Non-linear games are now much more common than they used to be. Instead of going from A to B to C, and doing exactly as you are told, you are now given choices to make about what you do and how you do them, often with these choices affecting the world in which the game takes place. Personally I love these open, sand-box type games, as long as the perceived freedom is real. Often games give the impression of choice, when in fact it has already been decided what will happen next, regardless of your actions.
This concept introduces a new dilemma – ‘how should I play?’ If a certain item needs retrieving, do I gun in guns (or swords) blazing and kill everyone and everything in sight. Or do I use diplomacy, and trade some favors to get what I want? Do I kill an entire town for some extra gold? Do I control through fear?
So, here comes my confession, when given such a choice I always pick the ‘good’ option. Never do I murder, steal, lie, threaten – unless I absolutely have to. You may think this is just limited to RPG type games, but even in an RTS I am never the aggressor. Am I too much of a gentleman, or simply a coward?
There was one event, recently whilst playing Fallout 4, that got me thinking about this. I performed some action, I think I killed an aggressor, and up at the top of my screen I saw the dreaded words ‘Piper hated that.’ I felt like I had let her down, and had thought we shared the same high morals and values. I actually felt bad that I had done something ‘wrong’, and that there was someone there to see it and judge. Like her I just wanted to make the wasteland a better place, and help the common people of the Commonwealth to have some sort of life – and help them I have. There is no direct reward for the player, but I feel very satisfied giving somebody a nicely decorated home.
Being a goodie doesn’t bother me – but I do wonder if I am missing out. Why should I travel halfway across the map, on a tedious mission to pick up some flowers to exchange for a map, when I could just blast some people, take the map and whatever else they are carrying along with it? There is really no good answer – I just do.
In real life I also always try to do the right the thing and help people, and it looks like this just continues into whatever gaming world I enter. One big difference is that in game help is often a matter of life or death, whereas in (my) real life helping people tends to be much more mundane.
It seems then that my gaming persona’s are just an extension of myself, with similar personalities (when possible). It has never even crossed my mind to be different. But how do you play? Do your character traits from real life spill over into your created character, or do you use the opportunity to try something different? And finally, should I have a go at being the ‘baddie’?