298: Who Needs Friends?

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Another excellent read by Mr. Wendig. He spouts vast amounts of equally madness-inducing genius over at his site at terribleminds.com, though more about writing in general and less about games.

I see a lot of replies in this thread that seem to be confusing making friends with already having friends. Most characters in a novel or a movie, for instance, make mention of their past and with friends they had, and quite often the story itself draws on that past and those friends, even while they're making new friends (and enemies) and setting the stage for the story to come. Far too many video game characters seem to have been disgorged from solitary confinement or returned from a twenty year trip to Mars, so that they've got no support or allies and must start anew.

Certainly, some games are tailor made for such a setup, but when it's the default in so many of them, it begins to feel a little lazy on the part of the game's writers, unless the game demands it. I've already seen mention of people disliking their in-game friends, and that's always going to be a matter of taste. GTA IV, for instance, made you feel less like your cousin was a friend and more of a liability, while Alyx, whom I enjoyed, was annoyingly cloying or chatty for some people. Every so often someone does just want to play Mr. No Name Loner Killer, and that's all they're interested in. I had a friend who never wanted to play games where you had to rely on a party or a team, for instance, much less have people from your past come bugging you.

What Chuck is really focusing on is making the game's narrative more compelling, and that requires both an interesting story and interesting characters. A person's past and their previous relationships is a large part of who they are. A secret agent who comes from a wealthy mercantile family and has friends throughout the business world compared to a secret agent who grew up in the slums and spent time in prison are both secret agents that can shoot a gun and save the world, but their stories are going to be so very different for where they came from and who they know.

I would love to see a larger emphasis on story telling in games. It makes the experience that much more amazing. Noticing things like this however shows just how much games can still develop as a storytelling medium. It's been a long road for sure, but we have longer still to go.

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!

In portal a relationship is established with the computer. The computer obviously knows you from before you awoke in the test chamber. It may have turned psychotic and bent on destruction, but it's obviously not the first time you have been a test subject.

Hitman as well has allies. You have a relationship with the women on the other end of the comm, and in the first game several characters know the protagonist, he even enlists help from one.

I don't have a lot of experience with the new PoP games, but the old ones had a fair amount of story laid out in the game manual. Which for all the limitations of the time was as good as it was going to get.

AvauntVanguard:
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!

I got her so many dresses before I found out she wanted formal ware. I killed for a dress once. It made it that much better when she got excited about it.

One of the most memorable moments in Half-Life 2: Episode 2, for me at least, didn't include the creepy robots that shoot exploding needles at you or Dog ripping apart a Strider. It was when Dr. Dr. Magnusson said that he would forgive Gordon for the "Microwave Casserole" incident if he was successful in his job.

Also, the scene with Alyx's near death was heart wrenching.

I have to say, I disagree about Desmond Miles being an example of a disconnected character being a bad thing... because he is. He was kidnapped. Considering that in the first game all he could do was walk from room to room, and in II and Brotherhood they were trying to stay hidden, it isn't that far fetched that he wouldn't come across any childhood friends.

Now, with that said, your article is dead right. I think that's why I've recently fallen in love with Dragon Age. No matter what origin story you start with, you have a friend, and when you come across them again in the world, depending on the type of character you're building, it'll be touching, hate-filled, or something else.

If more games put that into the story, instead of just blank-slating it (I fucking hate the complete blank slate) I think that stories in games would be a lot more immersive. Hell, look at Alan Wake. By all other standards, it's just a "good" game, but because of the fact that a couple of the characters know him, and he knows them, it feels real. Well, as real as a game about an author that fights possessed people can feel...

this is true, and even if you don't have friends, you do have people that know you. Like people you work with, or the people that work at you favorite lunch spot, or a bartender at the bar you stop by every now and then.

I can't remember other peoples names for the life of me, but I know that a lot of people know my name, and I'm a nobody.

A fair point. It would be nice to see a character with old friends and see how ht could have an effect on the game.

A very interesting read indeed, and I agree. I think this might actually be why I was able to get into Fallout 3 much more than I have done so with New Vegas. Also, I think that those connections are a major reason why I have turned out to like Ezio in AC2 quite alot, which allowed me to get over my usual dislike for games that force me to play male characters. It would be nice to see more games that made it feel like its characters were part of the world, and had existed before the game began. Or, at least, to take the Fallout 3 approach and give a good reason for why a character would not really know the outside world so much.

Ilikemilkshake:

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

I agree with this whole heartedly. Some of my favorite scenes in this game were when you come to talk to one of your group and find them speaking with another one of your group like they are friends as well.

I would rather see a loner character, i find that forced/established friendships with npcs is annoying. Its like this is bob, bob is your best friend, you like bob, there is no real connection when it is forced by the game.

I've said for a while now that single player gaming seems to be catered to and by introverted loners. That's not a jab, I too was once a bit of an introverted loner as a kid, spending a large chunk of time alone. It's also one of many reasons why gaming was so slow to spread beyond that original core of gamers; their focus on single player, not multi--and especially--co-operative gaming was a big turn off to the vast majourity of humanity.

DriveByLawsuit:

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

In addition to a possible relationship with Ulysses, there is a dialogue script that indicates that the Courier has been out west in NCR territory before, specifically New Reno.

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

This is a combination of both personal projection on the part of the player (via a provided dialogue option), and character background that hasn't been entirely revealed in the currently released content. This may indicate that some or all of the character's close relationships (friends) are back west, or are operating in different areas, or dead. Is that fact important to the overall narrative of the game? Not really.

I'm a fan of projecting onto the characters I play, not simply playing by the script known by a few NPCs in the background story created by the developer's writers. But to facilitate that there should be more dialogue options to pursue that. A majority of the time the only dialogue options available equate to:

1. Okay. I'll help you fight the good fight.
2. Maybe. I'll help you, but for a price.
3. No. I'd rather not get involved.
4. No. I won't help you, and I'm robbing you. Gimme your all stuff right now.

Four options is really limited. I'd rather have more options, akin to the nine alignments in AD&D:

1. I'll help you, although it might be illegal, since the law is sometimes unjust.
2. Okay. I'll help you even though it might be illegal. I don't really care.
3. I'll definitely help you. That'll show the establishment and their unjust laws.
4. I'd help you, but your plan is against the law. No.
5. I'd rather not get involved.
6. I really don't care about your cause, and would prefer we never speak again.
7. I can't help you, and I'm turning you in to law enforcement.
8. I won't help you, and I think you should gimme all your stuff right now.
9. I can't help you, and I think I'll kill you right now.

This would allow more personalization and characterization in the game world, allowing the players to project onto the characters with their own personality. Perhaps I'm content with this due to playing all those mute amnesiac characters in the past.

Some video game characters have friends, but it doesn't help that all but a handful are locked in an underground bomb shelter for the entire game.

Side note: Lucca in Chrono Trigger never built me a jet-bike or powered exoskeleton because there was never a dialogue option to ask her.

Yeah there was always something that bothered me when playing a Bethesda game, especially Oblivion, when it dawned on me that I'm basically playing Jim Carey's character from The Truman Show with the distinct feeling that the in-game world somehow unnaturally revolves around me. And as a fan of immersion I don't like that.

Making things even more annoying, whenever you have a group encounter, like that ruined city early in the storyline where you fight alongside some other guards or later in the sewer when you work with that spy, I long for some sort of connection with the characters so I tediously save & load my way through the encounters to ensure everyone comes out alive, and at the end of it all am reward with the usual blank stares as these characters had no meaning to their existince and it was unimportant if they lived or died.

I thought the lone wanderer in Fallout 3 (at least in my game) had friends. Amata was really glad to see me when I came back to Vault 101 after hearing the emergency message. Even Fawkes greeted me after my escape of Raven Rock by saying something along the lines of: "My friend! It is so good to see you again! Still, this was a really good Issue and I had a lot of fun reading it. Hope you guys keep up the good work!

manaman:
In portal a relationship is established with the computer. The computer obviously knows you from before you awoke in the test chamber. It may have turned psychotic and bent on destruction, but it's obviously not the first time you have been a test subject.

The article is about "friends", and I brought Portal up because its a game where you have none, but at the same time this doesn't take away from the experience. There isn't any more meaning to the relationship with the computer then Megaman's relationship with the mid game bosses. An obstacle that must be overcome!

manaman:
Hitman as well has allies. You have a relationship with the women on the other end of the comm, and in the first game several characters know the protagonist, he even enlists help from one.

Again, throwing mission objectives isn't a relationship. There's more to it, and I can't recall Agent 47's contact ever really crossing that threshold until Blood Money. Thats four games before we get any development.

Meanwhile, you have relationships like that of Agent Smith, which seems more like a running gag in the series. He gets captured, you rescue him, he gives info and leaves. You never see him and 47 getting all buddy buddy in a bar later...

In Halo, Masterchief and Cortana have a relationship because she says more than just mission objectives...

manaman:

I don't have a lot of experience with the new PoP games, but the old ones had a fair amount of story laid out in the game manual. Which for all the limitations of the time was as good as it was going to get.

Yeah, but what about his friends? Dude was prince of a whole kingdom and he didn't have his own entourage?

This fit in with the story though since you could immediately tell by the end of the first level he was a douche and completely full of himself.

Having recently played through Assassins Creed II, I can totally agree with this article. Ser Ezio is a much more likable character than Desmond or Altair due to the connections he shares with family and friends; he actually feels like a person.
And too many games have the same problem; the protagonist is as lonely as a ship in a bottle.

I think game designes are afraid of using that approach because they think gamers will not like it. To be honest, as I was reading the article I thought that would be its approach as well. 'There's this guy called Rodriguez. He's saying he knows me. What the fuck? I just met him, I don't know who he is, and I would never have become friends with a guy this annoying in the first place. Fuck off, Rodriguez.'

Partly it's one of everyone's main complaints on gaming - they have bad stories. People complain that games don't know how to portray minorities, don't know how to portray women, don't know how to be subtle. And they're all true, but that's all because of a simple thing - they don't know how to set up stories. Characters, particualarly, are very difficult to set up in an enjoyable and interesting way. So in the same way games have to turn to cheap tricks like HUEG plot twists in their narratives they have to turn to simplistic stereotypes to use as their characters. Writing it the Indiana Jones way, as you suggested, is hard work. You have to deliver this in a way that the viewers/players care about what is going on even before they have had time to acquaint themselves with the characters and their relationship. This isn't particularly hard - Indiana Jones is not exactly known for its riveting emotional story - but video game writing just isn't up to par.

Partly it's because of the emphasis modern day games have on 'you are your character, your every action molds your story!' MovieBob complained about it just last week, and he has kind of a point. If you can create a character to be however you like and you want him to be a cynical loner, then knowing that you have an old friend who ate pies with you when you were growing up might spoil the image you have built in your mind. It's too bad that the modern industry seems to think this is what they should aspire to, when it's just another approach, both being just as valid.

And of course partly it's because of what I call the 'Outsider Theory', or the full name, 'The Random One's Outsider Theory by The Random One' (pat.pen.). Under that theory, game characters are often outsiders, foreigners or otherwise ignorant of the gameworld because that's the state the player finds herself in when booting up the game. Since the player will be meeting the world for the first time, the strangeness inherent to the game as you're picking up the controls will match the character's strangeness as he learns how things work in the new world. And of course since you have no prior 'luggage' you're allowed to behave in the world as you see fit. Look around and see how many games go out of the way to estabilish a character that is disconnected to the world and is discovering it in tandem with the player. But, of course, this doesn't mean friendships aren't possible. Your example of Fallout 3 points to this - a vault-born in the Fallout world has a great excuse to be an outsider in the wastelands, but she does have family and associates. Nico Belic is a foreigner who knows nothing of Liberty city, but he does have a cousin. You can have your cake and eat it too.

Agent Larkin:
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.

or "her"

anyway annoying Political correctness aside, I always wondered what was with tthat grafiti in that place? who put it there?

and what happened in dead money? what dose that scene mean? (because I probably wont be able to get it anytime soon)

Really great article.

Perhaps a step in the right direction is the continuity in the Mass Effect series - you know Liars in ME2 because you already knew her in ME1. Wrex also greets you warmly as a friend in ME2.

I think this article explains to me why Persona 4 came across as so different. That game was based on friendships.

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.

Well, the games that portray this tend to make friendship some kind of superpower, not just a bond between individuals. Look at Lord of the Rings. Yeah, Sam and Frodo have been friends for their whole lives, but they don't grant each other any powers or abilities, they just help each other out. They both help carry the burden of the other, and do their best to help each out along.

For the type of games you mean, the ending sequence usually has a piece where the hero/heroine asks for the power of his friends, and everyone he met on his journey lends them some kind of mystical universal chi, or something, as if friendship was a tangible and transferable quality.

Not to be a nitpick, but Ramirez was a U.S. Army Ranger. And even then, they could've written the whole 'magical' transporting C-130 from Afghanistan to Virgina better. "Hey Ramirez, Remember when we got back from being in country? All those houses down by Benning? Reminds me of the one Mary and I were looking at." Little more appropriate. Cue Attack. Cue up other Ranger getting taken down by a burst of AK fire. Part of you dies.

I think that, while yes, most games can achieve a sense of depth far beyond that of the narrative allows. Homefront's beginning sequence, while mediocre, had me so enraged I spent the whole game committing War Crimes on any already dead Korean soldiers. It didn't matter that I didn't know these people being rounded up, nor that I was more focused on just trying to survive. No, When I saw what had to have been the most enraging thing ever (Happens about mid-way through the sequence) I made it my mission to put an extra few rounds into every dead Korean Soldiers body to avenge the treachery.

But it's all after thoughts in the great scheme of things. People want to believe that games can have deeper connections, but as evidenced by some reviewers and critics out there, those are the points in the game that most of them criticize or use as a joke. The Deaths in Modern Warfare 2, meant to be a surreal experience, are the most pointed to example of OVERDOING it.

And I really don't like blaming the devs who don't think of the depth they could convey, It's like how if you stare at a word long enough it'll start looking wrong. They've sunk whole weeks on small sections of this map, what's it to them to not notice points where they could have the moments of surreal.

I thought New Vegas handled companions and friendships much better than Fallout 3.

Plus New Vegas felt much more like a RPG, the courier barely had any backstory which meant it was up to the player to decide what kind of player he/she will be. In Fallout 3 pretty much your whole childhood life and family is explained to you, you have almost no control over your character's life, even if you act like an asshole you still have to find your dad, you still have to help him, you have to activate the purifier and you have to side with the Brotherhood of Steel.

In New Vegas you play as a courier, someone who is constantly moving around and visiting different places which would make permament friendships quite difficult, however, the events that take place at the beginning of New Vegas give the courier a reason to stay a little bit longer, therefore giving him/her a reason to make a couple of friends to get the job done.

Not only did New Vegas do a better job in that respect but it also did a better job with the companions themselves. When you meet the various companions they have different views on you and for some you need to gain their trust (Boone is a good example). Then unlike Fallout 3 where you then automatically become BFF's in New Vegas some companions (like Boone) will still not fully trust you until they witness you doing specific tasks. All of the companions have a "personal" quest which usually involves gaining trust from them or taking them to various places.

EDIT: Oh there's a mistake in this article. In New Vegas some companions do in fact have houses where you can go and they can help you out. Raul is a perfect example, if you go to his house he can provide repairing services. Also although she does not neccessarily run up to you, Veronica is very excited when you propose travelling together.

That was a fantastic read...I'm having trouble describing exactly what my reaction is.

So I'll let Bender do it for me

Burck:
I think this article explains to me why Persona 4 came across as so different. That game was based on friendships.

Yeah, I liked how in persona 3&4 you slowly become friends with people when you want, instead of the regular JRPG which sets a specific time for them to dump their backstory on you.

Ineresting article.

All the talk to the player character being a person in the setting with friends reminded me of Onicron: The Nomad Soul. Though in that case the whole game was based around the concept of "you are borrowing the bodies/lives of these people."

But it was interesting to walk around in the place that was "your" job and have everyone react to you like they'd just talked to you yesterday. Or for me the weirdest part was the fact that the first guy whose life you borrowed, had a wife. She was there in the apartment, you could talk to her or sleep with her and meet her for lunch. She treated you like, and to her you were, her husband.

Not quite the same as "building and breaking relationships" on your own but it was an interesting change from "you are the mysterious stranger who came into town from...Somewhere.

Sometimes you just don't want friends: I cannot imagine Alice (of McGee's fame) with a friend and even that grinning cat is wise to stay well away most of the time.
In "Call of Duty 4" I relate to the other guys, in a way. . . We do team work there and I'd be lost without them. I also felt close to MacMillan when following him and then carrying him and his thick Scottish accent around the Chernobyl neighborhoods.
In the less exhalted "Project Eden" you were part of a team of four, and you had to play all the characters, was that friendship? It was collaboration for sure.
These day I'm back in Morrowind and, as I usually do in Bethesda RPGs, I go around with a "companion". Gabran doesn't help much execpt for toting loots, and I have to save him a lot more than he saves me. Yet I enjoy having him around Somehow he makes the wandering more interesting.
Have to feed Arthur (the cat).
Bye now
Hunky Dork

One point against you here bro, one, the courier does know people, and they know him. By canon the courier isn't from anywhere near there. And in the new DLCs that are going to come out you'll meet one of the people who does meet you, and is part of the reason why the courier happened to be carrying the chip.

ChupathingyX:
I thought New Vegas handled companions and friendships much better than Fallout 3.

EDIT: Oh there's a mistake in this article. In New Vegas some companions do in fact have houses where you can go and they can help you out. Raul is a perfect example, if you go to his house he can provide repairing services. Also although she does not neccessarily run up to you, Veronica is very excited when you propose travelling together.

Thanks all for reading and digging on the article:

Chupa, I'll just add that -- and maybe this is due to my writing in the article, and for that, I apologize -- my concern isn't that you cannot form connections or friendships in play but rather than you do not begin with any. You enter the world utterly unformed and disconnected. You can create connections, but these did not exist before. Nobody knows the Courier the moment you awaken in Goodsprings.

So, that mistake isn't a mistake, really.

Thanks!

-- Chuck

they do need to be disconnected, because that is how the western hemisphere role models heroes. you're asking a question in which you unravel the notion we have had from the earliest tales of narrative. and you are wrong in that we don't see it in other mediums; the number of same thing happening in books or movies is huge.

heroes are supposed to bring a sacrifice in an imbalanced world; that is their place in the world. they are not accustomed to live in a regular balanced world, and would most likely end themselves if they happened to live in one. it is their disconnection that allows them to succeed where "regular" people fail. and it is because they are not regular people that they do not have friends.

They don't have friends because its cool not to? That doesn't sound right...Get back to me.

Meh, I'd say it makes a game less immersive, personally. If a character comes up and starts talking about pre-game experiences, I can't relate, because I don't know what they're on about, so the character just isn't ME anymore. Friends that you gain throughout the game though, that seems better.

Truly excellent. I had not even really thought about this, but it does explain why I found Fallout 3 to be a very immersive game for totally different reasons than New Vegas.

Keep writing, I'll keep reading!

Chuck Wendig:
Who Needs Friends?

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

Read Full Article

Good question. It made me think. This is what I came up with:

"Because it would be fake"

If you (as the player) weren't there when the friendship was formed...and you didn't spend time with the characters that are supposedly your friends (no shared experiences)...then those "friend" characters can talk all they want about "that time when..."...it's all the same to you.

I believe friendship works best in an "ab ovo" story...you meet the characters as the protagonist meets them for the first time. Then you all share experiences and establish a bond.

Basically, friendship has to grow.

IMHO, it is wrong for developers to simply assume that the player automatically cares about characters...even the ones that present themselves as life-long friends. It's the developers' task to make the player care....and it is a very difficult one.

Example: you are fighting a war with one of your friends in the same team...he "saves your life" by tackling you into cover just as you would have been hit by enemy fire. Your character mutters "Thanks bro...I owe you big time." Then some time later your friend gets mortally wounded and you get to experience the classic "last words" tearjerker scene.

Two things: both the rescue and the death scene are scripted (which destroys a lot of the emotional impact: it was apparently "meant to be"...you had no hand in it)...and you will not be able to return the favor unless it's scripted that you will. It's fundamentally a matter of choice (exercise of free will)...you don't have it and neither does your AI friend, not within the world of the game because a game is fundamentally totalitarian: whatever the game doesn't allow for...is prohibited.

A developer can make a character very likeable (through writing/ voice-acting)...a developer can make you share experiences with the character...but that character's choices will not be genuine choices (how can they be lol...). They will be predetermined by the developer (or whatever algorithm he constructs to calculate odds).

Such is the limited nature of videogaming...until we start incorporating powerful AI's that have passed the Turing test. By that time we'll probably be playing in a Holodeck/ Matrix like program environment.

Extremely good read.

I'm reminded of the people who bitch about Yosuke Hanamura in Persona 4. Too chatty. Served as your mouthpiece. Too whiney, all sorts of reason. I personally LOVED his presence. He felt like my friend in spite of all his flaws, like a kindred spirit out in the boondocks. I kept him on the front lines all the time because I really felt like he'd have my back in anything. He was always like "Hey, let's meet at Junes" and was always leading the investigation discussion. He truly worked with me as a co-leader and as my, well, bro. We kicked the shit out of each other and finally acknowledged each other as equals. It was an awesome example of a "friend" in gaming.

But so many people bitched! The execution is debatable but the intent is definitely clear when it comes to Yosuke. It was a different dynamic than the constant tension of the main cast in Persona 3. People don't WANT to play as characters with friends. A lot of people playing Persona games just wanna bone every girl, get the strongest Personas, grind to 99, etc. They don't want a "friend," they just wanna be "badasses" and "pimps."

Most of all the reviews I've read for Bioware and Fallout games? The reviewers play as complete assholes! The Destructoid review of DA2 had a guy who went completely out of his way to make his character as reprehensible as possible to the point where three party members left him. Most people I talk to about Fallout 3 mention how much fun it was to blow the hell out of Megaton. People will always take the chance to be a dick when there are no repercussions. Sure, sometimes it may be role-playing, but I see it so often that the generalizing ass in me cries out: "Were you truly THAT badly bullied throughout high school that you need to blow up every game world you see?"

Developers see this, and act accordingly. Hence your loners. Hence your one-dimensional badasses.

An interesting article, except for the point that when Bioware gave you an Origin in Dragon Age: Origins, and an actual family cum background in Dragon Age 2, numerous people were COMPLAINING VICIOUSLY on the forums that Bioware was assigning traits you may not want to your protagonist.

Some people actually *like* the disconnected protagonist, albeit many of the most vocal for reasons I think are stupid--they want to be able to make up their own story about their protagonist and not ever have that conflict with anything they encounter in the game.

Me, I'm well aware that I can't ever play exactly the character I might like in an RPG--I'm limited by the writer's foresight and imagination. This is cool with me. A CRPG is not the same as a PnP RPG. I don't play them for the same reasons. I expect different things. So having a family/friends/whatever in a game is not a problem for me.

Just don't assume that one way is the be-all, end-all of gaming.

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