Gaming is a funny medium: it’s interactive in a way that many forms of traditional media are not, and player agency as a concept is integral to the design of many titles. Equally there are games that insist on robbing their players of control and freedom. Sometimes, though, even these manage to produce an illusion of freedom and independence that is sufficient to sustain a player’s suspension of disbelief.
When I originally conceived of this particular question of the week, I had thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about emergent gameplay or environments such as those of Love, or Minecraft, but after a little more thought I remembered that while the tech may be greatly advanced, those ideas are ultimately derived from the Roguelikes of yesteryear.
Then I thought about sandbox games, which offer the player a huge and expansive space to explore and – in the best examples – be creative within. But I admit I don’t really know where the origins of this genre could be traced to. It must surely go back earlier than the first Grand Theft Auto games, and that’s even if you’re being strict about the idea of a sandbox and exclude huge open-world RPGs.
Don’t even get me started on huge open-world RPGs.
So this week’s question is a more open one than usual: which games instilled in you a sense that your freedom, as a player, was important? That you weren’t just able to do what you wanted but that the acts you chose to undertake mattered – whether solely to you, the player, or your character, or other characters; perhaps the game world, or its overarching narrative. At what point and why did a game make you feel free?
(If you’re interested in my picks, well… I’m still thinking. So you’ll see my thoughts crop up in the comments once I’ve thought them.)