to do what I always have to do when someone mentions the Courier. They are building up to something. Go visit the Caravan Waste in New Vegas and see the graffiti taunting him. The corpses with his name above him. Complete Dead Money right and you will see the scene about "Two couriers fighting under the old flag at the great divide." Don't get me wrong the fact that no-one remembers him is quite vexing but they are working on changing that by building up to something.

It's totally weird that Gordon Freeman probably has one of the bigger friendship circles in gaming. Or in Shooters, at least.

One of the best Escapist articles I've read in a while, and yes, while it is true that most games cast you as the distinct loner, there are some exceptions. One of the better elements of the two Dead Space games (especially in the second one) was Isaac's attachment and sense of separation from his girlfriend. It is his isolation which is his primary enemy (aside from all the monsters). And then there's Battlefied Bad Company 2, although it could be said that the squad pays a lot more attention to each other than to you.

this was a really good article, and i agree, although just having friends isnt enough, they actually have to have to themselves be good characters, otherwise i just wont care about them, or be well written enough that it wont be obvious from the minute we see them that they'll eventually betray you or something.

in killzone 2 one of your squad dies after spending like 2 or 3 missions trying to rescue him, and there's this whole melodramatic scene where you and the rest of the squad are all sad, but i didnt care and i kinda just wish we hadnt bothered trying to rescue him at all.

one of the things i liked about dragon age 2 was that the characters actually seemed like your friends, who had their own stuff going on, and even had other friends themselves

GameMaNiAC:

Straying Bullet:
Yeah, amazing and finally another brilliant article there.

I always enjoyed being presented with clear friends along the and this is exactly why Mass Effect I & II completely done flawless when it came to Garrus. Sure, he might be calibrating a bit too much in Mass Effect II but hear me out.

The moment you meet this guy, you simply have some Turian wanting to chase this guy Saren and escape the red tape C-Sec kept throwing out to him. But the more you progress, the further you got to learn about him. In fact, sometimes you alter his way of thinking and form a bond with this guy, he clearly might be a leader but always a loyal follower/friend/brother-in-arms because you slowly but surely established something with this guy.

The moment I saw Garrus Vakarian back on Omega, I was thoroughly surprised but overjoyed to see an old friend, much like my Shepard expressed that same joy. Thus the routine started over, but this time you have a Garrus infused with your teachings and his own, sometimes he's conflicted but you are always there to offer an ear and a advice here and there along the road.

His personal mission was intense and you could see how he was conflicted or not depending on your actions in the prequel but nevertheless, you people have eachother's back no matter what happens. Those subtle or rather grand actions made those two games so great for me. Also, Wrex is a prime example but this becoming a big rant and I think I made my point.

A game with actual friends is worth it's weight in GOLD!

I agree with all of the above. Reunion with the characters from Mass Effect really felt like you saw old friends.

This. Another great example? Star Wars: Republic Commando. The members of Delta Squad--ironically, given that they're clones--feel more like real people than many video game characters because of their personal connection. There's no way to not love Sev and Scorch constantly jabbing at each other while Fixer tells them to shut up and focus on the mission. The end of the game hit me really hard because I'd grown really attached to the characters.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time handles this similarly to Assassin's Creed II, which you mentioned. Everyone that you met in the first half of the game remembers you seven years later. Heck, one of the Gorons is named after you. How cool is that?

Anyway, great article. There's a place for the lone adventurer, but I don't think that place is nearly as big as game developers think it is.

Introducing old friends is a problem in games where you determine the personality of the player character.

Unless you make the friend so generic that they could be friends with just about anyone, conflicts will be inevitable. This solution only really moves the problem around, as now you have a generic boring PC who is friends with a generic boring NPC.

I cannot really see a way to give a RPG main character pre-existing friends with personality that feel real and interesting. Perhaps if you tracked the PC's personality in the early game, and then introduced a "friend" from their past who made sense given the choices you had made?

If you say to the player: "This guy is your friend", and you cannot stand the guy, and feel it would be in character for your PC to hate him, this will undermine whatever personality you try to give your character, rather than reinforce it. Of course, the situation you describe, a character who by all rights should have friends who does not is equally jarring.

Imagine if you were trying to play through Fallout NV as a Ghoul-hating Bigot, and the game insisted introduced a Ghoul character from your past as a friend.

RPG's must allow the player to create the PC's personality from scratch. Giving the PC pre-existing friends will define some level of canonical personality. This is why the "Mysterious Drifter" archetype is popular. It provides reasonable justificatiuon for the PC not having any connections with the game world, and allows the player to define their character however they please.

Where the PC has canonical personality, friends should be used to define and explore their personality.

Also a example is Mafia 2 i was truly sad at the ending i still hope joe isnt dead :( he was the best sidekick ever for a "hero" it was better than watching a movie character ...

Chuck Wendig:
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A very good topic, and handled very well. It raises some great questions for discussion, too.

The classic excuse is that games make the main character a blank slate into which the player can pour himself (or, in those rare cases, herself). And in theory, this sounds good. But if I'm supposed to create a backstory, an appearance, a style, and a personality for my character... why aren't these games allowing me to insert it? There's no place for my tale to fit, and no tools to help me wedge it in there.

The game and its protagonist are missing flavor, and providing you no seasonings. It's the same trick restaurants pull with "rich people food." You throw down $50 for an appetizer, find it awful, and you're told it's "an acquired taste," implying there's something you were supposed to bring to the table. For $50, that shit better come with taste.

Then you've got the true Blank-Slate Protagonist. The game doesn't impose an appearance, personality, or history upon you, but it gives you the tools to do it yourself. The most recent Fallout games are great about this... with the exception of F:NV's failing to deal with the Courier's prior existence, as you've noted. Even so, you choose your responses, your strengths, your weaknesses. You choose your friends and enemies. You are given a blank slate, but you're also given the chalk to actually write on it.

There is one other great thing about Fallout 3: Rather than answering a questionaire about what your character is like, you actually play out the brief story. And while this could seem forced or unnecessarily padded if done poorly, this game handles it very well. It combines your backstory with the tutorial. Two birds with one elegant stone.

(And before anyone says, "Well, it's because that kind of prologue stuff works in the Fallout world and story," I'd have to wonder do we think that happened by accident? We'd essentially be saying that it worked because they planned ahead for it. Imagine that.)

Characters need loose ends and unanswered questions to feel bigger than just the current story. There should be a sense that they existed before, and that they will exist after. Otherwise, they're not a character. They're just a mask and a glove the player wears to interact with the cold math of the gameplay, and names and faces are just convenient labels for finding the next data point.

The NPCs need this, too. That's why I love games in which NPCs are only in certain places at certain times of day, giving you the impression that they've got shit to do, too. In fact, only NPCs with depth can serve the function of a "friend" that connects your character to this deeper world. Basically, this problem won't be fixed until characters are made more important than story.

I think one game that brings friends and family close to the plot is undoubtibly Dragon Age 2. The character Hawke has family, and a group of close companions soon after reaching Kirkwall. Hell, your companions have abilities that are unlocked as your relationship deepens, friend or rival.

Veterinari:
The obvious reason for this in rpgs is that the friendless bastard is more of a blank slate, and the only games that allow you to have friends without sacrificing the player's freedom of choice are the ones that allow for background customization - either by selecting a preset background or via Fallout 3's more roundabout method where you get to play through some events.

Something I would like to add to this is that it's easy to just hand the character a bunch of connections than it is to have the character actually build friendships in gameplay. One of my favourite examples of this is actually how New Vegas handles the follower questlines. You don't just walk up to them and go "Hey, wanna travel?"(Well, ok, not to all of them). You need to enamour yourself to them via a quest-line or something. And then, once you've travelled around a bit, some of them feel that they can ask you a favour, or suggest a joint venture. That gave me a much more "real" feeling of "They ask this of me because they like me. Yay!" than I've gotten in a lot of games.

The problem with just giving a character friends as a back-story is that more often than not it doesn't make a difference when you're an hour into game-play.

This.

Excuse me, but if I'm in a FPS and I'm attempting to keep the bead of my sniper rifle on the head of the (insert terrorist, russian, covenant, candy covered unicorn) I don't want some guy I got shackled with to be rattling in my ear about how much he wants to date my sister. RPGs are different, you can create personal feeling with any character you choose (as the player, not the character).

A good example was with Alyx of Half Life (Whoops let me get my Anti-Flame shield up). Sure she could shoot and she was only practical for opening doors, but I don't want her trailing me around a level warning me every five seconds about "Zombines" or making inane remarks about how "silent" of a man I am.

In RPGs I can understand not being able to make friends in an infinite universe, but RPGs are designed to form around your actions. If you want to carry some Super Mutant Sidekick (or whatever) around then go ahead, but saying that you can't make friends in Fallout 3 or Fallout New Vegas is bullshit.

Depending on the game, forming friendships and other relationships are often a part of the gameplay. You're stumbling into a town that you've never been in before, nobody knows you, so it's time to put your social skills to work. But I definitely agree that it seems strange so many heroes are friendless nobodies. I like it better when (just as an example) my hero has a small village that they came from which was wronged by the greater evil of the world, inspiring them to go out and set things right. It at least gives them a toehold of why they even care that evil is taking over the world, instead of the usual, "I just happened to be in the neighborhood and the only one with the stones to pick up a weapon and do something" excuse.

Very interesting read. I am reminded of the Mother series (Earthbound). Now there is a game series that integrates characters into the game. Go to the club house in Onett and talk to other kids who recognize you and who you apparently hung out with before the events of the game. All the playable characters are like that. Everyone in Twoson is afraid for Paula's safety and is relieved when she returns safely, Jeff's roommate actually calls YOU, the Player, and asks you to take care of his friend. Mother 3 takes this to a whole other level with EVERY character (even the minor ones). All the dialog changes every time you progress the story, every character reacts progressively to the plot and your pcs affect real change in the game world. I've never seen that kind of characterization before or since. The difference it makes in the empathy generated in the player is simply amazing. You actually feel something for these characters, even though they are low-res, brightly coloured sprites.

I'm not really trying to make a point here, this article simply reminded me of this great example of character integration. If you haven't played them, for shame, they're some of the best RPGs out there.

Firstly, AMAZING READ!

kman123:

The Darkness has one amazing example that I always pull out of my ass. It concerns your girlfriend Jenny...and it's an incredibly simple yet emotional scene where you spend the night with her. You can choose to leave early, choose to tell her what you really do, or choose to sit down with her and watch an entire movie. It's epic, and it's what makes the game so powerful.

I agree strongly with this, The Darkness was fantastic for making you care for the characters and from the beginning I hated having anything happen to Jenny, and genuinely wanted to seek retribution for her/my sufferings (my as in the protagonists)

I think the best relationships in games are those that are formed from some sort of direct interaction from the NPCs. For example when your team genuinely helps you out on Mass Effect or GOW. I know GOW was mainly about your actions, but every now and then Baird/Dom/Cole would catch a locust trying to flank me, thus making me glad that they were actually there.

Halo was mentioned above, and i'm not sure if it's just my naive fan-boy love for the series talking but I genuinely think there are quite a few strong bonds in the game. The part of the article that talks about no interaction between the spartans is mainly due to them being the last of their kind etc, however the soldiers do look up to you and need you to suvive a lot of the time. A better example is probably when fighting alonside the Arbiter/Elites/Spartan IIIs, as they can look after themelves in a fight and will generally watch your back; couple this with the fact that a lot of scenarios set them up to be helping you in your mission (eg when the Elites drop down in Halo 3 to combat the flood) and add some witty/over-the-top dialogue and IMO you have a perfect reason to at the very least see them as an equal in the parametres of the current mission.

I think it's probably how 'into' games you get, if you get fully immersed into a AAA game's story, chances are you'll relate more to the playable character and the NPCs, but if you blast through it just for the gamerscore, then you won't take as much from it.

Or I may just be a sad young man that needs to get out more :)

Having played a lot of RPGs, it seems like video game characters to me ALWAYS have friends. Why else do all these guys follow you around all the time?

The New Vegas point is debateable. After all, some of the Companions you gain are very friendly towards you. Veronica comes to mind. You can even get her a dress!

Shellsh0cker:

This. Another great example? Star Wars: Republic Commando. The members of Delta Squad--ironically, given that they're clones--feel more like real people than many video game characters because of their personal connection. There's no way to not love Sev and Scorch constantly jabbing at each other while Fixer tells them to shut up and focus on the mission. The end of the game hit me really hard because I'd grown really attached to the characters

That game is worthy of every award in my book. The connection to the squad was flawless, giving orders and expecting them to behave like professionals whenever needed was simply worth replaying, over and over again.

The sense of teamwork and you actually depended on eachother was amazing. Here you are reviving a teammate, ordering the remaining two to stand guard and defend at all costs. Infiltrating together and blowing things up with extreme prejudice.

Glad you mentioned this game, I am going home and install the sucker right back!

Agent Larkin:
However I need to do what I always have to do when someone mentions the Courier. They are building up to something. Go visit the Caravan Waste in New Vegas and see the graffiti taunting him. The corpses with his name above him. Complete Dead Money right and you will see the scene about "Two couriers fighting under the old flag at the great divide." Don't get me wrong the fact that no-one remembers him is quite vexing but they are working on changing that by building up to something.

I believe there was a whole back story between the Courier and another courier named Ulysses who was supposed to be in Vegas, but got scrapped and planned as DLC.

http://fallout.wikia.com/wiki/Ulysses

Dastardly:
The classic excuse is that games make the main character a blank slate into which the player can pour himself (or, in those rare cases, herself). And in theory, this sounds good. But if I'm supposed to create a backstory, an appearance, a style, and a personality for my character... why aren't these games allowing me to insert it? There's no place for my tale to fit, and no tools to help me wedge it in there.

The game and its protagonist are missing flavor, and providing you no seasonings. It's the same trick restaurants pull with "rich people food." You throw down $50 for an appetizer, find it awful, and you're told it's "an acquired taste," implying there's something you were supposed to bring to the table. For $50, that shit better come with taste.

Well said, nice analogy. Allow me to expand: it's like this, developers. I am not a blank slate. I don't go through life never speaking or reacting to anything. Having the character go through life never speaking or reacting to anything makes them less relatable, not more. If you want me to impose myself on the character, that's fine, even commendable, but I have to have some means of doing that. Again, I point to Mass Effect. Perhaps I'm noble and selfless. Perhaps I'm a racist bastard. The point is that I can decide. Remember what a slate is: a writing surface. For it to work, I have to have something to write with.

Bringing this back to the topic, my character feels more like a part of the world if he or she has character and personality, whether they are defined by the developer or by me. To know others, we must first know ourselves.

Parts of this article I like, parts I don't. My biggest issue is that it focuses mainly on storytelling & character, and not enough on the mechanics of a playable game.

In a FPS, I see some room, but the story usually isn't played out through dialogue and people tend to dislike AI teammates. There's some room there granted, but I'd venture to say that players are more interested in exercising agency by affecting the world than listening to pre-scripted dialogue.

In a RPG there's quite a bit of room, and I'd argue some games do it quite well. Bioware and Bethesda come to mind immediately because those are what I play. New Vegas's blank slate issue a inevitable consequence of choosing an "in media res" introduction - if you want to allow players to choose if they like someone, everything has to start after the player begins the game. I don't want an "old buddy" with an irritating accent popping up and my only two options are "Hey, buddy!" and "Great to see you again!".

Action games are maybe one of the trickiest but most potentially rewarding places to think about how to expand friendship within the narrative of a game. Players tend to expect less personal agency over their character's personality and relationships than in a RPG, and are more willing to listen to scripted dialogue than in a FPS. An example that I've played might be Prototype. With relatively few minutes of cutscene I actually became somewhat attached to my sister Dana, and I was enraged when

I think that kind of thing could certainly be done better and more frequently, especially in action games.

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